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Playoffs Time

I love the NFL Playoffs. A simple 11-game tournament gives us a Super Bowl champion. Here’s a good playoff trivia question, name the seven teams that have not appeared in a conference championship game this century? (Hint- you’ve got more than 1 multiple-winning Super Bowl teams on the list). I’ll answer at the end of this column.

There are some great matchups this weekend, and I suspect we will see at least one upset, but here are my picks against the spread.

Bills +2.5 over Texans The Bills played great defense on their way to a 10-6 season. The Texans didn’t, actually allowing more points than they scored- the only playoff team to do so. I think that’s the difference in a close game and I want the points.

Patriots-5 over Titans Do you think Bill Belichick has been beating the fact that they choked last week into them all week?  Do you think it will happen again?  I sure don’t and I expect an angry New England to take that out on Tennessee.

Saints-7.5 over Vikings I don’t like that 1/2 point, but the Saints will be extremely motivated after they got robbed in the NFC Championship game last year and found out that a 13-3 record only got them a 3 seed.

Philadelphia+1.5 over Seattle Yeah I know, the Seahawks had a much better season, but they have lost all their RBs in the past few weeks and had to turn to Marshawn Lynch last week for 12 carries. Home underdogs are a pretty good bet in the NFL and I’m going to ride the Eagles here.

And the answer to the trivia question is in alphabetical order- Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Miami, and Washington. (Note- Seattle is listed as last appearing in the AFC championship game in 1983, but they relocated to the NFC in 2002 and have appeared in 3 since the move)

Here’s to 2020!

Another year, another set of predictions to make (and miss). Here’s how I see the year unfolding.

January- LSU outlasts Clemson to win the college championship

Kansas City and San Francisco advance to the Super Bowl

Derek Jeter is not unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame but he gets in along with Curt Schilling

Tom Brady and Eli Manning retire

February- The Chiefs win the Super Bowl

The Astros lose their top-five draft picks and are fined $10-million for their

March- Auburn, Duke, UVA, and Gonzaga are #1 seeds

April- Auburn cuts down the nets after outlasting Gonzaga

The Knicks and Rangers both miss the playoffs

Tiger Woods misses the cut at the Masters

May- Milwaukee and LA win their conference championships in basketball, while the Stanley Cuo is a rematch between Boston and St. Louis

June- Milwaukee outlasts the Lakers and the Bruins get revenge on St. Louis

July- The Yankees reach the break with a 12-game lead and eight players on the All-Star team

August- Due to a massive heatwave, the Olympics in Tokyo are severely disrupted

September- The Giants beat the Cowboys in the season opener, but end the month under .500

The Yankees, Twins, A’s, Phillies, Cardinals, and Padres win their divisions

October- The Yankees win the World Series over Philadelphia

November- The two best teams in the NFL are Buffalo and San Francisco.  The Patriots are below .500

December- Alabama, Clemson, Texas, and Utah make the CFP

A blogger in Brooklyn vows to do better next year

Happy New Year!

 

 

It’s Over!

The Giants just completed the worst three-year stretch in their history. They are a combined 24-games under .500 over the past three years, “beating” the 23-under they amassed from 1973-1975. (To be fair, those teams only had to play 14 games). It’s been brutal.

They’ve done the easiest thing possible, firing the head coach. You won’t find me defending him, but I also don’t think it’s enough. It was the GM who picked a guy who went 9-23 in Cleveland to be his head coach, and he got 9-23 in New York. (At least he was consistent?) Giving him a second chance at picking a head coach doesn’t thrill me, but the Giants are an incredibly conservative organization. It just isn’t in their DNA to clean house.

What I would like to see is ownership come forward now and explain their vision. I want them to recognize that having the brother of the principal owner also serve as a team executive is untenable and that they have to do things differently. I want them to recognize how bad this has become. I’m not optimistic.

Almost Perfect

If this was it for Eli Manning as a Giant, it was a pretty great way to end his career. The Giants won, and the lopsided score let them give Eli a curtain call on their last possession of the game. It certainly wasn’t a packed stadium, but the crowd did a great job giving Eli the standing ovation he deserved.

It was a fitting end for a guy who delivered the greatest upset in Super Bowl history and then added a second one four years later. While plenty of people think Eli will play somewhere else next year, I don’t. He’s got his rings, and if he retires after this year he will have earned the most money of any player in NFL history, just over $250-million  What else does he need to prove?

The only downside of today’s game is it’s potential to create a damaging narrative about Daniel Jones. If Jones can’t get another win this season, it will create the impression that the Giants made a bad move switching to him in week two. It’s a false narrative, but it will become a reality if Jones can’t get under center and win in the final two games.  The Giants provided a good close to the Eli era, now it’s time to fully embrace the future.

What Now?

The only thing I am sure of after another Giants loss is that something will change over the next two weeks. It could be a coach, probably not the head coach, getting fired.  That would be my strongest bet. But it really could be anything.  Giants ownership hates losing to the Jets, and with two weeks to think things over, change is the safest bet.

But beyond change a much deeper question needs to be answered. Where is this franchise going?  For the first nine seasons of Eli’s career, they finished at or above .500 eight times. For the last seven, they have to win out or, they will have only reached .500 or better once.

And that doesn’t capture how truly bad it has been. Outside of 2016, when was the last time the Giants played an important game in the second half of the season? I’m going to guess it was the last Super Bowl. In short. we are reaching plane flying above the Meadowlands territory here.

This Will be Interesting

Kyrie, KD, and DeAndre Jordan are apparently all heading to New York City to play!  By New York City, I mean Brooklyn and this has the potential to be the most interesting basketball move made here in years.

Let’s start with the optimistic view. Durant heals and returns to being one of the best players in the league. Paired with Kyrie and DeAndre, he turns the Nets into a championship team. Add in the fact that the Knicks have been horrible for 20 years and appear to have whiffed completely on free agency, and you might see a change in the rooting dynamics in our city- which is overwhelmingly skewed towards the Knicks.

On the flip side, what happens if Durant returns diminished, Kyrie continues to piss people off, and the Nets don’t become a great team?  The Nets will have swung and missed in a very public way and won’t be contenders for five years at least.

But here’s the hideous thing from a Knicks perspective. Their icompetent owner will almost certainly overreact to this super team created on his doorstep and overpay for mediocre talent. The spiral of doom will continue. I hope I’m wrong, but we all know I’m not.

Here’s to 2019!

Last year predicted the Vegas Knights to make the Stanley Cup and Golden State to win the Finals. I also predicted the Twins and 49rs to be good, so you’ve been warned. Here’s how I see 2019 unfolding.

January

Mariano Rivera comes three votes away from being the first unaimous Hall of Famer. Rivera is inducted along withEdgar Martinez and Ray Holliday.

Clemson beats Alabama to tie their playoff series at 2.

Kansas City and Dallas advance to the Super Bowl.

Manny Machado joins the Phillies on an eight-year/ $320-million deal. Bryce Harper shocks the baseball world by signing with the White Sox for ten years and $350-million. The Yankees respond by bringing back Robertson and Britton and signing Troy Tulowitzki to a minimum contract.

February

Kansas City wins the Super Bowl

The Rangers extend Kevin Hayes and name him captain

Close to 100 free agents remain unsigned as pitchers and catchers report.

March

The number 1 seeds are Duke, UVA, Tennessee, and Nevada. And Nevada follows in UVAs footsteps and loses in the first round.

Plenty of free agents are still available as the MLB season starts  in response, the players stage a symbolic strike on the day after Opening Day

April

Tiger Woods almost wins the Masters, but blows a lead on the last day.

Duke cuts down the nets after beating UVA

The Knicks miss the playoffs since they might already be eliminated while the Rangers only get eliminated in the final week of the season

May

The NHL and NBA playoffs have a Canadian feel as Toronto, Winnipeg, and Calgary make the hockey final four while the Raptors do so in the NBA.  But, Milwaukee beats Toronto to adavance to the NBA Finals and face Oklahoma City, who outlasted Golden State.  The Leafs lose to Washington, while Winnipeg makes the Cup

The Giants don’t draft a QB in the first round of the NFL Draft

The Knicks win the NBA draft lottery

June

Milwaukee and Winnipeg win their respective championships.

After 81 games Stanton has 36 homers and Judge has 35. The Yankees are also cruising to them AL East title.

Zion Williamson is the Knicks pick.

July

The Yankees enter the break up ten on the division, but the Brewers have the best record in baseball.

August

The Red Sox cut the Yankee lead to two games after sweeping them at the Stadium

September

Eli Manning is the starting QB for the Giants opener.

The Yankees, Twins, A’s, Phillies, Brewers and Dodgers win their divisions. Boston, Houston, Atlanta and Chicago are wild cards.

The Yankees break their own home record as a team with 281 powered by 58 from Judge and 55 from Stanton.

October

The Dodgers win the World Series over the Yankees.

November

The Knicks have a winning record at the end of the month

December

Alabama, Clemson, Texas, and Michigan make the CFP playoffs

A blogger in Brooklyn vows to do better next year

Happy New Year!

 

The Madness Arrives!

I love college basketball, so this is a special time of year for me. I think Thursday and Friday should be national holidays and here are my predictions.

East Region- I can’t find a reason that Villanova won’t advance to the Final Four. First, they are a really good team. Second, geography really helps them. The East Regional is in Boston, and Villanova is the only school within 500 miles. And it is a simple drive, or ride on Amtrak to get there. Expect a big Nova crowd at the Shawmut Center and that propels them to San Antonio.

Midwest Region- This is the hardest reason to handicap because it is stacked with great teams.  But, I really think it boils down to two teams Duke and Michigan State.  I don’t believe in Kansas at all, in fact I think they could be the first number one to lose to a sixteen, and Auburn seems out of its weight class here. Duke has already beaten Michigan State this year and I expect them to do so again as they head to the Final Four.

East Region- Virginia is a great team that is really not fun to watch. Arizona is a great team under a dark, dark, cloud of scandal.  I think Arizona wins that matchup, but the team no one is talking about, Cincinatti takes the region.  Don’t be surprised if Kentucky loses in the first round, Davidson has shown us a few things before.

West Region- This is the anti-East with none of the schools remotely close to the regional site. Gonzaga is the closest, and I think that powers them to the Elite Eight, where the fall to North Carolina again. UNC has been up and down this year, but they are 2-1 vs. Duke and lead the country in Quadrent 1 wins.  They’ve already dispatched Michigan and they will do so again in their matchup.

Give me a UNC-Villanova rematch with UNC being smart enough to guard the inbounds this time.  Joel Berry and Theo Pinson graduate with three Finak Fours in their four years and two titles.

 

Here’s to 2018!

2017 gave us some great sports moments from an amazing Super Bowl comeback, to a fantastic World Series. What will 2018 bring?  Here are my predictions.

January

Oklahoma survives a nail biter against Alabama to win the National Championship.

In the pro game Pittsburgh edges New England on a last minuet field goal to face Minnesota in the Super Bowl

Bonds and Clemens get into the Hall of Fame along with Chipper Jones

February

The Vikings win the Super Bowl

MLB hands down five 50-Game suspensions for sexual misconduct by its players

Vince McMahon announces the return of the XFL

March

Michigan State, Duke, Wichita State and Arizona State get number one seeds in March Madness

The MLB season opens to weather-related chaos

April

Michigan State cuts down the nets with a win over Duke

Tiger Woods plays in the Masters, but doesn’t factor as Jordan Spieth runs away with it

The Knicks make the playoffs and lose in the first round, the Rangers don’t

May

The expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights make history by advancing to the Finals in their first year where they face Tampa.

The Celtics return to the Finals against Golden State.

June

Tampa wins the Stanley Cup while Golden State cuts the nets down again

July

The Yankees are mired in mediocrity at the break three games under .500 and ten games behind Boston.  Minnesota has the best record in baseball

August

After running off a bunch of wins, the Yankees trade for Zach Grienke to fortify a shaky rotation

Jordan Spieth falls just short of the grand slam finishing sixth in the PGA

September

The Giants open the season with Eli Manning under center

Boston, Minnesota, and Houston win their divisions in the AL.  Washington, Chicago, and Colorado in the NL  Cleveland and New York are the wild card in the AL with Atlanta and LA in the NL

October

Houston meets Washington in the World Series with Washington winning it all.

The Giants finish October with a winning record, San Francisco is undefeated.

November

The Rangers fire Vigneault.

The Giants go into a tailspin and bench Eli for their number one pick, Josh Rosen

December

Five teams finish the NCAA football season with perfect records throw ing the playoffs into chaos.  Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson, and Ohio State make it while USC doesn’t.

San Francisco and Jacksonville clinch the number 1 seeds in the playoffs

A blogger in Brooklyn vows to do better in 2019

Happy New Year!

 

 

Bye-Bye Brooklyn

Reports are that the Islanders have won the bidding for the right to develop a new arena on land adjacent to Belmont Park. While it isn’t unclear how long it will take to build the arena, this clearly means they will be leaving the Barclays Center very soon.

Hockey in Brooklyn just didn’t work and there are two main reasons why. First, this is Ranger country. The Islanders have a loyal following, but it isn’t in Brooklyn. Second, the arena is a terrible place for hockey. It’s asymmetrical and there are seats that don’t let you see the entire ice. That combination of forces led the Islanders to look for a new home.

The amazing thing is how many new sports facilities have been built this century in the local area. Every major sports team has either gotten a new building, or had their entire arena gutted and rebuilt. We’ve also added a soccer stadium and have another team looking to build one somewhere in the area. By my count, that’s six new buildings in about 15 years with a seventh on the way. Atlanta just built a new football stadium to replace one that wasn’t even 25-years old, so we may see more building in the near future. I hope everyone enjoys paying taxes.