Week 17 NFL Picks – Scott vs. Matt

Scottie’s lack of attention to detail has caused me to lose track of the standings in terms of wins-losses and, subsequently, winning percentage.  Therefore, the only proof that I have to display my dominance is by saying that after an 8-8 week 16, I now have 142 wins on the season, whereas after a 10-6 week for Scottie he has a measly 137 wins.  Last week I took a couple of fliers just to see if I could seal the deal before week 17, but they didn’t all pan out so now I just have to get back to my winning ways and lock this bar-tab up for good.  Let’s do it…

When this weekend is all over, I fully intend on going for a recount presidential election style circa 2000 Bush-Gore style. I also will compare us to the ESPN experts because frankly after having Matt whoop my behind, my self esteem and bank account are headed south, just like the Giants season.

Dolphins @ Patriots

Matt -Patriots

The Pats have been on a roll as of late, and the Dolphins can’t seem to buy a win to help and ensure Sparano that he won’t get canned.  Expect the Dolphins to play inspired football, but that won’t be enough to get it done in the cold weather of Gillette Stadium.

Scott – Dolphins

The Pats have nothing to play for.  I really hope to see a lot of Brian Hoyer and the rest of the second stringers.  It was one year ago Welker went down in a meaningless game.  I really don’t want history to repeat itself in any shape or form.  And just for clarification I will pick the opposite of Matt in most games I deem close in a last ditch effort to make a push.

Bucaneers @ Saints

Matt – Saints

The Bucs are the youngest team in the NFL, and have occasionally played like it, but as we’ve said all year long they are exceeding almost everyone’s expectations.  On the other hand, the Saints are an experienced group that are getting healthy at the right time.  No playoffs for coach Morris this year, but he looks to be building something special in Tampa.

Scott – Bucs

The Bucs will be looking to end the season by taking down one of the top teams in their conference in an effort to send a message that they will be a team to be reckoned with in seasons to come.

Panthers @ Falcons

Matt – Falcons

There are few better ways to rebound than by having the luxury of playing against the Panthers.  Coach Fox and his boys got beat down in Pittsburgh last Thursday and look to be set up for another whooping against the Falcons on Sunday.

Scott – Falcons

Falcons will clinch the number one spot in the NFC with a walk-through against the Panthers.  The Panthers maybe a doomed franchise with news that Andrew Luck may not be coming out in this year’s draft.  Being a Carolina fan is like being on deck in softball with two outs when I am at the plate.  You don’t have a chance.

Vikings @ Lions

Matt – Lions

How about the Detroit Lions?  They go from losing about 77 road games in a row to starting a 2 game winning streak.  I truly believe that the health of Matthew Stafford and Jahvid Best are the difference between their current 5 wins and an 8-8 or 9-6 season.  Anyways, Joe Webb and the Vikes made my week by beating the Eagles on Tuesday and hurting Vick, but a very short week and Joe Webb still slinging it might spell disaster for the Vikes in Detroit.

Scott – Vikings

Joe Webb actually played well last week and as Bill Simmons puts it he is a “rich man’s Tavaris Jackson.”  There was even a Jared Allen sighting last week.  The Lions may be without Calvin Johnson and with AP looking healthy I like the Vikes here.

Raiders @ Chiefs

Matt – Chiefs

This game is meaningful to me in two ways.  First, I love seeing the Chiefs win because it shows how amazing of a franchise builder Bill Belichick is (see Scott Pioli, Charlie Weis, and Romeo Crennel in KC) and a Raiders lose versus a win could mean the difference between a top 12 pick and a pick near 20.  Like I always say, you never know what Raiders team is going to show up on Sunday, so you’d be smart to pick against them more often than not.

Scott – Raiders

The Chiefs have nothing to play for as they are already in the playoffs.  I think the bi-polar Raiders will handle the second string of the Chiefs.

Bills @ Jets

Matt – Jets

So about a year ago, the Jets were losing games and Rex Ryan was crying about being knocked out of the playoffs when they were actually still mathematically alive.  This year, the guy is crying about losing when they just clinched a playoff spot.  I love it though, because slowly but surely the wheels are coming off in New York and the self-proclaimed best team in the NFL isn’t looking all that scary.

Scott – Bills

The Jets backed into the playoffs last year and I think they will be doing so again this year.  I expect the Bills to rebound from the thrashing they took at the hands of the Pats last week.

Bengals @ Ravens

Matt – Ravens

I would pay a hell of a lot of money to be in the Bengals locker room for a season.  It must be the most bi-polar place in the entire world.  They win their division in 2009 by sweeping every team in the AFC north.  They sign T.O. in the off-season, and subsequently go 2-11 through their first 13 games of 2010.  Then, their two star wideouts get hurt and they are 2-0 in their next two games.  What does Marvin Lewis say to that?  No shot for Jordan Shipley and crew in B-More though.

Scott – Ravens

I really wanted to pick the exact opposite of Matt in every game this week.  But this one I just can’t do it.  The Ravens are playing for a bye in the first round of the playoffs and they get a layup with the Bengals.

Steelers @ Browns

Matt – Steelers

Soon after the Browns’ demolition of the Patriots, they were looking like a team on the rise.  They played the Jets and Jacksonville close, and then beat the Panthers and Miami.  But, since the Miami game it hasn’t looked so great for Cleveland.  Cheer up Cleveland, your team sucking is just giving Mike Holmgren more reason to bring in Jon Gruden in the off-season.

Scott – Steelers

Now that I’ve sided with Matt on at least one game I can pick with some smarts now.  The Browns will most likely be without a banged up Peyton Hillis and the Steelers are battling the Ravens for that all important bye.  The Steelers need that week off bad as anyone because of how banged up they are.

Jaguars @ Texans

Matt – Texans

Gary Kubiak’s job status is apparently up in the air down in Houston, but players and former stars are calling for ownership to keep Kubiak around.  The latest reports are that Kubiak will be fired unless he can somehow convince Wade Phillips to come be Houston’s defensive coordinator.  I have to agree, Wade Phillips is a franchise saver.  Dallas’ defense was great this season.  Yup, I don’t get it either.  Anyways, Trent Edwards is lined up to get the start for the Jags with Garrard out, so I’m looking for the Texans to end the season on a positive note.

Scott – Jaguars

Meaningless game so I am just going to go against Matt.  Yes, I know the Jags are without MJD and Garrard but the Texans defense is as bad as their offensive line was in the David Carr days. Put me at QB with a wideout corps from the Mother of Hope Day Camp and I can beat the Texans D.

Cowboys @ Eagles

Matt – Cowboys

This game means nothing for the Eagles.  Vick is hurt, Kolb sucks (unnecessary shot at Kolb, I know), they already have the three seed locked up, and they just played on Tuesday.  Conversely, the Cowboys are playing for their 2011 head coach Jason Garrett and have been doing a pretty good job since he took over.  Andy Reid knows his team is hurting and he will rest a lot of their starters to get ready for the playoffs.

Scott – Eagles

This is Kevin Kolb’s audition for those teams in the NFL that need a quarterback next season.  If he blows it, so goes his future.  If he light’s it up, Philly has a nice trade chip come the off season.  The Cowboys have Scuffy McGee under center and he isn’t going to be leading the team to any sort of victory.

Giants @ Redskins

Matt – Giants

I never thought I would actually say this but the Redskins look like a better team under Rex Grossman.  He is managing the game, letting the run game do its thing, and all signs in Washington are pointing to a McNabb trip to Minnesota come next season.  The Giants are a complete mess, and Tom Coughlin’s sideline antics aren’t doing much to help the situation.  I just can’t see the G-Men dropping three in a row.

Scott – Redskins

Free Falling by Tom Petty immediately comes to mind when I think of the Giants end to this season.  The loss to the Eagles ended it for them and Tom Coughlin will be collecting unemployment very soon.  Sexy Rexy is going to show the nation that he is better than McNabb and lead the Skins to a season ending win.

Chargers @ Broncos

Matt – Broncos

I’m going to take another shot with my man Tebow here.  He did me proud last week, and the Chargers looked uninspired against the Bengals last week.  The Broncos will win the battle of emotion, and I’m hoping that translates to a victory on the scoreboard.

Scott – Chargers

I wanted to pick the Broncos here just because it is sort of cool to see what Tim Tebow is doing.  No, I don’t have a Tebowner and for that reason I am going with the Chargers.

Cardinals @ 49ers

Matt – 49ers

Stupid 49ers.  Who wakes up in the morning and says, “Oh, I know what is a good idea.  Let me fire the greatest head coach in the history of the NFL.  Yes, that is definitely the best move for my team.”  Two bad teams, always pick the home squad.  Stupid, stupid 49ers.

Scott – Cardinals

Big John Skeleton marched down the field to beat the Cowboys on Christmas night.  The 49ers have absolutely no offense.  I’m going with Skeleton keeping the momentum going and getting a win.  (I am fully aware his name is Skelton).

Bears @ Packers

Matt – Packers

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are fighting relentlessly to get into the playoffs.  They control their own destiny.  If the Packers win, they are in, if they lose, who knows.  Either way, they know what is at stake and they will play like it.  The Bears are fighting for a first round bye, but I’m still not sold on Cutler.

Scott – Bears

I definitely want to pick the Packers here because it is win and in for them.  But Matt picked them, so I have to go with Daaaaaaa Bears!

Titans @ Colts

Matt – Colts

If there was one team of the probable AFC playoff teams that I would want to play it would be the Colts.  Injuries have decimated their receiving corps and tight ends.  Their running game is finally getting a bit more healthy but is often nonexistent.  Defensively, Bob Sanders is still doing curls on the sidelines and the mini-meatball Gary Brackett is banged up.  The Titans are in disarray and sadly Jeff Fisher may be on his way out if they lose this one.

Scott -Titans

The Colts win and they lock up their playoff berth as well.  All season during these series of posts I’ve said you can’t go against Peyton Manning.  Well I am going against my word and saying go Titans.  This one is for you CV.

Rams @ Seahawks

Matt – Rams

What is really sad is that this game has playoff implications.  It’s looking like Hassleback will be out for this showdown with a back injury so the future of the franchise Charlie Whitehurst gets the nod.  I’m hoping that Whitehurst throws 6 picks just so the world knows how bad of a personnel judge Pete Carrol is.  I want to pick the Seahawks just to see the uproar after a 7-9 team gets in the playoffs, but I can’t bring myself to pull the trigger.  Good for Bradford…

Scott -Seahawks

Again I want to pick the Rams. But Matt has taken away my liberties by picking first.  I hate the Seahawks.  I hate everything about them.  I have said so all season.  And now I have to pick them.

Enjoy your beers Matt.  I am sure I will have fun paying for them.

Take it Easy KG

Now that all of Celtics Nation has regained their breath after holding for the past 18 hours, with news that Kevin Garnett’s leg injury is nothing more than a calf strain, it is time to put things in perspective.  I detest the idea of putting a time frame on KG’s return to the lineup.  The initial reports from the Boston media outlet has Garnett coming back in two weeks.  While this is reassuring news for the Celtics fan base, ultimately I don’t like putting an actual timeframe on his return.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am absolutely relieved that the injury is minor.  But we all know how competitive KG is.  He is going to push himself as hard as he can to get back on the court as fast as he can.  In reality, what does KG accomplish by getting back on the court sooner rather than later? If the season were to end today, they would be the number one seed in the East come playoff time.  They could theoretically play without KG and Rondo the rest of the season, and still walk into the playoffs.

Ever the optimist, I see where KG’s injury could be a positive for the Celtics as opposed to a negative.  Rewind to 2 seasons ago when Garnett went down for the rest of the season.  Glen Davis emerged as a top role player, and we are seeing the results of him getting extra minutes and extra experience as he is the sixth man of the year.  With Garnett out, this will give Jermaine O’ Neal a chance to get that WD-40 out to get that abundance of rust off.  This will also give Semih Erden more minutes and the Celtics will be able to ease Perk back into the rotation soon enough.

The bottom line is let’s not rush KG’s return.  He did that 2 seasons ago and came back to soon.  It then took him a full season to recover.  Why the news is great that the injury is minor, let’s keep what is important in perspective.  Last season the Celtics proved the regular season means nothing.  The real goal for the rest of the season is to be healthy for the playoffs.

I can be followed on Twitter at ScottieNtcf

Ricardo Ledo is on his way to Providence

Name: Ricardo Ledo

Position: Shooting Guard

Height: 6’6”

Weight: 180 lbs.

Hometown: Providence, RI

ESPN Overall Ranking: 13

ESPN Position Ranking: 3

It’s always nice when Providence and head coach Keno Davis somehow grab a recruit over schools like UConn, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse, among others.  It is just a little nicer when the recruit that Keno Davis managed to get a commitment from is considered by some to be the best shooting guard in the country.

On Christmas day, Keno Davis and many of us Friar Faithful received some of the best news that I have heard in years, Ledo was committing to Providence.  As a Providence native, a person unfamiliar with college basketball would assume that his hometown school would be his number one choice.  In many instances, recruits actually are more prone to go away from their hometown for school for many reasons.  Some realize that the northeast isn’t the best region in the country for basketball (although that can be disputed), others want to get away from their family and friends for college, and some are chasing the dream to play professional basketball and realize that they need to go away to achieve their goals.  Whatever the reason, recruits rarely make the move that Ledo pulled just a few short days ago.
Amid speculation that Keno Davis would be fired as head coach of the Providence College Friars over the summer, I encouraged you all to be confident in Keno’s ability to install his system, improve players’ performances on the court, and bring in big time recruits.  As of December 29, 2010 it looks like Keno Davis is doing all three of those things.  I’m not going to get ahead of myself and say that PC should give Keno a nice new contract to keep him in town for many years to come, but as a Friar fan, you have to be encouraged by what you see.  Gerard Coleman, 2010’s biggest recruit, was the highest ranked recruit to ever commit to PC.  The benefit of bringing in big-time talent similarly to Coleman can be seen already.  He is producing as a freshman, which is a rarity in the Big East, and he has shown flashes of an unstoppable offensive arsenal.  The commitment of Ricardo Ledo obviously tops Coleman in terms of national prominence and ranking, but the move is just another stepping stone in the right direction.

Aside from Ledo, there are even more reasons to be enthralled with the possible future of the Providence College Friars.  The 2011 recruiting class seems to be locked up.  The Friars will lose only two seniors this season (again, not counting walk-on Chris Carter) in Marshon Brooks and Ray Hall, and already have two ESPN 90 grade recruits lined up to come in an fill those scholarship spots, PG Kyan Anderson and SF Markus Crider.  I’m actually amazed that Keno was able to lure such talented recruits to fill those spots considering the current youth of the team, which would lead one to believe that there will be little playing time available for a true freshman next season.

As for 2012, that recruiting class has the chance to be a program changer.  We already know about Ledo, who as previously mentioned is one of the country’s top recruits.  Also committed for 2012 is 6’5” SF Joshua Fortune (#34 SF according to ESPN).  Just those two recruits alone would provide some promise for Friar fans, but it doesn’t seem that Keno is stopping there.  Among recruits currently considering PC are 6’11” center Andre Drummond (ESPN 98 grade, #1 overall prospect, #1 position prospect), 7’0” center Kaleb Tarczewski (ESPN 97 grade, #24 overall prospect, #7 position prospect), 6’8” power forward Shaq Goodwin (ESPN 96 grade, #44 overall prospect, #9 position prospect), 6’8” power forward Anthony J.P. Cortesia (ESPN 92 grade, #100 overall prospect, #25 position prospect), 6’3” shooting guard Melvin Johnson (ESPN 88 grade, #44 position prospect), 6’8” power forward Evan Cummins (ESPN 87 grade, #57 position prospect), and 6’8” power forward Kamari Murphy (ESPN 85 grade, #69 position prospect).  Drummond, Tarczewski, Goodwin, Cummins, and Murphy are all in the ESPN U Super 60 for 2012, which is reserved for the 60 best high school juniors in the country.  If Davis could land just one of those guys this program would have one of the better recruiting classes in the country and looking to finally crack the top eight perennially in the Big East.

Have faith Friar fans, have faith…

Big East Game 1: Syracuse 81 – Providence 74

-I think that it is important for me to preface my critique of this game by presenting my expectations for Tuesday night’s Syracuse-PC match up.  Providence had played only one true road game before last night, which resulted in a loss at Boston College.  Other than that game, they played two games on a neutral court in Cancun and their remaining ten games all took place at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.  So, how did you expect a team that is comprised thirteen freshmen and sophomores to only three seniors to play on the road in their first Big East game against the #5 team in the country in Syracuse?  Well, to be blunt, I didn’t expect much.

-As I mentioned in a previous post, Marshon Brooks may be the most frustrating player that I have ever watched play basketball (besides Charlie Burch of course).  Marshon looked to be scoring at will in the first half, posting 17 of PC’s 32 points.  Brooks was the sole reason why the Friars were still in the game.  I was encouraged that Brooks was getting to the rim instead of making his living on the perimeter.  After halftime, Marshon looked like a completely different player.  He was stagnant offensively, not getting open of creating for others.  Marshon made a critical fast-break three pointer to put the Friars within five late in the second half, but the shot that he took was terrible.  On the break, there were two Friars cutting to the hoop for easy buckets, but Brooks pulled up at the hash mark and launched a three.  These are the exact instances where Brooks frustrates the hell out of me.  He passes when he should shoot, and he shoots when he should pass.  I’m said to say that Marshon just doesn’t get it.

-The Friars are not going to win many games when they shoot under forty percent from the field (39.7%) and under thirty percent from beyond the arc (26.7%).  Keno Davis has notoriously struggled to find a way to crack the Syracuse 2-3 zone, and last night was a perfect indicator of those struggles.  On countless possessions down the stretch, the ball was passed from the point to the wing, back to the point and to the other wing.  Working the ball around the three point line is not helpful in breaking a 2-3 zone, especially when your team can not hit a three.  Council split the top two defenders a few times which led to easy dump-down buckets for Bilal Dixon and Brooks, but it didn’t occur at a high enough frequency for my liking.

-Aside from PC’s offensive woes, the Orangemen, who are not known for their three point shooting (many believe that is the weakest part of their game), shot over forty percent from beyond the arc.  Forward Kris Jospeh was 4-6 from three, and when he is hot like that, there are few teams in the country who could compete with Syracuse.

-Looking back on the game, I can honestly say that I was happy with what I saw on Tuesday night at the Carrier Dome.  Many of the young Friars did a lot of growing up against the Orangemen.  After a dreadful first half, Gerard Coleman showed the skills that made him a top 50 recruit nationally, when he scored points on three straight possessions for the Friars to get them back into the game.  Vincent Council looks like he is ready to lead this team alongside Marshon Brooks is Brooks takes a little side step to let Council blossom.  Duke Mondy played “starter minutes” off of the bench for Keno Davis and hit a big three towards the end of the game to keep it close.  Kadeem Batts is slowly learning what Bilal Dixon was taught last season, being undersized in the Big East is not fun but it is necessary that foul trouble is avoided in order for your team to be successful.

-Keno Davis used only a seven man rotation in the loss to Syracuse (eight players actually saw game time, but Dre Evans played just one minute so I’m not counting him).  In my opinion, one of the biggest strengths for this Friars team is their depth.  I’m well aware that unlike Syracuse, Keno can’t pull three or four 6’9” guys off of his bench and throw them into the game, but keeping guys like Council, Coleman, and Brooks fresh is what is going to lead this Friars team to some big wins.  Even squeezing just a few minutes out of a guy like Dre Evans, Ron Giplaye, and Lee Goldsbrough will be huge in terms of the starters’ effectiveness.

NEXT GAME: Saturday January 1st vs. St. John’s (7pm)

Week 16 – The Mattyoshow Review

In this segment I will provide a weekly review for the previous weekend’s Patriots game, as well as my prediction for next weekend’s game.

-Let me begin by apologizing for the tardiness of this segment.  Shortly after I began celebrating the 13th win of the season for the New England Patriots (I can’t get enough Guinness lately) on Sunday my computer’s hard drive decided to go, leaving me with no visible evidence that I have been in college for the past 3 ½ years.  Anyways, the Patriots claimed their 13th victory of the 2010 season on Sunday, which clinched them the number one seed in the AFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  Home field advantage is huge for the Pats, as we all know how good they are at home, but for some reason I can’t get last season’s home playoff beat down against the Ravens out of my head…

-Many people’s initial reaction to the score line (34-3) has them praising the Patriots defense to no end.  To a certain degree, I agree.  The Patriots defense has had a knack of being opportunistic this season, creating turnovers and taking advantage of sloppy play by opposing teams.  Although the defense allowed only three points, the Bills ended the game with 7 turnovers (5 by Ryan Fitzpatrick).  Anyone that watches NFL football, or even football at any level, knows that committing that many turnovers is essentially the equivalent of a forfeit.  Ryan Fitzpatrick made some throws that had me rewinding and replaying the play four or five times to see what he was thinking.  CJ Spiller looked like he had enough of playing in the weather up in Buffalo by dropping a couple of punts.  Yes, allowing three points is a great sign for this defense, but no, they did not do it without a lot of help from the Bills.

-As I mentioned in the “What to Look For…” segment, this game would be controlled on the ground.  The Buffalo Bills came into Sunday’s contest boasting the worst rushing defense in the entire NFL, and they did little to help their cause.  Yes, Tom Brady threw three touchdowns and the running backs combined for only one (Danny Woodhead), but the backs put Brady in position to throw those scores.  With the cold and windy weather up in Buffalo, Brady’s stats weren’t overly impressive (15/27, 140 yards, 3 touchdowns).  Danny Woodhead grabbed the first score of the game for the Patriots on a 29 yard run in the first quarter and it was all BJGE and Woodhead from there.  The two backs combined to rush 32 times for 197 yards and the one aforementioned touchdown.  They posted a 6.2 yards per carry average, and most importantly drained the life (and clock) out of the game.  The only criticism I have is that Fred Taylor received only one carry and lost three yards.  I would have liked to see Taylor get more action to get him ready to at least contribute during the playoffs.

-If you know me, than you know I’m not finishing this post without mentioning the defense.  So much has been made about the poor stats that this defense has posted throughout the season, often drawing comparisons between the New Orleans Saints of last season in that the defense is not good, just very opportunistic.  Well, I’m calling bulls***.  I told you before the season, this defense is the youngest in the league, but by the end of the season many of these guys can’t be considered rookies anymore.  Devin McCourty, Brandon Deadrick, Brandon Spikes (when he returns), and Jermaine Cunningham have all seen enough time that they can’t be considered rookies anymore.  Other guys like Kyle Arrington and Pat Chung, that didn’t see much time last season, are now very seasoned having played almost all of the snaps over the course of the year.  Since the Patriots loss at Cleveland in week 9, they have allowed an average of 16.9 points per game.  If that defense, with all of its youth, can allow that same amount of points per game in the playoffs, there is no shot the Pats don’t win the Super Bowl.  All I ask of you is to wake up, smell the coffee, and realize that when I tell you something you should listen…and yes I accept the fact that I’m an asshole.

-Let me throw in a little FYI here: So, apparently in 2006 Danny Woodhead led D-II football in rushing with 2,756 yards.  Those numbers are astounding.  But, what a source recently brought to light is that in that same season, D-II’s second leading rusher was former La Salle Academy great, Bryant University running back Lorenzo Perry (1,924 yards).

NEXT WEEK’S PREDICTION: Patriots 38 – Miami 20

What Are You Watching Tonight?

Any sports lover should be in their glory tonight and be keeping the remote control near.  At least local sports lovers that is.  Tonight there is a full compliment of games to enjoy. 

Boston Bruins @ Tampa Bay Lightning

The Bruins continue their 5 game road trip tonight as they travel to Tampa Bay to take on Steven Stamkos and the Lightning.   The Bruins beat the Panthers last night in a shootout thanks to Tim Thomas manning the pipes and a goal by Blake Wheeler.  David Krejci was also hot with two goals of his own during play. The Bruins are tied for first place in their division with the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay is tied for first place in their division with the Washington Capitals.  Both teams are riding two game winning streaks.

Boston Celtics @ Indiana Pacers

The Celtics travel to Indiana coming off their first loss in more than a month.  The Pacers hold the seven spot in the conference and a fresh off a 14 point loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.  The Pacers feature one of the more underrated players in the game in sharp shooter Danny Granger and emerging point guard Darren Collison.  Old friend James Posey is also a Pacer.  As a Celtics fan, I am looking to see how Nate Robinson and Jermaine O’ Neal rebound from an atrocious game on Christmas day.

Providence Friars @ #5 Syracuse Orangemen

More of a local flavor for this game as the Friars travel to Syracuse to open up Big East play.  Keno Davis has the Friar Faithful cautiously optimistic after opening the season 11-2 albeit against a cupcake schedule.  However, the Friars are young and have shown they will play tough defense, something that was severely lacking last season.  Marshon Brooks has been one of the best players in the nation through the first months of the season, and will try to keep it going against far tougher competition.  Syracuse comes into Big East play ranked #5 with a record of 13-0.  They are led by Rick Jackson, Scoop Jardine, and Kris Joseph.  The Orange have beaten Michigan State as their only really notable opponent this season.

Minnesota Vikings @ Philadelphia Eagles

After listing all the local matchups, I have to throw this one into the mix as well.  Not because it is the first NFL game to be played on a Tuesday in 64 years, not because the Eagles are trying to secure a first round bye, but simply because I need Mike Vick to get me 33 points to win my big money fantasy football league.  In my other league, I need 24 points out of Vick, Desean Jackson, Adrian Peterson, and the Philadelphia defense.  If all that can happen, I will be a very happy man tomorrow morning.  Not to mention a few dollars richer.

I can now be followed on Twitter at Scottientcf.

Mumbles: Blizzard Edition

After shoveling for nearly two and a half hours, I feel the need to rant.  It is usually ideal therapy for me so I figured there is nothing better than to sit down at my computer and just let it have it.

* First and foremost, all you people out there who love snow and are the outdoorsy type were either dropped on your heads as children or should make an appointment to get your head examined, pronto.

*Yesterday, the Patriots took care of business by dismantling the Bills giving them home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  While this is an obvious advantage for the Pats, let us not lose sight of the fact that the Pats just last season were blown out on Foxboro turf by the Ravens 33-14 in the first round of the playoffs.  The Patriots could play host to any number of teams as the AFC playoff picture hasn’t quite come into focus yet.  To be honest there isn’t a clear cut team that I am “comfortable” with the Pats facing after their first round bye as each team poses it’s own set of problems.

*Going into this season I was hoping the Patriots would use the Raiders pick to scoop up Alabama’s Mark Ingram.  Now with one week to go in the regular season, that is no longer the case.  BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been incredible for the Pats this year.  He has carried the ball 209 times this year for 928 yards and 12 touchdowns, without a fumble.  In fact during his 3 years in the league spanning 309 carries he is yet to fumble.  (Lord, I hope I don’t jinx the man).  He has also been great in the back field in picking up blitzes to protect Brady.  He along with Danny Woodhead have been a very pleasant surprise this season.  What’s even better is they are both young and can share backfield duties for years to come.  Their success has enabled the Patriots to concentrate on other areas come draft time.

*I am really hoping that the Celtics aren’t about to partake in their annual swoon after Christmas.  Last season the Celtics were 23-5 going into Christmas day, eerily similar to this season.  Last season they played the Lakers and lost, much like they did with the Magic this season.  Last season, after Christmas the Celtics played less than .500 ball and got a 5 seed in the playoffs.  I am hoping the Celtics can maintain the dominance they have showed this season because I feel home court advantage will be important to them come April as evidenced by their 13-1 home record, best in the NBA.

*Many fans are wondering if the Celtics will make their usual trade deadline move as they have the past 3 years (PJ Brown, Mikki Moore, Nate Robinson).  Such a move will be unnecessary as they will actually be getting healthy around that time.  Expect Kendrick Perkins, Delonte West, Jermaine O’ Neal and Rajon Rondo to all be fully healthy come mid- February.  I have long said this is the deepest team I can remember in the NBA.  For that very reason I think they are the best team in the NBA.

*There has been a lot of discussion as to what the Boston Red Sox batting order will be come 2011.  Some writers (Gordon Edes) actually think that Dustin Pedroia will bat 5th or 6th.  Now what bothers me is that he is a so called expert and gets paid to offer his opinion on such matters.  But how can one man who has his amount of access to the club even think this?  Why would anyone bat the league leader in runs scored when healthy (2008-118 runs 2009-115 runs) deep in the lineup and not have him set the table for the big boppers?  His logic escapes me and if anyone can help me understand what he is thinking it will be greatly appreciated.

*In regard to the Sox lineup, here is something that hasn’t really been brought up.  Why not bad Carl Crawford ahead of David Ortiz? If Crawford was to bat in the 5 hole and Ortiz 6, there would be no more Ortiz shift.  A walk to Crawford would soon turn into a triple if teams were to employ the dreaded shift.  With the shift out of play, Ortiz is looking at 15 to 20 more hits this season.  At the same time I see the flaw in having back to back lefties in the lineup,  but I think it is more valuable to get rid of that shift as many times as possible.

*Last week I wanted Claude Julien fired and was calling for Santa to give him a shake weight to occupy his time.  Don’t get me wrong I still want him canned.  But how cool was it to see Shawn Thornton drop the gloves 2 seconds into the game against the Thrashers last Thursday night? I was calling for some kind of spark that would show me the Bruins did have heart.  Thornton produced that and then found the twine twice in a 4-1 win over the second best goalie in the NHL, in Ondrej Pavelec.  Hopefully Bruins fans will look back to December 23 as the turning point in the season, that got the boys in black and gold going.

*Speaking of the Bruins, I appreciate Marc Savard’s effort in trying to drop the gloves toward the end of the Atlanta game.  But what the hell was he thinking?  This is a man who was knocked out for an extended amount of time last season after a cheap shot by Matt Cooke.  Then missed the first few months of this season with post concussion syndrome.  I never want to see one of my guys turtle but that was an exception.  I understand he didn’t want to be the only one on the ice not dropping his gloves, but he has to realize common sense.  Don’t put yourself at obvious risk of furthering your injury!

I can now be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNtcf.

What to Look For…

The 2010-2011 NFL season for the New England Patriots is hopefully just underway.  This team has played in such a dominating manner that fans around New England and across the country are expecting a deep run into the playoffs and many are anticipating a trip to Dallas in early February.  The Buffalo Bills are playing themselves out of the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, but in the process they are giving their fans something to look forward to in the future from this team.  But, whatever direction that each team is headed, games between two divisional opponents are never easy wins.  Here is what to look for in Sunday’s Patriots-Bills game…

-The Buffalo Bills are ranked last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, so look for the Patriots to dole out a large serving of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead to start this one.  Although Fred Taylor is now healthy, both he and Sammy Morris have seen very limited action this season.  If all four backs are active for this game I expect that all four will get at least some touches.  As usual I expect the Patriots to set up the run by using the pass, but when the game is at hand in the cold weather up in Buffalo, look for the running backs to bring the victory home.  What to look for: How effective the Patriots’ runners are against a bad Buffalo run defense.

-Jermaine Cunningham has been ruled out of this week’s game, and Tully Banta-Cain has missed some practice time earlier this week.  That leaves a huge spot to be filled at the outside linebacker position.  The Patriots’ inability to generate a pass rush has been the weakest part of their defense and has negatively affected the play of their secondary at various points throughout the season.  What to look for: How much of a pass rush the Patriots can generate with the absence of Cunningham and a hobbled Banta-Cain.

-Three players for the Buffalo Bills will mandate extra attention in this game.  Earlier this week, coach Belichick called Bills running back Fred Jackson one of the best running backs in the league.  Just by that statement, you know that the Pats’ defense will be keyed in on him.  The other Bills running back, CJ Spiller, is one of the more explosive runners in the league and could change the game on one play.  Steve Johnson has been a surprise to may this season, as he has come from nowhere to help lead many fantasy football owners to championship weekend.  One big play could change the game in the Bills favor, so it will be important for the Pats to limit that.  What to look for: How the Patriots defense controls the few explosive players on the Bills offense.

-THIS WEEK’S PREDICTION – Patriots 35 – Buffalo 21

Celtics Christmas Day

Well, I’m finally back from a short hiatus to give a little insight on the Boston Celtics with a short post. As if you did not know, the Celtics have won their last 14 games in a row. Sadly, we have to sit through this Bulls-Knicks in order to get to the Celtics, but the wait should be well worth it.
The Magic have completely revamped their lineup, most notably shipping off perennial underachiever Vince Carter and acquiring Jason Richardson (who ALWAYS plays well against the Celtics for some reason), Gilbert Arenas (who looks to have guns ablazin coming off the bench, pun intended), and choosing to have Hedo Turkoglu come back to possibly be the power/point he was when they went to the finals 2 years ago. The problem for the Magic is they traded defense for offense and became smaller, especially by relinquishing Gortat in the middle, who seemed to step up his game whenever he played the C’s.
So in the end you can look for the Celtics, who are averaging 100 ppg and giving up just over 90 ppg, to be too much for these new look Magic to handle…just like last year. Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas From NTCF!!

Merry Christmas from all the guys at NTCF!!!  We all look forward to sharing a championship year in the hub with all of you!  Thank you so much for your support!!