1. Welcome to Week 3 of the Numbers Game. I hope everyone had an outstanding Christmas weekend with his or her family and friends. I certainly enjoyed seeing everyone’s reactions to the gifts they received, and playing board games late Sunday night was a memory I will have forever. On top of that, Christmas provided us with a little Opening Day NBA action. One thing we all learned from Sunday’s action here at the AAC: there will be no Finals rematch this season.
2. The Heat looked like a well-oiled machine Sunday afternoon, while the Mavs looked like they were waiting for their AARP checks after the game. It is hard to believe that these two teams were battling for a title just six months ago. The loss of Chandler, Barea, and Stevenson must have been bigger than any of us could have imagined. There is absolutely no low-post presence to keep teams worried about going down under the hoop, and they are five steps behind teams in transition defense.
3. I do understand that chemistry is something you cannot force, and that with all these new additions it will take time for everyone to gel. However, the Heat also had one week of training camp and two preseason games, and they looked like they could play the first round of the tournament tomorrow. I said last week that the Mavs would still make the postseason as a middle-of-the-pack seed, and I will not concede on that stance yet. It is simply too early. But the early feedback is pretty clear; they have got to find a way to get some youth in those legs, or else they could be battling teams like Golden State and Minnesota for the final spot in the West.
4. The Lakers are a pretty lucky team. No, it’s nothing based on results so far in the season, but because they got to knock out their back-to-back-to-back at the very beginning of the season. For an older team, playing this stretch when they are at their freshest is one of the best scenarios for this group. Cramming in 66 games in basically four months is outrageous. I think the scheduling is a huge factor why Oklahoma City will face Miami in the Finals. Two of the youngest and most athletic groups will be able to withstand the grind that will be the 2011-2012 season, while teams like Dallas, Los Angeles Lakers, and Boston will see a steady decline in production as the year goes on.
5. I’ve been told I’m wrong about this, and that this will actually be better for teams. I just have a hard time believing that playing 82 games in six months is not better than playing 66 games in four. While having almost four games a week is great for the fans, you won’t see the greatest displays of basketball each and every night. Then again, do you ever see it in the regular season in the NBA?
6. I think that’s enough basketball for one day. By the way Clippers, if you want to be respected and seen as a power in the West, you have to at least show up in big games like the one last night in San Antonio.
7. I didn’t do so hot last week in my NFL picks. But to be fair, I didn’t realize that Dallas would play their JV team, Joe Webb was turning into a true NFL quarterback, and that Jerome Simpson would receive a 9.8 from the Russian judge. Seriously, if you haven’t seen Simpson’s incredible leap and landing from last Saturday, please YouTube right this moment. If you put that scene in a football movie, I would laugh at the very idea of that scenario ever occurring in a actual game. Now seeing it in real life, I think it may just be the greatest act of athleticism I have ever seen.
8. By the way, my record was 9-7 last week, just for those keeping track at home.
9. Cowboys. Giants. Winner on Sunday night takes home the NFC East crown and most likely hosts Detroit next week. For the first time in the division’s existence the winner will not reach 10 wins, astonishing for a set of teams who normally send at least two every year to the postseason. I won’t reveal who I believe wins the Sunday nighter until later on in the program, but if I had to tell you a defense I trusted more in a win-an-you’re-in situation, there would be no question I would side with the Giants. Tony Romo’s hand will be in question all night, and I think he will have no problem getting out there and playing hard. But similar to Matt Stafford’s finger injury that hampered his accuracy for a stretch in the season, you may see Romo miss on a couple throws here and there.
10. It’s hard to believe that the Cowboys have to win in Week 17 to make the postseason because they should have locked the division away a while ago. At the same time, I can’t believe the Cowboys are one game away from the postseason because they simply aren’t very good. They are an incredibly difficult team to figure out because while they have the talent to compete each and every week, there is just something missing with the overall unit that hinders them from taking over at big moments.
11. If they chose to run the ball instead of throwing it on first down every drive, they beat Detroit in Week 4. That’s win number 9. If Garrett doesn’t ice Bailey in Arizona, they walk out of the desert with a win. Number 10. If Austin doesn’t lose the ball in the lights, he moonwalks into the end zone against the Giants. Number 11. Now you can include the Jets opening night if you want to as well, but my point is the Boys are just a couple plays away from being an 11 win team. Hard to believe for a lot of people, but if they can find a win to win in the Big Apple, (which I will reveal in just a bit for you all,) they could be a threat to win a game in the tournament. Like how I paid homage to Parcells there?
12. The Pro Bowl rosters came out Tuesday night. Why do people get worked up over players who got snubbed? I can understand if there were campaigns run by teams to vote their boys into the game, or big ordeals run by the players through their Twitter accounts to get the votes going, but the truth of the matter is none of these guys really want to play. Having the event take place the week before the Super Bowl eliminates a handful of starters anyway, plus about 10-15 will somehow proclaim an unplayable injury and get that vacation with the family going early. So while I am stunned Stafford was not chosen to be the third quarterback over Eli Manning, I have just come to the conclusion that it won’t matter anyway. He will be on his way to Indy. That’s a fan’s conclusion, by the way. I apologize.
13. However, despite everything I just said, here are my Pro Bowl rosters for each conference. I chose my rosters based on players who meant the most to the outcomes of their teams. Simply put, if I took this player away from their team the number of wins would decrease dramatically. Many selections fall in line with how the voting went, but there are some changes. Bold represents the starter(s). If I arranged the game in Hawaii, this would be who I would have out there:
QB: Rodgers (GB), Brees (NO), Stafford (DET)
RB: Forte (CHI), McCoy (PHI), Lynch (SEA)
FB: Kuhn (GB)
WR: Johnson (DET), Fitzgerald (ARZ), Smith (CAR), Cruz (NYG)
TE: Graham (NO), Gonzalez (ATL)
T: Peters (PHI), Staley (SF), Bushrod (NO)
G: Nicks (NO), Evans (NO), Snee (NYG)
C: Kalil (CAR), Wells (GB)
DE: Allen (MIN), Pierre-Paul (NYG), Babin (PHI)
DT: Smith (SF), Suh (DET), Ratliff (DAL)
OLB: Ware (DAL), Smith (SF), Matthews (GB)
ILB: Bowman (SF), Fletcher (WSH)
CB: Woodson (GB), Rogers (SF), Houston (DET)
FS: Thomas (SEA), Goldson (SF)
SS: Wilson (ARZ)
P: Lee (SF)
K: Akers (SF)
KR: Peterson (ARZ)
ST: Wendling (DET)
QB: Brady (NE), Dalton (CIN), Roethlisberger (PIT)
RB: Rice (BAL), Foster (HOU), Jones-Drew (JAC)
FB: Leach (BAL)
WR: Welker (NE), Green (CIN), Wallace (PIT), Marshall (MIA)
TE: Gronkowski (NE), Gresham (CIN)
T: Thomas (CLE), Long (MIA), Whitworth (CIN)
G: Waters (NE), Mankins (NE), Yanda (BAL)
C: Pouncey (PIT), Mangold (NYJ)
DE: Mathis (IND), Carter (NE), Dumervil (DEN)
DT: Wilfork (NE), Ngata (BAL), Seymour (OAK)
OLB: Miller (DEN), Suggs (BAL), Hali (KC)
ILB: Cushing (HOU), Lewis (BAL)
CB: Revis (NYJ), Flowers (KC), Bailey (DEN)
FS: Widdle (SD), Reed (BAL)
SS: Polamalu (PIT)
P: Lechler (OAK)
K: Janokowski (OAK)
KR: McKnight (NYJ)
ST: Slater (NE)
16. Feel free to analyze my choices and let me know where I got it wrong. Similar to the controversy regarding the BCS there are flaws with the way the Pro Bowl voting is conducted. Having the fans voting end on the 19th, two weeks before the end of the regular season where many are fighting for a playoff spot and can have memorable performances, is something I don’t understand. In addition, many times players and coaches choose some members based on rep alone. Ray Lewis does not have to display outrageous numbers in order to receive a Pro Bowl nod. Just his leadership and solid play alone gets him in every year from his peers. So relax everyone; if you had a player who didn’t make the real Pro Bowl roster, just hope your guy is playing the following week instead of a meaningless game in Honolulu.
17. Oh Tebow. Yes, Saturday was a pretty big lump of coal in Denver fans stockings. But hey, it’s pretty simple. Beat Orton on Sunday and you get a division title. Crazy to believe I know, but Tebow is going to need to get back to playing careful football for Denver to get a birth this week. In addition, without a top-notch effort from their defense, the Broncos are forced to make Tebow into a shootout quarterback and they simply don’t have the personnel to do so. Look for Bailey and Miller to show why they earned their Pro Bowl picks on Sunday and cause some turnovers of their former teammate.
18. Shout out to Oregon’s Darth Vader uniforms they will don in the Rose Bowl Monday afternoon. Absolutely beautiful.
19. Let’s hear it Ranger fans: All I want for Christmas is Yu!
20. How about some Week 17 picks? Let’s see if I can end the year on a high note. I had Santa help me out with them this week, so if I’m wrong feel free to blame him. Lord knows everyone else has attacked the big guy this year in commercials. I’m looking at you, Best Buy.
21. The game Sunday night has the entire making to be a classic encounter in the Dallas-New York rivalry. I don’t know if the elements will have a huge effect on the game, but the Cowboys will begin to feel the loss of DeMarco Murray and the detraction of Felix Jones when they have a difficult time running the football against this strong Giants front four. Romo may have some accuracy issues to deal with, and Eli has proven that when the lights are the brightest, he shines the brightest. I’m sorry Dallas, but in a season of missed opportunities, week 17 will be the most painful.
22. Cincinnati made a plea for fans to come out and support their team in a huge divisional matchup Sunday. Sure enough, the five Bengals fans responded and sold the place out. But Ray Lewis and Baltimore have something to play for, and there is no way in the world that they will allow Pittsburgh to win the division despite getting swept by the birds. Baltimore ends Cincy’s run at a wild card.
23. Tebow vs. Orton. One of the week’s most enticing games will surely come down to who can make the plays in the fourth quarter. Kansas City has nothing to play for but pride, while Denver hopes to make this improbable journey continue into January. I have to ride with Tebow for one more week, but I like their defense more than I like number 15 in picking this outcome.
24. The Rex Ryan era is slowly becoming sour. I think the defeat in Miami gets those exit talks going into a very long offseason for New York. What’s sad about that is the Jets made the AFC Championship game two consecutive years. However, when you promise a Super Bowl in the press conference at the Combine, you better at least make the postseason. Finally, a foot in his mouth he didn’t want.
25. San Diego got lit up last week in Detroit. Somehow Rivers made the Pro Bowl, and if they wish to show up in Oakland and play for pride Sunday, he has played well enough down the stretch to put up some points on the Raiders. But Oakland has a chance at a division crown, so expect a blowout here.
26. T.J Yates leading Houston to a Super Bowl? Keep dreaming Houston. I do feel very bad for the Texans because it seems like even in the best year in franchise history, nothing seems to be going right. A loss to the Colts raised some flags, and they will see some more raised when Tennessee wins the finale in Texas.
27. Green Bay has nothing to play for. Put in Rodgers for one or two drives and get him out of there. Detroit needs that number five seed. Playing in Dallas or New York is a heckuva lot better than traveling to New Orleans in Wild Card weekend. Lions get number eleven as they beat Matt Flynn.
28. Atlanta needs to quit whining. They whined after Suh apparently called them a bad name earlier this year. Now they say the Saints were bush league for trying to break a 27-year-old record at home on Monday Night Football with the game in hand late in the fourth quarter. Give me a break. That being said, Tampa Bay says thank you to Raheem Morris for three great years by losing their tenth straight.
29. McCoy still out? Pittsburgh wins on the road, but stay on the road the following week for a wild card game.
30. Both Arizona and Seattle gave a great late-season push to even be considered in the hunt late in the year. I think both teams will play a really good game despite nothing significant to play for. No one wants to go into 2012 with a loss. I love me some Skittles and Marshawn Lynch.
31. Cam Newton will be spectacular with a whole offseason to work with and some more pieces around him. However, Brees at home is unbeatable and needs to win to even have a chance to get that first round bye. Saints go marching in.
32. Hmm, second most boring game of the week? I think Philadelphia doesn’t want to give their fans any more ammunition for an offseason filled with questions and very little tangible answers.
33. Remember that game in Week 3 when Brady was picked off four times in Buffalo? Remember when the Bills looked like an early favorite for a surprise division championship? That’s why they call it the Not For Long league. Brady wins.
34. Joe Webb will be the 2012 Opening Day starter for the Vikings. He has proven to be a weapon with his feet and makes smart decisions with his arm. In a game with no A.P, Cutler, or Forte, I like Webb and the Vikings at home.
35. San Francisco nails down a first round bye. And as you will see in the following number, the Colts will win and give the Rams the first overall selection next April. Let the games begin.
36. Oh I played my own spoiler, didn’t I? Colts win in the most boring game of the week. Yet I am still going to watch. So sad.
I sure appreciate everyone’s time in the presentation on this beautiful Thursday. I can’t believe that when we meet again it will be 2012. I’ll have some New Years resolutions for several sports teams, give some insight into the weekend’s Wild Card games, and determine whether or not I have continued my hot streak in bowl picks against my father. Plus, I have some early Grammy picks to let you all in on. Yes, I do music too. @m_Bruu96. Follow, please.
Until next time, ladies and gentlemen.