Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tis the season

Forgive me for my uncreativeness (made up word) when it comes to the titles for my blog posts. To be honest, I just like to get straight to rambling on about sports rather than spending time thinking of a witty, attention-getting headline. This will have to change should I actually be doing this for a living one day. Don't have too much to get to today, but I wanted to stop by before the Christmas festivities begin to touch on the NFL as well as a few other things since it could be a little while until I'm back. Hopefully by now, you all have your shopping out of the way because lord knows it's getting to be a real barn burner out there. We'll start out how we usually do and reveal the NFL picks for week 16. Let me just say this...I'm in need of a Christmas miracle if I want to beat Kyle in the overall record contest. On another note, Kyle and I are in the midst of several battles on the inter web...I'll get to that later. For now, the picks!


Carolina @ PITTSBURGH (-13.5)
DALLAS @ Arizona (+6.5)
BALTIMORE @ Cleveland (+3.5)
DETROIT @ Miami (-3.5)
Washington @ JACKSONVILLE (-6.5)
INDIANAPOLIS @ Oakland (+3.5)
Houston @ DENVER (+2.5)
SAN DIEGO @ Cincinnati (+7.5)
Seattle @ TAMPA BAY (-6.5)
NY GIANTS @ Green Bay (-2.5)
Minnesota @ PHILADELPHIA (-13.5)
NEW ORLEANS @ Atlanta (-2.5)

Last week/Overall:
Kyle: 9-7/124-100 (9-4-2)
Dave: 7-9/114-110 (4-9-2)

As you have probably concluded by now, I don't stand a chance in this race. Have I come to terms with that? Absolutely not. We live in a world where anything can happen, and that more than pertains to the NFL. I honestly can't believe I've done this well so far, which really shows how good of a job Kyle has done. I'm curious to know what his percentile is on because I'm still currently at about the 87th (leave a comment with the answer after you read this, McClone). Not only have Kyle and I been going toe to toe on guessing the NFL lines all year, but there are some crucial fantasy football matchups this week for me in all three of my leagues...two of them happen to be against the man himself.

Let's go waaaaay back to August of 2010...even before I started writing this blog! Well, maybe not. I had just finished reading a column posted by one of my true heroes, The Sports Guy Bill Simmons, and was curious about one thing he mentioned. Simmons claimed that when setting up your fantasy football league, the auction draft was the way to go. I'm not sure how long ESPN has given the option of holding an online auction draft (fake money, of course), but I had never really given it a second look. It sounded quite intriguing, and Kyle (who is also a follower of The Sports Guy) also mentioned the proposition of giving the auction draft a try. I didn't want to try it out for the league I was putting money on this year (maybe in 2011), so we decided to join a random league that held a draft in which you had to buy enough players to fill out your roster with an alloted $200. You're not going to believe this, but Kyle and I find ourselves facing off in the championship game which spans over the final two weeks of the regular season. In fact, neither of us payed particularly close attention to the league and still kicked the ever living crap out of eight random people from across the country. Poor guys didn't know what they had coming. Anyway, it should be a good match-up and I'll keep everyone posted on who prevails.

Now this next part may sound a little strange at first, but the most important of the three showdowns that Kyle and I are involved in is actually a battle for 3rd place. Why is this, you ask? The winner of the 3rd place game in our ESPN league will earn a $10 prize (their money back) seeing as this fantasy football league is for money. Unfortunately, after seizing the number two seed for the four team playoff, I fell in the first round by 30 points. My team was beginning to falter towards the end of the regular season so I can't say I was surprised by the result, but it's disappointing that I will not be raking in at least $30 this year (the winner will get $80). So I guess the next best thing is not only getting back the money I put into this league, but doing it while beating Kyle. Since he's pretty much already locked up the NFL picks competition, I'm hoping he'll show a little mercy and let me win at least one of our fantasy encounters (get your mind out of the gutter). I said, not too much to talk about. It's the calm before the storm as we await the fate of the Green Bay Packers' playoff hopes and the Wisconsin Badgers' showdown with TCU in the Rose Bowl on New Years Day. Extremely pumped for both of these things. It would be ideal for the Pack to take down the Giants so that the Bears/Packers game that I'm attending on the last week of the season is actually meaningful...I'm not expecting the Packers to compensate for me though based on the way this season has been going. We shall see...I'm hopeful. Anyway, keep an eye out for all of these games as they should all be about as significant as they get for us Wisconsin sports fans. We need something good to happen to take our mind off the below freezing temps!

I wish all of my readers safe travels and a Merry Christmas. Hope everyone gets what they want!

Go Pack, On Wisconsin and Fear the Deer!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Roller coaster, favorite ride

I not only reference lyrics to a Blink 182 song because they're a pretty kick ass band, but also because being a sports fan is one of the most emotional rides you can experience. There are so many highs and lows...unless of course you're a Cleveland or Seattle sports fan. Then your life just permanently sucks. The point I'm trying to make here is that a roller coaster isn't my favorite ride; I'm more of a water slide guy. Just kidding (that's not my point...I don't have one). Over the past week, us Wisconsin sports fans have experienced the definition of a roller coaster. Let's jump in the time machine and take a look at some of the more important events that have affected our collective state of mind.

Sunday, December 12th - Not only is Aaron Rodgers knocked out of a game against the Detroit Lions with a concussion, but the Pack goes onto lose the game and drop to 8-5. This basically ends Green Bay's chance at winning the division should it come down to a tie-breaker since their division record is now worse than the Bears'. [Roller coaster position: VERY LOW]

Monday, December 13th - The Milwaukee Bucks put an end to the Dallas Mavericks 12-game winning streak with an incredible come from behind victory on the road. The Deer appears to be turning things around as the team is starting to get healthy and has improved their record to 10-13. [Roller coaster position: LEVEL]

Friday, December 17th - Rodgers is listed as doubtful on the injury report for Sunday night's game at New England. As if going up against the best team in the NFL on the road wasn't enough, now it appears that it will be backup Matt Flynn leading the Packers into Foxborough. [Roller coaster position: LOW]

Saturday, December 18th - Late Saturday night, a rumor is confirmed that the Milwaukee Brewers have pieced together a shocker of a trade and landed former Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke from the Kansas City Royals without giving up any important players (for now). This immediately caused me to look forward to the upcoming season with great urgency and excitement as the Brewers became instant contenders with their high powered offense and now stellar rotation. [Roller coaster position: HIGH]

Sunday, December 19th - During the early slate of NFL games, the Packers needed a few things to occur in order to help their playoff chances, especially with the Patriots game looming large. Low and behold, the teams we needed to lose fell (Giants and Buccaneers) and even with a loss to New England, there was still hope! [Roller coaster position: VERY HIGH]

Sunday night, December 19th - The Packers seem to be in control of the game after jumping out to a 17-7 late in the first half, but then allow OFFENSIVE LINEMAN Dan Connelly to return the kickoff all the way inside the Packers' 10-yard line. The Patriots punch it in for six and leave Green Bay with only a three point halftime lead. As they say, the rest is history and the Packers fall to 0-6 in games which they have trailed in the 4th quarter, losing to New England by a score of 31-27. Because of all the close losses that Green Bay has suffered, even though the loss still left the Packers in decent position to make the playoffs... [Roller coaster position: LOW]

Quite the swing of emotion, hey? The Packers will do that to ya.

Monday, December 20th - Word spreads that the Bucks' star point guard, Brandon Jennings has to undergo surgery on a fracture in his left foot. Since the Bucks have lost their previous two games to drop to 10-15, this news does not come at the greatest time. Milwaukee has not held one practice this season with all of their players healthy...that is pretty unbelievable. Later that night, the Bucks get thumped by Portland and appear to need more time to adjust to life without Jennings. [Roller coaster position: VERY LOW]

Tuesday, December 21st - I reassess things for a moment. The Packers' two remaining games are at home and as long as they win both of them, they are in the playoffs. In other words, THEY STILL CONTROL THEIR OWN DESTINY. Somewhat relieving news, although the Giants and Bears are no pushover. Moving on to the Bucks...missing Jennings for an extended period of time could really put a damper on the Bucks' chances of making the post-season. However, if Milwaukee can manage to go around .500 while Young Buck is sitting out and have both Jennings and Delfino back for the stretch run, the weak Eastern Conference will allow them to hang around. Besides, the NBA is a joke during the regular season so who really cares about it until the playoffs anyway? Am I right? Anyway, after making myself feel better the aforementioned situations, I think about Zack Greinke again and get all giddy inside. Oh yeah, and the Badgers are playing in the Rose Bowl. That's pretty cool, too. [Roller coaster position: LEVEL]

So yes, I just went around the track once and I'm now waiting for the second go-around. Feelin' a little queezy but no barf bag needed quite yet. Keep in mind that this was only within the span of nine days...pretty crazy. Notice how putting things in perspective helped bring me back above water. I think a lot of fans have trouble assessing the situation and basically get to the point of drinking their sorrows away (not saying I haven't done this). In all seriousness though, I'm not a psychiatrist, but the state of Wisconsin sports is in a better situation than many locations. Howeva(!), it would be nice to see a championship brought home by one of the three major franchises or two major division I schools here in cheese land (in either basketball or football) within the next couple years. Let's party like it's 1996.

Be back before Sunday with picks and a fantasy football playoff update. PLAYOFFS?!

Go Pack, On Wisconsin and Fear the Deer!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

So you're saying there's a chance...

...that the Milwaukee Brewers could be contenders next season? About 2 weeks ago, if I said this to you, there's no doubt I would have not only been laughed at but probably spit on, too. Hold your horses, ladies and gentlemen because not only did the Brewers make a deal for Shaun Marcum (who I mentioned in my previous post), but in the blockbuster trade of the off-season, the Crew has acquired Kansas City ace Zach Greinke!!! I'm seriously on cloud 9 right now. I've already had lengthy discussions with some fellow die-hard Brewer fans over this one and we've come to the agreement that this was a great deal pulled off by General Manager Doug Melvin, and these words usually don't fit together very well in the same sentence. Also heading to Milwaukee will be shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. You may ask why we are also getting a shortstop when we already have Alcides Escobar and this is why: the Brewers dealt not only Escobar, but also CF Lorenzo Cain and pitching prospects Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi. I'll have more on my reaction to this trade later...for now I'm going to update the picks from weeks 13 and 14 since I failed to write a blog entry last week as a result of finals. College isn't all fun and games, folks. To save time, I won't show who Kyle and I picked, but rather just show our records. Here she goes!

Week 13:
Dave: 7-9 * Kyle: 11-5

Week 14:
Dave: 11-5 * Kyle: 10-6

Gotta hand it to Kyle over the past two weeks. He has really proven that he's one of the best in the business when it comes to picking NFL games with the spread. In week 14, he could've actually gone 11-5 like I did, but changed one of his picks from the Cardinals to the Broncos. I joked with him that this was obviously the right decision because of how terrible Arizona is...the Cards won by 30...this league is impossible to figure out. Sorry for jinxing that one, buddy.

Overall records (through week 14):
Kyle: 115-93 (8-4-2)
Dave: 107-101 (4-8-2)

For those of you who think I suck at choosing these games, let me tell you something. You're right. But believe it or not, I'm actually in the 88th percentile on when it comes to picking games with the spread and in the 89th when picking them straight up, so if that increases the amount of respect you have for me (doubtful), I appreciate it. I'll have the week 15 lines in my next blog post later this week. Also, congratulations to Kyle for locking up the week by week competition. I'm not losing hope on the overall record contest, but I'll be perfectly honest in saying that my chances look rather bleak.

I really don't want to discuss this next topic, but it's hard to avoid: the Green Bay Packers. Isn't it depressing, people? All we have to do to become even with the Chicago Bears in the NFC North division race is to beat the Detroit effing Lions. THE LIONS! Nope. Can't even do that. Oh, and to top it all off, our star quarterback forgets that he should probably slide when he takes off running at guys trying to decapitate him and what do you know? Rodgers gets knocked out of the game, destroying any chance we had at not only defeating the LIONS, but also the Patriots. Rodgers is for some reason still making the trip to New England but back-up extraordinare Matt Flynn will be taking the field at Gilette Stadium against the most impressive NFL franchise of the last decade. The spread has increased four points on this game since it became official that A-Rod wasn't playing (-10.5 to -14.5 for the Pats). Strap in your seat belts because it's going to be a bumpy ride on the Sunday Night Football express way. However, not all is lost for our beloved Green and Gold. Everything that we needed to happen to day...happened! The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went down in overtime to those same pesky Lions and the New York football Giants had one of the most epic collapses of all time by giving up 28 points in the final 7+ minutes to the Philadelphia Eagles. I'll tell ya what...seeing Mike Vick completely terrorize that defense brought tears to my eyes being his proud fantasy owner. Not only did Vick lead some incredible drives thanks to his mobility, but DeSean Jackson returned a punt AS TIME EXPIRED to break the 31-31 tie and defeat the Giants. Seriously the most incredible finish to a football game I have ever seen. Here is the reason we wanted this to happen...with the Packers more than likely losing to the Patriots tonight, Green Bay would be 8-6. I'm willing to accept this loss, though because the very next week, the Packers turn around and face the Giants at Lambeau Field. Since New York is 9-5, defeating the Giants would make both teams 9-6 and tied for the final playoff spot in the NFC heading into the final week. Yes, I'm basically giving up hope on the division, but at least I'm being realistic + still looking at the bright side...give me some credit.

Let's go from one hopeful situation to another and break down the Brewers' trade for our new ace, Zack Greinke. Last night, my good friend Steve sent me a text reading, "Greinke! Gave up quite a bit though..." The only part of this text that surprised me was the fact that the baseball team I had been supporting for almost 17 years had made yet another jaw dropping deal for a stud pitcher. I don't think anything in my lifetime will top the trade for C.C., but this one definitely made me go internet crazy and look up every last detail regarding the players involved since Steve's text wasn't very descriptive. When I first saw what we were giving up, it didn't outweigh the joy I felt regarding Greinke, so I instantly knew it was still a good deal. That's not going to stop me from expressing some disappointment. In my early days as a blogger, you'll recall that I was still willing to give Escobar some time, but wasn't exactly ecstatic about his play. His speed and defense will be missed, but what use is speed if you can't utilize it? The man we are getting in return (Betancourt) is simply a guy to fill in the gaping hole at short and isn't going to give much more than mediocre defense, a little pop at the bottom of the order and a terrible on-base percentage. Next...Lorenzo Cain. I was incredibly excited to see how Cain would progress over the next few years after his break out 2010 season. Unfortunately, you have to be realistic and realize that you aren't going to get something good without giving up something good. Cain will be missed, but as Brewer fans we can only pray that Carlos Gomez somehow figures out how to get on base and run like crazy, something Escobar may never figure out. Finally...Jeffress and Odorizzi. The casual, everyday fan may not know a thing about these young pitching studs, but both may have a very bright future. I was pretty high on Jeffress as he posted some pretty impressive numbers over the last month of the season after his call up, but he has two strikes against him regarding the MLB drug policy. As everyone knows...3 strikes and you're out. I don't know much about Jake Odorizzi, so let's just hope he remains an unproven prospect.

To break this trade down even more, the Brewers will be losing barely any offensive firepower and improving their starting rotation dramatically, but losing a lot on the defensive front. There is no denying that Cain and Escobar were beyond their years out on the field, but replacing Cain with Gomez will help fill that void. I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I'm a Yuniesky Betancourt expert, but I don't trust that he is as good up the middle as Escobar. As far as looking at it from Kansas City's perspective, it's kind of strange that they would deal Greinke...he is basically the center of the franchise and they already have a loaded farm system. Yeah, that's the Royals for you. But who cares about them...the Brewers now look pretty good 1 through 4 in the rotation with Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf (Chris Narveson will presumably be the number 5 starter...ick). I guess you need another lefty thrown into the rotation, but I feel like there has to be someone else the Brewers can use...maybe re-sign Capuano? Manny Parra belongs in the pen and he would be the only other viable option, so I guess if we don't bring back Cappy, it'll no doubt be Narverson. I can accept one weak spot I suppose. Losing Escobar and Cain will make the lineup slightly weaker, but the Crew is still strong 1 through 5 with Weeks, Hart, Braun, Fielder and McGehee. After that, it could get ugly. One man I want to see get an opportunity somewhere is Mat Gamel, aka the only prospect left in our farm system. Should the Brewers end up dealing Fielder, I think it would be the perfect time to insert Gamel in his place. A few things look to be certain...

-Doug Melvin is really going for it THIS year and trying to make a run at the post-season and beyond. It has been quite awhile since the Brewers have looked this good in December.
-The Brewers have accepted the fact that they won't get what they want for Prince Fielder and will probably keep him for the 2011 season, allowing him to file for free agency. Since it's a contract year for Prince, look for some gaudy numbers from number 28.
-Pitching appears to no longer be an issue, but the bottom of the order/poor defense could cost the Brewers a real shot at contending in 2011.

Exciting stuff guys. Let's be hopeful for the Brewers, Packers, Badgers and even Bucks at this point, but not lose sight of what's really important around this time of year. Sports are pretty awesome, but it helps to put things in perspective once in awhile when your favorite team isn't performing. Trust me...I'm used to it. Sorry for the mushy garbage...I'll be back later this week with my form of a Christmas present for you all.

On Wisconsin, Go Pack, and Fear the Deer!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Packing HEAT

Alright you got me...I failed to write an additional blog post last week about the woes of the Packers' loss to Atlanta and the struggles that the Milwaukee Bucks are having finding any sort of chemistry. But I've got good news! I'm back. Besides that, I was in attendance last night in the Bradley Center for the clash between the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks. When I purchased my ticket for this game way back when they went on sale in early September, I expected two things: Firstly, I planned on the Heat having a record somewhere in the neighborhood of 18-3 or 17-4 and the Bucks AT LEAST hovering around .500. Second, I expected the game to be sold out within days of the tickets being opened up to the public. You're going to be disappointed to hear that neither of these things were even close to occurring...I'll have more on this experience later as it wasn't completely unfulfilled. And if you're greedy and searching for even more reasons to feel warm and fuzzy inside, the Packers stomped the yard in Green Bay on Sunday, but did it wearing possibly the ugliest ensemble of clothing I've ever seen. Also more on this later. Last but not least, the Wisconsin Badgers were officially selected for the Rose Bowl! I think I've spent enough time drooling over them, but this accomplishment certainly shouldn't be overlooked and I'll preview their matchup with TCU when the showdown is drawing closer. Let's get the boredom out of the way and see how I did on picks two weeks ago while taking a look at who I picked in week 13 (ditto for Kyle).


Houston @ PHILADELPHIA (-8.5)
NEW ORLEANS @ Cincinnati (+6.5)
CHICAGO @ Detroit (+3.5)
San Francisco @ GREEN BAY (-9.5)
JACKSONVILLE @ Tennessee (-3.5)
Denver @ KANSAS CITY (-8.5)
BUFFALO @ Minnesota (-6.5)
WASHINGTON @ NY Giants (-7.5)
Carolina @ SEATTLE (-5.5)
ST LOUIS @ Arizona (+3.5)
Dallas @ INDIANAPOLIS (-5.5)

Last week/Overall:
Kyle: 8-8/94-82 (7-3-2)
Dave: 10-6/89-87 (3-7-2)

WOOOO! BACK ABOVE .500!!!! Oh wait...I got beat this week, so I have no chance of winning the week-by-week contest. I guess there's always the overall record prize/pride. Let's get on with it then, shall we?

Let's begin with Sunday and the emotional roller coaster known as the Green Bay Packers. Fortunately for the collective hearts of Packer fans across the nation, Sunday was only frustrating up until midway through the second quarter because of the slow start our offense had. Eventually, Aaron Rodgers continued his dominance of late and the Packers stormed ahead in the second quarter and never looked back. I'll be the first to say that I didn't really like how our defense looked for a second week in a row, especially when it comes to our linebackers' ability to cover tight ends. This is something that Dom Capers will hopefully address in the coming weeks, but overall Green Bay's D has kept them in every game and that's all you can really ask for. Incredible will power was shown by Donald Driver on a particular play (I think everyone knows what I'm talking about) in which Driver caused both a 49ers defender and tight end Andrew Quarless to launch over him. It was not only an unbelievable play, but hilarious enough to cause me to start laughing hysterically. What got everything started was the dime from Rodgers to Jennings in the second quarter which resulted in the Packers' first score of the game. Thanks to San Fransisco jumping offsides for what seemed like the billionth time of the season, Green Bay had a free play and A-Rod made 'em pay. The Packers outscored the 49ers 24-3 in the second half, leading to a final score of! ... Packers 34, Niners 16.

All seemed well and good in Packer land, but the happenings around the rest of the league didn't exactly go as many had hoped. Pretty much every team ahead of Green Bay won their game. You may get the impression that there aren't that many teams ahead of the Packers...well I've got news for these people. There are six teams either 'ahead' (NFC West...what a joke) or tied with the Green and Gold and as of now, WE'RE OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS! It's hard to believe. I think you could ask just about anyone around who is knowledgeable about the game of football and they would agree that Green Bay is a top 8 team in the league. In fact, the ESPN NFL Power rankings show the Packers ranked one spot ahead of the Bears! While it's obvious that Chicago is the inferior team, they do lead the division so this kind of comes as a surprise to me. Let's forget about the entire playoff picture and focus more on the division race. The way I see it, both of these teams will find themselves in the post-season when it's all said and done. I've analyzed both teams' schedules, and my thinking is that the Bears will only manage to pull out one of their next three games (NEW ENGLAND, @ Minnesota, NY JETS). By the way, isn't it nice that they get both of those AFC East foes at home? God I hate the Bears. I will say that they are facing the Vikings at a rather difficult time compared to when they were at their most vulnerable like the Packers. As for the Packers' schedule, I would be disappointed with anything worse than 2-1 (@ Detroit, @ New England, NY GIANTS). This would mean a showdown for the division title and guaranteed home playoff game on January 2nd at Lambeau...get your popcorn ready.

Before I get to my trip to Milwaukee last night, I wanted to pass on some Milwaukee Brewers news. In my opinion, the Crew made a great move and dealt top prospect 2B/C Brett Lawrie for Toronto Blue Jays ace Shaun Marcum. Before any of you have a hissy-fit over the Brewers giving up one of their best young talents, consider this: we are set at both second base (Rickie Weeks) and catcher (Johnny LuCroy) for quite awhile in my opinion, so the Brewers probably felt like he was expendable. Also, WE ARE IN DESPERATE NEED OF PITCHING!! This guy is an unheralded stud who is in his prime that will help us right away (stats here). And he's cheap...that's always good. Also, the Brewers traded Kyle's boy Carlos Villanueva over to the Blue Jays as well a few days back for a player to be named later (still waiting on that one). You can take a look and see how this affects what I believed our pitching staff would look like in 2011.

Okay. Now to the Bucks. Like I said before, it wasn't as hyped up as I believed it would be back before the season began, but my friends Will and Boom along with myself decided to make the trek anyway. It was exciting to get to watch Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Mr. Quitness himself take the court together. Unfortunately, Milwaukee is still missing some key players in Carlos Delfino and Drew Gooden, and this hampers this squad more than you would think. By the way, the way LeBron warms up for a game would get just about anyone cut from their respective basketball team. Queen James felt it necessary to throw himself an alley-oop at least three times before he went out to the corner and attempted to drain three pointers while running out of bounds. Not exactly what I would call working on your fundamentals, but if I was that good I would probably do something similar. During the introductions, James and Bosh were booed (LeBron more heavily) while Wade was welcomed warmly because of his epic run to the 2003 Final Four with Marquette. Not only is this well deserved, but I can't believe I strung together five words in a row that start with W in the last sentence. The game itself wasn't the most exciting because of the Bucks horrid shooting and the crowd couldn't really get into the game much. However, we somehow found ourselves down by just three midway through the fourth quarter. All hope was erased after a brutal stretch of basketball from Milwaukee over the last six or so minutes and the Heat won by 10. It wasn't a total failure of a night, though, as Boom managed to catch a t-shirt even though we were seated in the upper deck. Good for you, Boom. Overall, it was a memorable experience despite the loss and I think that as the Bucks start getting back some more of their key players, they'll turn the corner and become a playoff team yet again.

Go Pack, On Wisconsin, and Fear the Deer.