Archive for January, 2013

ImageNeedless to say, SkoodSports laid a serious egg in the Conference Championship games. The 0-2 record brings the yearly total to a respectable 119-111-7. In other words, I have finished above .500 for the season regardless of what happens on Sunday. That in itself is a feat considering I have never kept tabs on picks for an entire season. If I had actually laid money down on every game this year, I would have come out ahead. That’s more than I can say for most experts who pick against the spread.

Superbowl XLVII promises to be a good one. Two brothers will face off for the right to declare themselves the superior Harbaugh. Who is the smarter bet? Well, Jim, who came into the NFL less than two years ago, has been to two NFC Championship Games and now one Super Bowl. His big brother, meanwhile, has won a playoff game every season he has been a coach (since 2008).

Baltimore Ravens (13-6) vs. San Francisco 49ers (13-4-1)

The Scene: Sunday, February 3rd, 6:30 PM
The Spread: San Francisco by 4
The Pick: Baltimore
The Score: San Francisco, 27-24
The Rationale: This is expected to be a close matchup, and I cannot agree more. Both teams’ defenses have proven that they are stout beyond the normal understanding of the word. There are multiple playmakers on both sides of the ball that will contribute to this game’s final score being so narrow.

In the QB matchup, I honestly like Joe Flacco more than I like Colin Kaepernick. I think experience in a game like this is critical, and no one has played in more games than Joey Ballgame since 2008 besides Tom Brady (whom the former just soundly defeated two weeks ago). But, San Francisco can do so many things that Baltimore cannot. Kaepernick’s ability to run the football will keep the pass rushers of Baltimore on their heels and allow Frank Gore to penetrate the front-seven with relative ease.

The one key to this game that swings dramatically in Baltimore’s favor is special teams. San Francisco K David Akers has suffered through a truly demoralizing campaign. Still, he has experience that Baltimore’s rookie K Justin Tucker does not. Akers has, of course, kicked in a Super Bowl before (XXXIX).

In the end, I believe that we could see our first overtime Super Bowl. Regardless of whether or not we need extra time, I like Baltimore to narrowly cover the four point spread. They could certainly win. But, 75% of all favorites have won Super Bowls dating back to the very first matchup between Green Bay and Kansas City. I’ll take the 49ers to win and the Ravens to cover.

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On one side, we have a rematch of last year’s AFC title game. On the other side, we have two young QB’s looking to reach their first Super Bowl. The intrigue is certainly there, as the brothers Harbaugh look to reach heights not yet realized, setting up the Super Bowl to be a family affair in New Orleans.

The 49ers are road favorites in this one. Since 2005, there have only been two road favorites in Conference Championship games: The 2008 Philadelphia Eagles, who were defeated in Arizona by the Cardinals, 35-28, despite going into the game favored by 3.5 points; and the 2010 Green Bay Packers, who were also 3.5 point favorites, but were able to defeat a Jay Cutler-less Chicago Bears team in Soldier Field.

San Francisco 49ers (12-4-1) AT Atlanta Falcons (14-3)

The Scene: Sunday, January 20th, 3:00 PM on Fox
The Spread: San Francisco by 4
The Pick: Atlanta
The Score: Atlanta, 27-24
The Rationale: The 49ers defense didn’t look impenetrable last weekend. Granted,  they were facing Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. But, the Falcons appeared to resurrect their running game a bit last week, and Jacquizz Rodgers’ success will be a key element of this game. I know everyone is high on Colin Kaepernick and he is undoubtedly going to be a great player. But, when it comes to experience and weapons around him, Matt Ryan has him beat. The former BC standout showed that he is unfazed under pressure by conjuring up the cajones to drive the Falcons down the field after their defense blew a huge lead against Seattle.

The fact of the matter is, San Francisco is a road-favorite in a playoff game. I am always skeptical of that. Home underdogs in big games are typically more motivated to prove that they are being disrespected. If you also add in the element that the Georgia Dome will be rocking, and a rookie QB who relies heavily on line-calls and zone-runs is taking the field, you further come to the conclusion that the cards are aligning in Atlanta’s favor. The Falcons, burnt by the Michael Vick fiasco, will return to their first Super Bowl since January, 1999.

Baltimore Ravens (12-6) AT New England Patriots (13-4)

The Scene: Sunday, January 20th, 6:30 PM on CBS
The Spread: New England by 9
The Pick: New England
The Score: New England, 34-21
The Rationale: There is always one team in Conference Championships that covers and one team that does not. This will be a bit of a surprise to some. But, there is a reason this line is so high. The Patriots’ offense has not been stopped all season. For Bill Belichick, it is not about wins and losses anymore in the regular season. It is about how quickly and monumentally you can crush the will of your opponent as you prepare for the postseason. The Patriots have been the class of the league for over a decade.

Baltimore, meanwhile, has been the maid-of-honor ever since they triumphed over New York in Super Bowl XXXV. Since John Harbaugh was named head coach prior to 2008, the Ravens have been to three conference titles. Will the third time be a charm? I doubt it. Baltimore has all the looks of a team that peaked when Jacoby Jones scored the game-tying touchdown late in the second half against Denver. The defense can only hold up for so long, and against an offense as dynamic as New England’s, and in a place as polarizing for road teams as Foxborough, the end is near for Ray Lewis.

New England will win, and it won’t be very close. This sets the stage for a Super Bowl of offensive powerhouses. The Atlanta Falcons vs. the New England Patriots, Matty-Ice vs. Tom Terrific, the BC Eagle vs. the Michigan Wolverine. Any way you shape it, it should be quite a show.

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Blue = Correct Pick
Red = Incorrect Pick
Black = Push

Baltimore Ravens (11-6) AT Denver Broncos (13-3)

The Scene: Saturday, January 12th. 4:30 PM on NBC.
The Spread: Denver by 8.5
The Pick: Denver
The Verdict: Baltimore, 38-35 (2 OT)

Green Bay Packers (12-5) AT San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)

The Scene: Saturday, January 12th. 8:00 PM on NBC.
The Spread: San Francisco by 3.5
The Pick: Green Bay
The Score: Green Bay, 21-19
The Verdict: San Francisco, 45-31

Seattle Seahawks (12-5) AT Atlanta Falcons (13-3)

The Scene: Sunday, January 13th. 1:00 PM on Fox.
The Spread: Atlanta by 2.5
The Pick: Atlanta
The Score: Atlanta, 24-16
The Verdict: Atlanta, 30-28

Houston Texans (13-4) AT New England Patriots (12-4)

The Scene: Sunday, January 13th. 4:30 PM on CBS.
The Spread:  New England by 9.5
The Pick: New England
The Score: New England, 28-14
The Verdict: New England, 41-28

Record for the week: 1-3
Record for the 2012 postseason: 3-5
Record for the year: 119-109-7

ImageIt has been a revolving door at the hot-corner for Philadelphia ever since Scott Rolen unceremoniously worked his way out of town in 2002. The team has gotten by with veterans like David Bell, Pedro Feliz, and Placido Polanco for the better part of a decade. Finally, the franchise has a young talent who should be able to fill the spot for the next decade.

A former University of Nebraska standout, Cody Asche was the Phillies’ fourth round pick in the June, 2011 MLB Amateur Draft. The 22-year old struggled in his first big league season in 2011, hitting below the Mendoza-line whilst contributing just 2 home runs and 19 RBI in 68 games. Improvement was necessary, and Asche set out that offseason to prove that he belonged.

In 2012, the O’Fallon, MO native shined bright like the future star many project him to become. Asche finished second in the Florida State League in batting (.349), 17th in OBP (.378), and 19th in OPS (.825). In just 62 games, Asche turned himself into one of the top prospects in the Phillies organization and earned a call up to AA Reading on June 23rd.

Following his promotion, Asche, like many young players, struggled to find his groove. The former Cornhusker began his Reading career 1-18. In fact, the numbers in his first 24 games painted him as a player who just was not up to speed in AA ball. That all turned around on July 20th.

On that day, Asche went 3-5 (his first three hit game with Reading) with a home run and two RBI as the Phillies defeated the Trenton Thunder, 8-3. From that point on, Asche would go on a monumental tear. Cementing himself in Reading for the 2013 season, Asche went .346-10-42 in the second half of the season. With this new found confidence, the youngster finished the year batting .300 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI in just 68 games.

Overall, between both Clearwater and Reading, Asche finished 2012 batting .324-12-72. Numbers like that do not come around all that often, especially when one considers the trials and tribulations that Asche had to battle through when he began his Reading career a paltry 1-18.

As the Phillies look towards the future, there is at least one position that has a capable replacement. When the Michael Young ‘era comes to an end in Philadelphia, expect to see young Cody Asche filling the spot and manning the position where the greatest Phillie of all time, Mike Schmidt, stood for years.

Hall of Hypocrisy

Posted: January 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

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Few who were alive in the late-1990s will ever forget the epic home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. America’s pastime, still reeling from the ill-effects of the 1994 player’s strike, was once again captivating audiences with visions of glory and historical triumph. These goliaths, herculean in size and stature, made Americans proud to be baseball fans yet again. At the time, it did not matter whether or not these heroes were using performance-enhancing drugs. Everyone looked the other way for the good of the game: the fans, the media, and most significantly Major League Baseball itself.

After all, the league was still searching for a way to bring fans back to the ballpark. In 1993, over 70 million fans attended games. At the time, this was a record for American sports. Then, a year later, greed took over. For the first time since the creation of the league, there was no Fall Classic. Millions of fans would watch with disdain as their idols, their American legends, turned their backs on the game. Children, reared by the crack of the bat, the echo of an organ, and the nightly hiss of a transistor radio, would go to sleep wondering if the ballgame they loved would ever return to them. When their hopes were realized a year later, attendance was down dramatically to 50 million in 1995 and 60 million in 1996. It was not until McGwire and Sosa’s marathon battle in 1998 that attendance once again crept above 70 million. With this newfound fan support, baseball chose the route of obliviousness, turning their cheek to the obvious steroids epidemic evolving in clubhouses across the sport. It was a grand fraud perpetrated against the public. A scheme developed to keep the game on top and the league’s cash registers full. A game meant for children and built on the foundation of fairness was playing a dangerous game with itself. Now, fifteen years later, baseball is still reeling from the repercussions of its actions.

People should be skeptical about the ballplayers that are up for induction into the Hall of Fame. They played in an era where PEDs were not only available, but welcomed. However, the duplicitousness that baseball, the media, and yes, the fans expressed in the 1990s is still clearly evident concerning the heroes that they worshipped when the sport was recovering from its self-inflicted wounds. After all, it’s not as though no players from that era have been enshrined in Cooperstown. Superstars like Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn, Roberto Alomar, and Rickey Henderson have all been inducted into the Hall of Fame within the last six years. They also all played during the 1990s, where steroids were as available as aftershave in clubhouses throughout the league. Now, I am by no means accusing these men of anything. But, inducting these ballplayers with no asterisk or notion of wrongdoing but preventing anyone else from reaching the same peak is, at its core, the height of hypocrisy.

In 2012, Barry Larkin was inducted into the Hall of Fame with 86.4% of the vote. A year later, Craig Biggio failed to reach the required 75%. The uninformed opinion would argue that Larkin was merely the better player. The 1995 National League MVP, Larkin played 19 seasons, all with the Cincinnati Reds. His final career batting line (.295-198-960) and paltry hit total for a Hall of Famer (2340) were burdened by the fact that Larkin played more than 150 games in a season just four times in his 19-year career. By contrast, Biggio played 150 or more games in 11 of his 20 seasons. A versatile talent, the Seton Hall alumnus eclipsed Larkin in hits (3060), home runs (291), RBI (1175), runs (1844), and Gold Glove Awards (four compared to three for Larkin). The mind is confounded then by the fact that Larkin is a Hall of Famer and Biggio is not.

Is it because Larkin was more versatile? No, Biggio played three positions: second base, outfield, and catcher. Perhaps it’s the fact that Larkin has been a member of the media since 2008, and is conceivably more well-liked by writers than Biggio or any of the other potential Hall of Famers in this year’s class. That is certainly possible. In the end, it may just be the writers’ boisterous and bloviating egos punishing the players who made them look like fools fifteen years prior.

If a voter is going to support any player from the steroid era, they must support every player from that era. It can never be proven that certain players did or did not take steroids. Yes, we have the few who have admitted their guilt. But, Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza were not among them. These two superstars, these heroes to many and villains to none, should be writing their induction speeches in preparation for the greatest moment of their lives. Instead, they’re enduring the ramifications of other’s actions at the hands of the two-faced Baseball Writers Association of America. Baseball is America’s pastime and this nation was built on the foundation that every man or woman is innocent until proven guilty. Today is a dreary time for baseball, but, also a dark day for America. One can only hope that the future will hold brighter and better days for the BBWAA and worthy Hall of Famers like Biggio and Piazza.

NFL Divisional Playoff Picks

Posted: January 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

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Last week: 2-2
2012 season: 118-106-7

Baltimore Ravens (11-6) AT Denver Broncos (13-3)

The Scene: Saturday, January 12th. 4:30 PM on NBC.
The Spread: Denver by 8.5
The Pick: Denver
The Score: Denver, 38-13
The Rationale: There’s always one tremendous blowout on Divisional Playoff weekend. Last year it was New England-Denver, in 2010 it was Green Bay-Atlanta, and this year it will be Baltimore-Denver. It’s not that I think the Ravens are terribly overmatched by Denver’s offense. Instead, it’s the Baltimore offense that I’m concerned about. They succeeded at times against Indianapolis mainly because of the lack of physicality in the Colts’ secondary. You won’t find those same openings at Sports Authority Field. I truly believe that Peyton Manning is on a mission to prove every doubter wrong. Ending Ray Lewis’ career would be just the next step.

Green Bay Packers (12-5) AT San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)

The Scene: Saturday, January 12th. 8:00 PM on NBC.
The Spread: San Francisco by 3.5
The Pick: Green Bay
The Score: Green Bay, 21-19
The Rationale: The biggest weakness on both of these team is their kickers. Mason Crosby and David Akers are going through terrible seasons. To make matters worse, the 49ers signed Billy “Chokejob” Cundiff as insurance. This game will likely come down to a field goal here or there. Whichever kicker struggles less will help his team to within a win of Super Sunday.

Seattle Seahawks (12-5) AT Atlanta Falcons (13-3)

The Scene: Sunday, January 13th. 1:00 PM on Fox.
The Spread: Atlanta by 2.5
The Pick: Atlanta
The Score: Atlanta, 24-16
The Rationale: Russell Wilson has had a phenomenal season. But, I think people are getting a bit ahead of themselves this week. The Seahawks lost undoubtedly their best pass rusher for the season in Chris Clemons in last week’s victory over Washington. They’re now going up against one of the best pass offenses in football, especially at home in the Georgia Dome, where Matt Ryan tends to turn into a reincarnation of Dan Marino. The Seahawks’ will need to keep the ball out of Ryan’s hands if they have any hope of winning this game. That means a lot of Marshawn Lynch. I think for that reason alone, this will be within 10 points. But, the Falcons have too much at skate legacy wise to lose this one.

Houston Texans (13-4) AT New England Patriots (12-4)

The Scene: Sunday, January 13th. 4:30 PM on CBS.
The Spread:  New England by 9.5
The Pick: New England
The Score: New England, 28-14
The Rationale: Here’s the thing: The Patriots have the best passing offense in football. They’re facing a pass defense that struggled mightily down the stretch and the last time these teams played. Granted, Houston’s defense looked strong against Cincinnati last weekend. But, Andy Dalton is no Tom Brady (to say the least). Belichick will confuse Wade Phillips’ improved defense with no-huddle schemes en route to a double-digit victory for New England.

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Blue = Correct Pick
Red = Incorrect Pick
Black = Push

Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) AT Houston Texans (12-4)

The Scene: Saturday, January 5th. 4:30 PM on NBC.
The Spread: Houston by 4.5
The Pick: Cincinnati
The Score: Houston, 23-20
The Verdict: Houston, 19-13

Minnesota Vikings (10-6) AT Green Bay Packers (11-5)

The Scene: Saturday, January 5th. 8:00 PM on NBC.
The Spread: Green Bay by 7.5
The Pick: Green Bay
The Score: Green Bay, 28-14
The Verdict: Green Bay, 24-10

Indianapolis Colts (11-5) AT Baltimore Ravens (10-6)

The Scene: Sunday, January 6th. 1:00 PM on CBS.
The Spread: Baltimore by 6.5
The Pick: Baltimore
The Score: Baltimore, 24-17
The Verdict: Baltimore, 24-9

Seattle Seahawks (11-5) AT Washington Redskins (10-6)

The Scene: Sunday, January 6th. 4:30 PM on Fox.
The Spread: Seattle by 3.5
The Pick: Washington
The Score: Washington, 26-24
The Verdict: Seattle, 24-14

Record for the week: 2-2
Record for the year:
118-106-7