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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cutler Trade Could Have Impact On Seahawks First Round Choice

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As if the 2009 Draft hasn’t been hyped up enough, the recent trade of Jay Cutler to the Bears has added a completely different dynamic toward projections of what may happen with the Seahawks first round pick. While the consensus among many seemed to be that Seattle would likely draft tackle Eugene Monroe or Jason Smith, linebacker Aaron Curry, or either quarterback Matt Stafford or Mark Sanchez, the ability for Denver to use either both or one of their two first round picks to potentially trade up may mix things up a bit.

Unless Hasselbeck is severely dinged to the point where the organization doesn’t believe he’s going to be able to go at the beginning of the season, I just can’t see Seattle taking a quarterback with the first pick. Considering the number of years that Matt could potentially have with the team, and the money that goes along with picking the first or second quarterback in the draft, it doesn't make sense financially. Look at a guy like Matt Ryan, drafted third last year, and is making an average of $5 million over the next five years. That’s a lot of money to pay a guy to be a backup for the next few years. I have a gut feeling that the Hawks are hyping up the fact they could go QB as ammunition to get a team like Denver or San Francisco to trade up.

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The greatest need for the Hawks, with the aging Walter Jones and the success they had while having a solid left side, has to be on offensive line. While taking Curry fourth would probably be a no-brainer if he were to fall that far, linebacker isn’t a desperate need—even with Peterson’s departure. Considering some believe the top two tackles in the draft may go in the first three picks, it could be that the talent that the Hawks would be willing to pay fourth-pick money to is off the board. If Curry and the two tackles are gone, it leaves them in the perfect position to trade down and allow another team to move up and pick the top QB. Considering the number of teams looking for a quarterback (Jets, Broncos, 49ers, even the Jaguars may have interest), Denver would now seem to have the most ammunition to move up.

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If by some crazy chance a QB hasn’t dropped off the board by the Hawks first pick, how great would it be if Denver were willing to give up both their first round picks to move up? It would give Seattle a look at potentially taking a couple guys like cornerback Malcolm Jenkins and tackle Andre Smith. Or if they’re still looking to go with a QB in the first round, Josh Freeman could be available.

A potential wild card could be a guy that was heavily talked about going to Seattle prior to the combine and Seattle signing Houshmanzada in free agency. Will the Hawks still be considering Michael Crabtree at that spot? A lot has been made about the guy’s recent injury and the fact that he came up a couple inches shorter than what he was listed, but the fact remains that he flat-out balled at Texas Tech. Just watching that guy play last year made me wonder if he could be the next Larry Fitzgerald. If the Hawks could get a playmaker like that, suddenly it doesn’t matter as much who’s behind center. So maybe he’s still an option at the fourth pick.

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Ultimately, a lot is going to depend on what the Lions do with their pick. With the Cutler deal, and the fact that Detroit still needs a QB, they could take Sanchez or Stafford and Denver could trade up ahead of Seattle to take the second quarterback off the board. Everything seems to point to the Rams taking a tackle, and that would still leave an abundance of options for the Hawks. Any way you look at it, it’s shaping up to be an interesting first hour.

I’m going to be watching this closely, and for those who will be Twittering on draft day, look for me online under the handle mil_seahawkers.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

One Shining moment

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In 2009, the One Shining Moment of college basketball was expected to
go to the North Carolina Tar Heels in preseason. When CBS aired One
Shining Moment, the Tar Heels were expected to have the last image of
the famed montage as 2009 NCAA champions. Although the Big East took
up most of the headlines for the last few months, the Tar Heels
returned to their position as favorites by the Final Four. And indeed,
when the 2009 version of One Shining Moment played on CBS at around
midnight, North Carolina was still celebrating.

North Carolina did not get fazed by Michigan State's destiny, 72,000
fans, or by their previous Final Four disaster last year. Instead, the
Tar Heels claimed their one shining moment in pretty much 10 minutes.

Like in all but one of their NCAA Tournament games, North Carolina had
the game won within minutes, and just ran out the clock the rest of
the way. The 89-72 win over the Spartans gave the Tar Heels the one
shining moment in 2009 that they had been pointing to for 12 months.

Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, coach Roy Williams and
the Tar Heels were number one in the preseason, and number one at the
end. It was only three months ago that North Carolina was being talked
of as an undefeated team, until losing their first two ACC games.

College basketball fans almost forgot about North Carolina for the
next few months, despite their various victories, while the Big East
took over the sport.

But the Big East ultimately tripped over itself, while North Carolina
reverted back to their early season dominance. The formula became
painfully clear for their opponents, and for any fans who wanted
competitive games, in the Tar Heels last four wins.

Gonzaga, Oklahoma, Villanova and Michigan State all fell into the same
Tar Heel trap. Get down by about 10 points in the first few minutes,
miss almost every jump shot, watch North Carolina make every early
three-pointer, and do absolutely nothing on the inside.

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With no chance
to play anything but North Carolina's game, the opponent is done
within a half hour.

For the first half, North Carolina seemed ready to threaten the record
for biggest national championship game blowout, set by UNLV over Duke
in 1990. But the Spartans did not lose by 33, or even by 35, as they
did to the Tar Heels in December. Still, Michigan State was never

CBS wrapped up the NCAA tournament with One Shining Moment, which
North Carolina felt should have ended with their championship the last
two seasons. But in Hansbrough, Lawson and Ellington's last shot, the
Tar Heels finally took their place at the end of the final NCAA
Tournament recap.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Will the Yankees Need Team Chemistry This Season?

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Free agents C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Texeira cashed in with the Yankees, but the Bronx Bombers' spending spree did not buy one critical element to a team's success: Chemistry. Can the Yankees put talent before team chemistry and return to their World Series glories of the late '90s?

Let's state the obvious: No team can match the Yankees' own version of murderer's row, especially when Alex Rodriguez returns from his hip injury later this spring. On paper, it doesn't seem like any pitching rotation can hold the Yanks down for long.

Sabathia, Burnett, Chien-Mang Wang, Andy Pettitte, and Joba Chamberlain also comprise a strong rotation - but again, the rotation's strength is on paper at this point

Let's break down the Yankees' vaunted pitching rotation and bullpen:

Sabathia, an AL Cy Young winner in 2007, had a rollercoaster AL 2008 stint before Milwaukee acquired his services from Cleveland. No question, Sabathia was phenomenal in the National League; however, he was pitching against lesser hitting talent. He has a career ERA of 3.66 and has never finished with a seasonal ERA lower than a 3.21 pitching in the American League. Sabathia is a winner - he has better than a .600 winning percentage - but will he go the way of other recent high-priced Yankees pitching acquisitions? Remember Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown, and Javier Vasquez to name four?

Burnett has dominant stuff, no one argues that point. He led the American League in strikeouts, yet his ERA was still over 4.00. For every two or three good starts, expect a clunker out of Burnett. His command will come and go, and based on his history - outside of last season - Burnett is a good bet to hit the disabled list at some point in 2009.

Wang is apt to become the most consistent pitcher on the Yankees' staff. He had back-to-back 19-game winning seasons in 2006 and 2007, and was on pace to win 20 games last year before a foot injury saw him miss more than half the season. He's not a strikeout pitcher, but he keeps the ball in the park and keeps the Yankees in games with a devastating sinker.

Pettitte was something of a mystery, and his disintegration in the latter part of 2008 had many thinking he was done in the big leagues. We all known that starting left-handers are a commodity, and Pettitte is still good enough to remain the fourth starter on most teams' pitching staffs. He signed a one-year deal laced with incentives, and a 15-win season is not out of the question.

Chamberlain was a phenom as a set-up guy for closer Mariano Rivera. So far, the jury is still out on Joba as a starter. He wore down last season and was bothered by nagging injuries. His velocity is down a couple MPH from the 98 and 99 MPH he was hitting two years ago, and perhaps the American League is starting to figure him out. Nonetheless, if Chamberlain remains healthy, no team in the Major League can run out a fifth starter of his caliber.

Rivera has enjoyed more success closing games than any pitcher in baseball over the last decade. He's a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer once he hangs up the cleats, yet he is moving toward the twilight of his career, and is coming off shoulder surgery. Expect the same Mariano magic, although the cast of characters punching the clock in the seventh and eighth innings really hold the key.

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Brian Bruney is set to become Rivera's prime right-handed set-up man. Bruney missed much of last year with an injury, but was terrific in limited duty finishing with a 1.83 ERA in 32 appearances. In his only full season with the Yankees, Bruney had a 4.68 ERA in 2007, and he struggled with his control. Yankees fans hope he replicates his 2008 performance.

Damaso Marte came over from Pittsburgh late last season, and he'll share set-up duties, while also appearing situationally against tough left-handed hitters. Jose Veras proved a durable middle innings reliever, and Phil Coke is a young power pitcher with electric stuff. He just needs more seasoning at the big-league level.

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Bottom line: The Yankees will score runs, and have captain Derek Jeter leading a talented roster. Texeira and A-Rod are 30-homer guys, Xavier Nady and Hideki Matsui are solid complimentary guys who should approach 100 RBI, Robinson Cano should rebound from last season and hit well over .300. Johnny Damon will steal bases and score runs, and catcher Jorge Posada looks fully recovered from last year's injury.

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Roger Clemens is one of the few pitchers signed as a free agent over the past decade-plus whose contributions directly led to a title. History suggests that Sabathia and Burnett will not earn the coin each is getting paid this season, and if history repeats itself, the Yankees' World Series drought will continue.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Jay Cutler a Chicago Bear

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Jay Cutler finally escaped from the Denver Broncos to a team that wants him, namely the Chicago Bears. If reports are true this afternoon, Jay Cutler is now a Chicago Bear, having been traded for two first round picks, one third round pick, and the Bears' Kyle Orton. Obviously, it will look like the Bears got the best end of the deal by getting Cutler, and the Broncos lost big time by getting Orton. Will that really be the case?

The case for the Bears making out like a bandit is obvious. Cutler may be the most prolific quarterback the Bears have had in decades, at least according to stats. Every year, the Bears have had a great defense, and little to no productivity from their quarterbacks. For all of Cutler's recent faults, he flung for over 4,000 yards last year, which are foreign numbers for Bears quarterbacks. With the Bears finally getting a high flying quarterback, at a time where there is no dominant team in the NFC Central, the Bears will instantly be pegged as an NFC favorite. However, Cutler got his yards and touchdowns in the AFC, where there was often little defense.

How will Cutler fare against the bruising, defensive attacks of the Bears' NFC Central rivals?

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Can Cutler's style blend in among the Bears, and the NFC? There is more of a chance that it won't than one might think, especially with all the negativity Cutler has to overcome from this offseason. However, even if Cutler doesn't deliver, the Bears will get applause for taking a chance. The Broncos, on the other hand, have a lot more to lose. Losing Cutler has been a black mark for the new administration of coach Josh McDaniels.

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Even worse, McDaniels' replacement seems to be Kyle Orton, who frequently disappointed for the Bears.

Broncos fans are bound to think that replacing Orton for Cutler is a big step down. If that turns out to be the case, McDaniels will be in a hole which he may not recover from. But McDaniels comes from the England Patriots">New England Patriots system, where they could interchange anyone. The Patriots' system turned an unlikely player named Tom Brady into a superstar, and turned Matt Cassel from a backup to a star last year. If he wants to stick with Orton, McDaniels could work around his weaknesses and develop him into a success within his system, like his Patriots bosses did for Brady and Cassel. In addition, with the AFC West having taken a big step down last year, the Broncos may only have the Chargers to deal with.

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With brand new draft picks out of the deal, McDaniels may be able to develop the Broncos into a long term success, even if Orton doesn't work in the short term.

Still, McDaniels, Orton and the Broncos have a shorter margin for error to work with than Cutler and the Bears do. But if things pay off for Cutler and the Bears, Chicago may finally have a feared offense for the first time that anyone can remember.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

2010 World Cup UEFA Predictions

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As was the case in 2006, the Europeans will probably control the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Italy trumped France in Germany. In 2002 Germany fell to Brazil in Japan. As always, the European qualifiers seem to hold the champions again. Comprised of eight groups of six and one group of five, teams strive to top their group, guaranteeing them a spot in the World Cup. As a note, all points are current as of March 13th, 2009.

Group One, formed of Denmark (7pts), Hungary (7pts), Algeria (6pts), Portugal (5pts), Sweden (5pts), and Malta (1pt). While the only team that stands no chance is Malta, the favorites seem to be Portugal, and Denmark. If Portugal can find some luck, and hope that the Danes do not run with the group, Portugal can make a strong comeback to the top. Hungary, while tied with Denmark, has yet to play Portugal. While Algeria is no favorite, they are a formidable dark horse, and with perfect luck, could find themselves in South Africa.

Group Two: Greece (9pts), Israel (8pts), Switzerland (7pts), Latvia (4pts), Luxembourg (4pts) and Moldova (1pt). While Greece is the obvious favorite thus far in qualifying, the Swiss could muster a comeback in their two back-to-back games against Moldova. As a surprise in the 2006 World Cup, the Swiss have a chance to get through to the finals in South Africa, if they show the same strength as they did in Germany.

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Group Three holds: Slovakia (9pts), N. Ireland, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia (all with 7pts), and San Marino (0pts). While this seems like a five team group, San Marino holds points that give the second place teams the points to contend with Slovakia, the favorite from Group Three. N. Ireland has developed over the years, but has yet to mature to World Cup talent yet. Poland has an outside chance and so do the Czechs, if Slovakia misses a beat, watch for these teams to take advantage.

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Group Four is home to: Germany (10pts), Russia (6pts), Wales (6pts), Finland (4pts), Azerbaijan (1pt), and Lichtenstein (1pt). Germany and Russia are the far favorites in this group, but as Germany has the advantages this far into qualifying, I see it difficult for the Germans to falter so greatly that they fail to qualify. Russia might have a chance to make it through in the qualifiers between a UEFA team and an AFC (Asian) team. The Fins are finding themselves in a bad group, as they have shown maturity in the 2006 qualifiers, 2010 seems like a farfetched dream for the Finnish.

Group Five: Spain (12pts), Turkey (8pts), Belgium (7pts), Bosnia-Herzegovina (6pts), Estonia (1pt), Armenia (0pts). This group was decided before the first game kicked off. The Spaniards are and were the heavy favorites, as defending Euro champions, Turkey was the only team to stand a chance against Spain. It's a safe bet to say Spain will be in South Africa in 2010, fighting for the World Cup.

Group Six: England (12pts), Croatia (7pts), Ukraine (7pts), Belarus (3pts), Kazakhstan (3pts), Andorra (0pts). Yet again, England is the safe bet from Group Six. While failing to qualify for the Euro Cup in 2008, the Brits have something to prove to the world, and they will show the world in South Africa in May of 2010.

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Group Seven is: Serbia (9pts), Lithuania (9pts), France (4pts), Austria (4pts), Romania (4pts), and the Faroe Islands (1pt). While France was a favorite at the start of qualifying, they have failed to live up to expectations, and are in jeopardy of not qualifying for the World Cup. Serbia is now the likely favorite to move on to the finals.

Group Eight: Italy (10pts), Republic of Ireland (10pts), Bulgaria (3pts), Montenegro (2pts), Georgia (2pts), and Cyprus (1pt). Look for Italy to advance from this group with some struggle, but the Irish are not in top form, since their last visit in 2002. The remainder of the group is too far behind to be contenders, but look for them to be spoilers, nonetheless.

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Group Nine: Netherlands (9pts), Scotland (4pts), Iceland (4pts), Macedonia (3pts), Norway (2pts). Look for the Oranje to fight for the World Cup after they pass through this group with relative ease, only finding minimal trouble from the Scots, which they had to fight to qualify for the 2006 World Cup as well, and did it undefeated. The Scots are on the outside looking in, getting a bad group due to the Oranje. Iceland, Macedonia, and Norway will round out the group.

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Now, moving beyond the scope of this article, my personal predictions for the World Cup. Expect to see some fascinating, inspiring football/soccer, and lots of surprises. As always look for the Azure (Italians) to compete, as well as the Spaniards, the Brits and the Dutch to contend as well. As always, look out for Brazil and Argentina from CONMEBOL (South America) to be favorites too. Notables in the final 16 will be the Dutch, England, Spain, Brazil, Portugal, and Italy. For the final four, I predict that Brazil will face off against Italy for third place honors, while the star-studded Dutch footballers fight against Argentina for the World Cup. See you in South Africa!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

NCAA Football 2010 for Your Xbox

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X-box 360 Gamers eagerly awaiting the arrival of NCAA Football 2010 should be quite happy to know that Electronic Arts (EA) Inc. had recently set the launch date for the game to be at July 14, 2009. This is only the official North American release date, however, so if you’re living elsewhere, your best bet would be to make an online reservation.

What to Expect from NCAA Football 2010
NCAA Football from EA Sports is not the world’s highest-selling college football video game series for over ten years for nothing. The excitement is all due to the fantastic gameplay and the equally fantastic gaming experience it offers to users.

Season Showdown
This all-new feature will be a delight for fans with strong passions for their respective school favorites. Every fan counts in Season Showdown as the credits are not only accrued during the game but also by playing online. With Season Showdown, every student’s participation counts if they want to make their school the #1 college for the season.

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Authentic Gaming Experience
Authenticity has long been a primary and ongoing concern of fans, and it’s a challenge that EA Sports doesn’t hesitate to meet with each game they release. With NCAA Football 2010, each and every school making up the Football Bowl Subdivision is ably represented in the game from mascots to cheerleaders to school colors. That’s over a hundred schools for students to choose from!

Sometimes, we get lazy even while we’re playing. But that doesn’t mean you’re lacking enthusiasm. You’re just…feeling lazy. That’s all there is to it. EA Sports understand that kind of response and it’s why they’ve presented the option for simming.

With simming, all a player has to do is pick the play and it’s up to AI to figure out the rest. Whether this is effective is something we’ll have to see to believe on July 14.

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Procedural Awareness
Don’t you just hate it when games are purported to be realistic and then you notice how their eyes aren’t even able to look at what they’re going? Color NCAA Football 2010 different! With procedural awareness, it allows your defensive backs and wide receivers to look at the ball prior to making a play for them.

Other Features People Want to See in NCAA Football 2010
If you check out the game’s official website, you’ll notice the scarcity of news available regarding the other new features of NCAA Football 2010. No surprise there, though, since anticipation makes everything sweeter. The mystery and excitement surrounding the game, in any case, has induced game enthusiasts and experts into creating their own wish lists for NCAA Football 2010 features.

More Teams?
If EA Sports can do it with basketball, surely they can do it with football, too? Thanks to the unexpected victory of Appalachian State over Michigan, fans are clamoring for additional FCS teams in NCAA Football 2010. Will EA listen?

Better Line Play
Everyone hopes so. A lot of players are exasperated with the predictability of line play and excessive use of stiff arm locks. Could there be a change?

Everyone wants NCAA Football 2010 to be better but whether or not EA Sports makes people’s dreams a reality remains to be seen on July 14. Mark that day on your calendar, folks!