Sunday, December 11, 2016

Cal Should Dump Football Coach Sonny Dykes

I never root against Cal but when the Bears finished their football season a short while ago playing UCLA I was pulling for a Bruin rout. If the Bears were crushed and ended up with four measly wins and five straight losses, maybe athletic director Mike Williams might do the smart thing and show head coach Sonny Dykes the door.

But the Bears screwed up that scenario, beating up the Bruins, 36-10. It wasn't that difficult, considering the UCLA offense was so crippled, with star QB Josh Rosen out for the season, the offensive line in tatters and the rushing game virtually non-existent. So the Bears feasted on the wounded Bruins, giving Dykes a triumphant, season-ending win, making a grand total of five. That was enough to save his job.

Hot damn! Just what Bear fans needed, another sub-.500 season and at least one more year of Dykes' crappy coaching.
There was hope that Baylor, hunting for a replacement for Art Briles, might take him off our hands. According to rumors, they were interested in Dykes. But the Baylor bigwigs came to their senses, passing on five-win Dykes and hiring a real winner, Temple's Matt Rhule, who had led the Owls to first-ever consecutive 10-win seasons

So, Cal fans, brace yourselves. We're doomed to Dykes again..Sadly, as long as he's in charge the Bears won't crack the PAC 12 elite. Last year was the first time in his four years that the Bears had a decent season, with 8 victories. They seemed headed  in the right direction this year. But five wins ain't the right direction.

His problem is that he's a one-note coach. His only tune is offense. He really is good at it, though. His special skill is spotting QB talent and nourishing it. Jared Goff, a No.1 overall NFL draft pick, and Davis Webb, a sure No.1 selection in the next draft, are prime examples. Dykes offers entertaining, super-speed, high-scoring offenses. But what about wins? There he's woefully short. His overall Cal record is a pitiful 19-30.

That's because he doesn't care about defense. He recruits low-quality defensive players who are slow and minimally skilled, who can't tackle, who can't rush the passer, who can't cover opponents' wide receivers.

With Dykes at the helm, Cal will always have a super offense, a sub-par defense and a team that finishes in the middle or near the bottom of the PAC 12, settling for lower-tier bowls or going to no bowls at all and perennially losing to Stanford, USC and UCLA,

Enough, damn it..

Hopefully, others who are as fed up as I am with this incompetent coaching and losing seasons will join me in this impassioned plea to Cal athletic director Williams::


Friday, December 2, 2016

To Hell With Trump-Loving Patriots' Coach Bill Belichick

Screw Bill Belichick.

I've tried, really hard, to maintain positive feelings and admiration for the New England Patriots' head coach, but I just can't.  He's a Trump supporter. Recently he called the President-elect to congratulate him just after he beat Hillary Clinton. I've been steaming about that ever since. I can't believe Belichick actually likes Trump.

From now on, Belichck is in my doghouse. I always gave him credit for being sharp, smart and wise. Now, to me, he's just a misguided jerk who has swallowed the lies of a consummate con man.. How can he vote for and be buddies with a man who is a liar, a racist, a sexual predator--and that's just for starters?. Trump is a rotten human being, a dangerous demagogue who has no idea how to run a country. Some ugly years are ahead of us with this boob running things. I can't stomach Trump. Nor can I stomach a coach who pals around with him.
That's not all. Patriots' QB Tom Brady is also in the Trump camp. I used to be a Brady fan. But no more. To hell with him too.

With Belichick and Brady as Trump supporters, I can't look at the Patriots the same way ever again. Rooting for them will, for me from now on, be like rooting for Trump. I just can't do it.

I know, I know, it's not rational or reasonable. I wish I didn't feel this way. I'm sure there are some decent guys on the Patriots who loathe Trump as much as I do. But I can't help feeling this way.

Here's what really scares me. I'm a San Francisco 49er fan. What if Niners' coach Chip Kelly is a Trump supporter?. I'm also a Cal fan. What if head coach Sonny Dykes is a Trump follower?. What does that do to my allegiance to those teams? Damned if I know. I hope I never have to deal with that issue.

Ideally sports and politics should be kept separate. It's a lot simpler if you don't know the political views of your sports heroes. Then you can appreciate them for performance alone. Then views that clash with yours don't cloud the issue.

But in this case it's too late. I know Belichick's political views. I know Brady's views. To me, their views stink. It's a gut feeling and I'm going with my gut.

So screw Belichick and Brady, And damn the Patriots.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Why LA Rams Should Start QB Jared Goff

It's plain old QB Management 1A. So simple. But LA Rams head coach Jeff Fisher flunked this one badly. He keeps playing lousy Case Keenum, while Jared Goff, the NFL's overall No.1 pick in the last draft, strolls the sidelines waiting for a chance to play..

The Rams are tottering, 3-5 and in the middle of a four-game slump. Common sense says Fisher should bench Keenum and start ex-Cal QB Goff. But the coach is mule-stubborn,.clinging to the notion that the Rams have a shot at the playoffs and Keenum, not an untried rookie, gives them the best chance to grab one of those spots.

Fisher is clearly delusional.

The Rams aren't making the playoffs for two reasons--they're not good enough and, at the mid-season mark, are too far behind. They  have an exceptional defense, ranked No. 8, but a bottom-of-the-barrel offense, anchored by a so-so line and.led by a badly flawed QB..

Keenum, small and a mediocre scrambler, is a career backup who will never be a quality starter..His arm isn't very strong so there's no real deep, defense-stretching threat to take pressure off the run game. When rattled, he's likely to throw an interception. Way too often he'll over-shoot an open man. His only real advantage over Goff is his experience. Goff doesn't have any. 

At his best, though, Goff can throw accurately and deep. He has a skill-set that Keenum can only dream about. But playing Goff won't guarantee an offensive explosion. Like any rookie he will make plenty of mistakes and maybe even cost the Rams a game or two. Some rookie QBs--Zak Prescott, Carson Wentz, Cody Kessler--who all went lower in the draft than Goff. are starting and playing well. If given a chance, Goff just might play well too.

So Fisher should give him a shot. What do the Rams have to lose? Mired in a long losing streak, the team is barely scoring. Goff couldn't really do any worse than Keenum and, with his rocket arm,  just might do better. What's sorely missing from the Rams' offense is a deep-passing game, something Goff just might provide.

Another reason to play Goff is to find out how good he is and whether he really is the future of the franchise or just another blown pick. The Rams traded lots of picks to climb the draft ladder to snare Goff. Was that a smart move or a blunder? Do they need to continue QB hunting after this season?

There's only one way to find out.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Why The Warriors Won't Win the NBA Title

When the Golden State Warriors signed small forward Kevin Durant last summer, most people figured they would cruise to the NBA title..They already have two of the top five shooters in the league in guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Now with Durant, they have three. Who could beat them?

Actually several teams..

If you're betting on which team will win the NBA title, put your money on two other Western Conference aces, the Spurs or the Clippers, or even on the cream of the Eastern Conference, the Cavaliers, who whipped the Warriors in the Finals last June.

The Warriors will make it to the Western Conference Finals or even the NBA Finals. They just won't win.
Their problem? Their brilliant power forward Draymond Green. He's a nut, a loose cannon, a constant pain in the butt. They can't win without him. But the way he is now, they can't win with him either.

Every time he steps on the court he's a triple-double waiting to happen. He had 13 last season, unheard of for a power forward. There is nobody in the league like him. Nobody can do all the things he can do at such a high level. He's a point guard and a shooting guard rolled up in the cast-iron physique of a power forward. People who really know basketball will tell you that Curry isn't the team MVP, it's Green.

But according to sources close to two Warrior players, Green is also a cancer. He gets in fights with players and coaches. His ego is huge and needs considerable stroking. He's a constant source of locker room tension. He keeps the team on edge because they don't know what crazy thing he'll do next--like slapping LeBron James in the groin, which earned Green a suspension from Game 5 of last June's Finals, and triggered the slide which swept Cleveland to the championship..

One thing for sure. The addition of Durant has disturbed the team's dynamic and ruffled Green's ego. No question Green will get fewer shots, will figure less in the offense, will get fewer assists and triple-doubles. It was apparent in the preseason that Green was unhappy. It was clear in that ugly opening-day loss to the Spurs that all wasn't right with the team.

It's not going to get better. Quite possibly the Warriors will have to trade Green. That would seriously hurt the team since there's no power forward on the planet who can do all Green can do.

My guess? He's not with the team by the end of the season, Or maybe he stays and he's much less effective. Either way, this super team slips a few notches and become merely excellent.

So there's a very good chance that NBA title trophy won't be in Oakland next June after all.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Why The 49ers Are Not Playing Kaepernick

Let's face it, the San Francisco 49ers stink, battling Cleveland for the embarrassing title of NFL's Worst Team. The Niners are a pitiful 1-4. After shutting out the LA Rams the first week, they have lost every game, including Thursday night's fiasco, falling to Arizona 33-21.

Part of the reason the Niners are so bad is the abysmal play of QB Blaine Gabbert. Against Arizona, he was doing everything wrong--making dumb decision after dumb decision, missing open receivers, throwing into double coverage, visually zeroing in on targeted receivers so defenders knew where he planned to throw. He also had a bad case of happy feet. Gabbert was a walking disaster. What's worse, there's no sign he's getting better.

Which leads to the big question. Why is he still starting? Why is backup Colin Kaepernick, who is much more skilled, not playing, particularly since new coach Chip Kelly cherishes read-option plays that are Kaepernick's specialty? During the sparsely attended Arizona game, when Gabbert did something especially stupid, there were chants to put in Kaepernick.

Some people think the Niners are not playing Kaepernick as punishment for him leading an anti-police brutality protest movement that involves not standing up when the national anthem is played pregame. Wrong. Team management supports his activist activities and there's no evidence that these activities have created any locker room problems.

The Niners are reluctant to play Kaepernick for financial and contractual reasons. In other words, because of  money. He's earning $12 million now because he was injured most of last season and virtually untradeable and consequently still on the roster this past April 1. If the Niners play him now and he gets injured, the same scenario could play out again, but this time the stakes are higher. If  he's on the team April 1, 2017 he'll get $14.5 million.

They could cut him now but that would anger the liberals in their fan base. It would be smarter to wait til off dump him. So don't look for Kaepernick to be in a Niner uniform next season.

Meanwhile playing Kaepernick now would definitely increase the team's chances of winning games. But so what? They may win a few more games with him at QB but not nearly enough to make the playoffs. When LB Narvorro Bowman, the team's best player, was declared out for the season last week with a torn ACL, any remote chance the Niners had of making the playoffs evaporated.

Bottom line. Playing Kapernick now and risking him getting a serious injury enhances the chances of something the Niners don't want--him on the roster next April 1.

What about winning games? They will never say it out loud but the team management has an answer for that question--"who cares?"

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Trade Colin Kaepernick? Stupid Move

San Francisco 49ers' GM Trent Baalke has made some really stupid moves. So far, teaming with owner Jed York to run brilliant but difficult head coach Jim Harbaugh out of town has been his most infamous blunder. But Baalke is about to top himself. Looks like he's going to get rid of QB Colin Kaepernick.

Dumb, dumb,,,

This time Baalke has some powerful opposition--new coach Chip Kelly. A renowned QB guru, Kelly is no dummy. He doesn't want to lose Kaepernick  Give Kelly some raw material and, with his high-speed, unorthodox system,  he'll come up with a polished QB. Big, fast and blessed with one of the strongest arms in the league, the 28-year-old QB has all the tools. Just give Kelly time to work his magic..

Kaepernick isn't what he used to be. After a few good years, he's fallen on hard times, regressing drastically. Last season he was truly horrible. He's been slowed by injuries and his confidence, normally one of his strengths, has taken a major hit. Because he's still not 100%, he's been forced to take a backseat to a lame QB, Blaine Gabbert, who's been getting all the playing time. A healthy, fit Kaepernick leaves Gabbert in the dust.

One reason Kaepernick has been slow getting back to normal is his recent preoccupation with political activism. To protest racism and police brutality against minorities in America, Kaepernick, who is biracial, refuses to stand up when the national anthem is being played pregame, first sitting but now kneeling. All of a sudden, he's the center of a media firestorm. Some support him but many have been raging against him. Lately, he's even been receiving death threats.

No question, Kaepernick has been a distraction. Not only that, he's being paid around $12 million a year Baalke, no doubt, is thinking Kaepernick, now just a over-paid bench-warmer, is more trouble than he's worth.

What Baalke has to do is look past the current mess and focus on Kaepernick, the potentially great QB. Kaepernick led the Niners to the Super Bowl once, he can do it again. If you dump him, then what? Without him the 49ers are left with Gabbert and another stiff, minimally talented Christian Ponder. These are bottom feeders who aren't going to get any better. One huge problem with the Niner offense is that Gabbert is a lousy long passer, which keeps defenses clustered around the line of scrimmage, which is lethal to their running game. Face it. With Gabbert or Ponder running the offense, the Niners will never make the playoffs.

The 49ers have just one hope--a healthy Kaepernick schooled by Kelly. Possibly the coach can figure out how to get him back on the right track.Unquestionably, Kaepernick's activism will get in the way. Restoring the QB to peak form won't be easy but it can be done. Otherwise the team is headed for another crappy season, with three-to-five wins.

Fortunately the locker room, in turmoil when Kaepernick launched his career as an activist a few weeks ago, has settled down. Realizing he's their best shot at a good season, most of the players would like the keep the QB.

Hopefully GM Baalke comes to his senses and bails out of this dumb dump-Kaepernick mode. But, given his penchant for boneheaded moves, don't count on it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Fire USC Football Coach Helton!

Last Nov. 30,  USC hired interim coach Clay Helton as head football coach after he had posted a 5-2
record. I thought that was a big mistake. Not only wasn't he dynamic or creative or an exceptional leader or a big-time motivator or a superior bench coach but, most important, he had no head coaching experience. The prestigious SC job seemed too big for this career assistant.

Since he was hired he's coached three huge games--two last season, against Stanford and Wisconsin, and the season opener Saturday against No.1 Alabama, He blew all three, including Saturday's 52-6 mauling by Bama in Arlington, Texas. That one really turned off many SC fans, The "fire Helton" rants have already started.

Hate to say I told you so, but.......

Examine that Bama fiasco and you can only conclude that Helton doesn't know what the hell he's doing. It was one of the low points in the long, glorious history of USC football, the worst loss since Notre Dame crushed the Trojans 51-0 in 1966.  Who deserves the blame for this mess? It's all on Helton.

SC wasn't ready to play, though the team had several weeks to prepare.The SC players looked lost and tentative and, too often, were totally out of position. Helton and his staff were overwhelmed, misusing timeouts, making the wrong adjustments, etc. Sure Bama has superior players but the Trojans have some quality talent too. You wouldn't know it, though, from the way they staggered through the game..

SC hung in there through most of the first half but you knew it was just the calm before the storm. In the second half, after the Bama staff sized up the Trojans, the Tide really rolled. SC just rolled over and played dead. They actually quit. At times you could see they were just going through the motions. Helton and his staff didn't have a clue how to jar them out of that funk.

Bama piled up 465 yards of offense, while SC's offense couldn't even crack the 200-yard mark. The Trojans needed a strong run game but they couldn't put a dent in that brick wall set up by Bama's front seven, racking up a pitiful 64 rushing yards. Even in the second half, when Bama was playing its scrubs, SC was stymied. Part of the problem was the inexperienced Trojan QBs, who couldn't get the offense in gear. But Bama is just as inexperienced at QB, yet they managed to get the job done. You think Bama's smart, skilled coaching staff might be a primary reason?

This game should have been competitive, with a score like 30-17. A loss like that would have hurt but not as much as a blow-out. The SC players needed a boost, some savvy guidance and a kick in the butt from Helton and his staff, but didn't get any of that.

Go back to the last decade, during the Pete Carroll heyday. Can you imagine a Carroll-coached team getting pummeled like this? No way. SC might have lost but would have at least been competitive.

That's because Carroll was a good coach. But SC doesn't have a decent coach now. Since Carroll, there has been a parade of second-tier guys in charge. Helton may be the worst yet. So, SC fans, expect more stumbles during this season, particularly since the Trojans have one of the toughest schedules in the nation.

One thing you can be sure of, that the "Fire Helton!" cries will get get louder and louder.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Kaepernick Mess: Where It's Headed

San Francisco 49er QB Colin Kaepernick is in deep trouble. He's a football player who doesn't seem to care about football at the moment.

His football career is hanging by a thread, yet that's clearly not his focus. On Friday, he was launched into the realm of racial politics--on a national level yet. Just before the Niners played the Green Bay Packers, Kaepernick, who is biracial, decided not to stand during the pregame national anthem, protesting, he later explained, the nation's mistreatment of blacks and other minorities..

During the next 24 hours, all hell broke loose

Some fans support his protest. Others condemn him for disrespecting the flag and the anthem. He has the support of the Niner organization and the NFL doesn't require players to stand when the anthem is being played. But it's not possible penalties that's the problem. As a QB he's on shaky ground--actually. more like quicksand. This is the same QB who, a few seasons ago, was riding high, barely missing a Super Bowl win. Then in his mid twenties, big, with great speed and a rocket arm,  he was considered the model QB, the future of the NFL.

But in Friday's game, which the Niners lost 21-10, he looked terrible--sloppy passing, completing just 2 of 6 dinky throws, indecision, lackluster running,. Part of it was plain old rust. He hasn't played since last November, and it showed  He's also recovering from a shoulder injury, which has limited his practice time. Even more important, he's playing for a new coach, Chip Kelly, in a new system with many new players.

During the off season, Kaepernick, 28, wanted to be traded. The Jets and Broncos were possibilities but the Niners never could work out a deal. The problem was that his last two seasons were awful. He was regressing and no one could figure out why. Many thought Kelly, who has a knack with QBs, could fix whatever is ailing Kaepernick. But, because the QB has been rehabbing that bum shoulder, Kelly hasn't had a chance to do much with him.

Kaepernick isn't even good enough to reclaim his starting job from Blaine Gabbert, who has a fraction of Kaepernick's talent and has been regarded, at best, as a career backup.

But now Colin K not just a football player, he's also a civil-rights activist. That will be a major distraction from now on. The Niners probably aren't sure what to do with him. He has great potential, but will it ever be realized? His average annual salary is $19 million. Right now he's worth nowhere near that.

What happens now?

Kaepernick's career may be circling the drain at the moment, but he will resurrect it, with the help of Kelly or the coach of some other team. He has way too much talent to fall by the wayside.

But what will happen to Kaepernick the activist? Will he sit down again when the anthem is played pregame? All this raises an even bigger question. Will Kaepernick's protest trigger activism among other athletes, pro and/or college?

On this front, the next few months will be very interesting.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

How To Fix An NBA Game

Don't listen to the analysts who say fixing an NBA game is so complicated and insanely complex and involves so many people that it never happens.

That's rubbish. Fixes happen in the NBA. Not only that, they aren't all that difficult to execute..

By the way, the players aren't involved. It's just the refs--very few refs. In college, where fixing means point-shaving, gamblers involve players and that gets messy, because you're dealing with amateurs. So it often doesn't work. Limiting it to officials keeps it simple.

In the NBA, for the most part, fixing is shaving points to fix point spreads for gamblers. But at playoff time, it can also entail adjusting the game to help a team win to extend a series. Obviously, for TV networks, a six-or-seven game series is preferable to a four-game sweep or a five-game series. The longer the series, the more money for everybody. The networks downplay that or point out that's not true, but that's crap. The longer the series the more money for everybody. Period.

In the playoffs, in certain critical series, there are covert ways for refs to get orders to quietly do what they can to help underdogs. This doesn't go on in every game, just certain games in certain series..

Over the years a very small percentage of NBA refs have been working with gamblers, who have, here and there, leaked info that the NBA, at times, has also ordered adjustments in certain playoff games. My info comes from two sources that are close to three veteran gamblers.

The NBA isn't stupid. They have a whole network of checks and balances set up to spot fixes. The bad gays, though, are way ahead of the good guys. It's like in sports where there are tests to spot doping. The tests are always several steps behind, so it's tough catching the cheaters.

Here's a key point. Fixing an NBA game isn't always possible. Let's say, if the fix is on in five games, in two of them, it doesn't get done. Sometimes a ref looking to influence a game can't do it because the adjustments would be too obvious.

One way that refs can fix a game is by making the game look like it's sloppily refereed overall. In the context of many bad calls, it's easier to execute a fix. But if a ref is involved in too many badly called games, that hurts his record and may keep him from being assigned to important games. So fixers have to be careful with this tactic.

Game six of this Warriors-Cavaliers series was, from an officiating standpoint, a mess. Some of the calls were atrocious. Cleveland needed that win to tie the series and force a game seven. They got it. Some calls severely damaged the Warriors. Specifically, Steph Curry was in foul trouble the whole game, which effected his play, and eventually got him kicked out.

Some Warrior fans, even Golden Sate coach Steve Kerr, insist some of the calls against Curry were bogus.
Were they just bad calls or part of a fix? It's hard to say. But if it was a fix, it was nicely done.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Why The Cavaliers' Game Three Rout is Meaningless.

Relax, Golden State Warrior fans.

There's nothing wrong with your team. That 120-90 drubbing by the Cleveland Cavaliers is no cause for concern. What it meant is that the Warriors didn't take that game seriously. After crushing the Cavs in Oakland in the first two games of the Finals, they know they're better than Cleveland and can whip the Cavs when it counts. To the Warriors, that third game was a perfect time for a siesta.

The difference was the Warrior defense. In the first quarter you could see the GS defenders weren't sharp. They were a step slow, and often late on their rotations, playing closer to matador defense than lock-down defense. When Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving, a lame defender who tends to disappear in the clutch, scores 16 points in the first quarter, you know the defense is tanking.

Also, and very important, the Cavs were desperate. Losing that game meant slipping to an 0-3 deficit, essentially a death sentence. Desperate teams play all out for 48 minutes and tend to play way over their heads. That was Cleveland on Wednesday.

That day, the Warriors weren't even close to matching the Cavs'  intensity. It's nearly impossible for a team to switch its mental attitude once the game starts. If their heads aren't in the game and they start out in first gear, they are not going to shift into overdrive during the game. It's like the Warriors' loss to the lowly, pathetic Lakers during the season. Playing at their usual high level, the Warriors could destroy the Lakers by 40..But the Warriors, for some reason, were playing at half speed and got pummeled. They had that same I'm-on-vacation attitude on Wednesday.

You know something is wrong when the short-handed Cavs can kill the Warriors. Cleveland was without starting power forward Kevin Love, sidelined by a concussion. OK, so Love may be soft and slow-footed but he's still a decent player. In his place was ancient Richard Jefferson, who racked up 9 points and 8 boards. When Love comes back, he'll be sub par. Jefferson is too old to be effective for the rest of the series. With Love ailing, Jefferson will be forced to play more minutes than usual. Also, that will weaken an already weak bench.

Part of the Warriors' problem is that their big stars, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, have played poorly in the series. Curry, hampered by an injured knee, isn't in top form. But he still is healthy enough to beat the Cavs, who aren't capable of playing great defense--which they did on Wednesday--for long. With that bad bench, the team won't have the energy to keep the Warriors down the rest of the way.. 

To win the Finals, the Cavs have to win one in Oakland, which they simply don't have enough talent to do. The Warriors took a game off and they may do it again--on the road.

When the Warriors have to win games, they will do it. Remember, they beat the Thunder, which is a much better team than Cleveland.

So Warrior fans, you can relax. At the end of Finals, the Cavs will slink back to Cleveland, empty-handed..

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Golden State v Cleveland? Mere Anti-Climax

Golden State Warriors will battle the Cleveland Cavaliers for the NBA title. What's wrong with this announcement?


The NBA championship has already been settled. It happened early in the week. The problem is that it happened in a series with a misleading title. The Golden State Warriors beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in game 7 to win the Western Conference Finals. But Golden State did more than win the West. That was the unofficial NBA title series. They really won the league championship, their second in a row.

Hail the NBA champion Warriors!

Though billed as the NBA championship, this series between Golden State and Cleveland is just an anti-climax. Remember back in the 1980 Olympics, the "Miracle on Ice," when the US hockey team upset Russia, David v Goliath-style, in a semifinal round? Everybody treated that like a Gold Medal win. But it wasn't. The US still had to play Finland, a much lesser opponent, to claim the Gold Medal, which they did.

Golden State is in the same position as that 1980 US hockey team. The Warriors already beat the toughest competitor, Oklahoma City, but they still have to knock off another team, Cleveland, which is not as tough, to officially take the title.

The main question is whether the Warriors can get revved up enough to play the Cavaliers, who aren't as good as the best in the West. Cleveland wouldn't fare well against the other top Western teams. The Thunder would whip the Cavs in a seven-game series. So would the rugged San Antonio Spurs, who have the best defense in the NBA but only finished third in the West.

Cleveland won the East, but so what? In the playoffs, they powered through the powder-puff schedule like a buzz-saw through balsa wood, first shutting out Detroit and Atlanta. They had a little trouble with Toronto, losing two in Canada after blowing out the Raptors twice in Cleveland. What happened is that the Cavs got lazy and over-confident on the road, mailing in two low-intensity performances. But then Cleveland restored order in game five, showing Toronto who was boss with a demoralizing 116-78 victory, followed by a game 6 rout, cinching the Eastern crown.

Now the Cavs finally have to face a top-notch team. Cleveland is well rested, having played fewer games and having faced weak competition. But the Cavs have a huge problem--inferior defense. LeBron James will play at his usual high level, but rest of the Big Three, point guard Kyrie Irving and forward Kevin Love, don't have the skills to shut down the Warriors fast-paced offense, which is highlighted by deadly three-point shooting. When Steph Curry and Klay Thompson get in rhythm, they are unstoppable. The Thunder couldn't do it. The Cavs certainly can't.

The Warriors' only problem is energy and maintaining interest. That seven-game series against the Thunder was tense, brutal and draining. It may take a while for the Warriors to recover. They also know Cleveland isn't as formidable as the Thunder so they may be mentally in low gear for a game or two. So don't be surprised if Golden State loses one of the first two in Oakland.  

Bottom line: the Warriors, with Curry and Thompson, are simply much better than Cleveland, with a superior starting five, defense, offense and bench. Cleveland has the best all-around player, James, but that's not nearly enough. It shouldn't take six games, but even if it takes seven, the Warriors will officially win a title they unofficially already own.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Oklahoma City Chokers

There was really no need to play game seven of the NBA's Western Conference Finals. Officially Golden State beat Oklahoma City,96-88, to win the West. But the winner was a forgone conclusion. No way were the Warriors going to lose a game seven at home..

The matter was really settled Saturday, when the Thunder frittered away a lead at home in the final minutes, losing 108-101. The Thunder owned that game, leading nearly all the way, But they couldn't handle the pressure of those last few minutes. Nerves and anxiety gripped the Thunder players near the end. Instead of playing smoothly in those critical last few moments, they got rattled and flustered.

There's no other way to say it. The Thunder players choked--big time..

In those pressurized minutes, they couldn't do anything right. They were throwing wild passes, bricking shots, making horrible decisions, playing sloppy defense. You could see it in their eyes--the fear, the tension.

The Thunder had a 101-99 lead with nearly two minutes to go. But they didn't score again, while the Warriors scored nine points, looking confident in the clutch..

During the season, the Thunder blew many games in the fourth quarter. What would happen is their two stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, would suddenly play selfishly. When the Thunder got the ball on offense, either one would hog the ball, never passing. Either player would drive for a layup or take a heavily-contested jump shot, ignoring their teammates. They would revert to one-on-five, playground basketball.

Both would forget in those moments that the way they built the lead was playing team ball, with lots of passing, with Durant and Westbrook dishing off to teammates who had open shots. That's how they won the opening game of the Western Finals in Oakland, how they crushed the Warriors in Oklahoma City in games three and four, taking what seemed to be an insurmountable 3-1 lead.

But the Thunder played less intensely in game five, losing in Oakland, gearing up to clinch the series in game six in Oklahoma City. Things went according to plan, until those last few minutes, when they had to keep their heads and play with poise. But they couldn't do it. The situation was too overwhelming. They collapsed, while the Warriors played like champs.

Series was really over then..

Both teams still had to play game seven but the outcome was never in doubt, even when the Thunder had a double-digit lead in the first half. The Thunder wasn't going to win. Deep down they knew it. So did the Warriors, who outscored the Thunder 29-12 in the third quarter. That was the game. In the fourth quarter, the Warriors lead all the way, with Stephen Curry leading the way. The Thunder crept close a few times, but could never hit the clutch shots to put them in the lead. Meanwhile, the Warriors hit clutch shot after clutch shot.

According to two sources close to the team, the Thunder players were squabbling and finger-pointing while flaming out late in game six. Apparently the bickering continued up to game seven. That solid, united front the Thunder presented up to game time was just that--a front..

The Thunder second-half collapse in game seven was no surprise. They were doomed--and they knew it. They played tentatively and erratically in crunch time--just what you'd expect from chokers.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Oklahoma Thunder To Beat Warriors In Six Games

All the drama has been drained out of the Western Conference Finals, with the Oklahoma Thunder roaring to a 3-1 lead over the champion Golden State Warriors in the seven-game series.

Yet some do say the Warriors can rally and win three straight. They're dreaming..

Based on what has already happened, this is what's most likely to happen: OKC wins in six. Look for the Thunder to lose Thursday in Oakland. It's similar to their lone loss, 112-91, a beat-down in the second game in Oakland. Then the Thunder shocked the basketball world by winning the series opener on the road, against a team that rarely loses at home. OKC's goal was a split in the first two road games. They got that victory in the first game so they were indifferent to winning the next one. Also, they expended so much energy winning that first one that they needed to recharge. So, with minimal opposition from the Thunder, the Warriors stormed to a victory in that second game..

Golden State fans relaxed and gloated that their team would cruise from then on. They were already mulling over how the Warriors would play against Cleveland in the Championship series.

But wait...

That wasn't the real OKC in that second game. The real OKC showed up and destroyed the Warriors in the the next two in Oklahoma City.

Now what?

Worn out from the last two wins, OKC should take another breather on Thursday. The Warriors, backs against the wall, should come out desperate and play like champs, giving their all to avoid that series-ending fourth loss. Meanwhile, the Thunder will revert to their cruise-control form of the second game and focus on recharging and resting up for Saturday's game in Oklahoma City.

Then OKC will play like they did in those last two home games. It will be a blitzkrieg of passion and fury for a full 48 minutes. The Warriors will play really hard, but won't be able to match the overpowering force of the Thunder, who will give the most supercharged performance in franchise history.

Their motivation? Avoiding a seventh game in Oakland, which they could easily lose..

Don't rule out a Thunder win on Thursday. OKC looks like the better team, particularly with Warrior stars Stephen Curry and Draymond Green in subpar form. But a Thunder win in this game is not likely against a super-motivated Golden State.

If you're betting, smart money is on the Thunder in six.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Why The Thunder Will Whip Warriors in Game 3

The Thunder should topple the Warriors in game three of the Western Conference Finals, currently tied 1-1, on Oklahoma City.

Don't laugh. I'm serious.

Like most fans, you're probably misreading the situation. That means looking at the Warriors' 118-91 rout of the Thunder in Wednesday's game two as an indication that Golden State will roll over OKC in the remainder of the seven-game series.

That's not going to happen. The problem is that everyone is reading too much into that game two win.

That wasn't the real Thunder you saw getting trampled by the Warriors on Wednesday. The Thunder players were in cruise mode. They felt they didn't need that game. They went into Oakland, hoping to win one of the two games there, opening the Finals. Surprise! They won the opener, 108-102, a remarkable feat considering the Warriors are just about unbeatable at home. OKC got their win on the first try. They were content to leave Oakland tied 1-1. So for the time being, they had wrested home-court advantage from the Warriors. Mission accomplished.

Consequently, to the Thunder, that Wednesday game wasn't essential. They certainly played like it wasn't. They already had their win, so they played with no real intensity, no grit, no relentless focus, no sense of urgency. It was far from their best effort, many notches below their performance in the first game. One of their strengths is offensive rebounding. Their burly big men--Steven Adams and Enes Canter--weren't furiously crashing the boards and patrolling the paint like they did in the opener,.

The Warriors owned the Wednesday game before it started. Had they lost they would have been down 0-2 with the series shifting to Oklahoma City. They would have been in a very deep hole, having to win four out of the remaining five games. Also, losing two consecutive home games would have been demoralizing and confidence-shaking. No question, they were in desperation mode. It would have taken a monumental effort by the Thunder would beat the inspired Warriors, in Oakland, in that second game.

In gambling circles, Wednesday's contest was considered a Golden State lock. The Warriors were an 8 1/2 point favorite. Many heavyweight bettors, putting big bucks on GS, cleaned up.

But Sunday's game, in Oklahoma City, will be an entirely different story. You'll see the Thunder you saw in the series' opener--super-intense, focused, ferocious, playing punishing defense, especially on the perimeter. They'll be dedicated to keeping the Golden State sharp-shooters out of their comfort zone. Cut down on the Warriors' three-point production and you can beat them.

The Thunder need this game. Chances of them winning again in Oakland are slim. The Warriors are unlikely to drop two home games in a series where they have home-court advantage. So if the Thunder are going claim the Western championship, they will have to win all their home games.

The Warriors weren't seriously challenged by the Thunder on Wednesday. They will be on Sunday, Fueled by an over-the-top urgency, the Thunder players will give their all for 48 minutes..If they lose this game, they will probably lose the series. That threat will be their driving force.

OKC is the underdog, but by a slim 2 1/2 points. If you're a gambler, put some money on them. When they are at the top of their game, giving maximum effort, they can beat anybody. They are that good. Remember, in this playoff run they have road wins over two teams--the Spurs and the Warriors--that seemed invincible at home.

Look for OKC, in their house, to come away with a victory on Sunday..

Monday, May 2, 2016

Lakers Hire Head Coach Luke Walton--Another Mistake?

Once again the LA Lakers' fans are in la-la land. They're so eager to get rid of the stench of the last few seasons, they're ignoring reality and indulging in their favorite pastime--looking at the NBA through rose-colored glasses.

They are looking at new coach Luke Walton as the team's ticket back to the promise land. This, of course, is because of Walton's success as the No.1 assistant coach of the Golden State Warriors, the reigning NBA champs who are favored to repeat..

What has fans salivating over Walton is that, when Warriors' head coach Steve Kerr missed the first half of this season, Walton took over, piloting the team to a glossy 39-4 record, including a league record 24-0 start. Kerr returned for the second half, leading the Warriors to break the coveted NBA season wins record by one, reaching 73.. For his efforts, Walton tied for 8th in the coach-of-the-year race, which was won by Kerr,.

Naturally Walton has been the hottest coach around, the one fancied by just about every team with a head-coaching vacancy. But he chose the Lakers, where he spent nine years as a backup forward, earning rings in 2009 and 2010.

However, does his success with the Warriors mean he has the skill, smarts and patience to clean up the mess that is the Lakers? The fans enthusiastically say "Yes!." But are they off base?


Walton, 36, is really a wet-behind-the-ears novice. Aside from heading the Warriors for a few months he has no head coaching experience and, with Memphis and Golden State, limited assistant-coaching experience.. Being temporary head coach of the Warriors is something just about any NBA assistant could do. This is the most fundamentally sound team in the league, excelling in offense and defense, always blocking out, sprinting through transitions, rarely flubbing rotations, doing just about everything right. In preseason the players decided to chase the Chicago Bulls' 72-win season record, so they were committed to playing hard for 48 minutes every game. They had no serious injuries or major tensions between players that would derail their effort.

So if Walton didn't have to motivate the players or juggle lineups due to injuries or break up fights, what did he really have to do? Not that much. The Warriors are a well-oiled machine that basically runs itself. All Walton had to do was get out of the way and not do anything to screw things up. That's certainly easy enough. It was like being behind the wheel of a Ferrari set on cruise control...

But does what he did with the Warriors qualify him to rejuvenate the Lakers?. Now he's been handed the keys to a broken-down jalopy and asked to turn it into a sleek sports car. That's something entirely different.

This time Walton is starting from square one. He has a core of talented young players that don't know how to play together. For the last two years coach Byron Scott, who was just fired, put player development on the back-burner, primarily focusing on managing Kobe Bryant's final years. One of Walton's main jobs will be restoring players' faith in point guard D'Angelo Russell who, in a infamous, juvenile internet scandal, threw teammate Nick Young under the bus. That's a major problem that will require skillful handling.

Righting the sinking Lakers' ship is unlike anything Walton has ever done. At 36, he's close to the age of his players and is known as a players' coach. But is that a good thing? Getting the Lakers back on track might require tough, veteran leadership. It was available in stern, defense-minded Tom Thibodeau, who was interested in the Lakers job. But the team never made a move to get him, so he was hired by the Minnesota Timberwolves to lead that promising young  team..

In next few years, here's a likely scenario: the Wolves flourish while the Lakers flounder, with Thibodeau basking in praise while Laker management, once again, is getting blasted for hiring the wrong coach.

If this scenario plays out--and I think it will--disgruntled Laker fans may finally have to ditch those rose-colored glasses.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Kobe's 60-point Finale--Totally Bogus

All you Laker fans are in la-la land, Do you really think Kobe Bryant's 60-point outburst in that 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz was for real? It was bogus, carnival-sideshow time.

Utah was in on it. Their players let it happen. They didn't care about the game. It meant nothing to them. They knew when they were playing that their slim hope of squeezing into the playoffs had vanished, that their season was over after that game. So they clearly switched into low gear, playing minimal defense. If Utah had been playing seriously, trying to win, Kobe might have scored 15-20 points, shooting 20-30%--his usual so-so game.

This game was an aberration, even from the Lakers' standpoint. Kobe's teammates were feeding him, letting him take almost every shot. So he took 50, making 22, which, with all the help he was getting, wasn't all that difficult. It was like an exhibition game, on a lower level than even the All-Star game.

What was the point? All it proved is that Kobe could score a lot of points playing against a soft defense in an offense geared to setting him up. He's a broken-down, twenty-year yet. The only way he could score 60 is with a lot of help from both teams.

It was all fake but Bryant acted like it was for real. Many fans, not knowing the Utah players were mentally on vacation, thought it was real too.

Call it a massive exercise in ego-stroking. For Kobe fans it was fun. For the rest of us it was just an irritant, something to avoid.

I, for one, am glad the Bryant circus is finally history. With him and all the nonsense associated with his retirement in the rear view mirror, the Lakers can get back to focusing on winning games.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Fed Up With Kobe Bryant And That Final Tour

Are you as sick to death of Kobe Bryant as I am? Has all this fawning and gushing over the LA Lakers' retiring guard been turning your stomach? Are you as happy as I am that it is finally over?

This "final tour" wasn't at all necessary. What did it accomplish aside from stroking Bryant's insatiable ego? Yes he was a great player but players better than him retired without all the over-the-top fanfare. When Michael Jordan and Kareem and Wilt and Bird and Magic called it a career, nothing remotely like this happened.

This has been the worst season in Lakers' history, with only 16 wins. Of course, the record would be better if the team had been concentrating on winning games rather than showcasing Bryant  The Lakers have a nucleus of good young talent, including D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance and Julius Randle. This season they were supposed to learn to play together. We were supposed to get some idea whether they fit in the Lakers' future. But we found out very little because the focus was on Kobe, not them.

What these young players mainly learned was how to play with a broken-down has-been who keeps demanding the ball even though his shooting skills have woefully diminished. He can sometimes score in the 20s and 30s but it takes him so many shots and totally throws the rest of the team out of positive offensive rhythm. When he's on the floor it's all about feeding him, not playing team basketball. How's that for a learning experience?

When it's time to play defense and Kobe is on the floor, the Lakers have been in real trouble because Bryant can't play defense any more, so it's four Lakers vs five opponents. You can't win many games that way.

So, for the Lakers, this has been a wasted season. The coach, Bryon Scott, is probably a lame duck. He's there now because he knows Kobe and Kobe is more comfortable having an old friend as a coach during this final season. Once again, it's all about Kobe and what makes him happy, not about the team.

As you might expect, the Lakers are circling the drain. They had hoped to attract some free agents for next season. There's plenty of money because they won't have squander any more on overpaying Kobe. But what quality free agent wants to step into the Laker chaos?

While the Kobe circus has been grinding on, there has been an ugly D'Angelo Russell mess playing out. Russell recorded Nick Young making comments that have compromised his romance with rapper Iggy Izalea. That record came out on the Internet. Russell claims he didn't release it but few believe him. The players are furious with Russell and now thoroughly distrust and dislike him..According to sources close to the team, things are so bad the Lakers may have to trade him. The Lakers haven't been able to give this critical issue their full attention.

I'll give you one guess why.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

UCLA In Lose-Lose Bind--Keeps Coach Alford

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero was backed into an ugly situation with head basketball coach Steve Alford this week--fire him or keep him. Actually though, UCLA was screwed either way, a classic lose-lose situation.

Guerrero chose the lesser of two evils or, as some argue, the chicken's way out. He didn't fire him. So Alford lives to screw up another day.

Guerrero was backed into this corner after the Bruins were crushed by USC in the PAC 12 tournament this week and the angry calls for Alford's scalp reached such a deafening roar that the AD couldn't ignore.them.

It was a tough decision for Guerrero. Both choices are riddled with nasty consequences:

Keep Alford and you have positives, like sidestepping the chaotic upheaval caused by an abrupt coaching change and retaining the dazzling top-five recruiting class and avoiding that $10.4 million buyout that Alford would get paid to hit the road. But there's also a huge downside in not firing Alford..

First and foremost, you are guaranteed another season of lousy coaching. At times it's blatantly clear that Alford doesn't know what the hell he's doing. He doesn't make smart adjustments during games, he plays the wrong lineups and concocts ineffective game plans. His players are woefully undisciplined, often seem unprepared and are wildly inconsistent, a sign they are poorly coached. He insists on playing son Bryce at point guard, where he's slow and a major liability on defense. Sources close to two players say the some players quietly resent Bryce, creating a negative tension that has been harmful all season. In that critical USC game, the players looked disinterested and clearly weren't giving their best effort. That's a reflection of coaching. The list of coach Alford's weaknesses goes on and on. Guerrero was under fire because donors were in mutiny mode, threatening to pull support and boycott games if Alford wasn't canned. In addition, the fans base was screaming for Alford's head.

So, fire Alford?

Not so fast. That path is littered with thorns too, just different ones. First of all, you reward this bad coach by paying him $10.4 million to go away. What an incredible waste of money, something that would haunt the program for years and anger donors who foot the bill..Then you have to quickly  find another coach, something Guerrero was not prepared to do, creating a very dangerous situation--hiring in haste. That might lead to a bad choice, maybe even bringing in another Alford. It's possible this new coach might not fit the coveted recruiting class, impeding the development of these young players, which would be reflected in the win column next season.

So Guerrero decided to keep Alford.

Unfortunately it's "lose" again but in a different way. Of course, the coaching won't improve, which will make it difficult for the team to get better. For the hotshot frosh to develop their skills and generate wins, they need quality coaching, which they are unlikely to get from Alford. Also, the negative Bryce factor is still there, undermining the team once again.

Bottom line. The Bruin players laid down in the USC game, against their most bitter rival, and played like crap--embarrassing the school. The bulk of next season's team will be made up of these players who quit on their coach. So the prized freshmen will step into a toxic situation, with dispirited teammates, disconsolate donors and a pissed-off fan base. The weight of the program will be on their young shoulders.

A recipe for disaster? Without question.

There's a very good chance, under all that pressure, coach Alford will flop next season. If he finally gets kicked out, don't be surprised if Guerrero, who helped create this mess, follows him out the door.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Kobe Bryant: Selfish, Greedy Egomaniac

I'm sick of Kobe Bryant and that damned farewell tour.

After an illustrious, twenty-year career, the Laker guard is retiring at the end of this season. So his farewell tour--involving all his home games and his final appearances in various NBA cities--has been dragging on all season. Why doesn't he do it the gentlemanly, humble way and go quietly? No, he has to turn it into a circus. How typical. It's Bryant saying: what you'd expect from an egomaniac: "Laud me, celebrate me, recognize me as a great player."

This tour is just a pile of ego-stroking crap.

What makes it so ridiculous is that, right now, Kobe is terrible. Actually, he's been terrible for the last few years. What fans are seeing on this tour is a shell of a once great player. It brings back ugly memories of Hall of Fame center fielder Willie Mays in his last year, back in 1973, when, at 42, as a New York Met, he was stumbling around the outfield and being handcuffed by even bad pitches. That was embarrassing. So is this Bryant farewell circus..

Bryant's legs are shot. He can't elevate any more. In fact, due to age and injuries, he hasn't been able to jump effectively for the last several years. So naturally his jump shot is constantly off. Even lame defenders can force him into erratic shots. Yet he continues to be a ball-hog, demanding the ball, shooting as much as 15-25 times per game, No matter that his shooting percentage is miserable. In keeping with his me-me-me attitude, he just keeps on shooting and shooting.

And defense? For Kobe that's a thing of the past. One reason the Lakers are laboring through the worst season in their history, with just eleven wins, is that Bryant is a defensive liability. When the Lakers are on defense, they are outnumbered 5-4, thanks to Kobe the obstacle.With him in the lineup winning is nearly impossible. But this season, the Lakers' main purpose is showcasing Bryant, not winning games.

For a team supposedly dedicated to winning, how insane is that?

For the Lakers, this has been a wasted year. It was supposed to be devoted to developing the corps of young talent, including Julius Randle, D'Angelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr and Jordan Clarkson. But the offense still centers around Bryant, who plays around 30 minutes a game.. That's stupid for two reasons. First of all, why spend time on a Bryant-dominant offense when he won't be around next year? And how can the youngsters learn when they're merely background figures?

Bryant screwed things up before the season started by taking a whopping $20 million-plus salary that made it impossible for the team, which has been struggling the last few years, to sign any top-notch talent. What he should have done in his final season is play about ten minutes a game and take a pay cut down to what he's really worth--about $10 million annually. He doesn't really need all the millions he's virtually stolen from the Lakers these last few years. He already has enough money to last several lifetimes. Why not do what team-oriented greats like Tim Duncan and Tom Brady and Dirk Nowitski have done late in their careers--take less money and leave millions to help their team sign needed players?

Help the team? Apparently that has never crossed the mind of this selfish egomaniac.

According to insiders, Bryant's teammates hate playing second fiddle to this attention-starved has-been and can't wait until this horrible season is over. The insiders add that many of his teammates don't like him.

I'm with them.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Super Bowl: How Denver Will Upset Carolina

Super Bowl 50 is commonly viewed as a David vs Goliath match, with the Carolina Panthers poised to crunch the Denver Broncos. Many experts predict a blowout, insisting the Broncos don't have a chance in hell.

Not so fast.

The underdog Broncos just might pull off the upset. The expeerts who are forecasting Denver's demise are either forgetting or downplaying the team's signature strength--its defense.This is not just a good defense, it's a great one, up there with the bone-crunching  Baltimore Ravens' crew that won the Super Bowl after the 2000 season.

The Broncos' stats are impressive. Their defense leads the league in yards allowed (283.1), passing yards per game (199.6) and sacks (52), and is third in rushing yards allowed (83.6). Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware are the NFL's most lethal pass-rushing pair, teaming up for 18.5 sacks, The secondary, featuring CBs Chris Harris Jr. and Aqid Talib and safety Darian Stewart, is second to none. True, the Panthers boast the league's No.1 offense, scoring 31 points a game under the leadership of the top NFL QB, linebacker-sized Cam Newton, But the Panthers haven't had to contend with a defense this talented and this ferocious. They also have to contend with the baffling schemes of Denver's defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who's arguably the best in the business.

The Panthers have been elevated to this pedestal because they have just one loss and also because they looked so dominant in the playoffs, whipping Seattle, after jumping off to a 31-point lead, and embarrassing the Arizona Cardinals, who many thought were the best team in the playoffs. In retrospect, beating the Cardinals was no big deal. Their aging QB Carson Palmer was awful in both playoff games. Arizona's demolition by Carolina was more a function of Palmer's ineptness than the Panthers' skill.

Beating the Panthers won't be easy. They have a rugged, top-five ranked defense that should make it tough for Denver to gain much yardage. Ancient Bronco QB Peyton Manning has a dead arm and is hobbled by foot and rib injuries that make it hard for him to get any velocity on his passes. It doesn't help that the Denver running game is just passable. The Broncos will be lucky to score 17 points. But the Denver defense should keep the Panthers' offense in check and well below its scoring average.

This game shapes up to be a repeat of the 2007 Super Bowl, in which the undefeated, heavily-favored New England Patriots played the New York Giants, who were deemed dead meat.. But the Giants, behind a murderous defense and the clutch passing of QB Eli Manning, won 17-14. David, as it turned out, toppled Goliath. It can be done.

To beat the Panthers, the Broncos' defense has to rattle QB Newton, limit his running and scrambling, disrupt his rhythm, and clamp down on the Panther receivers, a task that, for this secondary, won't be that difficult. As a group, the Panther WRs are just modestly talented. Because of his speed, Ted Ginn Jr is the most dangerous of the lot. But he's inconsistent, tends to run so-so routes and is prone to dropping passes.
One huge advantage the Broncos have is Super Bowl experience. They were in the Super Bowl just two years ago, so the circus-like atmosphere is nothing new for many Denver players and coaches. However, this is a totally new experience for the Panthers, who are likely to get a case to the Super Bowl jitters and make some critical errors.

The way this game will play out is strength against strength, the Broncos' defense against the Panthers' offense. Edge to Broncos' defense.

Look for Denver to win a low-scoring game.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Six Reasons Why New England Will Beat Denver

Denver Bronco fans, enjoy Peyton Manning while you can in the AFC Championship game in Denver.. Surely the 39-year-old QB won't be back next season. So this will be his farewell performance. Denver won't be going to the Super Bowl this year. New England will see to that.

Here are six reasons why the Patriots will win:.

Reason No. 1:  Peyton Manning isn't Peyton Manning any more. He's a shell of the great QB he used to be. That gunslinger arm is more like a wet noodle now. He's not accurate beyond 15 yards. He's not a passing TD threat any more. These days, he throws more picks than TD passes. His INT total, 17, was second worst in the NFL during the regular season. In the past three games he hasn't had a completion longer than 34 yards. Defenses crowd the line of scrimmage against Denver because there is no deep threat, making it much easier to stop the Bronco offense. In their win over the Steelers last week, the Bronco receivers made things worse by dropping seven passes. Manning's  famed skill at reading defenses is still intact, but he can no longer execute like he once did. He's just a game manager now, and more of a liability than an asset.

Reason No. 2: The Patriots have their main receivers back. When Denver beat the Patriots 30-24 in OT on Nov 29, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman were hurt and Rob Gronkowski went down late in the game, so QB Tom Brady had no weapons in OT. This time Brady is fully armed. No team can adequately cover the best clutch receiving corps in the NFL. Denver won't be able to do it. The Patriots lack a scary running attack because of injuries, but that doesn't matter. That Patriot passing game will be enough.

Reason No. 3: The Patriots have a considerable edge in coaching, with Bill Bilichick towering over Denver's Gary Kubiak. Coaches are responsible for assorted adjustments and strategies during the course of a game. Nobody is better at that than Belichick. 

Reason No. 4: The Bronco defense is overrated--very good but not in a class with the great Ravens' defenses or the Seahawks defenses that carried Seattle to back-to back Super Bowls. Last week, without super receiver Antonio Brown, Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger, limited by a bum throwing arm, torched the Bronco secondary for 339 yards. What do you think a healthy Patriot passing attack will do to that secondary?

Reason No. 5:  To beat the Patriots, Denver will need turnovers--lots of them in key situations. That's not likely to happen. New England led the league with just 14 turnovers. In the last four games, the Patriots have turned the ball only three times. 

Reason No. 6 : The Patriots' superior offensive line, which is among the best at pass-protection, will slow down the Broncos' vaunted pass rush and give Brady time to throw. In the second half of the season, the Denver pass rush, ferocious in the first half, hasn't been nearly as effective. The only way to stop Brady is with a killer pass rush. Downgraded to merely very good, the Denver pass rush won't get the job done against the Pats' offensive line.

In betting terms, the Patriots are favored by three. But the game is essentially a pick 'em.  Denver gets three points for playing at home, which wipes out the Pats' three-point edge, evening things up.

Smart money, though, is on New England.

Monday, January 11, 2016

How Underdog Clemson Can Beat Alabama

Remember how Texas QB Vince Young, an awesome runner and a capable passer, destroyed USC  in the national championship game, a 41-38 thriller, in January, 2006?. Something similar could happen in today's game, with Clemson QB, Deshaun Watson,  going all Vince-Young on Alabama.

Watson, who's just a sophomore, is the reincarnation of Young, The ACC's Watson is the best player in the country, though bullish Bama RB Derrick Henry won the Heisman, thanks to the usual SEC bias. Watson is the best running QB since Young, superior to Heisman winners Manziel, Tebow and Mariota.

This championship game comes down to Watson vs the great Bama front seven, the best in college football. Can they contain him? In the playoff battle on New Year's Eve,  tough, talented Oklahoma couldn't handle Watson and fell pretty easily 37-17. But the Sooners' front seven is no where near as good as Bama's, which is big, fast and particularly skilled at ranging side-to-side and pressuring QBs, having recorded 50 sacks, tops in the country. Watson controlled that game with his scrambling and rushing, piling up145 yards on 24 carries, part of Clemson's whopping 550 total.

Watson will have plenty of help. The Clemson offensive line, which doesn't get nearly enough attention, is among the nation's elite. They can hold their own against the Bama defensive front and give Watson room to work.

Bama's offense, featuring Henry's rushing, is underwhelming, particularly its poor passing game. The Bama QB Jake Coker is, at best, average,  The Tide won't kill you with passing or long drives, ranking a pitiful 96th nationally in 3rd down conversions. Clemson's game plan is obvious--stack the line to stop Henry and dare Coker to beat you with this passing, which he can't.

Coach Dabo Swinney's Clemson has won all its 14 games this season and is on a 17-game win streak, beginning late last season. Nick Saban's Alabama team has lost just once, falling to Ole Miss last September in Tuscaloosa, 43-37, mainly because the Rebels won the turnover battle 5-0.

Bama is a 6.5 favorite over Clemson. Much of that is based on the Tide's 38-0 massacre of Michigan State in the semi-final game. Experts are giving that easy victory way too much weight. MSU, with its lame offense, didn't belong in that final-four game.

Clemson is a much better all-around team, with a monster at QB. If you're betting, take the underdog. You're betting on Watson pulling a Vince-Young.

He just might do it.