Monday, January 31, 2011

Miscellaneous Me

- It is a misnomer that, when being attacked by a shark, you should punch it in the nose. The best place to punch an attacking shark is in the eyes or gills.

- NHL All-Star weekend was fantastic. Having two captains pick the teams added a dimension of fun that no other sport has. In addition, the NHL skills competitions are better and more in-depth than what basketball or baseball has to offer. Bravo hockey.
- Is it just me or was it weird to have the NHL All-Star Game, NFL Pro Bowl and the X-Games all on the same day/weekend?
- With the inclusion of some good basketball games, I was stuck in front of my television all day yesterday.

- What is the verb for when it is hailing really hard? If it is raining really hard, we say it is pouring rain. Can it be pouring hail?
- Raining rain is grammatically correct.

- Katy Perry is the Linkin Park of pop singers. All her songs sound the same yet are not bothersome to listen to.
- I still listen to Hybrid Theory regularly.

- Maury Wills has the MLB single-season record for most games played...with 165.
- They used a three-game playoff format that year to decide a pennant winner.

- Humans are more buoyant in quicksand than they are in water.

- It is a little sad when I have nothing to do late at night during the week, I turn to read the clock and it says 12:40 AM, and Conan is already over.
- At that point, I usually decide I might as well just go to bed.

- Is there anything less meaningful in sports than the weekly college basketball rankings?

- Netflix instant has every season of Lost available and it is an odd show to re-watch.

- There is nothing better than going online in January and seeing the first fantasy baseball rankings and mock drafts are out.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Update about the author II

Well since my last update, I actually got a new gig. I will now be writing for the website

Here is a link to my profile where you can find all my new articles:

There are already a couple new articles up. For the immediate future, I will be posting/writing very little, if at all, on my blog. The reason being Suite101 frowns upon double posting articles so if I write a new piece, I am not allowed to post it to my blog as well. I will still forward the links and updates when it is warranted.

In the meantime, after a rebound with my NFL picks last week, going 3-1, I might as well finish the job with some conference title selections.

The Green Bay Packers (-3) are the pick to win the NFC. They are a more talented team than the Bears, are playing at a higher level than the Bears, and have the best quarterback going right now. Aaron Rodgers is playing at such a high level that Packer fans have all but forgotten their outrage after Ted Thompson told Favre to move on in favor of Rodgers.

If you could pick one quarterback to play behind center for your franchise for the next decade, is there even a debate it would be Rodgers? Who else is even in that discussion? Phillip Rivers maybe, but he's a distant second.

I also like the Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) to make the Super Bowl out of the AFC. It is really splitting hairs at this point based on how great the Jets looked last week. Both teams have great defenses, good running games, talented wide receivers and trusted coaches. It has to come down to quarterback and I trust Ben Roethlisberger more than Mark Sanchez. It is as simple as that.

Of course if I'm wrong and the Jets win, I can always pull a Tom Jackson and say I was trying to inspire my Jets fans friends to root harder for the victory. Yeah, let's go with that to hedge my bets.

By the way, how great are these four teams from an NFL ratings, football history standpoint? All four are storied franchises with large fan bases and lots of history. MLB is so jealous right now of how lucky these other sports are getting after this final four and the NBA's routine Celtics - Lakers match-up. Bud Selig is crossing his fingers for a Red Sox v. Phillies or Yankees v. Cubs clash in 2011.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Update about the author

We have recently passed the 100 posts mark here at The Sports Pinata so I thought I'd give my reader(s?) an update.

For a few months now, I have been publishing some of my articles at The Bleacher Report. ( Not everything I write is submitted there and also there have been a few original pieces that went up at The Bleacher Report and not here at The Sports Pinata.

One of my most recent fantasy football articles received two writer medals. One was for getting over 5,000 reads and the other was for receiving over 50 viewer comments. In addition, the article was added to The Bleacher Report homepage for a few days after the NFL season had wrapped up.

Anyways, I will continue to write posts for The Bleacher Report, so if you wish to find my stuff there, here is the link to my writer profile:

You can also follow me on twitter @sportspinata to get all the links to my stuff and other, hopefully, entertaining quips.

That is all, but while I'm at it, after such a rousing success picking games the first round of the NFL playoffs, I might as well keep the streak going. (Rousing success happened to be 1-3 but did get the Seahawks right, so umm, yeah.)

I like Pittsburgh (-3) at home against a sloppy and inconsistent Ravens offense. Sure a push is highly probable but I'd rather ride Roethlisberger than Flacco, and no, that wasn't dirty innuendo.

No one is giving Atlanta any credit here. They are the number one seed, playing at home. I...will continue the trend. I like Green Bay (+2.5) to win outright. They are playing like the best team in the conference for sure.

Take Chicago (-10) against Seattle. The Seahawks "run" is over. They only play well at home and will be far from home on Sunday afternoon. The only question with this is whether the Bears will cover 10 points and I say yes.

I like the Jets (+9) to cover but not win. I know they got blown out by the Pats their last meeting and I know Mark Sanchez sure looks awful behind center and I know Tomlinson hasn't seemed fresh since week five and I know Tom Brady and the Patriots seem even better than their undefeated '07 team...Uhh, I know all this so I've convinced myself to change my mind. Take New England (-9). They're the better team.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Wild card weekend

The NFL playoffs begin tomorrow afternoon. Four teams will play Saturday, followed by another four doing battle on Sunday. We call this Wild Card Weekend. But, for the first time I can remember, the Wild Card teams are all better than (or just as good as) all the division winners. Think about it. No home team is favored by even a field goal in any of the four games. Two road teams are outright favorites and one of those is favored by double digits. There is not a single home team playing this weekend that had a better record than their opponent. Not one.

Because of these things, many people are going "out on limbs" by picking all four road teams to win! Wow! Go crazy why dontcha? So we think the Saints will destroy Seattle, the Jets can win in Indy, the Ravens can beat up the Chiefs, and the Packers can pull out a victory against Vick and the Eagles?

Are any of those things outlandish? No, not really. Also, they're all wrong.

Here's why all four home teams will win (or at least cover) this Wild Card Weekend:

The Saints (-10.5) are playing the Seahawks tomorrow afternoon. The Seahawks finished 7-9 this season. The Saints were actually good. But the fact remains, it is hard to win in Seattle. They have one of, if not the only, homefield advantage left in professional football, unless you count Auburn University home games. Get it? Because they (may or may not) pay their players! Okay, let's move on.

The only stadium that seems to statistically effect opponent's false start numbers is Qwest Field. There is no other NFL stadium that has any great effect on whether the opponent commits more errors than the home team.

What is a great equalizer and helper for a quarterback having trouble hearing and calling plays? Short passing and a running game. Last time the Saints played in Seattle, Drew Brees was awful on short passes. And he will have pretty much zero running game to fall back on. If Brees doesn't hit on a couple deep passes, the Saints might have trouble scoring.

The fact that Matt Hasselbeck is playing for Seattle is another good sign. He may not be what he used to be, but he has experience, will not get rattled by blitzes, and will have confidence in himself, which is more than we can say for sure about Seattle's other QB option.

Will the Seahawks win? Nah, probably not. But they will most certainly cover 10.5 at home in a playoff game. Leon Washington might cover this spread by himself.

Saints 26 - Seahawks 20

Saturday night pits the Jets (+2.5) at the Colts. This is a match-up of talent, inconsistency and immaturity vs. experience. The Jets are the more talented team. The Colts are barely able to field a complete lineup at this point. However, the Colts' strengths play into this game well. In recent weeks, they have been able to completely shut down opponents' running games, just ask Chris Johnson. On offense, besides fluky, late-game heroics, the Jets only offense is the running game. If that is halted, the game rests on the shaky shoulders of Mark Sanchez. Throw in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis coming off the edges on passing downs, and I'm sure Jets fans are not totally comfortable with their offense's outlook.

So it comes down to whether Peyton Manning can put enough points on the board against a Jets team who hasn't totally been able to rush the passer this year. Darrelle Revis is not as healthy as New Yorkers would wish and Antonio Cromartie is not as good as New Yorkers would wish. Giving Manning time in the pocket, mixed with weakness on the outside means good things for Indy whether their receivers are pro-bowlers or not.

Colts 31 - Jets 20

Starting Sunday afternoon, the Ravens (-3) will be playing at Arrowhead Stadium, against the Chiefs. It's funny, there is so little evidence of home field advantage existing anymore in NFL football, yet two of the few Stadiums where you can even create an argument for it are hosting playoff games Wild Card Weekend. Arrowhead gets loud. But, more importantly, the Chiefs play very well there. They went 7-1 at home this season, losing only in week 17 to the Raiders in a game they didn't necessarily need.

Besides a nice home field, the Chiefs also have the best rushing offense in the league. Those are two solid factors in determining playoff success. Meanwhile, Baltimore has struggled for offensive consistency all year. Sure they have more weapons in the passing game than the Chiefs, but it hasn't shown week to week. Matt Cassel had a much better season than Joe Flacco, and there can be no arguing that.

If Dwayne Bowe isn't able to suit up, that is a huge loss for Kansas City, yet I still see them keeping this one close with him or not.

Chiefs 17 - Ravens 16

In our last Wild Card game, the Packers (+2.5) will travel to Philadelphia to face the Eagles. Even though the previous two games are each within 3 point spreads, this Packers - Eagles game is definitely the biggest tossup. Either team can win this, by a large margin or right at the end.

What concerns me is the way the Packers' offense has looked recently with the exception of the Giants game a couple weeks ago. Other than that, and a valiant loss to the Pats, the Packers have put up 13 combined points in two of their final four games. The inconsistency should be a red flag.

The other red flag wears number 7 for Philadelphia. Michael Vick, along with LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and others, are just too hard to stop. You may limit them to three or four big plays if you're lucky, but that could still result in giving up 28 points. Throw in the comfort of playing at home and the excitement of a playoff game in Philly without the dread of knowing Donavan McNabb isn't leading them to another failed Super Bowl attempt, and this Eagles team will be playing with a hop in their step.

Eagles 34 - Packers 28

So there you have it. On a weekend where all the road teams are getting all the buzz, Wild Card Weekend will be dominated by the home teams. You can bet on it. (Well, not legally, but figuratively.)

(Image taken from

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fun with numbers

The NFL is no match for the MLB in fun with numbers, however, 2010 was a strange year for football statistics. The following are all completely true and I would say that they are too strange for me to have made up, but that is not the case. I have a higher self-esteem than that. I COULD have made these up, probably slightly better in fact, but I didn't. I figure the article works better when the stats are actually true.

The Oakland Raiders, according to sources, are considering firing their head coach Tom Cable. They went 8-8, which I would consider a relatively successful season, all things considered, but who am I to judge employment decisions? So they won 8 games on the year, nothing special about that. However, the Raiders went undefeated, 6-0, in their division. They were the only team to go undefeated in their division this year, and since the turn of the century, they are the only team to have ever gone undefeated in their own division and not won the division, let alone missed the playoffs entirely. Unfortunately, I do not have access to the famed Elias Sports Bureau so I don't know if a team has ever done this (gone undefeated in their division and missed the playoffs) before or not. So, uh, congratulations Oakland, I think.

That may have been the strangest game split of the season if it wasn't for the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins managed to be epically terrible at home but one of the best road teams in the league all in the same season. They finished 6-2 on the road, tied for the second best road record in the NFL. Only the Steelers won more road games with 7. However, Miami went 1-7 at home. That is the worst home record in the league. Every other team won at least 2 home games in 2010, including the Carolina Panthers, who won 2 games total.

Miami was not the only team with a great stat to their name left out of the playoffs though. The San Diego Chargers managed to finish #1 in total offense, #1 in total defense, and #2 in scoring offense and miss the playoffs. Thanks to a mediocre turnover differential and historically putrid special teams, the Chargers made some history. At least this proves numbers aren't everything.

And to be quite honest, wins aren't everything either. The Seattle Seahawks are division champs and will host a playoff game this weekend after finishing below .500 on the season. To make matters worse, there were two NFC teams who won 10 games on the year and will be watching the playoff festivities from their couch.

In fact, the playoff seeding all through the league is a bit screwy this year. In all four Wild Card round match-ups, the wild card team, supposedly the worse team, has the same or better record than the division champ they will be facing. So much for home field advantage. Every home team may be the underdog in round one.

The teams aren't alone in messing with the numbers this year though. Individual player stats were something to behold all around the league.

Tom Brady, the probable league MVP, managed to lead the league in both touchdowns and fewest interceptions (of players who had at least 200 pass attempts). Although passer rating isn't a perfect stat, Brady's 111 rating this season is the 5th highest mark all-time.

Even stranger than Brady's feat may be the fact that two separate quarterbacks each finished with over 4,000 passing yards and over 30 touchdowns, putting them both in the top 5 in the NFL in those categories, yet finished 1 and 2 in most interceptions thrown. Eli Manning (4002 yards, 31 TDs, 25 picks) and Drew Brees (4620 yards, 33 TDs, 22 picks) couldn't decide whether they wanted to have good years or bad years. Instead, they toed the line. One's team made the playoffs yet the other's couldn't recover from the turnover onslaught.

Jamaal Charles finished with 1467 rushing yards on only 230 carries. There's nothing technically strange about his 6.4 yards per carry. It's just really, really good.

Another spectacular average is shared by three wide receivers who each gained over 1000 yards on the season, but with very few catches. DeSean Jackson, Mike Wallace, and Brandon Lloyd finished first, second, and fifth in the league in yards per reception, while each eclipsing 1000 yards.

Meanwhile, while players like Wes Welker and Danny Amendola (86 and 85 catches respectively) make lots of plays, there's just something to be said for players who can spread the field and go the distance on any play. Neither Welker nor Amendola even totaled 850 receiving yards even though they both finished with more catches than any of the three men mentioned above.

Perhaps the most interesting stats of them all occurred on the defensive side of the ball though. Little known Chief defensive back Brandon Carr managed to lead the league in passes defensed with 25. However, with all those chances, and all those plays on the ball, he came away with just a single interception on the season. There were 124 players in the NFL who picked off more passes than Brandon Carr, some on as few as 2 pass breakups. I don't know what this says about Carr, if anything. It's just odd.

Another odd defensive stat comes from the defensive line of the New York Giants. Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck combined for 23 sacks (11.5 each) and 16 forced fumbles. Sixteen! Umenyiora on his own totaled 11.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles. They finished one and two in the league in forced fumbles. Now I'm not saying every forced fumble has to come from sacking the quarterback, but Osi doesn't exactly chase down running backs. He finished with just 33 solo tackles on the year. This tandem helped the Giants to recover the most fumbles in a season in league history, and very efficiently I might add.

One more to leave you with comes from the return game. Congratulations to Devin Hester who became the league's all-time career leader in return touchdowns, with 14. He passed the immortal Brian Mitchell in doing so. Hester's 14 touchdowns have come on 291 career kick and punt returns, 779 FEWER chances than Mitchell's 13 scores came on. Talk about efficiency.

Aren't numbers fun?

(Image taken from

Sunday, January 2, 2011

NFL Fantasy Recap

Week 17 is upon us. This is the final day of the regular season. Playoff match-ups will be determined, favorites decided upon, and the road to the Super Bowl will be paved.

However, the fantasy season, for most leagues, is already over. As I touched on last week, there were plenty of fun stories that led to fantasy glory in 2010. But it wasn't all fun. There were many fantasy disappointments, high draft picks who got hurt or never got going. Without further ado, here is the Sports Pinata's lineup of preseason stars who sucked.

Quarterback - Tony Romo. It's hard to blame someone when they go down with a major injury, especially since Romo was playing well before he got hurt. However, injury or not, Romo's production was a killer for anyone who drafted him. He was mostly likely taken as a team's starting QB and ended the year 29th in quarterback fantasy scoring. For the uninformed, there are only 32 NFL teams. And yes, Romo's Dallas replacement Jon Kitna ended the year with more fantasy points.

Quarterback Honorable Mention - Kevin Kolb. Although Kolb was not as highly drafted in most leagues as Romo, he was still universally drafted. He was expected by some to have a huge year with all those weapons in Philadelphia. Of course he too got injured, and although he was physically able to return from it, he lost his job to Michael Vick. The idea that players should not be allowed to lose their job because of injury is utterly ridiculous. If someone comes in and does the same job better, when both are healthy, go with the guy who is better. Pretty simple. Nevertheless, highly thought of in August got Kolb nowhere in fantasy circles. He ended the year outside the top 32 quarterbacks, meaning a few teams actually had multiple QB's who outscored him.

Running Back - Ryan Mathews and DeAngelo Williams. Both of these men got hurt at some point during the 2010 season. However, in each case, it seemed not to matter. They were both god awful before and after returning. Williams may have been victim of playing for the worst team in the league, as his backup Jonathan Stewart hardly fared much better once coming in as a replacement. Mathews, on the other hand, was just a bust. After such success of rookie running backs in years past, everyone thought Mathews would be the guy this year. He was not. He ran for less than 600 yards and got outperformed week after week by former fullback Mike Tolbert. The only people who felt sorry for anyone who drafted Ryan Mathews was anyone who drafted CJ Spiller. Perhaps owners will be more hesitant to draft the unproven rookie come 2011.

Running Back Honorable Mentions - Shonn Greene and Pierre Thomas. Greene never got the carries he needed to become the breakout star everyone was expecting him to be. Thomas never got the carries to be the solid fantasy performer on a talented team that everyone expected him to be. Greene was never injured, but was simply made a backup by Rex Ryan in New York and LaDainian Tomlinson was never quite bad enough to relinquish that title. Thomas was always injured, and never had enough time to come back and win enough carries away from Chris Ivory.

Note: If you feel so inclined, you can read the previous paragraph with the word "Beanie" replacing "Pierre" and the word "Wells" replacing "Thomas" and it would check out.

Additional Note: Ryan Grant was clearly the worst performer of the bunch at running back, having gotten hurt in the very first game of the year and never returning. However, there's just something different about that fantasy failure. You don't blame Grant if you had drafted him. You just feel bad. Take my word for it. He was on my team.

Wide Receiver - Randy Moss and Steve Smith (Car). This was so easy. Sure, Brandon Marshall and Miles Austin were disappointing. Larry Fitzgerald couldn't overcome the quarterback problems, Michael Crabtree no-showed for much of the year and the Giants' Steve Smith went down right as fantasy playoffs were starting up. But none of them were as bad as the two that deserved to make this team. Everyone knows the Randy Moss tale by now. He was mailing in the season on the Pats. He got traded and mailed in his time in Tennessee. He got dumped and picked up and mailed in his season for the Vikings. He got dropped again. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on you again, but fool me a third time, shame on me. Everyone learned. As for the Panthers' Steve Smith, he was nicked up for a large portion of the season, his team's quarterback was ever changing, and he ended outside the top 60 fantasy wide receivers. Some of the big-time stars who ended week 16 with more fantasy points on the season than Steve Smith: Jordan Shipley, Ben Obomanu, Brandon Gibson, and the immortal Brian Hartline.

Tight End - Take your pick. Antonio Gates was the only dependable tight end all season. And he was only dependable when he played. Gates missed a number of games. Outside of him and a handful of others, the tight end position was a pile of mediocrity and disappointment throughout 2010. Brent Celek was drafted as a top 10 tight end, but wasn't even worth owning most of the season. Big things were expected of Jermichael Finley but he was put on IR before owners could reap the benefits. Visanthe Shiancoe was a disappointment after a breakout 2009. John Carlson, Owen Daniels, Greg Olsen and Heath Miller were fantasy non-factors. Really if you drafted a tight end projected in the top 10, chances are you ended up dropping that player rather quickly.

D/ST - Vikings. Most disappointing defense of the season was a close race. The Jets were expected to be the top performers coming into the year. They didn't even finish in the top 12, and who plays in a league with more than 12 teams? Same goes for the 49ers. After a stellar 2009 and high expectations, the 49ers franchise laid an egg this season, with the defense finishing in the bottom third of the league in fantasy points. The same can be said for the Ravens. The defense is no where near where it used to be. The franchise didn't exactly lay an egg though. So they have that going for them, which is nice. But out of everyone, Minnesota was the most disappointing. Led by Jared Allen, the Williams' and one of the best run defenses in NFL history the past few years, the Vikings plain sucked. They finished as the 27th ranked fantasy defense on the season. Sure the Texans and Broncos were epically bad, but no one expected them to be good. Minnesota, on the other hand, was supposed to be a set-and-forget defense, one you could play every week regardless of the opponent.

Keep in mind all numbers and rankings depend on your league settings, but regardless of the details, these starters on the 2010 lineup of stars who sucked were all heart-crushingly disappointing no matter how many points are awarded per touchdown. Remember this for your drafts next year. No matter how many people think someone will be good, there's a good chance he won't be. Go ahead and draft who you like; at least then you'll have no one to blame other than yourself when your team sucks. Because, as we all know, there is only one happy fantasy owner at the end of each season: the one who wins the title.