Friday, September 30, 2011

NFL picks: Week Four: The madness continues

Isn't this just a particularly peculiar NFL season thus far? It has a topsy-turvy feel about it that make you think, 'Wait, did I just wake up four years later, did I just miss a couple of seasons worth of news and developments?' Everyones perennial Dark Horses Kansas are pathetic. The Colts are facing 0-16. The Colts! There hasn't been one solitary Ochocinco headline out of Cincinnati, perhaps he has gone somewhere else, although there's no way to tell as he doesn't appear to have any catches yet! Meanwhile, has anyone seen Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson or Frank Gore? Just an odd, odd year, and there's no reason to doubt week four will be any different.

Let's break it all down like a fraction.

  • Last weeks totals against the spread - 6-10
  • Running total against the spread - 29-18
See foot of posting for week by week links to previous weeks

Buffalo Bills (3-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-2) +3.5
That is not a misprint. The Bills really are the AFCs only unbeaten team. Their other-worldly come-back against the Patriots means they are the only AFC team with a '0' in the loss column. What kind of odds might you have gotten against that happening pre-season start? A kajillion to one? No need to dig too deep in this one. The Bengals lost a disappointing one last week to the 49ers, at home, no less. The Bills are also currently riding a 8-0 streak against The Bungles. The Bills can put points up in a hurry. No reason to believe The Bungles can keep up.
The Score: Buffalo 34 Cincinnati 17 The Pick: Buffalo -3.5

Carolina Panthers (1-2) at Chicago Bears (1-2) -6.5
The Bears were absolutely putrid against the Packers. Having said that, it is doubtful they will face the same ferocious pass rush against the Panthers. If Cutler has time, he is a fantastic throwing QB. His arm is second to none in the NFL. Given time, the Bears can hang points on anyone. However, even considering home field advantage, this is still too many points to give the feisty Panthers. They should be able to hang around deep into the ball game.
The Score: Carolina 24 Chicago 27 The Pick: The Panthers +6.5

Tennessee Titans (2-1) at Cleveland Browns (2-1) -1.5
So, Matt Hasselbeck is starting to look like a good idea, right? His 5/2 TD to INT is nice, and his veteran savvy is just lovely, thank you very much, as far as Tennessee are concerned. Bear in mind also, the Brownies struggled to over come soon-to-be-coachless Miami, while Tennessee beat Denver easily enough. Final thought, Chris Johnson has to come unglued eventually.
The Score: Tennessee 20 Miami 17
The Pick: Tennessee +1.5

Detroit Lions (3-0) at Dallas Cowboys (2-1) -3.5
I am not a Doctor but, facing the Detroit Lions pass rush, and the borderline psychotic, physical freak that is Ndamukong Suh, can not be an appealing prospect for Tony Romo and his broken ribs, back injury, damaged shoulder and the rest. In Blackjack you never, ever walk away from a hot streak, a hot table. Well, Detroit represents that hot table, and that extra half point looks juicy from a gambling perspective. Detroit carries the good vibrations forward, knocking Romo out of the game and over power an over rated Dallas side. Doesn't matter how big your stadium video screen is, just matters how many Ndamukong Suh's you have on your side.
The Score: Detroit 27 Dallas 23
The Pick: Detroit +3.5

Minnesota Vikings (0-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (0-3) +1.5
Putrid, turgid mess alert! What a shocking mess. The Vikings can't hold a lead. The Chiefs can;t buy a lead. How on earth do you separate these two? Easily enough actually. The Vikings have a couple of skill players the admittedly injury ridden Chiefs can only dream about in Peterson and Harvin amongst others. If the Vikings even sniff a lead, Kansas doesn't have it in them this season to come back.
The Score: Minnesota 30 Kansas 17
The Pick: Minnesota -1.5

Washington Redskins (2-1) at St. Louis Rams (0-3) -0.5
The Rams have a secondary even Rex Grossman can get excited about. This looks a soft line. The Rams have serious injury issues, and are not able to come back after falling behind this season. QB Bradford is having a down season but isn't helped by the plague of injuries that have hit the Rams clubhouse. Meanwhile, the Skins and little Timmy Hightower are enjoying a feisty looking 2011, and have the players and most of all the defence to overcome basically a scratch handicap.
The Score: Washington 24 St Louis 20
The Pick: Washington -0.5

New Orleans Saints (2-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) +7.5
This game couldn't come at a worse time for the rudderless Jags. The Saints are starting to kick into form whilst the Jags have managed a paltry 13 points in two games. New Orleans eviscerated Houston last weekend, and will do the same, in fact probably worse, to the awful Jags.
The Score: New Orleans 37 Jacksonville 16
The Pick: New Orleans -7.5

San Francisco 49ers (2-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) -6.5
What, a team that has a defence built back to front is struggling? Really? What a shock! The Eagles spent eleventy billion on their defensive backs and forgot to build a defensive line. Teams are pounding away at will against them on the ground, and loving it against a relatively light, weak Eagles front seven. The Eagles will win a close one, and everyone related to the 'dream team' will breathe a sigh of relief, at least until a serious team takes them down next time.
The Score: San Francisco 23 Philadelphia 24
The Pick: San Francisco +6.5

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) at Houston Texans (2-1) -3.5
Imagine that, Houston getting off to a blazing start before coming 'back to the pack' as it were. Isn't this exactly the kind of game Pittsburgh relishes? Their backs to the wall, everyone backing against them. The Steelers can not only keep this close, they can go into Houston, annoy the natives and take their lunch money.
The Score: Pittsburgh 26 Houston 20 The Pick: Pittsburgh +3.5

Atlanta Falcons (1-2) at Seattle Seahawks (1-2) +4.5
Major bounce back coming from the Falcons. Seattle not in a position to withstand the angry backlash. One of the softest lines of the week.
The Score: Atlanta 30 Seattle 13 The Pick: Atlanta -4.5

New York Giants (2-1) at Arizona Cardinals (1-2) +1.5
Is this line someones idea of a bad joke? While the Giants were, well, giants, against 'The Dream Team', aka the Eagles, the Cardinals were busy losing to the absolutely horrific Seahawks. No need to delve too deeply into this one. Just trust the G-Men and quietly move on.
The Score: New York 27 Arizona 16 The Pick: New York Giants -1.5

Denver Broncos (1-2) at Green Bay Packers (3-0) -13.5
Niggling doubts linger here. If the opponents were Seattle I would understand the almost-two-TD line. However, Denver can stay competitive in this one. Not a strong fancy, but I can see Denver landing at least a back-door-cover.
The Score: Denver 24 Green Bay 33 The Pick: Denver +13.5

New England Patriots (2-1) at Oakland Raiders (2-1) +4.5
Ah yes. The over-adjustment. As is tradition. Did the Patriots turn into an awful team last week? No they did not. Did Oakland turn into the '85 Bears last week? No they didn't. The Patriots played sloppy football and paid for it. The Raiders played the game of their lives and came away with a win over the offensively ordinary Jets. A theme of 2011 is Market Correction. Well, that comes into place this week. The angry Patriots come out firing, and Oakland can't keep up.
The Score: New England 36 Oakland 24 The Pick: New England -4.5

Miami Dolphins (0-3) at San Diego Chargers (2-1) -8.5
What on earth is the story with the Vegas love affair with San Diego? Everyone saw the Chargers really struggle to beat the Vikings and Chiefs, right? We all saw that? The Chargers should win, sure, but will they win 'going away', or will Miami put up a fight? With their season on the line, surely the latter.
The Score: Miami 28 San Diego 30 The Pick: Miami +8.5

New York Jets (2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1) -3.5
The Jets shocking loss in Oakland last week was curiously buried by the media, who were too busy mocking the Patriots loss in Buffalo. Well, the Jets were blown out (by ten points) by a young Oakland tea very much in the rebuilding phase, by their own admission. The bad news for New York is, the Ravens have an upgrade on Darren McFadden waiting in the wings for them. You think Ray Rice is anyway scared of a Jets paper-tiger defence that just gave up 34 points to Oakland? Baltimore look scary good at home. If they get a lead, how are the Jets going to keep up?
The Score: New York 17 Baltimore 28 The Pick: Baltimore -3.5

Indianapolis Colts (0-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) -9.5
Oh for God sake. I mean, come on. The Colts have, I think, proved they are not going to roll over and die. They played very strong last week and were unfortunate to lose. This is an absolutely ridiculous line. Dwight Freeney is laughing at this line. Painter looked decent last week in limited action. Tampa should squeak a dramatic win, but the Colts can stay within 10 easily.
The Score: Indianapolis 21 Tampa 24 The Pick: Indianapolis +9.5

Previous weeks
Week one - 11-4
Week two - 12-4
Week three - 6-10


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ryan Lavarnway - unlikely Red Sox season saviour?

Go ahead. Google Ryan Lavarnway. There isn’t much there, just yet. The fresh faced young Red Sox prospect probably made his own biggest dent thus far on the Internet last night. With Red Sox regulars Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia out with injuries, the Sox turned to their 24-year-old rookie catcher/utility player, and said a little prayer. As it turns out, someone was listening.

Last night Lavarnway hit his first two major league home runs and drove in four runs to lead the Sox to an 8-7 victory against the Orioles. Lavarnway become the youngest Red Sox player to hit two runs in a game since Nomar Garciaparra in 1997. Oddly enough both were 24 years, 51 days old. He had a three-run shot in the fourth and a solo homer in the eighth. When he wasn’t slugging long bombs, Lavarnway also handled his duties behind the plate perfectly. He threw out Baltimore’s Jones trying to steal third in the second inning and, crucially, in the ninth made a perfect play on a tapper in front of the plate to throw out Matt Wieters.

The NFL is going crazy over the Bills Ryan Fitzpatrick after the Harvard man’s opening three electric starts. Well, the Red Sox have their own Ivy league story in Lavarnway, who graduated from Yale with a degree in Philosophy. In 2007 he won the NCAA batting title by hitting .467 and set the standing Ivy League record with a 25-game hitting streak. In addition, he is the Ivy League all-time career home run leader, with 23.

Now what? Do the Sox try and tap into the electric energy coursing through Lavarnway as they face their massive game against the Orioles tonight? Remember they let a youthful Jacoby Ellsbury roam free in 2007, and that kind of worked out for everyone (bar the Rockies).

Tito Francona was effusive in his praise of the young catcher after last nights game;

“That was exciting, Besides what he did offensively, I thought he ran the game, I thought he had a lot of poise. That was one of the more exciting things to watch. We’ve seen a lot of interesting things here over the years. That was right near the top.’’

If those comments are anything to go by, we probably have not seen the last of Ryan Lavarnway in a Sox jersey this season.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Don't get mad at me, get mad at the machine!

Pitching machines are the most reliable and effective way to get your little one in tip top shape for the baseball season. Even though, kids these days have enough energy to literally bounce off of walls, they too get run out. That is why pitching machines are key when you're trying to elevate your child's batting skills to another level. While the 'ol right hook has still got it, you don't want to wear your arm out while your son is only gets a few good pitches to practice with. It's better to purchase a machine and let your son use his energy efficiently. This way you can still use your arm in your own games. You can also focus on coaching your son, making him a better player overall.

Opting to use a pitching machine, to get your son or daughter ready for the upcoming season, will pay off three fold. Not only will your child's batting average improve, but your arm will stay intact, and your child can't yell at you for hitting them directly with the ball or throwing bad pitches. Your child will learn a valuable lesson in not having anyone to blame, and instead focus more on his own abilities to swing. This lesson will come in handy when he or she gets older, they will learn to have an introspective view when dealing with sticky situations.

There you have it, making a commitment to train hard and often with a pitching machine pays off well. There are no big cons to this type of training, except maybe the lack of team play and practice, but it'll be the easiest most time expenditure effective investment you've made yet. Machines are easily accessible online or at the batting cages these days, so you won't even need to step foot outside your home if you're busy, leaving you more time to spend with your family.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The obvious answer for 2011 AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera

As we cruise to the end of the MLB season, there is an awful lot of copy being written in particular about the AL MVP. Should a pitcher be considered? Should it go to a player who is playing for a team that is seventeen games out in its division?

This column's suggestion is leading the AL with a sparkling .341 batting average. He is tied for first with a sensational .447 OBP (On base percentage). He is tied for second place with 47 doubles and is right up there in home runs (tied 7th) and RBIs (tied 7th). Our candidate is tied for 2nd in the AL with 108 walks and is second in slugging and OPS.

It isn't just the numbers.

Our candidate is the scariest bat, the leading Superstar, the main man on a team that has absolutely run away with their division, and are cruising on auto pilot into the postseason. The Detroit Lions would be nothing without Miguel Cabrera. He makes that entire lineup tick. People say the Tigers would be in trouble without big Justin Verlander, well, they would be completely screwed without 'Miggy'.

There are other worthy candidates. Bear in mind, you are hearing this from an avid Red Sox fan. This column would love to see Gonzo or Jacoby take the MVP award. However, you can't deny Miggy is the glaringly obvious logical candidate. Powerful statistics on a winning team, and you can not imagine that same team without him. With all due respect to the incredible tear Jose Bautista is on, he is doing it for a team that is going to be breaking up and going on holidays very, very soon. In three games time, to be exact.

One man ticks all the AL MVP boxes. Statistically and in terms of intangibles too. Miguel Cabrera, your AL MVP. Just remember you heard it here first.

The American League Wild Card run in – contenders break out the big guns

With just three games left in the chase for the final spot in the playoffs, otherwise known as the Wild Card, the last three contenders for the American League are breaking out their heavy artillery. The three teams, Boston, Tampa and Anaheim, are unleashing nine of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball in a last ditch attempt to break into the playoffs on the tails of the division winners.

Check out this murderers row of serious pitching talent

Imagine you were a GM and you were able to cherry pick a five man rotation from that group. Personally I would go with;
  • Price
  • Beckett
  • Weaver
  • Lester
  • Santana
Can you imagine throwing that five out every week?

As the great Homer Simpson would say, ‘I digest’. The main topic the next few nights is clearly, who’s going forward, and which two teams can go ahead and make their holiday plans. The Angels are basically out of it, as they would have to win all three and have Boston and Tampa lose all three. That’s highly unlikely. The Red Sox have a one game lead on the Rays, so they need to win two and hope Tampa lose one, basically.

I don’t see it being that complicated. Boston happens to have the right guys at the right time, and you will probably have noticed their bullpen has come right lately. Beckett\Bedard\Lester is more than enough to win three straight against the Orioles.

Boston started the game with a damp squid 2-10 record, and there was plenty of Schadenfreude doing the rounds. However they then righted the ship in spectacular fashion. This Column thinks they will right the ship again, starting tonight.

There is just too much talent there for the alternative.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

NFL picks: Week three: The revenge of the sardonic comments.

Last week we lamented that the only bad thing about opening a NFL picks season 11-4 is, the only way was down. Well, what kind of glib, sardonic comment can we make after going 12-4 in week two? The only assumed result in week three is really, really down? All self depreciation aside, you do have to assume a market correction is in order, right? Or, is it? Is This Column about to embark on a 2007 Patriots like odyssey, cruising through the regular season before crashing and burning Hindenburg style in the Superbowl.

Let's find out.

  • Last weeks totals against the spread - 12-4
  • Running total against the spread - 23-8
See foot of posting for week by week links to previous weeks

New England Patriots (2-0) at Buffalo Bills (2-0) +8.5
Straight into the action. Anyone know what the over for this one is? Have NASA finished calculating it as yet? The Patriots seem intent on bashing all offensive records around for a season, whilst the Bills appear to have decided, 'If we're going to blow, we are going to do so in an aesthetically pleasing manner'. That's harsh on the Bills. They have given us two dramatic wins already, however you have to bear in mind they were against a pretty disastrous looking Kansas outfit and a young, mistake ridden Oakland side. The Patriots meanwhile have taken care of Miami on their home turf, and blown past a pretty talented Chargers side too. One 2-0 looks stronger than the other.
The score: New England 41 Buffalo 27
The Pick: New England -8.5

Our best men, figuring out the Bills/Patriots over/under

San Francisco 49ers (1-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) -2.5
Doesn't it seem a little early to be handicapping The Bungles? This Column loves how The Bungles have given the keys to the car to a bunch of young guys, including rookie QB Andy Dalton, and their opening to the season has a whiff of friskiness about it. However, the 49ers have the defence to cause the rookie QB and his mates headaches and you have to think Frank Gore is going to get going sooner or later.
The score: San Francisco 24 Cincinnati 20
The Pick: San Francisco +2.5

We must assume The Bungles are into Mr Bungle

Miami Dolphins (0-2) at Cleveland Browns (1-1) -2.5
We believe. We believe Cleveland's QB Colt McCoy is already the more polished article than Chad Henne. We believe Cleveland were impressive last week and will play hard in front of their vociferous home fans. We believe this line is about 3-5 points too low.
The score: Miami 17 Cleveland 24
The Pick: Cleveland -2.5

Denver Broncos (1-1) at Tennessee Titans (1-1) -6.5
Think, at first glance, that this line is a little on the long side? Well, go check out Denver's injury issues. They are going into this one minus about ten of their starters. No exaggeration. This line will be closer to -8 just before kick off. The Titans get off to a good start and Chris Johnson breaks 100 as the closer
The score: Denver 17 Tennessee 30
The Pick: Tennessee -6.5

Detroit Lions (2-0) at Minnesota Vikings (0-2) +3.5
Time to get out of the boat on this one. Swim to shore. Go on without me. Take the gun, go without me! The last couple of seasons This Column has watched in admiration as the young Lions have grown into, well, young Lions with a stack of talent. We can not in good faith step away from our firm belief that this Lions team is destined for greatness. However, that -3.5 is scary. The Vikings must have this game or their season becomes a dress rehearsal for next year. Having said that, you can see the Lions gleefully battering nails into the coffin that is the career of McNabb and the season that is the Vikings 2011. People are sitting up and taking notice of the Lions, but, this could be their official coming our party.
The score: Detroit 28 Minnesota 24
The Pick: Detroit -3.5

The Real Thing. The Detroit Lions are...

Houston Texans (2-0) at New Orleans Saints (1-1) -3.5
There is only a field goal, at best, between these two side. The Saints bounced back nicely last week however it is Houston that is the more 'intact' side, even allowing for Arian Foster's absence. Ben Tate is doing a fine job in his place. The Saints are missing more personnel and Houston are getting used to winning. The feeling is the Saints will win, taking advantage of home cooking, however Houston can keep it close.
The score: Houston 27 New Orleans 30
The Pick: Houston +3.5

New York Giants (1-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) -7.5
Obviously noted dog killer Michael Vick (No, I will not ever give him a break, no, thanks) is a key factor, and you have to assume he will play. Even if he is involved, this line looks too lengthy to me. The Giants have not turned into a pumpkin overnight. If Vick does play, you can assume the fierce Giants pass rush will have a good pop at him. The Eagles, playing in their own backyard, should win, but it could be close. Closer than 7.5 points anyway.
The score: New York 24 Philadelphia 27
The Pick: New York Giants +7.5

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) at Carolina Panthers (0-2) -3.5
Goodness gracious Jacksonville were absolutely putrid against the Jets. That extra half point in the handicap is a little worrying but the Panthers can neutralize the Maurice Jones Drew threat by getting into an early lead. Rookie QB Cam Newton looks absolutely electric, which is no shock to anyone who watched him light it up in college. If Carolina get a decent lead, the Jaguars, who have serious QB issues, won't be able to keep up. Cam Newton gets career win numero uno.
The score: Jacksonville 17 Carolina 34
The Pick: (Oh) Carolina -3.5

Oh Carolina (Little inside, I know)

Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) at San Diego Chargers (1-1) -14.5
Nasty. Put the kids to bed. X-Rated. Kansas are a complete and utter cluster fudge of a mess. They are busy making the Keystone Cops look competent. Kansas is losing the 2011 season 89-10 at time of writing. Expect that to look even uglier once the dust has settled in San Diablo.
The score: Kansas 13 San Diego 40
The Pick: San Diego minus a million (Or -14.5, either)

New York Jets (2-0) at Oakland Raiders (1-1) +3.5
The Jets may have won easily last weekend, but they struggled at times in week one, and the Raiders are a very different proposition at home than on the road. Aren't we due a Mark Sanchez stinker? Oakland cause the shock of the week in front of their crazy fans.
The score: New York 16 Oakland 20
The Pick: Oakland +3.5

Baltimore Ravens (1-1) at St. Louis Rams (0-2) +3.5
Baltimore are the worlds greatest tease. Awesome in week one, awful in week two. The Rams need RB Stephen Jackson back, and This Column is assuming he will Cowboy Up and take the field. The Rams, at home, against what appear to be a very up and down Ravens side. Approach with caution however, hard to see the Rams doing much without Jackson.
The score: Baltimore 20 St Louis 23
The Pick: St Louis +3.5

Atlanta Falcons (1-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) -1.5
The Falcons win over the Eagles was considerably more impressive than the Buccs win over a hapless looking Vikings side. All due respect to Freeman and the young Buccos, The Falcons can stretch their winning streak to six in a row against Tampa with another victory here.
The score: Atlanta 27 Tampa 24
The Pick: Atlanta +1.5

Green Bay Packers (2-0) at Chicago Bears (1-1) +3.5
Are you aware the Packers D has allowed over 900 yards on the season so far? The Bears are a fine team at home, their home support simply doesn't allow a poor effort from them. They can keep this one close at least. Could be an entertaining one, considering how poorly the Green Bay D is playing, and how much better the Bears play at home.
The score: Green Bay 30 Chicago 32
The Pick: Chicago +3.5

Arizona Cardinals (1-1) at Seattle Seahawks (0-2) +3.5
Phew, stinker alert. Seattle look absolutely atrocious. They are struggling in all areas, unable to move the ball and failing to stop anyone else moving it on them. Kolb and Fitzgerald will prove too much to handle, as the Cardinals walk away with an easy one.
The score: Arizona 27 Seattle 17
The Pick: Arizona -3.5

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) at Indianapolis Colts (0-2) +10.5
Absolutely hate this one. There is a world of a difference, however, between hosting Seattle and travelling to Indianapolis. Seattle do not have anyone of the caliber of Clarke, Collie or Freeney. The Colts can keep it close, playing at home in front of their piped crowd noise. As is tradition.
The score: Pittsburgh 26 Indianapolis 20
The Pick: Indianapolis +10.5

Washington Redskins (2-0) at Dallas Cowboys (1-1) -6.5
Gasp, what? Almost a touchdown head start for the surging Redskins? Against a Dallas side relatively rocked by that nasty old injury bug? Where do we sign up? What's the catch? There doesn't appear to be any. Washington announce themselves as a serious team in '11 with a shock road win, against a beaten up Dallas side.
The score: Washington 23 Dallas 20
The Pick: Washington +6.5

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New: Follow Boston Irish by email

Isn't modern technology just fantastic? Now, thanks to major developments in science, and stuff, you can follow Boston Irish (This blog, for those of you who got lost on the way to something else) in your email by utilising our, you guessed it, follow by email functionality.

Simply insert your email address of choice into the field circled above and click on 'Submit'. When you get fed up, you can always unsubscribe. Go on, do it. Support Science, technology and enjoy 70% NFL pick success rate until the inevitable market correction!

Boston Irish Blog, come for the service, stay for the gaudy colours.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Panic about the Red Sox? Not just yet.

Alright so, let’s kick things off by stating the obvious. As Sox fans, you are disappointed, I am disappointed, we are all disappointed. This has been a singularly painful couple of weeks baseball, as the Red Sox have frittered away a big lead in the Wild Card faster than Michael Vick wasted away his first hundred million dollar contract. The Internet is bulging wider than Val Kilmer’s waist line today with doom and gloom stories revolving around the Sox damp, drab couple of weeks shenanigans.

Well, much as we all love definitive statements and stories with a neat, tidy bow wrapped around them, there is much more to this Sox ‘collapse’ story than meets the eye. A little perspective is required amongst the slumping, screaming, slashing, headlines.

First things first, the Sox are getting healthier every day. They welcomed back Josh Beckett on the weekend, and when Erik Bedard takes the hill tomorrow Tuesday, their starting rotation will almost be back to full strength. With a two game lead on Tampa, if Boston manages a handful of wins in the run in, they can start resting their pitchers for the playoffs. They are not chasing. They are being chased.

Secondly, much as most old school baseball fans hate them, statistics are a part of the game. An integral part, you could argue. Well, the ‘surging’ Tampa Bay Devil Rays have an 11.4 percent chance of making the playoffs, and Boston are still in possession of a meaty 88.2 percent chance going into tonight’s double header with the woeful Orioles.

Speaking of which, thirdly, in their last ten games of the 2011 season, Boston faces the Baltimore Orioles seven times. That’s right, 70% of Boston’s remaining games are against the Orioles. The 62-89 Baltimore Orioles. If the Red Sox fail to reach the playoffs, nobody is going to be able to blame the run-in schedule. Boston has its destiny firmly in its own hands. If Boston goes 6-4 over the last ten games, Tampa has to go 8-2 just to tie. Who does Tampa have in seven of its remaining ten games? The New York Yankees. As those two sluggers bash chunks out of each other, Boston will be playing against the Quadruple-A Orioles.

If anything, you could actually argue that because New York and Tampa will be taking games off each other in the run in, with Boston facing the Orioles, they might actually still have a shot at the AL East.

However, that’s not what people are writing. We are being subjected to endless drivel about how Tampa are playing the best baseball in the Majors right now (Gosh, imagine playing decent baseball with one of the best rotations in the game! Shocker!) and the Sox are going to be swept aside by some sort of Devil Ray revolution. Please, spare us the endless pap about the Rays ‘playing fearless baseball’. They caught Boston at the exact right time, wounded, injured and playing with more AAA players than we shall see in the run in. No doubt screaming about disastrous end of season flops makes for good copy, however when you calmly consider all the facts, the Red Sox will most likely get healthy, beat up on the Orioles and cruise into the playoffs.

What happens then, however, is a whole new ball game.



Comments welcome! Free and open debate and communication are some of the most enjoyable aspects of life. Please leave a comment, disagreements welcome! If you disagree, debate your case by all means. However, anything rude, spiteful or any cowardly anonymous personal attacks will be not be tolerated and will be deleted.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NFL Picks: Week two: The sophmore slump

The curse of having a 'good week' at the coalface that is NFL picks is, the only way is down. Way down. This columns went 11-4 against the spread last week, and that should have been an enjoyable achievement, instead it is weighing this column down, an albatross around its neck. How can we go 11-4 again? So much expectation! The only answer is, success is depressing. Mediocrity is the obvious way forward. Here's to a nice, Toronto Blue Jays, Ryan Reynolds, Stoke City, 'average' kind of week, a nice 8-8 week.

Last weeks totals against the spread - 11-4
Running total - 11-4

On to the picks.

Oakland @ Buffalo -3.5
The theme of week two from a gambling perspective is undoubtedly ‘over-reaction’. When was the last time Buffalo were -3.5 against anyone? Was Jim Kelly at the helm? Buffalo have a whiff of friskiness about them, but you would have to argue, did they turn into World beaters over night? Should we suddenly be considering the 1000/1 Superbowl odds on the back of one win against a very erratic Kansas side? Backing Buffalo does not pass the million dollar test. That is, if someone handed you a million dollars and told you to place a single bet on this game, you would only have one ‘safe’ option, right?
The Pick: Oakland +3.5

Chicago @ New Orleans -7.5
So I guess we are continuing to ignore the fact that Chicago actually won the NFC North last season? It is incredible how the sporting media can affect the general consensus on a given team. There is no way the Bears are more than a touchdown underdogs to New Orleans. Not right now. Everyone is aware the Saints top two wide outs are probably out of this game, right? Maybe at their peak the Saints would be ‘that’ scary, but not right now. A more realistic handicap would have been -3 or maybe even -4.5, but over a touchdown? Really? Take the points and watch the Bears keep it close.
The Pick: Chicago +7.5

Cleveland @ Indianapolis +2.5
More market over-reaction. The Colts will be more prepared, Kerry Collins will have had another week to get his house in order, the Colts will be pumping crowd noise in like nobody’s business, and Cleveland are still reeling from losing badly to the Bengals last week. Just a feeling, but take the few points on offer in what should be a close one, and side with the slightly more desperate of the two. Not often you get a home dog with as many quality players (Freeney, Garcon, Collie, Clarke) as the Colts have.
The Pick: Indianapolis +2.5

Kansas @ Detroit -8.5
You know at first This Column balked at the sight of that gaudy looking handicap. However, then we considered the game more closely. Detroit are on a serious upswing. Kansas are in complete disarray. Detroit won a tough road game against another up and coming team with a potentially great QB (Tampa/Josh Freeman) while Kansas were completely humiliated by one of last season’s worst sides (Buffalo). Detroit have a veritable tone of momentum going into this one, and frankly nothing bar the reverse lock theory can save Kansas. The Lions score early and often and questions start getting asked in Kansas.
The Pick: Detroit -8.5

Green Bay @ Carolina +10.5
What on earth is going on here? Is this the run in to the playoffs, are Carolina already out of it and are Green Bay playing for their lives? How on earth are we already dishing out double figure handicaps?! Everyone saw Cam Newton play last week, right? Once again, Carolina go into a game with two dynamic running backs and a sense that they have nothing to lose. Their explosive rookie QB was the toast of the NFL last weekend, yet the bookies don't appear to be anywhere near impressed by his strong opening showing. Admittedly the Packers are a fine unit, and torched the Saints, but they had their own home crowd and that particular opening night momentum behind them. Carolina get that on Sunday, and can ride that and the youthful exuberance of Cam Newton to, well, to within 10 points anyway!
The Pick: Carolina +10.5

Baltimore @ Tennessee +5.5
Oh those saucy Ravens! Such a tease. That was an overwhelming showing against the bemused looking Steelers last week. Everything on both ends of the ball went right for Baltimore. More often than not, unless you are the 2007 Patriots, perfection is not the norm within the confines of the NFL. Meanwhile, Tennessee continue to search for an identity. Chris Johnson continues to attempt to get going. A home opener and a sense of urgency point to Tennessee keeping this close.
The Pick: Tennessee +5.5

Tampa @ Minnesota -3.5
Tampa ran into the exploding star of momentum that is the Lions. Let's just say the Vikings do not quite represent that much potential energy. Josh Freeman gets his 2011 season going by leading the Buccs to a show road win against a Vikings team looking for an identity amongst so much change.
The Pick: Tampa +3.5

Jacksonville @ New York Jets -10.5
Oh right, I thought it was the completely and utterly ringless New York Jets, but according to those 10.5 points in the handicap this is the '85 freakin Bears. C'mon man! Hey, there's no doubt the Jets are a decent ball club and etc and etc, however Jacksonville know what they have to do, which is namely ram the bowling ball that is Maurice Jones Drew into the line 35-40 times and pray he comes out the other end for 120-130 yards. This clown thinks he does.
The Pick: Jacksonville +10.5

Arizona @ Washington -4.5
That was a fantastic opening from the 'Skins, who look younger, hungrier and more, well, more 'into' the whole thing. Washington won all the little battles against a wildly over matched Giants team. Arizona meanwhile had a nice little opener to themselves. Beanie Wells stayed on the field for an entire game, a miracle in itself, and Kevin Kolb looked like the real deal. A major red flag however is 'Zona's horrific road results the last few seasons. Add to the the fact that Wells could hobble off the gridiron at any time, and you find yourself grunting, and saying ''Well, maybe Washington are the pick!''
The Pick: Washington -4.5

Seattle @ Pittsburgh -14.5
Okay now this one wide margin handicap I actually understand. Seattle are a complete mess. In almost every element of the game. The Steelers are licking their wounds, and have to come out flying to bring their home crowd back in on the deal. Seattle could be in for a royal hiding here.
The Pick: Pittsburgh -14.5

Dallas @ San Francisco -2.5
Good for Alex Smith. Now he's only the eleven games under .500 for his NFL career. The Cowboys looked pretty feisty last week in New York, and have the tools and skills to beat the Niners, even on the road.
The Pick: Dallas +2.5

Cincinnati @ Denver -5.5
When This Column first saw this line, jaw dropping did follow. While Denver are busy losing at home to Oakland and spending the rest of the week ripping themselves apart from the inside with one of the more head scratching QB controversies of all time, The Bungles were busy proving themselves to be in possession of, you know, heart. If they keep this up, The Bungles will be a term of endearment, rather than one of derision.
The Pick: The Bengals +5.5

Houston @ Miami +2.5
What's the over for this one? Anything below ninety is still tasty. Miami have jettisoned their running game in favour of slinging the ball round the park like one of those 50-60 pass attempt Bledsoe led Patriot teams of the nineties. Meanwhile Houston kicked the dog that is the Colts while it was down last week, piling on the points like a big bully. We could easily see eighty points combined here.
The Pick: Houston -2.5

San Diego @ New England -6.5
Gosh imagine that! San Diego struggling to cover an early season whopper of a handicap last week? We all know the script when it comes to the Chargers. Start slow, come on strong, evaporate when the playoffs start. They do it every single season, they are as predictable as the seasons. Or at least, as predictable as the seasons were, you know, a decade ago. Meanwhile, The Brady Bunch look like they have decided to dust off the old 2007 playbook and let loose the old passing game. How on earth are teams going to cover not one but two incredible Tight Ends? And by the way, remember, you heard it hear first, Hernandegronk is a beast. With Welker and Branch catching everything thrown within ten feet of them, and Ochocinco, eh, providing a distraction, it is a nightmare for any defensive coordinator to rein in the Patriots. The obvious answer would appear to be, get after Brady, but the Patriots offensive line is good enough to give him enough time to pick apart any Blitzing defence. It is early, but the Patriots look really, really good.
The Pick: The Patriots and Hernandegronk -6.5


Philadelphia @ Atlanta +2.5
Interesting smoke and mirrors for these two last week. While the Eagles had their way with a injury riddled Rams, the Falcons had to endure a bit of a bashing at the hands of the Bears. The same Bears who won the NFC North last season. And the same Bears who were enjoying the momentum of their home opener. This week, the market correction will apply itself, and the Falcons and their bevy of brilliant receivers, will cause the Eagles more headaches than expected.
The Pick: Atlanta +2.5

St Louis @ New York Giants -6.5
No Steven Jackson? You want to say 'No problem', however, the fact of the matter is the Rams relied heavily on Jackson last season, he often single handedly kept them in games. Without him there's no need to stack the line. The Giants can pin their ears back and go after Bradford. The Giants do not look like world beaters, however the home opener factor, combined with a tinge of desperation after losing last week, should provide enough impetus to whitewash a badly bruised Rams team that's going to have to get healthy to realise its promise.
The Pick: The Giants -6.5

Good luck all ya'll.

Feel free to copy and paste the below into the comments section to do your own picks!
Week 2
Oakland @ Buffalo -3.5
Chicago @ New Orleans -7.5
Cleveland @ Indianapolis +2.5
Kansas @ Detroit -8.5
Green Bay @ Carolina +10.5
Baltimore @ Tennessee +5.5
Tampa @ Minnesota -3.5
Jacksonville @ New York Jets -10.5
Arizona @ Washington -4.5
Seattle @ Pittsburgh -14.5
Dallas @ San Francisco -2.5
Cincinnati @ Denver -5.5
Houston @ Miami +2.5
San Diego @ New England -6.5
Philadelphia @ Atlanta +2.5
St Louis @ New York Giants -6.5



Comments welcome! Free and open debate and communication are some of the most enjoyable aspects of life. Please leave a comment, disagreements welcome! If you disagree, debate your case by all means. However, anything rude, spiteful or any cowardly anonymous personal attacks will be not be tolerated and will be deleted.

Sunderland striker Asamoah Gyan moves to a club with an average attendance of 2,513

It is obviously not ground breaking news to report that many athletes are greedy, however sometimes the sheer audacity of their actions are breath taking. How stupid do these clowns think we, the fans, are? Why do they insist on the same clichéd, asinine statements about moving for trophies or whatever, when the only reason they are moving is so they can afford to wipe their backsides with surplus cash?

Consider former Sunderland strikers, the Ghanaian Asamoah Gyan

Gyan was plying his trade relatively successfully for English Premiership side Sunderland. He was scoring goals, and basically progressing his career in a positive manner. However, despite the fact that he has three years remaining on his contract, Gyan came back to Sunderland for training after the summer a completely hollow ghost of a player. In short, he was making no effort at all in training, or indeed in matches. He was, effectively, on strike. His agent and possibly other people in his inner circle were motivating him to look for a big money move elsewhere. Again, despite the fact that he had signed his name to a legal, binding contract promising his services to Sunderland at least until 2014.

Cue Gyan’s move to Al-Ain.

Unbelievably, Gyan has tried to paint this move as one motivated by his craft. He has laughably called the United Arab Emirates club Al-Ain ‘Important’. In doing that he is basically calling all Sunderland and sports fans, completely stupid. Gyan said
'I'm really happy to be here. Al-Ain is an important club and this is a big challenge for me. ‘’

So Al-Ain are an ‘important’ club, eh? Ever hear of their manager, Cosmin Olăroiu? Me neither. Al-Ain play in the Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium which holds a whopping 15,000 fans at capacity. Gyan will be undoubtedly the talk of those throbbing terraces! I imagine many thousands will pour in to watch his first training session! Interesting to note that Al-Ain have not won their own league since 2004. Perhaps there are even more important clubs in the UAE that Gyan can move to, if this current stint doesn’t prove, you know, important enough for him.

Gyan is going from playing in front of approximately 40,000 a week to a league where the average attendance is currently 3,240. (Average crowd at Etisalat Pro-League games in the 2010/11). The ‘important’ team Gyan is joining can’t even match that average, their pitiful average attendance is 2,513 per match. I suppose we should mention that is actually in increase on last season’s completely pathetic 1,503 a game.

Let’s call this whole thing what it is, a very bad joke.

It is clear for all to see that the only reason Gyan is committing career suicide by moving to a club that has a lower average attendance than most English Sunday league teams, is money. Word on the street is Gyan has managed to triple his salary to pursue tax-free wages of £200,000 a week. Wonderful. Let us hope that his bed of money keeps him warm on those chilly Arabian nights.

Back to Gyan again;
‘’There will be a lot of expectations on me, but not pressure.’’

On that note, you are absolutely right, Asamoah. No pressure at all. How could there be? There won’t be anyone watching you! Have fun at the packed Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium. You will have plenty of personal space and time to roll around in your bed of extra cash, because, despite your artificially inflated salary, no one gives a damn about you anymore.



Comments welcome! Free and open debate and communication are some of the most enjoyable aspects of life. Please leave a comment, disagreements welcome! If you disagree, debate your case by all means. However, anything rude, spiteful or any cowardly anonymous personal attacks will be not be tolerated and will be deleted.

Friday, September 09, 2011

NFL picks: Week one: The return of the NFL

Here we go again. The column often considers the week before the first NFL games of the season to be one of the finest, most enjoyable of sporting weeks. For that week, pre-kickoff, your favourite team can win the Superbowl. Your favourite Quarterback is primed for a juicy season stats wise. Your fantasy football team looks beyond awesome on paper, and you, as yet, haven't lost a penny betting on the NFL. Life is beautiful. Then of course, the season starts, and, this happens...

Atlanta @ Chicago
Popular opinion is forming, swelling, loading up behind Matty Ice and the Falcons. If Popular Opinion was something we should take note of, there would be no such thing as bookmakers, as they would all be broke. Huge, gigantic over reaction to the Bears unfortunate demise last season. A fit, healthy Jay Cutler and a fit, healthy Matt Forte in front of their vociferous home fans can stay within a field goal of an admittedly exciting looking Falcons team. Just remember, it was the Bears that won the NFC North last season. Tough one to 'lump into' because it should be tight, maybe have a little pop at the total points, sit back and enjoy the potential fireworks.
The pick: Chicago +2.5

Buffalo @ Kansas
The venerable Admiral Ackbar, upon coming out of hyperspace and noticing the Imperial Star Destroyers massed around the Death Star, famously exclaimed 'It's a trap!'. Well, those 6.5 points the Bills are getting? It's a trap! Take the points, and sigh a huge sigh of relief as the Bills muddle their way to losing to a rusty Kansas team by a handful of points, and you look all smart and stuff.
The pick: Buffalo +6.5

Cincinnati @ Cleveland
The signs are not good in this one for The Bungles. First off, their nickname is, The Bungles. This does not inspire confidence. Further to this, they will be starting a (presumably) trembling rookie (Andy Dalton) on the road, against an opponent that is starting to look like a real NFL team. They have something approaching a plan. They have a hard running RB and a very decent QB (Colt McCoy) and they are playing solid defence also. Hard to see anything but a serious beat down here.
The pick: Cleveland -4.5

Detroit @ Tampa
Step aside all other underdogs, here come the Lions! The potentially explosive trio of Stafford, Johnson and Best are healthy and ready for action. Tampa are no slouches themselves, but Detroit feel like the right pick here. Remember, the Lions rolled into Tampa last season and knocked their hosts over. This Column foresees a repeat. Take the field-goal-plus and enjoy.
The pick: Detroit +3.5

Tennessee @ Jacksonville
Wait a second, the bookies are giving a rejuvenated Chris Johnson and savvy, veteran QB Matt Haselbeck +3.5 points against a team they have handled easily enough the last few seasons, who also just jettisoned their starting QB just before the season started? Really? This isn't some kind of elaborate joke? How fast can you get a bet on Tennessee with those tasty +3.5 points?
The pick: Tennessee +3.5

Indianapolis @ Houston
Houston, we have a problem. This game is shorn of two superior talents in Manning and Foster, and will be all the less enjoyable because of same. The Colts will put up an honourable fight but Houston, at home, with a genuine star QB at the helm, will prove too much.
The pick: Houston -2.5

Philadelphia @ St Louis
So, everybody remembers how Michael Vick 'set the world alight' in his first go-round in Atlanta, before opposition defensive coordinators figured out how to contain him, and he started to, you know, suck? Look, you should probably seek advice on this one somewhere else, because as a dog lover, this column is never, ever going to give Vick a break. Ever. Logically though, this seems like a lot of points for a decent, up and coming side, at home, with a very decent QB (Bradford) throwing to some good weapons, and former Patriots whizz kid Josh McDaniels calling the plays on offence. Take the points, crack open a beer and pet your dog.
The pick: St Louis +5.5

Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
Alright Ravens, I am giving you one more chance! Baltimore has never had a better opportunity to handle the Steelers. At home, with new WR Lee Evans streaking down the sidelines. The Ravens have to make a statement here, and they know it. Baltimore must have this game.
The pick: Baltimore -2.5

Minnesota @ San Diego
Cue Admiral Ackbar again, 'It's a trap!' Come on now, seriously? 8.5 points in a season opener, against Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin and Donovan McNabb? Way, way too many points. It's a trap!
The pick: Minnesota +8.5

New York Giants @ Washington
Put the kids to bed early this could be a nasty defensive slug fest. Washington can't get into a high scoring shootout, so will opt to slam the rock on the ground with little Timmy Hightower leading the way. The Giants have decided to run an offence with basically no decent wide outs and a QB that carries a constant 'deer in the headlights' look about him. Manning is going to miss Smith and TE Boss, now who is he going to throw-the-ball-up-in-the-air-while-ducking to? Close, ugly game potentially, so take the home dog points on offer, and then go watch something else.
The pick: Washington +3.5

Carolina @ Arizona
Lately it is not often Arizona are favoured by almost a TD. The oddsmakers have overlooked Carolina's potentially punishing running game. Stewart and Williams, both healthy and ready to go, will take a lot of heat off of rookie QB Cam Newton. The big play maker can then relax and play his game, knowing he is going to have the safety net of handing the rock off to his big bruisers. Arizona can't be over looked, they will be decent in '11, however this is too many points to resist. It's a trap, kind of.
The pick: Carolina + 5.5

Seattle @ San Francisco
Alex Smith's career record? 19-31. Everyone knows Seattle made the playoffs last season, right? Take the points, and go read a book or something,
The pick: Seattle +5.5

Dallas @ New York Jets
The combination of Austin, Bryant and Witten gives Tony Romo plenty to throw at, while Felix Jones surely has to start showing the consistency to go with his undoubted talent. Rex Ryan can throw all the pathetic temper tantrums he wants, but eventually teams are going to stop being afraid of the wildly over rated, one dimensional Jets. No amount of bluster can hide the fact the Jets are a one trick pony. Dallas, on the other hand, have plenty of tricks they can pull.
The pick: Dallas + 4.5

New England at Miami
Miami, at home, will no doubt put up a good fight in the first half, but expect New England to pull away with just too many offensive weapons available to Tom Brady. I suppose we need to sit down and talk about this latest embarrassing shoe commercial, huh?

One thing you can say, from a positive perspective, is that Brady does appear to have his nimble foot-work back, post surgery the season before last. I mean, look at him dance around in those comfortable looking shoes. Looks like he is ready to bounce around the pocket while looking for open wide outs, right?

Questions remain however as to why he is seen running around The City looking vaguely confused. Answers on a postcard, I guess
The pick: New England -5.5

Oakland @ Denver
All sorts of worrying signs for Denver going into this one. They appear to be at least three or four steps behind Oakland in the rebuilding process. Remember, Oakland absolutely annihilated them last season. Oakland have reinforced things in the off season, and are ready to move one more baby step in the right direction. Too many questions still surround Denver.
The pick: Oakland - 0.5



Comments welcome! Free and open debate and communication are some of the most enjoyable aspects of life. Please leave a comment, disagreements welcome! If you disagree, debate your case by all means. However, anything rude, spiteful or any cowardly anonymous personal attacks will be not be tolerated and will be deleted.

Irish National baseball team

Irish National baseball team
Team Ireland at the European Championships, Croatia, 2000.

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports


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