Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dream Matchup

The Game 7 win by the Washington Capitlas volted them in to the Second Round of Stanley Cup Playoffs. This was followed up by a late, improbable win by the Carolina Hurricanes in which they scored 2 goals in the final 80 seconds to come from behind to win. What this leads to is a "Dream Matchup" of arguably the two best players in hockey, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.

The series matchup between the Penguins and Caps will be the start of one of the most riveting stories in hockey this year and maybe in sports. What makes this series even more interesting is the fact that Crosby and Ovechkin has publicly voiced their dislike for eachother throughout this year.

Remember when Ovechkin and Malkin were having their little spat earlier in the year, (aparently Ovechkin punched Malkin's agent in a nightclub in Russia), and Ovechkin was going for a big hit on Malkin during one of the early matchups. Well, Crosby didn't like how Ovechkin played so physical with the other stars on the ice. He also doesn't like Ovechkin's antics when he scores goals either.

This will be the most anticipated series of these playoffs and the team that wins here could possibly win it all. I think the smaller games within the games could prove to be more interesting and as Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said, "Welcome to the circus."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Why the 'Skins should not draft Mark Sanchez

Dan Snyder's intrigue with Mark Sanchez is understandable. He's went to USC, he's already got the talent to make the NFL throws, he already looks good in burgundy and gold, and he got the star power that Snyder craves. So essentially there is nothing wrong with Sanchez but the Redskins still should NOT draft him. Wanna know why?
For one the Redskins do not need a QB at this moment. They have Jason Campbell who has yet to been a starter for two full years in any system dating back to high school. He may not be the answer but he still needs a chance to develop in a system that Jim Zorn has said takes at least two years to start to master.

The only reason Sanchez came out after his only year of starting at USC is because the top three QBs decided to stay in school. Tim Tebow doesn't have NFL capabilities yet but he's on his way with the way he played in the BCS Championship game throwing all over Oklahoma. Colt McCoy is a tremendous talent at Texas and plays against some of the best teams in the nation week in and week out. Then there is Sam Bradford who is by far the best in the 2010 class of QBs and sure as shit is ready to play at a high level in the NFL.

So the best thing for Snyder to do is let the Campbell experiment run another year. Campbell only has one year left on his contract and letting him play out his contract will give the Redskins an opportunity to see if he has what it takes to lead this team to the playoffs. Should Campbell not work out after the first half of the season, Snyder could force Zorn to play Colt Brennan and see if his preseason magic translates into the regular season. Should that work the 'Skins don't need to pick a QB as they have one waiting in the wings already. If Campbell does work out you can give him his deserving extension and all this talk of another QB is history.

But should Campbell not work out, the 'Skins would have more leverage with picks next year to move up in the draft to pick one of the three studs that will be coming out next year. This could also give Snyder the opportunity to toss Zorn aside and bring in a guy like Mike Shannahan or any other of the high quality coaches that are sitting out this year.

My opinion is to give Campbell a chance this year and wait to see if the 'Skins need to make a move in next year's draft to pick a better QB than Sanchez. It is nothing against Sanchez but he only came out this year because he knew that with only Matthew Stafford as the only other 1st rd QB he had the best chance to make his money this year as opposed to next year where he might be a late first rounder or early second round pick.

Dan Snyder needs to focus elsewhere on this team like the O-line, D-line, or Linebacker where the holes are glaring, rather than QB where the hole is only questionable.

Please Dan, don't pick Sanchez this year just because you like him in this year's draft. Next year there will be a better crop of players to trade up for and more leverage with the picks you haven't traded away yet. It'd be better for the team to focus on the non-glamorous players rather than the sexy pick. Do something smart for a change.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A New Hope is all but lost

A drought dating back to 1992 when the Redskins won the Super Bowl, the Washington, D.C. area has got to be the last remaining big city to win a championship. With the Phillies World Series win last fall D.C. has jumped to the front of the pack as the loneliest sports town in America. With all the big sports in town, and a frenzy of fans who will ride bus when hot and and cliff jump when cold, this area is desperate for a championship.

This year the Washington Capitals were that "New Hope." The team with the games most iconic player and an offense that is sure to dazzle, the Caps were the love of the town. Recording a franchise-record 108 pts in the standings, winning the Southeast Division for a second year in a row, and securing the #2 in the Eastern Conference it was destined that this team make a run at the Stanley Cup.

While the Wizards fizzled to a franchise low and the Nationals off to an MLB worst start, it was up to the Caps to provide the fury for the sports-loving area. Though the Redskins are this town's darling, hockey has provided a mistress for people as we wait for the Dark Lord in Dan Snyder to find his way in operating a sports franchise.

Games are the talk of the town and red can be blinding within "The Phonebooth." The deafening cheers along with the boat horn that accompanies every Caps goal were raving downtown and you couldn't turn on a TV without seeing Alex Ovechkin acting goofy in an Easterns Automotive commercial.

5 months after the start of the season, the real season began. Caps fans have waited all year for the playoffs, a time when last year they lost in a Game 7 overtime to Philly, the most hated city in this area. In walks New York, the second most hated city in this area, a team that the Caps went 3-1 against in the regular season and hands the Caps two straight losses at home. Game 3 provides an uplifting story with a rookie goalie recording a shutout for the Caps and a hope that this team can pull this out. Then comes Game 4. An effort lacking any emotion or flare and the Caps skate away 2-1 losers. The loss, probably the most disheartening loss since the Redskins playoff loss to the Seahawks after Sean Taylor died, will undoubtedly put this city into an early hibernation and a sleep that is has become accustomed to over the last 17 years.

With the Redskins looking to trade up in the draft to pick another QB, a certain FAIL in the fans eyes after watching the offensive line deteriorate last season, it almost a lock to see that team struggle once again with an ownership running around with its head cutoff. The summer will be all but dead with the Nationals providing loss after loss with a bullpen who cannot sustain a lead or get a side out in the 9th. The only possibility in terms of excitement is if the Wizards can somehow land the #1 pick and grab Blake Griffin. Should this not happen, this area will be the most depressing city in the country as another year of losing sports fills the docket until the Caps come around again.

Only a miracle can save this city now. A win in the first round would do wonders for this Capitals team and show them that they CAN win and could spark something special. Until that happens, this team too will provide disappointment and heartbreak to an area that needs a champion more than any other city in the country.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Been a while since I've posted but didn't find any compelling reasons to write.

Today is the final round of The Masters and this year the tournament has been somewhat low scoring. There has been an absence of the top two players in the world on the leaderboard which generally leads us to believe that this year there will be a first time winner. They have been a few bright spots in the tournament with Chad Campbell shooting a first round 65, Anthony Kim setting a record for most birdies in a round with 11, Gary Player playing in his final round, and Kenny Perry being in the final group of The Masters today trying to become the oldest winner ever.

Looking at today's round watch for a tougher course with the toughest pin placements that have been accustomed to at day four. This could lead to a lot of movement on the leaderboard but pay close attention to the final two groups of Angel Cabrera-Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell-Jum Furyk. I think we'll see these two groups pull away with someone in the 2nd group putting on the green jacket at the end.

Without Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson contending this leads to an interesting, wide-open race that may be void of some of the roars we are used to seeing when Tiger makes a charge. I suspect that these two will be in contention down the road this year at a Major but it seems that this weekend they couldn't put it together with wayward tee shots and unlucky breaks on the greens.

So relax with family turn on your HD TVs and watch the drama that unfolds with those still in the hunt because The Masters is still one of the best golf tournaments you'll watch all year.

Monday, April 6, 2009

NCAA Championship

So we've finally made it down to two teams, Michigan St. and UNC. Two coaches with a combined 12 Final Four appearances, Izzo - 5 and Williams - 7. Two of the most storied programs in their respective conferences meet tonight in Detriot.

Michigan St. dominated UConn enroute to a 9-point win that looked more like a 19-point win. UNC continued to shoot lights out as they were the clock that struck midnight on the Villanova Wildcats who looked satisfied to just finally make it to the Final Four for the first time since 1985.

If we look at tonight's game its easy to see why UNC has made it to this point and is really no suprise to anyone who has followed college basketball all year long. Michigan State on the other hand has been somewhat under the radar all year long mostly due to being in a conference that hasn't received the pub that the Big East or ACC have gotten all year long. Everyone was surprised that the Big Ten got 7 teams in the tournament and felt that they had an inferior schedule compared to other leagues but we see now that Michigan St. sure had the preparation to get through to the end.

Tonight's keys rise and fall on Ty Lawson and Kalin Lucas. Both of these guards have provided the offensive sparks for each team and can initiate from the top of the key and draw another man allowing for a dish close to the hoop. Lawson is surrounded by a much better cast and can push the ball unlike any other play in the NCAA. His ability to get the ball to Danny Green and Tyler Hansborough allows for UNC to be one of the most well-rounded and prolific offenses all year.

Michigan State was very physical against UConn and were able to outrebound one of the best rebounding teams all year long. The only issue is that this physical play wont hamper a UNC team who is too good all around to be hurt in a one-dimensional attack. The only way Michigan St. can stop a hot UNC team is by forcing bad shots from outside. If Michigan St can do this and out-rebound another team it will look good from a Spartan perspective.

I don't imagine seeing UNC going cold from the floor but I do think that Michigan St. can hang with them for some time. This game will just come down to the fact that UNC is too strong and too deep for Michigan State to hang with.

UNC wins 83-77.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Final Four

Well here were are today down to the last four teams in the NCAA Tournament. For the most part it was chalk throughout the tourney with #3 Villanova and #2 Michigan State advancing past the top seeds in their regions. So let's breakdown these games and decide who's going to win.

UConn vs. Michigan State - UConn has been relatively dominant in the tournament thus far. Michigan State has shown a shooters touch and had an easy road to the Final Four playing the top seed of the tournament who hadn't played any of the top teams from its conference more than once in Louisville. With Michigan State "homecourt" advantage coming in Detriot, an area hit hardest by the recession, it might be easy to think that the Spartans have an advantage over UConn.

Let's rethink this though, Detriot is a great sports town and for the Spartan faithful to travel to Detriot would make it easy but since the recession has hit this area hard, I'd be lying not say that I don't expect an large amount of fans to make it to the game. Factor in a powerhouse school in UConn who generally travels well and I don't think fans will be much of a factor. Also the fact they are playing this game in the center of Ford Field making it tough for the fans to be directly on top of the court noise should not be a factor.

Now for the game analysis, UConn has been too good down low with Thabeet and Adrien for the Spartans to attempt to play this game in the post. The only chance Michigan State has is to shoot lights out the three and make the Huskies match them on every possession. Even with a good three shooting team the long misses and length of the post players for UConn should make it easy to grab these missed shots and convert them into break opportunities or one-shot possessions.

UConn wins this game easily and advances to the Championship game.

UNC vs. Villanova - Villanova has been somewhat under the radar all year but after dominating UCLA and Duke in the tournament teams have recognized their toughness and ability to go deep into their bench for quality minutes when in foul trouble. The only issue I see with 'Nova is that they aren't big enough underneath to match some of the size that UNC can bring off the bench. With nobody on the roster above 6'8 'Nova may have a tough time with the inside game of Hansborough.

If there is one person on Villanova that needs to step up and score its Scottie Reynolds. Reynolds has been the leader of this team for the past two years but hasn't been the prolific scorer he was last year. After his heroic last second shot against Pitt Reynolds seems to be nearing the point to where he knows he can score and can take over a game. For Villanova to compete in this game Reynolds needs to come up big on both ends of the floor. He may draw Ty Lawson on defense so denying penetration from Lawson and forcing him to get rid of the ball to some of their other guards may be key in Villanova keeping this game within reach. On the offensive side Reynolds needs to take it to the hoop to draw fouls or draw a double team to dish it their fowards who shoot jumpers well. Reynolds also needs to catch fire from three to force the UNC defense to come out a bit and cover thus opening up for Shane Clark and Dante Cunningham underneath.

For UNC the key is to get Hansborough the ball underneath because the Wildcats have a tendency to get into foul trouble and the easier they can get players like Clark and Cunningham on the bench for fouls the easier this opens up 'Nova's defense. Lawson will also play a vital role in starting break opportunities for the Tar Heels off of misses and made baskets and his penetration has seemed to be unstoppable. As long as Lawson continues to not turn the ball over, only 2 thus far this tournament, UNC will be hard to stop.

I imagine this game could be the most exciting of this round and personally I would like nothing more than to see Villanova win the game and advance to the championship. It will be tough and I think that UNC has too much quality depth to let this one slip away. Close in the first half I see UNC pulling away late in the second half advancing to face UConn in a matchup that will not be one to miss.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cutler a Bear!

Well I guess that ends the discussion for the 'Skins. Jay Cutler ends up in Chicago and the 'Skins front office is sent away with their tail between their legs.

Now comes the interesting apologies and or retractions to Campbell. Does he feel betrayed or not liked? Who knows.

Should be an interesting year in DC.

Jay Cutler to 'Skins?

Alright, so it may be obvious that I'm a 'Skins fan and have a bias towards writing about them in this blog. Well now with the rumors floating around that Jay Culter could be coming to the 'Skins in a trade that would send the incumbent QB Jason Campbell elsewhere I feel the need to show some stats and provide a view of why Cutler may not be the answer.
For a long time now I've backed Jason Campbell saying that he's been hamstrung by a front office that has made both coaching and personnel moves that are questionable. Now I did a little research this morning on stats from each players' 2008 season, which was arguebly the best in their short careers. Lets take a look;
Jay Cutler:
average rank of defense faced: 19.875
qb rating: 87.15
tds: 25
ints: 18
Jason Campbell:
average rank of defense faced: 12.9375
qb rating: 85.97
tds: 13
ints: 6

When you look at these stats you see that Cutler faced inferior defenses and had a higher rating. Cutler also threw 12 more TDs than Campbell but a caviat to that would be that he also threw 12 more INTs than Campbell as well.

Next lets look at the top 5 and bottom 5 games each had and their average QB ranking and the average rank of the defense in those games.

Jay Cutler:
Top 5
Avg Defense: 20.8
Avg QB Rating: 112.82
Bottom 5
Avg Defense: 17.4
Avg QB Rating: 63.82

Jason Campbell:
Top 5
Avg Defense: 18.2
Avg QB Rating: 109.82
Bottom 5
Avg Defense: 3.4
Avg QB Rating: 63.12

Now these statistics may be the most interesting. For Jay Cutler, his best five games last year on average faced a defense that was ranked 1-2 spots lower than Jason Campbell's five best games. Cutler did have a QB rating 3 pts better in these five games but can that be attributed to worse pass rated defenses? Maybe, maybe not. Now when you look at the bottom five games for each player something to me really stands out. On average Campbell faced defenses ranked 3.4 in his bottom five games and had an average QB rating of 63.12. When you look at Cutler you see that he faced defenses that averaged a rank of 17.4 and his QB rating was only marginally better at 63.82.

Maybe I'm reading way too much into this but most people are arguing over stats when comparing the two. But when you argue that Cutler is way better than Campbell a breakdown in stats shows that "way" better is only "marginally" better. I'm fine with Campbell and think that Zorn can make Campbell even better so giving up 2 first-round picks and possibly Campbell just to get Cutler doesn't make much sense. There are more important needs to fill on the 'Skins roster than QB. I guess we'll see how it all plays out.