Dojo Sparring – NFL Playoffs are taking shape

Joe to Greg

Detroit Lions reaction after Justin Tucker’s 61 yard field goal.

It’s been a little bit since we’ve done one of these and a lot has happened across the sports world. Lets get the NFL out of the way first. What are your thoughts on this past week of NFL action? The Ravens looked good and bad from what I saw. Good in the sense that I’m pretty sure everyone knows Justin Tucker now. Bad in the sense that Justin Tucker was their sole source of points against the Lions. The Patriots ended up on the wrong side of another close game, which is expected when you hinge your team’s success on fourth quarter one minute drills. The Bengals lost an opportunity to get the #2 seed. December is a great month for football because of all playoff implications, which conference are you more intrigued by based on the playoff races?

Greg to Joe

Tom Brady's face when he realized he wasn't going to the Super Bowl last year. (Photo Cred: Screenshot of CBS Broadcast)

Tom Brady’s face when he realized he wasn’t going to the Super Bowl last year. (Photo Cred: Screenshot of CBS Broadcast)

Actually, your Pats have a shot to blow the two seed as well and the Ravens and Bengals can get it. There is a scenario that is fascinating in my mind. It starts like this the Pats lose out, the Dolphins win out, the Colts lose to the Jaguars in Week 17 (may not be for anything, they are basically locked into the 4th seed no matter what so it is entirely possible they rest and lose) and the Bengals win next week against the Vikings. Now this leaves the Pats at 10-6, Dolphins at 10-6, the Bengals at 10-5, and the Ravens at 9-6. The Ravens-Bengals game decides everything. The Bengals win, and they get the two seed. The Ravens are out, and the Patriots get the 6th seed because they lose the tie breaker with the Dolphins. The Ravens win, the Bengals get the 6th seed, Ravens get a bye AND the Patriots are not a playoff team. I think all of these crazy scenarios set up for a great end of season run. It should be one of the best and it all starts with the Ravens huge game against the Patriots next week. I am of the belief that the Ravens are trending upward and playing better than they did at the beginning of the season. The Patriots are starting to revert to beginning of season form without Gronk. He is so important to that offense and I think that it is very different without him. Next week will be an awesome game and it has so much on the line. I think that answers your question about the conference that intrigues me the most.

The NFC isn’t that interesting to me. Basically if the Panthers win next week against the Saints, it comes down to whether or not the 49ers can beat the Seahawks in Seattle in the NFC Championship.

Your thoughts on the races? And the scenario that the Patriots do not get into the playoffs?

Joe to Greg

I think it goes without saying that the AFC is the most wide open and most interesting conference. I don’t see the Patriots losing out even though that could make for an intriguing end to the playoff races. Having both teams, the Pats and Ravens, with playoff implications  makes for a more exciting game so good luck to you this weekend sir.

On the NFC side the Philadelphia-Chicago matchup is interesting to watch considering that both teams are atop their divisions and trying to give themselves an extra cushion going into the last week of the season. Both teams currently sit at 8-6 while another matchup featuring teams looking to finish strong is New Orleans at Carolina. This game features two 10-4 teams competing for the 2nd and 6th seed in the NFC playoffs. As of today, the Saints hold the 2nd seed while the Panthers own the 6th. Another great example of why December games are so great.

In the NBA, the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat faced off twice in a span of eight days. Each team  claimed victories on their home court and each game going down to the final two or three minutes of the game. Two noticeable injuries occurred this week. Kobe Bryant came back from his Achilles injury only to injure his left knee and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. The second was a minor ankle injury to LeBron James, which seems like a thing of the past considering he posted 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. What are your thoughts on the Indiana-Miami series and also the stellar play of Damian Lillard? Also any closing thoughts for the NFL week.

Greg to Joe

NBC made a big mistake flexing the Philadelphia-Chicago matchup to the night. There is a big chance that both of those teams have NOTHING to play for. If the Cowboys lose, the Eagles can clinch the East with a win. However, if the Cowboys win, it doesn’t matte what happens at night, the Eagles have to beat the Cowboys in Week 17 to win the division. I think it was a dumb mistake, and it could be a poor matchup. However, it has so many huge fantasy implications for almost everyone’s fantasy championship. Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and the list goes on. I am gonna have to watch to make sure my team brings home the two titles that they deserve!

 

However, I think that NBC has to repay the Ravens and will give them the night game next week. You’ll see why with my prediction at the bottom.

I think that Indiana is going to have big problems in the playoffs. They have a very short rotation and I think their starters are going to worn out come playoff time. I see Miami winning the East purely for that reason. Indiana’s dependence on their starters, much like Portland in the West. Lilliard is bonkers. His late game shots are unreal, and I think he is only going to get better and that Portland team is for real and will be for awhile. Can’t wait to see your NBA stuff this upcoming week up until Christmas.

Patriots @ Ravens Predictions

Joe

Patriots 24 – Ravens 21

Shane Vereen has a nice bounce back game after the poor showing last week and gets a TD. Stephen Gostkowski hits a late field goal to win it.

Greg

Patriots 17 – Ravens 23

Wikipedia screenshot after Justin Tucker's 61 yard field goal. (Photo Cred: Wikipedia Screenshot)

Wikipedia screenshot after Justin Tucker’s 61 yard field goal. (Photo Cred: Wikipedia Screenshot)

The Patriots defense isn’t as good as the Lions so I think the Ravens will be able to put up two touchdowns. I also think that the Patriots offense is not nearly the same as it was with Gronk. I think Tom Brady and Joe Flacco each have something around 250 yards and 2 touchdowns, but the kickers change the game. Tucker is 3 for 3 and Gostkowski goes 1 for 2.

 Greg Danchik and Joe Meola

Thanksgiving Spar

First, we would like to say Happy Thanksgiving to everyone at home, and we hope you have safe travels and a fun time wherever you end up. Now for sparring…

Greg to Joe

At the beginning of this year, did it even cross your mind that Jadeveon Clowney could be playing on the same defensive line as JJ Watt? Can you imagine how good Clowney could be without the constant double teams? Wade Phillips would probably be able to even get Clowney 1 v. 1 with a running back in the back field. That would be funny…

How could we possibly have predicted that the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons would be the top competition to the Jaguars for the top draft pick? The Falcons literally have nothing besides Matty Ice, Julio Jones and Roddy White. I don’t think their defense is good. They don’t have a running back they can count on. It’s rough for them. And the same goes for the Texans. Without Brian Cushing at middle linebacker, they are lost. Watt can’t do it all on his own. Arian Foster is beat up, and their offensive line isn’t the same as it was in Foster’s glory days. Matt Schaub, their starter since 2008, might be the worst quarterback on the roster too. That’s the sad thing.

Finally, I was able to see the Ravens dominate a game. Unfortunately, it was against Geno Smith playing in M&T Bank stadium, so it is nothing to be overly impressed with.

Patriots’ game… Crazy… thoughts?

Joe to Greg

I don’t think that thought ever crossed my mind until now. I think that’s scary because the Texans look like a lock for at least the 7th pick. We can speculate about what specific draft pick they get all day but I don’t see them dropping lower than the 5th pick barring some crazy, irrelevant end of the season winning streak. Imagine a healthy Cushing and Clowney… I think that will free up JJ Watt and gives him a chance to become the menace he was during the 2012 season.

I have the pleasure of living with a Falcons fan and one of the points brought up while watching the games on Sunday was how each conference has one team that totally busted. The NFC has the Falcons (2-9) while the AFC has the Texans (2-9). Injuries have plagued both teams so it’s understandable that they’re struggling in certain aspects of the game but it’s still a huge surprise nonetheless. Foster seems like a totally different runner and Matt Schaub…well lets just leave it at that. Unfortunately for the Texans season it’s like you said, just a sad thing.

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady after the Sunday night thriller (Photo Cred: Steven Senne)

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady after the Sunday night thriller (Photo Cred: Steven Senne)

The Brady-Manning bowl wasn’t much of a duel between two great quarterbacks. Not because of the surprising lack of production from Peyton Manning (19/36 for 150 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT with a 28.1 QBR and 70.4 RTG), but for two main reasons, the fumbles and the weather. There aren’t many times you see 11 fumbles in one game, but those fumbles kill drives, kill momentum, and like we saw with the last fumble, kill a team’s chances of winning the game. The wind on the other hand was the reason why Bill Belichick decided to give Peyton Manning the ball first in overtime and have the winds become a “12th defender” if you will. Manning’s numbers took a huge dent because of the stellar performance of Knowshon Moreno who had 37 carries for 224 yards and a score. No quarterback should throw against the Patriots…literally just run every play and you will win. I’m disappointed with the how the game ended because I wanted either Manning or Brady to have an impact on the outcome of the game, especially in overtime. How many times will we ever see Tom Brady and Peyton Manning against each other in overtime? It was great for both teams regardless because they played in a playoff type atmosphere with playoff type conditions, which can only help them prepare for a potential rematch later on. Don’t forget the Superbowl is played in New York in February. Should be interesting…any thoughts on the NFL? Can we please talk about some of the MLB trades? Pretty please?

Greg to Joe

With football, the Super Bowl is in the New York and that is exactly why I have been saying all year the Broncos won’t win it. It is not because Peyton Manning is not mentally able to compete in the cold. It is because he cannot physically compete in the cold. His ball loses juice, and it will never pierce the wind in New York Super Bowl Sunday. Obviously, I am of the belief that there is no way that the New York will have good weather for this game. If its a beautiful day, Manning would have a shot, assuming he gets there of course.

Your reply reminded me to post my thoughts on the Rangers-Tigers trade. I like it for both sides, but I think the Tigers got the better end. The money saved is crucial, and Prince Fielder‘s hitting skills might be deteriorating. I am a little concerned he just isn’t the same hitter. The Peralta signing and Bourjos trade for the Cardinals were EXACTLY what the Cardinals needed. They got a shortstop and a defensive center field with unbelievable speed. They managed to fill these needs without giving up anything! David Freese was going to go anyway, so they could get Kolten Wong in the line up. I can’t wait to watch this team play next year. And just a reminder, people will say the Cardinals overpaid for Peralta, but they are underpaying basically everyone else on that roster. With the loss of Carlos Beltran, they probably bought themselves more wins and are saving 2 million dollars this season. I would be worried about the forth year. He is pretty big for a shortstop. He may not last there. The Red Sox and Orioles haven’t made any huge moves, but the Yankees did. They bring in Brian McCann. They desperately needed a catcher, and McCann should have a career high in home runs next year with the extremely short porch in right. Any thoughts on the baseball deals?

Your a bigger basketball guy than I, what do you think of Derrick Rose going down?

Joe to Greg

Similar to you, I don’t think the Broncos can win with poor conditions, that is if they manage to reach the ultimate game. Regardless I think the weather will be a factor in the game, but we’ll have ample amounts of time to talk about that once we know who is actually in the game.

My impressions on the Rangers-Tigers trade are fairly indifferent. I have this feeling that Fielder has past his peak in terms of hitting. Over a 3 season span (2011-2012-2013), Fielder’s home runs (38-30-25) and RBI production has dropped (120-108-106). What’s even more surprising, out of a possible 810 regular season games over the past 5 seasons, Fielder has only missed ONE game, back in 2010 when he was with Milwaukee. I’ve had him on my fantasy baseball team the past 2 seasons as well so I’m familiar with most of his stats. I noticed a slight drop in overall production this year but he can still prove to be effective for the Rangers. Sometimes a change of scenery makes a big difference. Knowing that Jacoby Ellsbury is leaving this offseason, I’ve got a pretty bold prediction.  I’ve heard rumors that the Red Sox might be interested in acquiring Carlos Beltran, but I’m trying to contain my excitement because I’m pretty sure the whole AL East is interested in him. They acquired another righty in the bullpen, Burke Badenhop, from the Brewers for a minor league hurler. My eyes are focused on Beltran but time will tell.

I’m planning on coming out with a piece for Beyond the Arc soon regarding some of these injuries and recent action, but two quick thoughts about the D-Rose injury…

The Eastern Conference Finals matchup is essentially locked in stone. The Miami Heat versus the Indiana Pacers seems inevitable and it’s because D-Rose went down. The Bulls are an incredibly talented team but they just can’t go against Miami or Indiana without a player of D-Rose’s caliber. I’m picking the Pacers, yes the Pacers, to get the #1 seed in the East. After they lost in Miami in Game 7 last season, the Pacers know how close they were to a finals appearance. I think they’re extremely motivated to get home court advantage. Home court advantage for them is having 4 of 7 games in Indiana against Miami.

The Bulls WILL make a trade… this comes from another NBA-minded friend of mine, but he’s calling for Evan Turner of the Philadelphia Sixers to get traded to the Bulls for some sort of draft pick exchange. I don’t know how far-fetched that idea is but 1) Turner played his college ball at Ohio State and he grew up in Chicago and 2) Turner is still on his rookie deal meaning he is cheaper to obtain than if this situation occurred two years in the future. Going on this assumption, look for the Bulls to deal a combination of Kirk Hinrich, another small bench guy, and a first round pick to get Turner. Either way I’d be extremely surprised if the Bulls didn’t attempt to bolster their roster in some way shape or form.

What are you predictions for the Turkey Day games?

Greg to Joe

I am in totally agreement with Ellsbury. The Sox are a smart organization, and I think they know he won’t be able to provide the same value later in his career. I liken him to Michael Bourn. He is basically Michael Bourn except he hits like 3 more homers a year and has a career average about .020 points higher. Bourn got 4 years for $48 million. Ellsbury is also a Boras client so all things considered, he is going to be asking for a lot of money. An amount that a lot of organizations won’t be willing to pay. I think the Red Sox let him walk, and I think he ends up in Seattle (my bold prediction). It makes a whole lot of sense. The Mariners are trying to become relevant again, so they will probably over pay for someone. There park is also huge, which will play to Ellsbury’s strengths. Ellsbury will not hit double-digit homers again, but in Seattle’s rather large ballpark, he could lead the league in doubles.

I can’t agree with your bold prediction because… I WANT BELTRAN MORE! He makes a lot more sense in Baltimore. The Red Sox already have a full-time DH, and Beltran can’t play the field full time again. Papi isn’t going to play first base unless they are in an NL park. Baltimore doesn’t have a full-time DH, and Beltran would just make a great lineup even better. Now if they could only find some pitching..

I don’t think they Bulls trade is so far fetched, but I think they will be fine this year. Thibodeau is one of the best coaches in the NBA and will find a way to rally the team. Deng and Noah will be able to do a lot for them, and Jimmy Butler is underrated in my opinion. Even if the Bulls make a trade for Evan Turner, they won’t win the title. So I don’t see a point. I do see a situation where they ship Deng away for picks and try to get a ping pong ball. That’s unlikely thought. I think the most likely situation is they stand pat and do nothing.

I agree on the Pacers. They are so good on defense it is unreal. Paul George is a top player in the NBA and is a serious threat to take the MVP from LeBron. It won’t happen, but he’ll make it close.

Thanksgiving day games are close to my heart. The Ravens play in a game that, much like last week, is a must win if they want to make the playoffs. If they take down the Steelers, they will be GREAT position to take down the division. The Ravens get to play at home in the cold (temperatures expected between 30 & 40 degrees), and that is perfect for Flacco. His arm strength gives him an advantage in the cold. The Steelers have Big Ben, but I think the Ravens defense is better. It is so close. It will come down to who hits the long TD pass and that will decide the game. I don’t see a lot of long sustained drives coming this week.

(Photo Cred: James D. Smith/ AP)

(Photo Cred: James D. Smith/ AP)

ATS Picks for Thanksgiving games

Greg

Lions -7 – The Packers are not the same without Aaron Rodgers. Megatron will have a big first half, and the second half will be ALL Reggie Bush running wild.

Raiders +9.5 – 9.5 is a lot of points. The Cowboys are pretty bad in pass defense (31st in yards per game). Matt McGloin has SHOCKED everyone. He sucked at Penn State, but he is hot now and I think he keeps it up. I think the Cowboys could get upset at home if they aren’t careful.

Ravens -3 – I have to believe they make it back to the playoffs so I believe they win at home against an old Steelers team,

Joe

Packers +7 – I’m only picking this under the assumption Matt Flynn is going to look like the Matt Flynn that used to play for the Packers. The Lions were 9 point favorites at home against the Buccaneers last weekend and lost. I think the Lions win, but it’ll be closer than people think…or Megatron will just go off, which is fine because he’s on my fantasy team. I just wanted a lot of points scored.

Cowboys -7.5 – I don’t know why I’m doing this. This is the Cowboys after all but the line dropped a little. If this is at 9.5 I’d probably take the Raiders +9.5 but I don’t have enough confidence in them. I like Romo….(fast forward to Thursday night….why the hell did I pick the Cowboys? Lets just say I regret this pick already)

Ravens -3 – Keep winning those games, Flacco. December 22nd is coming up and I can’t wait (Patriots @ Ravens – Sunday Night Football)

Greg Danchik and Joe Meola

Week before Turkey Week Spar

Joe to Greg

I’m curious…what are your thoughts on the MLB Regular Season awards? Anything you would’ve switched? I’m anxiously waiting for the Patriots-Panthers game to start and I think Carolina is dangerous right now. We’ll touch on that more in the coming responses I’m sure. I wasn’t surprised with many of the outcomes of this past weekends games. With two exceptions; the Ravens loss and the basic implosion of the Atlanta Falcons. I’m truly surprised the Falcons are playing this bad right now. The thing that doesn’t surprise me is Peyton Manning at night and the inconsistency of the New York Jets, who are amazingly still in the playoffs. How are the fantasy teams doing in football as the playoffs approach?

Greg to Joe

If you are curious about my thoughts on the awards, check out the Dojo MLB Awards post. I called every award except for AL Manager of the Year. I think that was absurd, but that’s still not the one that upsets me most. Kieth Law said it best for me when referring to the AL MVP vote…

 

Mike Trout sliding into 2nd base (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Mike Trout sliding into 2nd base (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Even though I expected the writers to get it wrong, I still get outraged. Mike Trout is so much better of a baseball player than Miguel Cabrera. Period. End of Story. There is a reason that there are Silver Slugger awards and the Hank Aaron awards. They are for the best hitters, and MVP is for the best player. I’m not going to rant further, but Trout is a much better overall baseball player. It’s just fact. Read TroutMiggyALMVP2012_Danchik piece (a personal article I wrote over a year ago and didn’t have a place to post until I started this site) and the 2013 Dojo MLB Awards.

On to football! The Ravens’ loss shouldn’t have been unexpected. That game was a toss up in a muddy field. Two teams that are great franchises that are having very sub-par seasons. I would say the Ravens are out of it now, except, they really are not. If the Bengals stumble in one more game than the Ravens do, the Ravens can steal the division. This isn’t likely. I am expecting no playoff berth. I think the Patriots lose tonight. The Panthers are really good. I think their defense is something that shouldn’t be messed with. It could be a game that was very similar to the Patriots’ loss to the Bengals, but I think there will be some more points than that. Basically I am saying I would be nervous too if I was a Pats’ fan.

Fantasy football, I am done after this year. I will be exclusively playing fantasy football on DraftStreet.com and other daily fantasy sites. Football is such a week to week sport that yearly teams really do not make sense. Anyway, I am going to make the playoffs in all of my leagues. I think. I have to keep winning in the ESPN league, but the Yahoo league I am pretty much set for a playoff berth. I just need to fix my RGIII situation… How about yourself?

Joe to Greg

Last year, because of the rare occurrence of witnessing a Triple Crown I gave the nod to Cabrera. This year I think people got lost in the “homerun hype” between Cabrera and Baltimore’s Chris Davis. I agree Trout should have won because he can be used more and just contributes more to his team. As long as Miggy keeps swinging he’s going to get looked at and rightfully so, his batting averages from the past three seasons are impressive. (2013: .348, 2012: .330, and 2011: .344…all three averages were league leaders. I feel like we talk about this all the time…moving on…

The Patriots-Panthers game last night was basically what I expected score wise. I was surprised by the lack of drives and overall possessions; there were only 14 total drives. To put that into perspective, the Denver Broncos-Kansas City Chiefs had 27 drives between them. I’m not going to discuss the last play/controversial penalty because that didn’t decide the game. Stevan Ridley fumbled the ball in the redzone or right outside of it in the first half and then the Patriots corners blew tackles to give the Panthers the late touchdown in the fourth quarter. If Ridley never fumbles and at the bare minimum the Patriots make a field goal on that drive then the score is now 24-23 with a minute left, not 24-20. Being down four forced Brady to think endzone not field goal. Can’t be salty about this loss because it was a good game. The Panthers simply made more plays.

Fantasy football in Yahoo! I lost and I’m done. Really don’t plan on putting too much attention there since my team never scores. In ESPN, I’m 8-3 and I feel great about my team but I’m with you…I’m retiring the ESPN/Yahoo leagues next year and just dealing with Draftstreet. How do you feel about the NBA in the past week? Also, what are your thoughts on Michael Jordan‘s pick up team? Can you draft a team to beat his?

MJ’s Team:

  1. James Worthy
  2. Magic Johnson
  3. MJ
  4. Scottie Pippen
  5. Hakeem Olajuwon

Greg to Joe

Panthers game was nice. I only watched the last drive cuz it had big implications in our Draftstreet battle. If Tom Brady threw a touchdown to anyone, but Gronk, you win that matchup. I think the Panthers are legit and are going to be a playoff team. I am very interested for the Ravens-Pats game coming up soon. That should be a great one in late December. You have no idea how these teams will be playing then, but I am still excited. It will have big playoff implications such as whether the Ravens get in and what the Patriots’ seed will be.

MJ’s pick up team is gonna be so easy to beat. I got you right here MJ! I won’t even use any of your players. I am going to go BIG

This is how I go:

jamesandthegiantpeach

(Photo/Photoshop Cred: Dan Dicce)

PG – LeBron James – He is a monster. Magic Johnson, but bigger. He is the greatest player I have ever seen. Obviously, I have never seen MJ play or Magic, but LeBron is better than Kobe in my opinion. Rings are a team based thing, not individual. If they were individual, the Pistons would not have won a title in 2004. And pick up games are not about titles, they are about physical prowess and dominance. Gimme LeBron in every pick up situation. Including 1 vs 1 against MJ, but that is a different argument.

SG – Oscar Robertson – The Big O, basically averaged a triple-double his whole career. Nuff said.

SF – Larry Bird – Larry Bird has the jumper to play the 3 and can get boards. I am hoping my team plays in the paint big time anyway with Bird popping out for 3’s.

PF – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – All-time scoring leader and a dominant post scorer. Excited to have him on the squad

C – Shaq – Shaqtastic

I am expecting to play close to the rim and dominant down low with LeBron putting up like 25 assists and 15 points. He has the skills to do it.

What would your team look like? You can use my players, but not MJ’s.

Joe to Greg

Obviously I can’t duplicate players off of MJ’s but you and I have some similarities…one thing I noticed about MJ’s picks is you can tell he favors players from “his time”…his youngest player is Scottie Pippen who retired from the NBA in 2004 (Pippen played outside of the NBA until his official retirement in 2008). So I’m countering with more present players than past.

1- Kobe Bryant – Between him and James, this might be the most untouchable backcourt combo ever. If you’re playing against Michael Jordan, the most competitive basketball player in the history of the league, you’re going to need the second most competitive player in the history of the league to go head to head with him… enter Mr. Bryant.

2- LeBron James – He’s currently the best player in the world right now, why MJ never considered him is beyond me. He’ll be a matchup nightmare for MJ’s James Worthy/Magic Johnson combo.

3- Larry Legend – He’s a tall small forward and he shoots the lights out…basically the same reason you gave.

4- Shaquille O’Neal – I loved your pick of Shaq because he is a freak of nature with his size. He averaged a double double for the first 13 seasons in the league so I will gladly welcome the Shaqtus.

5- Tim Duncan – He’s been the best power forward that I’ve watched in my lifetime. Not much else to say because his fade away bank shot from the lower elbow is almost always going in.

My team is built off of players that can create their own shots and also the players who want the spotlight. Bird is my captain because if Kobe starts going into “Kobe-Mode”, basically shooting every time down the court, then Bird will have no problem benching Kobe and playing a man down. My last shot goes to Kobe obviously because he lives for the last 10 seconds of a game and nothing would satisfy him more than hitting a buzzer beater over MJ.

NCAA Football Thoughts

Greg

Marcus Mariota's Heisman chances will be affected by his loss against Stanford. (Photo Cred: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Marcus Mariota’s Heisman chances will be affected by his loss against Stanford. (Photo Cred: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Alabama will win a 3rd title. It is just a matter of who will they be destroying in the BCS Championship game. Personally, I think it will be Florida State, but Jameis Winston may not be able to play football at that point, so I expect another ‘Bama Blowout. The dream BCS bowl game for me would have to be Baylor vs Oregon. There could quite literally be 140 total points scored in that game. I can envision a scenario where the game is 70-70 going into overtime with Bryce Petty and Marcus Mariota showing the world why they should have won the Heisman over…

Heisman Pick: AJ McCarron

This year the Heisman trophy will be more of a career achievement award than anything else. McCarron has been great in his time at Alabama, but he hasn’t be rewarded with a Heisman because he isn’t the stat stuffer like RGIII or Johnny Manziel. The committee will know that he is enroute to his 3rd BCS Championship, and this Heisman Trophy will solidify him as one of the greatest college football players of all time.

Joe

  1. Alabama – they’re #1 in my eyes until someone beats them in the championship game.
  2. Florida State – an extremely talented team but I want to see them win another big game. Their win over then #3 Clemson was impressive but I think they are lacking another big game.
  3. Ohio State – 22-0 in the past two seasons speaks for itself. If you can call them a sleeper I’d like to see them slip into the National Championship game ahead of Florida State.
  4. Baylor – you can’t stop the offense. They average 61 points per game and only allow an average of 17.4. Who needs RGIII
  5. Oregon – now only did they lose to Stanford two weeks ago but in the following week, Stanford loses to USC. Talk about wishing you could have a game back…that’s two straight tough loses to Stanford in back to back seasons, it must be agonizing being an Oregon fan.

Heisman: Johnny Manziel

I didn’t want to put his name but I have to for the following reasons…

  1. Last season he threw for 3700 yards, 47 total touchdowns (26 pass/21 rush), and an average yards per passing attempt of 8.5. this season (with 2 games + an almost guarantee bowl game left) he has thrown for 3313 yards with 39 total touchdowns (31 pass/8 rush), and an YPA of 10.5. He’s improved his mechanics in the pocket and he isn’t running as much when you notice that he ran for 1410 yards last season compared to 611 this year. It’s a different Manziel but he’s still effective as ever.
  2. Check out this stat fact: In Texas A&M’s two losses this year (to Alabama and Auburn), Manziel has posted 1064 yards of total offense and has contributed to 83 points out of a possible 94 points.
  3. How he wins: Texas A&M’s next two games have huge implications for bowl games. They play at #22 LSU and then travel to #8 Missouri. If Manziel can lead them out of these two games unscathed while putting up big numbers, he has a huge case for a repeat winner.

Names to remember:

Bryce Petty – You know how Baylor averages 61 points per game? Well this QB is a big reason why.

Jameis Winston – I need to educate myself with this new story he is potentially involved in…or isn’t involved in…I just don’t know anything about his off the field activities. The dude knows how to play the QB position and you can’t scare him, he walked into #3 Clemson under the lights and torched them for 444 yards and 3 scores…as a freshman…sort of resembling something Manziel did last year in Alabama.

Greg Danchik and Joe Meola

NFL, NBA and MLB: The All-in-One Spar

Greg to Joe

How’s it going mayne? I decided to start the sparring Sunday night because I have no time this week and its gonna be brutal.

draftstreetSo fantasy football has been so up and down for me. Most importantly, I do not know when to start CJ Spiller. When he plays well, he is on my bench. It’s so depressing. Anyway. I am doing well in all of my leagues and will be competing for a playoff spot in every league. BTW, winning Draftstreet with 4 players left and you  have 1.

If I wasn’t watching the Ravens go for two right now, I would be watching the Buccaneers-Seahawks game. Who would have thought that this game would have been tied up BY SEATTLE  with under 2 minutes late? Unbelievable game. Mike James has looked just as good as Doug Martin if not better. Buccaneers were so close to quitting on their coach. Now, they could be taking down one of the “best” teams in the NFC. I put quotations because I think the best teams in the NFC are now the 49ers, Saints, and Packers. The Seahawks’ offense is not good enough to win a championship, unless they pull a Ravens’ title run together and get hot at the right time. Who knows whats going to happen in the playoffs. It is all about who is hot. Final football note, its funny how no one is taking the 9-0 team seriously. Personally, I am with the majority. I don’t think they can do anything in the postseason this year, but we’ll see.

So the MLB season is over. Congrats to the Red Sox, and I hope you had fun at the parade. I am so shocked that they won the whole thing. They would not have sniffed the postseason if this site was up before the beginning of the 2013 MLB season. Unbelievable. Do you have any going away thoughts on the MLB?

Joe to Greg

All I have to say is, Andre. Johnson. Right around the time you sent this e-mail I was looking dead in the water. You still had four players going, three of which were playing in the Colts-Texans game. Until Johnson threw down 45 points. Who knows what’ll happen next with our matchup. Yahoo Fantasy is pretty much a lost cause for me but ESPN I love my team. I think I’m going to end up losing this week but I had Megatron, Frank Gore, and Hakeem Nicks on a bye so you can only do so much.

The parade was awesome. I was front row on one of the gates at the beginning of the parade so it was cool to see everyone go by. They led the parade off with the security officer from the ALCS game, which got the crowd even more pumped up. All in all, a great parade. Back in our Week 4 Spar we made our predictions for the MLB playoffs and my prediction payed off (humble brag). Sox in 6 over the Cards. I can’t say I’m surprised because I think the Sox just had more experience and they had those chemistry guys that every clubhouse needs to make runs in the playoffs. The biggest impact in the series was timely hitting in my opinion. They just seemed to find a way to get runs when they needed them. Congrats to the Sox. Anyways, good bye to the MLB season. Are there any moments during the season that stand out to you or any big plays you’ll always remember?

I agree with your Seattle comment, I don’t think they have the offensive firepower to hang with the Packers or the Saints. Their defense is their trademark but I lack confidence in the way their offense runs. It’s Week 9 and I still don’t know what to make of the Chiefs. Yes their 9-0, but I think I’m with the majority as well on this one. I don’t see a lot of postseason success in their future. Don’t want to get off on a tangent here but I loved how the Patriots played yesterday. Finally with a healthy Amendola and Gronk. Aaron Dobson is becoming more apart of the offense as well. How do you feel about the Ravens state? Any comments leading up the Packers-Bears game tonight (Monday)?

Greg to Joe

Andre Johnson just kept catching passes and it was so frustrating for me. I was so positive that I was going to win that DraftStreet contest and of course I lost. Also, another fun fact. My Yahoo team has scored the most points out of anyone in the league, but I haven’t won any weekly  ten dollars and I am not in first place. One reason why I am considering retiring from fantasy football next year. So much luck is involved that it is very frustrating to watch Tyler sit in first with a less superior team.

The biggest MLB moments for me are the Mariano Rivera All Star game. That was pretty awesome. It was definitely a good game to watch as well, surprisingly. I still can’t get over the slider/changeup Carlos Martinez threw to Shane Victorino in the World Series still puts me into a state of euphoria when I watch it. Oh my is it good. The only defensive plays I can think of are the Jose Iglesias plays he made with the Tigers. He may not be able to hit, but his glove will make him a major leaguer for a long time. You got any offseason predictions? I have a few, but I want to see your take first.

Dobson is finally showing why he was taken in the NFL Draft and Kenbrell Thompkins wasn’t. He is the better of the two receivers, but he is finally showing it. Also, Gronk is a game changer. I think the Patriots are back on track, but can easily be knocked off if Gronk or Amendola get hurt again. With the Ravens… I can see them win between 5-9 wins. 9 wins is possible if something happens in practice this week and they change the o-line blocking scheme. Kelechi Osemele was being talked about as a top 10 guard in the NFL, but his back has hampered him this year and has finally put him out for the season. If the Ravens can take down the Bengals this week, I will feel much better about the season, but I don’t know if that will happen. Also, I question Joe Flacco‘s health. I think he might be hurt because you can tell his arm strength has been zapped for some reason. We’ll see more in the following weeks.

Joe to Greg

As far as my offseason predictions go, I haven’t put much thought into them. I see Jacoby Ellsbury leaving Boston, as sad as it sounds. The Cardinals won the NL Central by 3 games this season (Pittsburgh in 2nd) and I think they’ll win again but by more than 5 games. They’re the reigning NL champs and I don’t see them dropping off, we’ve talked about them multiple times throughout our spars and reviews, but the strong homegrown base and the experience from playing in a World Series will do wonders for this team going forward. I’ll have to think of others for now. How about yourself?

Also, any first impressions on the start of the NBA season?

Greg to Joe

Yeah, I doubt that Ellsbury stays in Boston. I think he ends up in Seattle as they try to turn things around. The Cubs could also be in on him. I want to see the contract that the Yankees give Robinson Cano. It will probably be more than $200 million, but the question is by how much. I also think the Cardinals will finally fix their shortstop problem. I see them doing one of three things. One, they sign Johnny Peralta to shore that up. Two, they trade one of their young pitchers for a shortstop like Jurickson Profar or Elvis Andrus. The Rangers need pitching and they have two shortstops. I would love for a deal with the Orioles like… Lance Lynn for JJ Hardy and Jonathan Schoop/Adrian Marin. That will never happed especially after the Machado injury. The Orioles would have no shortstop for the beginning of the season. These two previous options involve getting ride of David Freese, moving Matt Carpenter back to third base and putting Kolten Wong at second base. The third option is keep Freese, keep Carpenter at second, and put Wong at shortstop. It’s not unreasonable, and the Cardinals’ shortstop situation will be a lot better than it was last year if they do any of these options. My final two big predictions are Shin-Sho Choo is a Met by January, and Masahiro Tanaka is an Angel. The Mets are the perfect fit for Choo. He becomes a veteran leader of a young team. It also puts the Mets in a good spot to contend in the next two years with their dominant young pitching and solid infield. Oh, I also forgot my last prediction. Carlos Beltran is either an Oriole next year, or he returns to his roots and resigns with the Kansas City Royals.

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James (Photo Cred: Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James (Photo Cred: Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

The NBA season has been interesting. Michael Carter-Williams is playing as good as anyone in the NBA right now and led the Sixers to 3 wins to start the season. That will in no way shape or form continue, but it was quite astonishing. I think the East is shaping up to be a three team race between the Heat, Pacers, and Nets. If the Nets are able to use Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett like the Spurs use Duncan, they will be dominant this year. I also love Enes Kanter. He is big man with a sweet jumper. If Utah wins the lottery next year, they’ll be a semi-contender in 2014-2015. Also, LeBron is still going back to Cleveland. The best situation for him. What do you think of the NBA season so far?

Joe to Greg

Mike Trout sliding into 2nd base (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Mike Trout sliding into 2nd base (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

I like your predictions, especially the Rangers and Cardinals discussions. They really have the perfect holes to fill and it would be stupid not to explore those options. I think Cano gets south of $250 million, which is just out of this world to even think about. It makes me think of what Mike Trout might get offered, not saying it will be a huge number like that but who knows. The NBA has definitely been intriguing so far. Michael Carter-Williams is proving the doubters wrong and starting off a tremendous rookie campaign. The Celtics and Jazz seem to be the early favorites for the best lottery picks. Miami has struggles playing in the first quarters for some reason and the Indiana Pacers are 5-0? Who would’ve thought it. I love Enes Kanter and my equivalent is Jonas Valanciusnas from the Toronto Raptors. He’s been a beast who has averaged 15 points and 9.5 rebounds in his past two games. He’s been dominating down low, grabbing boards and posting a field goal % of 57.14. A great fantasy commodity in deep leagues. More on the NBA season to come. Any quick thoughts on the NFL this week? I’m a fan of the San Francisco-Carolina game and I think the Dallas-New Orleans game is going to be a shootout.

Greg’s Final thought

  1. If I am Mike Trout and the Angels approach me with an extension, I accept nothing less than $300 million over 10 years. I am serious. And quite frankly, it would be a discount for the Angels.
  2. Game of the Week for me is Panthers at the 49ers. I wanna see how Newton and Kaepernick perform against top defenses.

Greg Danchik and Joe Meola

Dojo Sparring – Week 6

Joe to Greg

Another week’s worth of games means another week’s worth of discussion. You and I both predicted that Adrian Peterson would come out on fire after the tragic events of his son but that never came to fruition. Denver actually got a little competition from Jacksonville and another undefeated team went down. Don’t forget that the NLCS and ALCS are going on as well. I’ll be honest, following the Patriots last-second touchdown over the Saints, I couldn’t go through another emotional roller coaster with the Red Sox in Game 2, Sunday Night. They went down 5-1 and after Max Scherzer recorded his 13th strikeout, I figured it was over. But then Scherzer didn’t come to the mound for the 8th inning and the rest is history.

Any big thoughts from the weekend’s games? And also any thoughts on the MLB Postseason thus far.

Greg to Joe

The baseball postseason has been something else. It seems like it is a normal for at least one starter per night to take a no-hitter into the 6th. It has been crazy. The Red Sox game was unreal. I was with Heather at home and we heard David Ortiz crush that ball. We looked up and saw Torii Hunter BARELY missed that ball. Had Torii caught that? The Red Sox might have been looking at a 3-0 deficit assuming Verlander pitches as well as he did in Game 5 of the ALDS. Then again, the Red Sox have been down 3-0 before and won a series so who knows. That will be a great series.

In the NLCS, the key is Hanley Ramirez. He is an absolute stud. He has finally returned to the hitter that made him the runner-up for MVP in 2009. He is a member of the 30-30 club, and he, not Yasiel Puig, was the key to the Dodgers turnaround. The Dodgers are 41-45, including postseason, when Hanley doesn’t start. If he is able to withstand the pain from a fractured rib and start the rest of the series, this series is going to 7 games.

In football, I didn’t watch a lot of the games because I was traveling a lot on Sunday. I know that the Ravens lost a very close game. The Patriots game stunned me. I saw the Saints take a 4 point lead and then we shut off the TV for dinner. I went on my phone to see the same score go final, but it hadn’t. I couldn’t believe it. Also, fantasy football is a crazy game. Random studs and duds each week, but we both got the call right about Terrance Williams. Played well with his touchdown grab.

Baseball thoughts or any interesting happenings in the NFL this week?

Joe to Greg

(msn.foxsports.com)

(msn.foxsports.com)

I didn’t even mention how close Hunter was to that ball. BARELY is an understatement. If the Sox had lost that game I would’ve called off any hope for a World Series this year. You aren’t winning 4 out of 5 games against the Tiger’s pitching staff when you’re in an 0-2 hole.

Between the two series; ALCS and NLCS, I think that the NLCS has a higher chance of going seven games. I agree that Hanley is the key and I’m expecting Kershaw to come back with a vengeance and earn a W with his expected slated start in Game 6 in St. Louis.

We both got some nice production out of Terrance Williams and I’m looking for that to continue as the Cowboys travel to Philadelphia this week for a divisional game. Some things to keep in mind for the Williams’ doubters: Miles Austin continues to drown himself in leg injuries which is evidence by his 0 receptions for 0 yards last week. Combine his ineffectiveness with the annual DeMarco Murray injury, there is a chance that Williams will see an increase in production. Murray injured his knee in Sunday nights game against the Redskins and is considered questionable for Philly as of 10/15. My baseball thoughts are more of a wait-and-see approach. As big of a supporter as I am for Boston, I enjoy watching great games more than anything and both series have had their fair share of excitement. I’m just looking for memorable moments so thank you, David Ortiz and thank you, Max Scherzer for your performances.

A quick note also, we are matched up against each other this week in ESPN. I’m already predicting a loss for myself because Drew Brees is on his bye but you never know till it’s over. I think our matchup could be a potential playoff matchup when that time comes around. I like both of our teams in this league, I feel I’m lacking a solid RB group though. My most consistent RB has been Danny Woodhead and I’ve only have him for three weeks.

I have a couple of things to bring up for the new week. One being the return of Peyton Manning to Indianapolis. There are multiple reasons I’m interested in this game. 1) I’m looking forward to just the general reception of Manning coming back to Lucas Oil Stadium. 2) How Andrew Luck will fair coming off a below-average performance Monday night against the San Diego Chargers. 3) The first REAL test for the Broncos Offense (Baltimore: 17th*, New York: 24th, Oakland: 13th, Philadelphia: 32nd, Dallas: 30th, and Jacksonville: 22nd). That is the rankings of yards allowed per game for each respective team’s defense. Clearly the Broncos haven’t met much resistance. I marked Baltimore with * because it was the first game of the season. It would be a much different game if the two teams were to play again now; although I believe the Broncos would still prevail. I also like the Pittsburgh-Baltimore rivalry game this week. I always love watching arguably one of the best rivalries in football in action.

Any thoughts on the NFL for Week 7?

Greg to Joe

The Red Sox have been horrendous. Lets be honest. And they STILL are up 2-1. I can’t explain that. The truly only explanation is that’s how baseball is.

The Cardinals are a win away from being in the World Series and rightfully so. They are the best run organization in baseball. Period. They have so much talent at the major league level and they have the farm system to keep up the level of Major League level excellence. I just can’t wait to watch the Cardinals dominate baseball for the years to come.

I don’t think that Terrance Williams is going to be the biggest beneficiary from the DeMarco Murray injury. That has to be Joseph Randle. The Cowboys face defenses that are sub-par against the run and could easily dominate those teams on the ground. Brian Waters has made all the difference for the offensive line. Randle with benefit, assuming Murray is even out.

I can’t make a good lineup in the ESPN league so don’t even worry about it.

This upcoming week is Steelers’ week. That is honestly the only thing I care about. I only want to Ravens to go into Pittsburgh and dominate the Steelers. I doubt this happens, but it is honestly the only game I care about. The Luck-Manning game should be fun to watch. I think that we will get another one next year because the Colts and Broncos  will win their divisions easily. I think Peyton gets the better of Luck this time around. If Luck can find a way to lead the Colts to victory with a monster game, his shot at winning MVP just went up. Manning can start off as hot as he wants; if he can’t finish, he won’t win MVP.

My bold prediction for this week has to be New England loses this weekend unless Gronk finally comes back. And even then, I still think the Jets handle the Patriots at home.

Bold predictions for this week, and you still have a Sox World Series title even though they can’t hit in this ALCS? I still feel good about the Cards even after the loss today.

Joe to Greg

I wouldn’t go as far as to say they have been horrendous. They rightfully lost Game 1 and stole Game 2 with the help of Scherzer being pulled an inning too soon and Big Papi’s heroics. They edged out a 1-0 win in Game 3, and straight up lost in Game 4 last night because Jake Peavy just didn’t have his stuff. The first three games were all decided by one run each so sure their bats are cold, but they still managed 12 hits last night to. Just a side note on last nights game…Dustin Pedroia talked after the game about a botched grounder he could’ve turned into a double play but ended up becoming a fielder’s choice. At the time the Tigers had just scored one run, if Pedroia turns two on that play, there was already an out in the inning and they get out relatively unscathed. Instead of one run, it turned into five…I’d say that makes a big difference in the game. Detroit has dominated the pitching as expected and Boston’s lineup can’t produce runs other than Big Papi. No need to be concerned on my end, it’s a best of three now.

I don’t have many bold predictions for the week, I think now I’m expecting both the ALCS and the NLCS to go to seven games. I really hope the Ravens can win but I feel like regardless of their records, each year the Ravens and Steelers play two tough hard-nosed games. Best of luck.

Greg to Joe

Joe… I understand you a Red Sox fan, but when I made my claim, they were up 2 games to 1 and have been the worse team over the course of the series. Game 4 was decided by that Pedroia error, but the Tigers added more runs later so I still they they would have won. However, there should have been no outs on that fielder’s choice anyway because Stephen Drew was not even in the same area code as 2nd base when he got the out there.

Now onto their batting and how the Tigers have dominated them, but the Red Sox have not done so to Detroit, but the Sox have still managed to keep this series tied. Lets look at some season averages. The Red Sox had a .44 BB/K, 20.5% K%, and .271 batting average (2nd in the MLB). The Tigers had a .49 BB/K, 16.4% K%, and .283 batting average (highest in the MLB). That batting average for Detroit is much high than what I would expect from them now because Miguel Cabrera is hurt and that batting average has about 130 games from Johnny Peralta at SS and 50 from Jose Iglesias. With Iglesias in the lineup, that batting average drops. I would expect them to have a lower batting average than they did in the regular season, but the Red Sox should be similar if they weren’t being dominated. Detroit, this series, has a .41 BB/K, 20.1 K%, and a .242 batting average. I would say that the Red Sox pitchers have done well, but I think a small dip in the numbers is expected because of the colder weather, and the reasons I stated above. Now the Red Sox… they have no excuse except they have been dominated. When I made my “The Red Sox have been horrendous this series” claim, they had a stellar batting average of… .133! That’s super duper if you’re a pitcher! Except, the Red Sox are all top notch hitters, not a lineup of pitchers. Now with Game 4, they were able to raise that to .186. Still below the Mendoza line (.200, for those who did not know). Now get this, the Red Sox have a BB/K of .21 this postseason. In other words, they have 53 strikeouts to 11 walks. That’s not good. They can’t get on base or put the ball in play to even get sacrifices. Those 53 strikeouts in 140 plate appearances give them a K% of 38%! That means about 3.42 batters strike out every time the Tigers pitchers go through the lineup! If you say those stats aren’t horrendous, that’s a your judgement call, but to me, they are. In Game 2, they got lucky to have all their offensive production come at the same time so Ortiz was up with 3 men on base instead of 1 or 2. Scherzer was laboring, he needed to be taken out, but I think Leyland mismanaged the relievers. That’s how they got their lucky Game 2 victory. Game 3 was just 1 of their 4 hits went out of the park and the Tigers 6 hits were just too scattered to put together a run.

I will give the Red Sox this… Their relievers, led by former Oriole great Koji Uehara, have been great (13.1 IP, 10 K, 9 H, 8 BB, and 0 ER) and pitchers good enough, but their offense has 110% been horrendous, in my opinion.

Greg Danchik and Joe Meola