Sunday, January 20, 2013
The Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots will play out a rematch of the 2011 AFC Championship Game on Sunday in Gillette Stadium, with the right to go to Super Bowl XLVII hanging in the balance.
Ravens vs Patriots
LINK 1 ==>> http://j.gs/1icN
LINK 2 ==>> http://j.gs/1YDi
New England took care of the Houston Texans at home last weekend, easily dispatching a team that was on the decline for a month.
On the other hand, Baltimore took care of the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round before engineering the upset of the playoffs over the Denver Broncos last Saturday, winning 38-35 in two overtimes.
In this contest, the matchup to watch is Torrey Smith running long against the Patriots' secondary. Smith torched Champ Bailey last week to the tune of 98 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
As shown here by ESPN, Flacco has been lethal going long. In the postseason, he's an astonishing 4-of-5 on throws for 40-plus yards.
Smith is the ultimate burner and pairs well with Joe Flacco, who isn't as dangerous in his short and intermediate passes, but can be devastating on the long throw. Flacco has terrific accuracy and touch, so New England, especially Steve Gregory and Devin McCourty, need to be aware.
Posted by Marioo gomez at 2:30 PM
Rarely in sports, do you get a second chance on missed opportunities. The 49ers are one of two teams on “Championship Sunday” attempting to earn a much anticipated Super Bowl berth. San Francisco’s season comes down to this moment. Every off season move, and in season adjustment was made with the NFC Championship in mind. Last year, San Francisco was two muffed punt returns away from winning a classic against the Giants. This year, the 49ers hope the emergence of Colin Kaepernick can spark the offense with explosive plays.
49ers vs Falcons
LINK 1 ==>> http://j.gs/1icN
LINK 2 ==>> http://j.gs/1YDi
Although Atlanta is the top seed in the playoffs, the indoor conditions may play perfectly into the hands of the revamped San Francisco offense. During the regular season, San Francisco average 155 yards per game on the ground. Kaepernick gained 181 yards in one game against the overmatched Green Bay Packers. Lost in the shuffle of the young quarterback’s sensational play was the workman like effort from Frank Gore. He still rushed for over 100 yards against the Packers as well.
For the Falcons, forcing Frank Gore to run with the ball does not sound like a great option. The Falcons truly have to play over their heads to slow down the 49ers ground game. Timely stops and a forced fumble helped thwart any offensive output by the Seattle Seahawk’s last week. The Falcons may need to capitalize off of San Francisco miscues on Sunday.
However, Colin was unflappable after throwing an early interception for a touchdown against the Packers. He shook off the slow start to lead his team right down the field.
San Francisco does have a couple distractions entering the NFC Championship game. Stand out receiver, Michael Crabtree has been question for an alleged sexual assault. He is with the team, and as of Sunday morning, Crabtree will be in the starting lineup.
Defensively, the 49ers must contain the incredible duo of Julio Jones and Roddy White. Atlanta is adept at producing big plays in the passing game. Although the 49ers have a great defense, their biggest weakness should be against the passing game. Still, Atlanta will need to provide a strong running game to slow down the 49ers front seven.
Posted by Marioo gomez at 11:00 AM
Thursday, December 13, 2012
When making those water cooler Week 15 NFL Picks, consider the football youth explosion at quarterback. The 2012 NFL season has become the Year of the Rookie as Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden have taken firm control of their respective franchises. Out of the night (via Richmond, Virginia) came Wilson, who is leading all of the young guns: completing 63 percent of his passes with 20 TDs and only nine interceptions.*
RGIII has 18 scores to four INTs (plus 748 rushing yards), Luck has 18 TD tosses, 18 picks and a bunch of comeback wins, while Tannehill and Weeden are each at 57 percent completions per attempt. See the smiling faces of the Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns fans? Yes, Cleveland. Rookie signal-callers have taken the gridiron by storm. The only remaining question is: Can they take their teams to January?
Thursday Night Football
Cincinnati Bengals at Philadelphia Eagles. Philly's Nick Foles came closer to keeping his quarterback gig on Sunday, throwing two last-quarter touchdowns, keeping both drives alive with clutch fourth-down plays, showing excellent clock-management and stealing a victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. No further stats needed.
The 'Iggles D finally played well against a B+ Bucs offense, holding Tampa Bay to 314 total yards, though studly rookie RB Doug Martin torched them for 136 yards on 32 carries. They'll need to improve that rushing defense versus Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis or Cincy QB Andy Dalton will have a stupendous night under the lights.
Green-Ellis certainly did his part last week against the Cowboys, with 7.4 yards per carry. One wonders whether the Bengals lost as much to emotion as to a flesh-and-blood team as they let the game slip away against Dallas. When Tony Romo is on, he can be devastating. When Dez Bryant is paying attention, he can be dazzling. Add in the threat of rusher DeMarco Murray and even the stout Bengals D couldn't hold the line.
Prediction: The Eagles come home to roost and the Bengals eat them for dinner. Cincinnati by six.
Sunday Early Games
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears. Winter football officially arrived Sunday with a wet and snowy night at Lambeau Field. In the absence of former Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson and soon-to-be DPOY Clay Matthews, the Packers sported a pair of rookie DBs to face down Detroit's Calvin Johnson. Tramon Williams did a darn good job of it, too. The Green Bay Packers eventually heated up on a cold night, beginning with a field goal and picking up steam when D-lineman Mike Daniels scooped up a fumble and practically tilted the field as he strode into the end zone. QB Aaron Rodgers and rookie rusher DuJuan Harris both ran in for six, while PK Mason Crosby seemed to get his groove back and capped off the evening with a 41-yarder.
The closest Bears fans can come to comparable achievements would be to cite Matt Forte's 13 carries and six receptions for a combined 89 yards. While fans probably understood why an Urlacher-less defense had trouble tackling the Super Nova known as Adrian Peterson, they were likely less sympathetic when Jay Cutler threw a pick-six to a rookie safety. Chicago faithful also won't be happy when they read that Cutler's two interceptions contributed more yards toward the Minnesota victory than all of the Vikings passes on the afternoon. Isn't that the football equivalent of "sleeping with the enemy?"
Cutler has a neck injury, kicker Robbie Gould has a strained calf (don't laugh -- he's still their most consistent points-producer) and those two concussed WRs are still on the injury list.+ Terrific.
Prediction: As long as Cutler, WR Brandon Marshall and Forte can play, the Bears should make it a game. Green Bay still wins by three.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans. The Titans mirage of an offense made the Colts D look positively competitive. Don't get too carried away: Indy has given up an average of 120.6 rushing yards per game and are the 20th-ranked passing defense. Andrew Luck throws too many interceptions, but he did cap off his six fourth-quarter comeback of the year. Could he be the new Brett Favre? Naw.
Rushers Vick Ballard and Delone Carter have taken possession of the Indy running back position. Ballard had the "hot feet" on Sunday with 94 yards on 19 carries, but Carter had one of those Jerome Bettis-like one-yard TD efforts.
They face a Houston Texans team that was publicly spanked on Monday Night Football. Matt Schaub did absolutely nothing to make fans think he's an elite QB. He may have a career completion percentage of 64 with almost twice as many scores as picks, but he looked like he would rather be anywhere else in the solar system than Gillette Stadium on Monday night. This is an understandable reaction to seeing Vince Wilfork across the line, but Schaub must lead his team to touchdowns rather than field goals or squandered red-zone opportunities. The offensive game plan for Week 15 will show fans how much faith Gary Kubiak still has in his starter. Expect multiple broadcast shots of Arian Foster and Ben Tate rushing the football.
Luck will try to take advantage of a "wounded-warrior-and-the-new-guy" Houston secondary to emulate Brady's eight yards per pass. As for Ballard and Carter -- good luck facing Mr. Wilfork, who is as smart as he is big.
Creepy stat: Matt Schaub and Tom Brady each finished the Monday game with 21 completions for 26 passes. Schaub had an interception and Tom Brady had four touchdown passes. Talk about being outclassed.
Prediction: Houston is still the better team and should recover to win by a TD if they can hold down Andrew Luck in the fourth quarter.
Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens. Regardless of your NFL affiliation, this is obligatory football viewing. Last Thursday night, the Broncos dismantled the Raiders in spite of the rare presence of RB Darren McFadden. In an eighth straight win exceeding even the most ardent Peyton Manning fan's vindictive hopes, Denver led from the jump--to shamelessly mix sports metaphors. Manning completed 26-of-36 passes for 310 yards and a score (joining the previously-cited Brett Favre's 5,000-yard club). RB Knowshon Moreno cemented his return to relevance with a 119-yard afternoon.
However, an Oakland defense ranked dead last in the NFL going into Week 14 held the "Sheriff's" squad to a red-zone success ratio of 2-7. And that isn't going to cut it in January versus a Patriots team scoring in the 50's.
Denver should be wary of the frustrated Ravens, who have lost back-to-back games to the Steelers and Washington. Ray Rice and his rushing compatriots racked up 186 yards on the ground, but the passing game was anemic at 173 yards last weekend. "Anemic" is being polite. Ravens brass must have agreed since Cam Cameron was fired as the offensive coordinator and replaced by erstwhile Indy Head Coach Jim Caldwell. Joe Flacco may not be Peyton Manning, but he possesses a legitimate skill set and could only benefit from having Caldwell teach him how to perfect the "no huddle." Who knows? Pre-snap drama may be landing on the Ravens' field.
Prediction: Denver takes its show on the road, winning by a mere three.
Jacksonville Jaquars at Miami Dolphins. The Jaguars last few seasons are enough to make one request a "mercy rule" in the NFL. It's hard to even find solace in converting three fourth downs last Sunday because, of 16 third down plays, the team converted only two. QB Chad Henne completed less than 50% of his passes, threw three interceptions and was sacked three times. The Jags rushing duo consisted of Montell Owens and Richard Murphy. Who? Exactly.
Southern Florida should have the advantage in this matchup on every level except tackle, where LT Jake Long's value grows every day that he is on I-R. In his absence, Ryan Tannehill's production has slumped to the point where Miami has only scored 17.7 points on average over the past three weeks. The rookie QB is passing for only 185 yards each weekend with a mediocre average of 5.2 yards per attempt. Reggie Bush may have wanted to be a featured running back, but it's difficult to imagine this is quite what he envisioned. He is lifting his share of the offense as the main component of a run game averaging 128 yards recently.
In reality, these teams have almost identical statistics across the past month. Neither has averaged even 18 points per game and both defenses have surrendered more than 23 on the scoreboard. However, at least the Dolphins have a big-time running back still in uniform and a QB capable of some excellent play if protected.
Prediction: Dolphins by a touchdown. Jacksonville will have a few key defenders back in the fold or it might be more.
Washington at Cleveland Browns. Robert Griffin III, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Rookie of the Year contender RB Alfred Morris called and executed an opening drive so impressive that the Ravens defense must have been embarrassed. In fairness, how does one protect against both Morris and Griffin's running ability and also cover WR Pierre Garcon downfield? Regular readers, please do not suffer apoplexy at my surprise praise of Shanahan the Younger. The guy's growing on me. Of course, having a super-star franchise QB will make any play-caller look brilliant. Just ask Dad.
Unfortunately, the thin and injured Washington D promptly surrendered an answering first-quarter score in a drive lasting about 30 seconds. And so the game went until RGIII sustained a knee injury on a fourth-quarter game-tying drive. In true Hollywood fashion, rookie Kirk Cousins not only threw a TD, he also ran for the two-point conversion. PK Kai Forbath deserves tremendous credit for this victory with three FGs, including the overtime game-winner.
In a year where Joe Flacco was supposed to cement his position as a premiere passer, it was the rookie Griffin who put up 13 passing first downs and 248 aerial yards. Washington may also have found a new return specialist in Richard Crawford, who set up the winning drive.
The Cleveland Browns have won three straight games, sparking general jubilation in the Rust Belt! Despite fighting injuries all season, Trent Richardson has nine touchdown runs, tying Jim Brown for the Cleveland rookie record. In Week 14, young WRs Greg Little and Josh Gordon came down with 12 balls on 19 targets. Now, that's more like it!
Meanwhile, the Browns defense may be 23rd in yards allowed, but they are ninth in points scored against them. Undrafted free agent DB Tashaun Gipson has been a gem since cracking the roster and came down with a crucial interception in last week's win. Veteran D-linemen Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin are still only at partial strength, but rookies Billy Winn and John Hughes are evidence that not everything the Mike Holgren era produced was a failure.
Reinforcing once again that special teams are "special," Phil Dawson booted his 300th career field goal. The guy is an orange rock.
With RGIII, Washington will still be fighting for a playoff berth. Without him, the Browns just might continue their climb back to respectability. Both Griffin and star CB DeAngelo Hall swear they'll suit up.
Prediction: Washington by three.
Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams. According to ESPN, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has his eye on the single-season rushing record. With three games left, the human dynamo has 1,600 yards. Over the last three games he has gained 472 yards -- so breaking Eric Dickerson's 2,105-yard mark is possible. As is the MVP trophy. It's a tragedy that Peterson couldn't have hooked up with Favre when No. 4 was 35 years old. Without WR Percy Harvin in the lineup, Christian Ponder is regressing -- against defenses that load eight and nine guys into the box against Peterson. Most of my neighborhood could find someone to whom they could throw a ball downfield against the remaining three defenders! Over the last three games, the Vikes have run for 175 yards courtesy of you-know-who, passed for a paltry 113.3 and scored 15 points. That's just wrong.
Defensively, St. Louis isn't feeling generous. They're only allowing opponents to score 14 points recently. This is not a good combination for the Vikings. The key matchup will be a Rams D giving up less than 100 rushing yards per game against -- you know.
The Rams offense may have turned the corner. Sam Bradford's two WRs (Brandon Gibson and Chris Givens) both had good games on the very same day. The third-year QB is starting to return to form and led his second consecutive fourth-quarter game-winning/tying drive against the Bills D. Of concern to Sam's family would be the ongoing back problems of LT Rodger Saffold.
Jeff Fisher continues to "fisherize" this D, helped partially by rookie DT Michael Brockers, who notched another 1.5 sacks.
Prediction: St. Louis on the upswing wins by six.
Tampa Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints. The Bucs' Ronde Barber and Washington's London Fletcher are tied for the longest active streaks in the NFL: the venerable TB safety made his 212th start in Week 14. However, he couldn't prevent the Eagles rookie QB from completing a game-winner with no time on the clock. The Bucs should have won that game, leading in the fourth quarter with four minutes left. The defense held the Eagles to 29 rushing yards, but Josh Freeman got off to yet another slow start and finished only 14-of-34 for 189 yards and fewer than six yards per pass. Well, that isn't going to cut it against the Saints, no matter what kind of slump Drew Brees has been battling.
For a few weeks Tampa Bay had a combustible offensive squad. While Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams have still gotten their receptions, the overall offensive production has slacked off--with due apologies to rookie star RB Doug Martin, who managed yet another huge game with 128 yards. Tampa Bay maintains the 13th rushing and passing offenses and are fifth in points. Well, that's all that counts, right?
How about Drew Brees as the MVP? What? He's thrown 16 interceptions! Yes, with 31 touchdowns. Without Brees, the Saints season would have been beyond miserable; it would have been unremittingly humiliating. His leadership has kept the pride and the professionalism in N'awleans. Further, he throws the football to about 50 different players, newest being Joe Morgan. This second-year third-stringer from Walsh College finished Sunday with 106 receiving yards. The Buccaneers are the 32nd-ranked passing defense in the NFL. Brees is relieved.
Defensively, the Saints secondary isn't the pushover many believe: they picked off Eli Manning twice Sunday. The pickers? Elbert Mack (a 26-year-old former Buccaneer) and Isa Abdul-Quddus (23-year-old playing in his 27th game). It's a far different secondary than the Championship group led by Darren Sharper and Tracy Porter. Unless Doug Martin does to the linebacking corps what David Wilson did to the entire defense in Week 14, New Orleans has a chance.
Posted by Marioo gomez at 3:03 PM
Previewing the teams projected to finish in the top half of the 2012-13 Big 12 basketball race.Editor's note:This is the second of two articles previewing the Big 12 men's basketball conference season, with short capsules on what to look for from each of the 10 teams. Today's article looks at the teams projected to finish in the top half of the Big 12 regular-season standings.
If there were term limits on how many conference championships you can win, the Kansas Jayhawks would be in serious trouble.
Kansas has won outright or shared the last eight regular-season conference championships in basketball and has won 12 of the 16 since the Big 12 came into existence in 1996. Overall, the Jayhawks have won 52 conference championships in basketball, far more than any other school in the Big 12 and all of its previous iterations dating back to 1907, when Kansas was a member of the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
The Jayhawks, who are off to a 7-1 start to the 2012-13 season, are the heavy favorite once again to extend their supremacy in Big 12 men's basketball to nine consecutive seasons. Of course there are a lot of games to be played between now and then and there are nine other conference teams that will have something to say about the final outcome.
On Wednesday, we previewed the projected bottom half of the conference in men's basketball. Today we move up the ladder and take a look at what to expect from the teams expected to be the top contenders, along with Kansas, for the 2012-13 regular-season Big 12 crown (in descending order).
1. Kansas Jayhawks
(Head coach: Bill Self; 2011-12: 1st)
Kansas is and has long been the epitome in college basketball of the team that rarely, if ever, rebuilds; the Jayhawks simply reload and manage to keep on winning, year after year, seemingly without missing a beat. If you thought it was going to be any different this year after losing two first-round NBA draft picks in big-man Thomas Robinson and table-setter Tyshawn Taylor, you would be wrong. Last year's Jayhawk team, which finished 16-2 in league play and first in the conference for the eighth consecutive year on the way to a 32-7 overall record and runner-up in the NCAA Basketball Championship, may have over-achieved a little, largely on the basis of heart and sheer determination. This year's Jayhawk squad lacks veteran floor leadership, nearly half of the rotation could be first-year players, but in the long run, the roster this season is deeper, which gives head coach Bill Self more options, and the talent level may be higher overall. Returning starters Elijah Johson, Travis Releford and seven-footer Jeff Withey are expected to be the on-floor leaders. Combined the three averaged just over 27 points and right at 14 rebounds a game a year ago.
2. Baylor Bears
(Head coach: Scott Drew; 2011-12 season: 3rd)
Baylor finished third in the conference a year ago, with a school-record 30-win season. The Bears lost 36 points of scoring and almost 20 rebounds a game with the departure of big men Quincy Miller and Perry Jones III to the NBA and the graduation of Quincy Acy, yet this year's team could be even better. The Bears do return, however, what could be the best backcourt combination in the conference in Preseason Player of the Year Pierre Jackson and three-point artist Brady Heslip. Jackson, a senior from Las Vegas, averaged 13.2 points a game last season and Heslip added 10.2 ppg on 45 percent accuracy from behind the three-point line. The addition of seven-foot freshman Isaiah Austin, regarded as the highest-profile recruit in Baylor program history, will help ease the huge hit coach Scott Drew's team took in the front court, plus they have 6-9 junior forward Cory Jefferson back. Jefferson would probably have started for most other Big 12 teams last year, but was relegated to reserve duty behind the Bears' talented frontline trio. Baylor has been to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight two of the last three years, but it has not enjoyed a winning conference record in two consecutive seasons since 1986-87 and 1987-88. This could well be the year.
3. Oklahoma State Cowboys
(Head coach: Travis Ford; 2011-12 season: 7th)
The 2012-13 Oklahoma State team is an interesting study. After being left out of postseason play last season, the Cowboys were looking forward to reversing their fortunes this season. They suffered a big blow, however, when senior power forward and projected starter Darrell Williams was convicted of sexual battery charges and dismissed from the team. Williams would have provided some needed size and strength in the paint, but the Cowboys' are still loaded with ample talent and firepower. Sophomore Le'Bryan Nash is OSU's top returning scorer after averaging 13 points a game last season. Freshman sensation Marcus Smart, projected as the preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, is expected to be one of the keys to the Cowboys' improvement this season. Strong contributions on offense and at the defensive end are also expected from returnees Markel Brown and Michael Cobbins. Oklahoma State was ninth in the conference in rebounding.last season, which is an area coach Travis Ford wants to improve.
4. West Virginia Mountaineers
(Head coach: Bob Huggins; 2011-12 season: 9th in Big East)
West Virginia is expected to be an immediate contender in its first season in the Big 12. The Mountaineers are without their top two scorers from last season in Kevin Jones and Darryl Bryant. Jones led the Big East in both scoring (19.9 ppg) and rebounding (10.9 rpg). Huggins is hoping to replace the loss of more than half of the team's offense with several talented transfers that will bring size, quickness and experience to the starting five. Aaric Murray, a 6-10 center, wing player Matt Humphrey and guard Juwan Staten are transfers from LaSalle, Boston College and Dayton, respectively. All are expected to make major contributions this season. The Mountaineers are also counting on more offensive production from 6-9 senior forward Deniz Kelicli from Istanbul, Turkey. There are questions concerning the team's perimeter shooting and how well newcomer Murray and Kelicli will co-exist on the floor. If they can overcome those two issues and a rigorous nonconference schedule, the Mountaineers could challenge Kansas for the league title.
5. Texas Longhorns
(Head coach Rick Barnes; 2011-12 season: 6th)
Coach Rick Barnes will field a very young team in the 2012-13 season. But don't be fooled. This group is extremely talented. Finding players with great talent and high potential is something you can always count on at Texas. The Longhorns are hoping they will have sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo, who is being forced to sit out to start the season while the NCAA rules on an eligibility issue. Kapongo averaged nearly 10 points and over five assists a game in his freshman season. True frontcourt strength has been lacking for several years in Austin, but the Longhorns appear to be well stocked this season with newcomers 6-8 freshman Ioannis Papapetrou and highly-touted, first-year 6-9 center Cameron Ridley. Some are saying that Texas hasn't had an impact player with the kind of talent potential that Ridley possesses since Chris Mihm (1999-2000). Barnes is also counting on a key contribution from Kabongo's backcourt mate, sophomore Sheldon McClellan, who averaged double digits in scoring a year ago. As young and inexperienced as Texas is this season, the Horns are still plenty good enough to advance to their 15th straight NCAA Tournament.
Posted by Marioo gomez at 3:01 PM
Sunday, December 9, 2012
TNA Impact Wrestling presents their Final Resolution pay-per-view Sunday night and prowrestling.net spoke with new announcer Todd Kenely on Dec. 9 about the weekend's PPV, a card which he says "from top to bottom, you cannot go wrong."
Here is what fans can expect from the TNA Final Resolution PPV.
The Knockouts title is on the line in what should actually be a nice, competitive match between two female veterans in Tara and Mickie James. James just returned to action from a serious medical condition and takes on her old foe Tara, who has a new gimmick as a Hollywood hot couple with Jesse from "Big Brother." Tara has the advantage thanks to her ringside companion.
Former Ring of Honor star Kenny King gets his chance at the X-Division title as he faces champion Rob Van Dam. This should be a great match, two fan favorites battling for the most exciting title in the company. This is also King's chance to prove he really belongs in the big leagues.
The tag team titles are next with Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez defending against Matt Morgan and Joey Ryan. This has a couple of storylines, the first being that Morgan and Hernandez used to be partners and the second being that Morgan is trying to prove that he is a true monster in the ring.
The next match is an eight-man tag pitting Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe, Wes Briscoe and Garrett Bischoff taking on four members of Aces and Eights. Pretty sure that Devon and DOC will be in the match, alongside two other masked men. The big question is whether or not Bischoff and Briscoe turn against Angle, maybe with D-Lo Brown as well.
In a grudge match, Bully Ray takes on Austin Aries in what should be a great match. Aries is spectacular against bigger men and Bully has become one of the best big men wrestlers in the sport. These two men are both 2012 breakout stars, which makes this match a great way to end the year.
In what should be the best match on the card, AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels fight in what is called "One Final Time." These guys have been feuding on and off for ten years now, so don't expect that to be true. However, with nothing on the line and no real angle, this should just be a great match.
The main event is the world championship match between Jeff Hardy and Bobby Roode. This is Roode's first real title match since he was shut out of the title scene when Austin Aries was champion. There is also a chance that Hardy won't re-sign with the company, this one might put Roode back at the top.
Posted by Marioo gomez at 3:28 PM
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesWith the NFL playoff picture becoming more concrete, it’s that time of year when favorites turn on cruise control for the betterment of their playoff runs.
The New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans and Denver Broncos have all clinched their divisions with four weeks to go, a bit earlier than usual. As a result, that opens the door for some pesky underdogs to play spoiler in the upcoming four weeks.
The 1998 Broncos come to mind concerning favorites down the stretch. The defending Super Bowl champions at the time were undefeated going into their last three weeks but turned on the cruise button and subsequently lost two of three to finish 14-2.
In 2012, there are no teams of that magnitude, but those performances set the precedent for letdowns in the league’s final month.
You’ll know when you see it: Offensive game plans get more vanilla, while backups get a bit more TV time than usual. Those teams aren’t playing to win. They are playing for January.
Here are the favorites who are on upset alert this weekend.
Atlanta Falcons (at Carolina Panthers)
Not to mention that Atlanta squeaked by Carolina earlier this season in a game in which the Falcons had no business coming out on top.
The Panthers needed one yard to seal the game and couldn’t get it, while Matt Ryan and Roddy White connected for a 50-yard bomb deep in their own territory to set up the game-winning field goal. Those late-game heroics are unlikely to surface for a second time.
Meanwhile, Cam Newton has been playing his best football of the season, with six touchdowns and no picks in his last three contests.
Carolina has its bearings this time around. The Panthers will get their revenge Sunday.
Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Dallas Cowboys)
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesWhile the Bengals are riding high on a four-game winning streak, three of those victories came against teams which are bottom-feeders in the league standings.
The Cowboys are Cincinnati’s most talented opponents in a month, which will surprise once these teams clash on the gridiron.
That includes the Cowboys’ counter to superstar wideout A.J. Green: corners Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. These two defensive backs can neutralize the Bengals’ biggest advantage and turn their offense into a low-scoring one.
Dallas comes into this matchup motivated by the Giants’ woes in the NFC East race. That will straighten out a team which has played better on the road in recent years.
Washington Redskins (vs. Baltimore Ravens)
Patrick McDermott/Getty ImagesThe winning musk from Monday night will wear off the ‘Skins by Sunday, as the battle-tested Ravens come into Washington in better shape than the public believes.
Baltimore had been on a four-game winning streak before last week’s slip-up against Pittsburgh and now needs to right the ship to clinch the AFC North title. With the Steelers lurking behind and getting healthy, the Ravens can’t give away any gimmes now.
As great as Washington played on Monday Night Football, a short week will make the Redskins susceptible against a desperate team. Expect a few deep connections to Torrey Smith to seal Washington's fate in Week 14.
Posted by Marioo gomez at 5:59 AM
Saturday, December 8, 2012
It was the punch of the year after the round of the year in what could very well end up being the fight of the year. After being at the frustrating end of questionable judges decisions, Juan Manuel Marquez finally got his revenge. With one second left in the sixth round, the Mexican put Manny Pacquiao out cold with a blistering right hand. There was never going to be a recovery by the Filipino.
The official time is 2:59 of the sixth, but the story of the fight up to that point is this: Pacquiao was winning.
All three ringside judges had the contest 47-46 before the bout was stopped after Marquez's incredible punch. Pacquiao was clearly the positional aggressor and landed more punches both in volume and with significance. For rounds one, two, four and five, Pacquiao was clearly landing the better left hands and staying out of the way of Marquez's best shots. In fact, Pacquiao knocked Marquez down in the fifth and engaged the Mexican rival in wild exchanges that saw both taking wild shots, but Marquez arguably getting the worst of it.
Yet, Pacquiao had been knocked down himself and for the first time in his rivalry with Marquez. The Filipino went down in the third round, but didn't appear overly hurt and was able to mount offense from there after for two more rounds. Just as Pacquiao was cruising, everything unraveled.
Pacquiao was attacking Marquez along the ropes, eating almost as many shots as he was giving but possibly getting the better of it. However, he committed to a left hand which missed wildly and Marquez found his opening. A right hand landing square on Pacquiao's jaw sending the one-time best fighter in the world crashing face first to the canvas. He laid there motionless, still and undoubtedly the loser.
When asked by HBO commentator Larry Merchant if a fifth fight with Pacquiao was in the cards, he declined to commit the possibility.
Posted by Marioo gomez at 10:40 PM