Thursday, September 17, 2015

Pro Football - 1 Week Too Late Season Preview

Goooooooooood Afternoon Sports Fans,

I would like to begin this post with an apology. I am one week too late putting together my official season preview and therefore have 16 games under my belt to complete additional analysis and predictions. I would like to continue by retracting my apology because I'm currently in the process of healing from multiple concussions and have been instructed to minimize my time in front of a computer screen. With that said, the world is clearly thirsty for my insight and I'm like a tall glass of Coke to quench your desires. Not the crappy Coke that they released in the 80's though, I'm the real deal Coca-Cola.

Before continuing, I'd also like to mention that due to my concussion recovery I will likely look at the keyboard while typing instead of the monitor (or keep my eyes closed) so I apologize for any typos, grammatical errors, or references to the over-sexualization of Miley Cyrus. Why? Because thinking about Miley makes my head hurt.

OK, now let's get down to business. In order to be fair about my predictions, I'm going to give you my original forecasts for the season along with a few revisions that I've made now that Week 1 is in my back pocket. To be fair, my brother and I had a thorough discussion on the phone about a week and a half ago to discussion the [then] upcoming season so he can verify these were my actual thoughts. Don't believe me? You can call him to verify: 1-800-NAKED-MILEY. If he's not home, please leave a voicemail after the twerk.

Per usual, we're going to break this down by division and then get to my Super Bowl Fifty prediction (I typed out 50 because using one Roman numeral is weird and some may get confused by Super Bowl L).

AFC North

Original Prediction - 4 Team Coin Flip (If forced to pick, I'd take Pittsburgh)
Revised Prediction - 3 Team Coin Flip (If forced to pick, I'd take Cincinnati)

For my money, the AFC North is once again the most competitive division in the NFL. When the season started, I could make an argument for any of the 4 teams to ultimately win the division with either a 9 or 10 win record. Each team has strengths (Baltimore and Cleveland have outstanding defenses, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati potent offenses) and each team has weaknesses (Baltimore has no wide receivers, Johnny Football spends too much time partying with Miley, half the Pittsburgh defense left town, and Andy Dalton can't decide if he's good or not). It really was a toss up for me and I expected that the second place team in the division would be neck and neck with the third place team from the AFC West for the last Wild Card spot (more on that later). After watching Week 1, I'm going to go ahead and say that the Browns suck more than Miley in a ... err ... I don't think the Browns can score enough points to win games. Still a toss up among the other three, but the Bengals looked really solid against a weak Raiders team in Oakland.

AFC East

Original Prediction - New England Patriots
Revised Prediction - New England Patriots

Even though the Patriots' balls are more deflated than Miley's ex-boyfriend's, somehow Tom got out of jail free and was able to make the Week 1 roster. And that, by itself, was enough to give the Patriots the division. Even though my brother disagrees, I think the off season issues of Brady and crew will help motivate the team rather than distract them. Anyone else remember the 2007 campaign after Spygate? The Patriots scored more during those 17 weeks than Miley did in 17 months. At this point, I can't expect the Patriots to have a bad season unless #12's leg breaks again and that's just not the type of thing you can predict. The Belichek/Brady combination is just too potent to stop during the regular season and I see another 12-4 regular season in their future. On top of that, I still think the AFC Least is the worst division in football because at least 2 teams are incredibly underwhelming. After watching Week 1, I'm not ready to jump on the Buffalo bandwagon quite yet. Even if the Bills can pull off the win against the Pats this weekend, I'm just not sure that a team used to losing can sustain dominance for an entire season. BUT, it might be enough to get them into the Wild Card ...

AFC South

Original Prediction - Indianapolis Colts
Revised Prediction - Indianapolis Colts

First, let me start off by saying I love Marcus Mariota. And no, I'm not one of the millions of people in America who are just figuring out who this kid is after a ridiculous first half performance against the Bucs in Week 1. Go ahead and read my College Football posts from last year ... I've been loving on Mariota the same way that Miley loves on ... well, everything. I am incredibly excited by the performance I saw last week (Marcus, not Miley) and am hopeful that he continues to grow into the future Hall of Famer I believe he can be. With that said, I just don't think the Titans have nearly enough talent around him to keep the blowouts coming. This division belongs to the Colts and their superstar offense. Provided the team can stay relatively healthy, I don't see anyone else in the division even having a chance. And yes, I still believe that after the Colts lost an ugly game in Buffalo last week. I'll take the Colts, a 13-3 record, and wishes for Hannah Montana to return from the depths of Miley's trashy heart.

AFC West

Original Prediction - Denver Broncos
Revised Prediction - Kansas City Chiefs

For my money, top to bottom the AFC West is the best division in the AFC (if not all of football). Even though the Raiders are cute in their little silver and black costumes (no wait, that was Miley), the other three teams in the division are among the best in the NFL. Last year the Chiefs came out of nowhere to show that they are a serious franchise again and they have only added to their depth by signing Jeremy Maclin and addressing the one glaring weakness they had in 2014. The Chargers have been one of the NFL's most consistent teams over the last 10 years and you just know that Phillip Rivers is going to have them on the cusp of the playoffs once again this season. The only problem their is they can't seem to get over the hump (not a problem Miley has) to become a serious championship contender year in and year out. And then you have the Broncos led by ole faithful, Peyton Manning. I'm not going to lie, Week 1 concerned me a little as ole Peyton was looking a little too much like an old Peyton. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt for now and credit the poor offensive performance to a new Coordinator, but I think a couple of early season losses from "working out the kinks" will ultimately cost the Broncos the division come December.

AFC Playoffs

Seed - Original Prediction - Revised Prediction

1 Seed - Indianapolis Colts - Indianapolis Colts
2 Seed - New England Patriots - New England Patriots
3 Seed - Denver Broncos - Kansas City Chiefs
4 Seed - Pittsburgh Steelers - Cincinnati Bengals
5 Seed - Kansas City Chiefs - Denver Broncos
6 Seed - San Diego Chargers - Buffalo Bills

Yep, that's right, I'm going to buy in enough to Buffalo to allow them to sneak into the playoffs with a 6 seed. I'm still a little worried about Tyrod Taylor at QB because he wasn't a dominant winner in college (like the similarly sized Russell Wilson) but if he can just game-manage I think Buffalo's defense can lead them to a pretty solid record. Looking at the 6 teams above, I don't think Buffalo will have enough juice to win on the road in Kansas City during the Wild Card round of the playoffs and similarly I think the experience of Peyton Manning can get him past the Bengals where Cincinnati always tends to flop in the playoffs. That would leave Peyton and company heading to Indy for a very intriguing match up with Manning's former employer. Could it be that Peyton's last game as a pro is in Indy after all? If he retires after this year I think this statement will be true because I see the Colts winning the battle of the Ponies while the Patriots handle their business in BBQ country. That should setup a rematch of last year's AFC Championship game and this time the Luck will be on the other horse shoe (see what I did there?). Colts go Super Bowling this coming February.

*Editor's Note - Insert Miley Comment Here*

NFC North

Original Prediction - Detroit Lions
Revised Prediction - Detroit Lions

There must be something about cold weather that makes a division competitive, because I think the NFC North is just as tight as Miley's the AFC North. In all seriousness, I do believe the chilly conditions up North make a difference because anything can happen on a given day. The variances in field conditions and expected precipitation can really swing the strategy a coach will use and give a definitive advantage to the team that can best adapt. We've seen a couple of occasions in just the last 10 years where the Packers lost at home to the Giants in freezing temperatures because the Giants adjusted to the conditions better. With that said, there's enough talent in this division to go around and I could sensibly make an argument for any of the 4 teams in this group. Ultimately, I ruled out the Vikings because I just don't think Teddy Bridgewater can cut it in the NFL (Week 1 helps to support this theory), the Packers lost their top receiving threat which will have more impact on Aaron Rodgers' productivity than most realize, and Jay Cutler is, well, let's just say if he had Miley's passion things could be a little different. The Lions are a complete team, and oh by the way, they play inside. Take out the unpredictability of the winter and they have a significant advantage over their division rivals.

NFC East

Original Prediction - 2 Team Coin Flip (If forced to pick, I'd take Dallas)
Revised Prediction - 2 Team Coin Flip (If forced to pick, I'd take Philly)

I'm a Giants fan. There, I said it. I'm not proud, I'm not happy, I'm not excited, and my Fantasy Football team name for the last three years has been "Fire Tom Coughlin." If you watched the Week 1 game against Dallas on Sunday night, you should fully understand how I'm feeling. The Giants truly grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory and choked worse than Miley on her first date with her new girlfriend. However, it did reaffirm my belief that the Giants are going to have another sub-par, 7 win, just barely miss the playoffs but not so bad that Tom Coughlin gets canned, crappy draft pick both in pick number and talent, season. And if you didn't know it already, the Deadskins don't really even deserve a spot in the NFL and might want to consider moving the franchise to Canada where they might stand a chance against the Toronto Argonauts. Now even though the bottom half of the NFC East is pathetic, the top half is stacked with talent and the greatest coach since sliced bread (Chip Kelly). Both the Cowboys and Eagles could prove to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders this season and the only reason I flipped by pick is because of the injury to Dez Bryant last week. I think the Cowboys will still win 10 games but not having Dez could cost them somewhere during the season.

NFC South

Original Prediction - New Orleans Saints
Revised Prediction - Atlanta Falcons

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz. Yip yip yip yip. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

NFC West

Original Prediction - Arizona Cardinals
Revised Prediction - Arizona Cardinals

Some might call me crazier than Miley on this one, but I think the Seahawks' years of dominance and Super Bowl runs are over. And yes, I PROMISE that I made this prediction before their sloppy loss against the Rams this past Sunday. Unfortunately for the birds, they are starting to experience some dysfunction in their organization and history has shown that the Super Bowl loser tends to struggle the following year. Between the botched call to end last year's big game, the hold out of Kam Chancellor, and the strengthening of both the Rams and Cardinals, I just don't see Seattle making it into the post-season. And how bout them Rams? I'll admit, I have my questions about Nick Foles and how successful he can be outside of Chip Kelly. However, once Todd Gurley gets healthy they have enough speed on offense to keep up with their very under-rated defense and make some noise in the league. I think it's enough to cause trouble out West but not quite enough to get the 9 or 10 wins they'll need to make the playoffs. Unfortunately the 49ers were decimated on defense this off-season and the addition of Torrey Smith isn't enough to fix a really struggling passing game. With Carson Palmer returning to health and the Cardinals bringing one of the best receiving corps and defenses into the season, I expect them to be legitimate contenders in the NFL this season.

NFC Playoffs

Seed - Original Prediction - Revised Prediction

1 Seed - Detroit Lions - Detroit Lions
2 Seed - Dallas Cowboys - Arizona Cardinals
3 Seed - Arizona Cardinals - Philadelphia Eagles
4 Seed - New Orleans Saints - Atlanta Falcons
5 Seed - Green Bay Packers - Dallas Cowboys
6 Seed - Philadelphia Eagles - Green Bay Packers

Doesn't the Eagles vs. the Packers in Philly just sound like a playoff match made in heaven? I don't know why, but when you close your eyes and picture what post-season football is all about, this game just feels right. And I think it could be an instant classic if it actually happens the way I predict it will. This game is in Philly though and the Philly fans have been craving a dominant team for quite some time. Watch for the Cheesesteaks to pull out a win in the Wild Card round along with the Cowboys who will dismantle an over-matched Falcons team. In the divisional round, the Cowboys will travel to Detroit for another potential showdown of high powered offenses. This time I think Tony Romo finally shakes off the post-season blues and advances to the NFC Championship game where the Eagles will be waiting for him after taking down the Cardinals in the Big Toaster. I love the Cardinals, but I wouldn't bet against Chip Kelly here. That gives us an all-NFC East conference title game and I'm taking the home team on the second biggest Sunday of the season ... and that's the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are either going to be dynamite this season or fall unbelievably flat on their faces, and I think their performance in Atlanta last week could be the only signs of mediocrity we see from this team all year. If Sam Bradford stays healthy, this team is going to take the NFC by storm.

Super Bowl 50

Original Prediction - Indianapolis Colts over the Philadelphia Eagles
Revised Prediction - Indianapolis Colts over the Philadelphia Eagles

I say it every year ... once you get to the Super Bowl talent will win out over coaching. I don't expect this year to be any different in my philosophy and I believe that the Colts are top to bottom the most talented team in the NFL. Even though I love me some Chip Kelly, the Eagles are going to win this year on scheme more than raw talent and I just think it's time for Andrew Luck to take over as the face of the National Football League. This game shouldn't be lopsided by any means but I would give Indy the edge in what would be a very fast paced, high scoring game. Wouldn't it be fitting if Miley was the performer of the halftime show? I agree ... nope.

So, there you have it! Another season (minus one week) of football to be played and countless fantasy football points to be won. We'll see how everything plays out but I know that I'm excited to see what happens! In the NFL, not with Miley ...

- Fishy

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

College Football - 2015 Season Preview

Good Afternoon Sports Fans!

Can you feel it? Well, can you? We are LESS THAN 24 HOURS AWAY from the start of the 2015 College Football season! Tomorrow night the first two teams will lace up their cleats, strap on their helmets, and take the field to show that they are the most dominant squad in all of the NCAA. And this year, it just so happens that my North Carolina Tar Heels are one of those two teams leading the country into our favorite 4 months of the year.

Still not excited?! Here, try this:

No really, watch that video. Stop reading, click the link above, and GET HYPE!

Ok, you good now? The blood is flowing? The juice is running through your veins? No, not in the Alex Rodriguez juice kinda way, in the "Heck yeah, 24 hours until kickoff" kinda way!

Alright, now that we're all pumped up, let's get in to this season. Usually I would sit down and spend two hours telling you what you need to know about every major conference, big time program, and who is going to make the College Football Playoffs. Unfortunately, I can't do that this year. And there's two main reasons for it:

1. Somehow, I feel like I don't really know that much about any given team going into the 2015 season. Perhaps I've been spending too much time focusing on my 4 NFL fantasy football drafts or maybe there's just not been a lot of talk on ESPN speculating who will be the best team in the country.

2. I do know enough to know that there is a LOT of balance in College Football last year. When we started last season there were a number of big name players in big name programs expected to have big time season. We don't have that this year ... in fact I would be hard pressed to name 10 total football players in the entire country outside of UNC.

What does this all mean? It means that this year could prove to be one of the most exciting in the history of college football. There is one clear favorite to win it all (we'll talk about that in a moment) but outside of that anything can happen. There are no locks for the playoffs, there are no clear conference winners that are just better than everyone else they're playing, and sadly there's no indication that Tim Tebow is returning to the Florida Gators for his fifth season. So, instead of the usual speculation on what will happen in each conference, I'm just going to hit some high points on what to look out for this season. And maybe at the end of this post, if you ask nicely, I'll toss out a prediction and see if I get lucky. Oh, who are we kidding, it's been a very long time since I got lucky ... Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanyway ...

- This year, Urban Meyer is going to REALLY earn his paycheck. The Ohio State Buckeyes are the first ever undisputed pre-season #1 in the AP poll and the clear front runners to win it all and repeat as National Champions. In fact, most analysts believe the Buckeyes only have 2 games on their entire regular season schedule that could even possibly be a challenge. So, why would I say Urban Meyer is going to earn his paycheck? You'd think that any slick-haired coach off the street could win the title with this team. Here's the issue ... there IS such a problem as having too much of a good thing. And Ohio State's good thing comes at the most critical position in the game, Quarterback. Usually a team would love to have just one solid QB they can rely on, but OSU has 3 ... count them THREE ... of them. Last year the Bucks started the season with Braxton Miller under center and many predicted he would be the Heisman Trophy winner. However, an unfortunate early season injury knocked Miller out for the year and this season he decided to come back as a back/receiver. That's right, a Heisman Trophy favorite quarterback is now moving to a new position because there's so much talent on the team. So, after Miller gets knocked out, JT Barrett takes over the team. All he does is lead the Buckeyes to the Big Ten Championship Game while also becoming a Heisman favorite and almost winning the trophy. BUT, then he gets hurt right before the Big 10 title clash and they go to third stringer Cardale Jones. How did Jones do? He won them the National Championship and projected as a first round draft pick if he left school! All in 3 games! So now, you have three big time QB's returning to Columbus and all of them want to be future NFL stars. So, Urban Meyer, how do you keep everyone happy? THIS is his conundrum. Nobody will doubt that OSU is more talented than almost any team they'll play this season, but can they keep the peace in the locker room and stay focused on the prize? If OSU can repeat this season as Champs, I will consider this to be Urban Meyer's greatest coaching achievement and put him in the discussion for greatest college coach of all time. But, will they even pass Week 1 ...

- Take a look at the Week 1 lineup. Usually the first couple of games during the season are "garbage" games where big programs play cupcakes (slang for easy teams to beat, not a delicious icing-covered dessert) just to get in the groove of things. But, with the playoffs here and the BCS finally good and dead, all of a sudden the quality of non-conference opponent actually matters for something. And I think this weekend it could count for a whole heck of a lot. I'm looking at the top 15 teams in the pre-season rankings and I think there are 5 very intriguing games to watch this Labor Day Weekend ...

Louisville @ #6 Auburn

#15 Arizona State @ Texas A&M (led by Kyle Allen, product of Scottsdale, AZ high school, and my alma mater, Desert Mountain ... Go Wolves!)

Texas @ #11 Notre Dame

#20 Wisconsin @ #3 Alabama (Played in Jerry's House ... Arlington, TX)

#1 Ohio State @ Virginia Tech

Keep an eye on these ball games. My prediction is that AT LEAST 2 of these top 15 teams are going down this weekend before the season even really gets rolling. And, if I'm a betting man, I like Texas A&M, Texas, and Wisconsin to all win. Suck on that Bama. Don't forget, Virginia Tech beat Ohio State early last year and Ohio State has four Wide Receivers out this week with injuries or suspension, not to mention their top defensive player who might be the eventual #1 pick in the NFL Draft ...

- I am predicting that for the first time in forever, a non-major school will contend for the National Championship. And by that I mean either a non-power conference school or TCU will make the 4 team playoff at the end of the year. Technically TCU is now part of the Big 12 and considered a power conference school, but for my money they are still lil ole Texas Christian whom nobody respects. Maybe the chip on their shoulder from getting left out of the playoffs last year will finally work in their favor. But watch out for another team off the radar right now ... I have no clue which one but watch out anyway! Last year all 4 playoff teams started the season in the Top 5 of the pre-season AP poll. This year I think the trend changes. I'm banking on at least 2 teams coming from OUTSIDE of the current AP Top 10. Suck on that Bama.

- My Tar Heels will keep the bell in Chapel Hill where it belongs when we beat Dook later this season. No further explanation needed. Suck on that Bama. Yeah, just because.

- Call me biased ("Hey Fishy, you're biased) but I think this year could mark the return to the national scene for the Miami Hurricanes. Miami has not truly been in the championship hunt since they were screwed over ... err, lost ... the 2002 title game to Ohio State, but I think Al Golden may finally be figuring this team out. He has an excellent young QB in Brad Kaaya and seems to be doing a much better job of recruiting top talent away from the Gators and Noles in recent years. Miami may not be ranked right now, but don't be surprised if they finish the year somewhere between 10 and 15 in the AP poll including a trip to the "Big 6 Bowl Games" as the ACC Champions.

- If Steve Sarkisian can stay sober and keep his football team focused, USC is back. Watch out.

Alright, so those are my big picture thoughts on what to expect for this upcoming college football season. Obviously, a lot can and will happen between now and the second week of January. I'm guessing we're going to see a ton of upsets this year, some remarkable stories we wouldn't have expected, and another season full of memories, moments, and highlights. To conclude, I might as well make a guess at who our playoff teams and National Champion will be. I'm not confident in this at all, but here goes nothing:


#1 Ohio State Buckeyes (yes, I believe in Urban Meyer) vs. #4 Boise State Broncos (because, why not?)

#2 USC Trojans vs. #3 Oklahoma Sooners (I pick them every year, why stop now?)

National Championship

#1 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. #2 USC Trojans

Winner: USC Trojans

There's only one thing I know for sure ... football season starts tomorrow and I can't wait. Let the games begin!!!

- Fishy