Saturday, December 24, 2011

NFL Week 16 Picks: Philadelphia Eagles Stay in Playoff Hunt with Win Over the Dallas Cowboys

With Christmas Day on a Sunday this year most NFL games will take place on Christmas Eve. To prepare for the holidays there are some juicy showdowns with lots of playoff implications, specifically the Eagles against the Cowboys and the intra-city match-up featuring the Jets and Giants.

Who do you think will win?

I incorrectly picked Houston to beat the Colts on Twitter on Thursday.

Oakland over KANSAS CITY

TENNESSEE over Jacksonville

NEW ENGLAND over Miami

CINCINNATI over Arizona

Denver over BUFFALO

PITTSBURGH over St. Louis

New York Giants over NEW YORK JETS

Minnesota over WASHINGTON

Tampa Bay over CAROLINA

BALTIMORE over Cleveland

DETROIT over San Diego

Philadelphia over DALLAS

SEATTLE over San Francisco

GREEN BAY over Chicago

NEW ORLEANS over Atlanta

This Week: 0-1

Last Week: 10-6

Overall: 144-84

Photo Credits.
LeSean McCoy: AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Saturday, December 17, 2011

NFL Week 15 Picks: New England Patriots Will Stop Tim Tebow's Roll

I picked the Falcons and Cowboys to win on Twitter

HOUSTON over Carolina

NEW YORK GIANTS over Washington

Miami over BUFFALO

Seattle over CHICAGO

New Orleans over MINNESOTA

Cincinnati over ST. LOUIS

Tennessee over INDIANAPOLIS

Green Bay over KANSAS CITY

OAKLAND over Detroit

New England over DENVER

New York Jets over PHILADELPHIA

ARIZONA over Cleveland

SAN DIEGO over Baltimore

SAN FRANCISCO over Pittsburgh

This week: 2-0

Last Week: 12-4

Season: 134-78

Photo Credits.
Tom Brady: AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The New York Red Bulls Roster Continues to Be a Revolving Door

In 16 seasons the New York Red Bulls/MetroStars have had 12 different head coaches and seven different general managers or sporting directors. Close to 300 players have suited up for the team since its inception.

Year after year there is constant turnover: coaching changes, management changes, roster overhauls. Yet the team has never found the right mix therefore has never won a trophy of any kind, whether that be the MLS Cup, Supporter’s Shield or U.S. Open Cup.

After the 2011 season, which can only be described as a failure due to high expectations coming into the year, the house cleaning begins again.

We know that Sporting Director Erik Soler will return in 2012 along with head coach Hans Backe. The team has decimated its roster however. Alex Horwath, Mike Jones, Tyler Lassiter, Marcos Paullo, John Rooney and Teddy Schneider were all waived. Carlos Mendes (the longest tenured player on the roster and lone MetroStar remaining), Bouna Coundoul and Chris Albright did not have their options picked up and Stephane Auvray was released. Greg Sutton, in a complicated loan move with expansion squad Montreal Impact, will also not be back this year.

None of those players were starters. A number of them hardly ever even made the bench. And that’s still with the situations of Frank Rost and Brian Nielsen still up in the air.

Some may say there’s nothing wrong with getting rid of dead weight especially when the team failed to meet expectations but there is a bigger issue at hand with the roster.

If you look at the list of guys let go five players that were rookies last season were let go and another two players were in their first year with the team. Auvray didn’t even have a full season; he was acquired in a trade in August.

The organization is not developing young players or team chemistry.

In professional sports unless you are the New York Yankees or Manchester United you can’t just pay for new players every year. You need to develop young talent. It’s a cost-effective way to become help become successful.

In team sports chemistry is important. Guys need time to gel and learn each other’s tendencies. You also have to want to play and sacrifice not only for yourself but for the guy next to you as well. The more you’re willing to do and sacrifice, the better the outcome can be. And many times it takes some sort of relationship to develop over time for players to put that kind of trust into each other.

Also, players need to feel confident and think they have some sort of security on the team. It’s difficult to play your best when you’re constantly looking over your shoulder after every play wondering if you’re going to get yanked. It’s tough to feel settled and at ease when game-by-game you don’t know if you’ll be returning to the team the next day (Remember how Dwayne De Rosario was acquired and sent packing in a matter of months during the season?)

Alas, the New York Red Bulls management ignores all these things. Players are pieces of Monopoly property that get traded and sold at will.

It’s one thing if a team clears its roster to put forth a new foundation that will build the team for the next few years. But that becomes a moot point when the team is brand new year-in and year-out. If you don’t bring in quality players to replace the released ones, then what was the point of the roster overhaul to begin with? And if guys can’t last a year with the same team (not counting for loans) why did you go out and get them in the first place?

Maybe the team should do something new. Instead of having a quick trigger finger and getting rid of players after a few months on the roster management should re-evaluate its scouts. Somebody is not doing their job in the ranks. The team is obviously collecting sub-par talent that is not good enough to meet the expectations set. Who is advising ownership to get these players?

Why is it, for every Joel Lindpere unearthered there’s a list of at least ten guys like Juan Pietravallo, Jorge Rojas, Leo Krupnick, Walter Garcia, Matthew Mbuta, Ryan Suarez, Markus Schopp, Gilmar, Daniel Garipe and Gabriel Cichero?

There is a saying muttered by the New York Red Bulls supporters after most games or seasons or transactions and it’s, “Same old Metro.”

No matter how much the team changes, at its core nothing really changes at all.

Photo Credits.
Stephane Auvray: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gregg Berhalter is First American to Coach Professional Soccer in Europe

After decades of American soccer players failing to catch on to clubs in Europe, America’s brightest young players are finally getting the chance.

In the 1990’s many of the U.S. national team players were college players or guys that were signed full-time to be with the national team. Very few exceptions played in Europe.

But now, guys like Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Steve Cherundolo, Michael Bradley and Carlos Bocanegra are fixtures on some teams in the most elite leagues on the continent. Youngsters like Brek Shea, Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo are knocking on the door, all training with teams in the English Premier League.

Playing in Europe is no longer an improbable dream but a realistic possibility. So naturally, it’s time to start venturing to the next frontier: coaching in Europe.

Gregg Berhalter, a former USMNT defender, has been hired by Hammarby IF of Sweden’s Superettan (second division) to be its new head coach. Berhalter signed a two-year deal with an option for a third. He is the first American-born former national team player to coach a team in Europe.

Hammarby, the former club of Charlie Davies, is not top-flight European soccer but it’s a start, and a necessary one at that. They do, however, have the third highest attendance in all of Sweden.

Former USMNT player and National Soccer Hall of fame inductee Marcelo Balboa commented on how Americans coaching in Europe could help develop the game in the U.S. in an interview with Potomac Soccer Wire in October of 2010.

“We challenged our players many years ago to play at the highest level, to go overseas and make their craft,” Balboa said. “I think now we’re at a point where that same challenge needs to be put out to our coaches. Our coaches now need to expand their horizons out of MLS and look for that European job or that South American job, to get that kind of experience and bring that back to the United States.

“Our players have a little more experience than our coaches do. It’s time that our coaches start getting that experience overseas.”

Berhalter is a surprising candidate to be one of the first guys to make the jump.
He spent the first 15 years of his professional career in Europe, playing in the lower leagues in the Netherlands, Germany and England. Those experiences certainly helped shape his game and earn two trips to the World Cup, which must give him some clout in Europe.

The surprise is that Berhalter just retired from playing at the end of the 2011 MLS season, where he held the duel responsibility of player and assistant coach.

A European club is giving a young (Berhalter is 38-years-old) American with very little coaching experience a chance to lead their team in an attempt to get back to first-division soccer for the first time since 2009.

“[Hammarby] looked at where I’ve been the last couple years with the Galaxy and with Bruce Arena and my role there and then they looked at my background as a player,” Berhalter told ExtraTime Radio. “I obviously spent 15 years in Europe and they felt like that diversity in terms of being in three different countries and experiencing these different soccer cultures will be a real plus in the long run.”

Even more surprising is that initially the team was looking for an experienced manager who had previous ties to Hammarby, according to Berhalter on ExtraTime Radio.

Former USMNT player and current AZ Alkmaar (Jozy Altidore’s team) technical director Earnie Stewart thought this moment was still a long-time coming, commenting on the situation in an interview with in 2010.

“First of all, there's a problem in the way football in the United States is looked upon, and that reflects upon the coaches,” he explained. “We're still making progress, still getting better, still getting to where we want to be.”

Stewart added that any coach that does get an opportunity would have to have some kind of connection in Europe to help get that job.

Berhalter’s connection was former L.A. Galaxy midfielder Chris Klein, who sits on the board of Hammarby as an AEG representative and assisted with the coaching search. AEG owns the Los Angeles Galaxy and holds a 49-percent share of Hammarby.

For those that are surprised that Berhalter would be the first American to coach in Europe, ahead of famous national team coaches Bruce Arena or Bob Bradley or player-turned-coach Jason Kreis, Tab Ramos or Claudio Reyna keep in mind that John Harkes was the first American to play in the English Premier League. He did not have any professional experience before moving to Sheffield Wednesday, but his career turned out just fine.

It’s an historic moment for U.S. soccer and Berhalter has a rather large challenge ahead of him. But it’s a challenge that Berhalter, and American soccer, need to be ready to face.

Video feautre about the career path of Gregg Berhalter. Video from YouTube.

Photo Credits.
Gregg Berhalter: AP Photo/Gus Ruelas

Sunday, December 11, 2011

NFL Week 14 Picks: Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants Meet in Huge Sunday Night Matchup

We’re headed down the stretch, with the start of the final quarter of the season beginning in Week 14. The games, for some, are as important as ever as teams are jockeying for playoff position.

The biggest game of the week takes place in Dallas in prime time as the first place Cowboys take on the second-place rival Giants (one game behind) for the first time this season. It could be a shootout, as both teams have done well throwing the ball this season.

Who do you think will win?

Pittsburgh over Cleveland – I picked the Steelers to win on Thursday.

NEW YORK JETS over Kansas City – The Jets have struggled on offense and have gotten away from running the ball, once a specialty. Last week though they did run for 101 yards and three touchdowns. They should be able to do some more damage on the ground against the Chiefs, who are 25 th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (130.3).

JACKSONVILLE over Tampa Bay – The Buccaneers have lost six in a row. The Jaguars are no world beaters, but at home against a Bucs team that gets worse every week and this could finally be Jacksonville’s day. Maurice Jones-Drew has done his part this year, leading the league in rushing yards. Against the 29th ranked rush defense he should be rewarded for his efforts with a win for the fourth time this season.

New England over WASHINGTON – Andre Carter returns to Washington, where he spent five seasons with the Redskins. While the Patriots pass defense has been lackluster, Carter has been a bright spot in the pass rush. He leads the team with nine tackles (top-10 in the league) and people within the organization have raved about his professionalism. It looks like a prime opportunity for him to reach double digits in sacks this game as Washington is in the top-10 in sacks allowed (33).

Atlanta over CAROLINA – While Cam Newton has struggled with his decision making as a passer, he’s been a sensational runner. He has rushed for 13 touchdowns this season, a record for quarterbacks. The Falcons rush defense, however, is one of the best in the league (third in rushing yards allowed per game actually). And the last time these two teams played the Falcons forced Newton into some really bad throws, causing three interceptions. They should be able to dominate the Panthers again.

BALTIMORE over Indianapolis – The Colts put up some fight against the Patriots backups, scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough. The Ravens tend to play down to their competition, but they’d really have to let themselves go to drop this game.

MIAMI over Philadelphia – Two teams here are going in opposite directions and surprisingly it’s the Dolphins who are on the up-swing. The ‘Phins are fifth in the league in points allowed and fifth in the league in rushing yards allowed per game. They’ll face a stiff test from LeSean McCoy and the return of Michael Vick, but the Dolphins have won three in a row at home and are just playing much better football.

DETROIT over Minnesota – Time for the early season darlings to get back to playing football. Discipline has been a huge problem for this team but coach Jim Schwartz has reportedly told players that they will sit for post-whistle fouls. Ndamukong Suh is still suspended and he is the biggest culprit, so maybe the rest of the team will learn its lesson. It would be nice if the Lions, on offense, could get to Calvin Johnson more. The wide receiver hasn’t had a 100-yard game in four games (he had five in the first eight games of the season) and only has one touchdown in that span. Fortunately for the Lions the Vikings look like everybody’s whipping boy right now.

New Orleans over TENNESSEE – The Saints have won four straight and five of their last six. Drew Brees hasn’t thrown an interception in three consecutive games and has a streak of 39 straight games with a passing score. The Titans struggle against teams with winning records and their pass defense has taken a step back this year compared to previous seasons.

CINCINNATI over Houston – T.J. Yates had a respectable game against Falcons last week, but now loses his No.1 target, Andre Johnson. Johnson will miss his seventh game of the season with a strained left hamstring. The Texans have a good running game too, but the Bengals have a top ten defense against the pass and the rush. There’re only so many injuries one team can endure.

DENVER over Chicago – Should I praise Tim Tebow and his 6-1 record as a starter this season (five wins in a row)? Or should I show concern for the Bears’ offense without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte? And then add the fact that Caleb Hanie has thrown two touchdowns compared to six interceptions in the past two games?

San Francisco over ARIZONA – The 49ers have allowed the fewest rushing yards per game in the entire league and they have not given up a rushing touchdown all season. They are looking to wrap up the No. 2 seed and a first round bye in the playoffs so a win against a conference (and divisional) opponent is big. The 49ers are 3-0 against the NFC West this season and beat the Cardinals 23-7 just three weeks ago.

SAN DIEGO over Buffalo – The Bills have lost five straight games and six of their previous seven. On the road this season the Bills are an abysmal 1-5. The Chargers had a similar losing streak recently (six straight) but broke that last week with a big Monday night victory against the Jaguars. The Bills are more talented than Jacksonville, but their defense is in the bottom half of the league in both passing and rushing yards allowed per game. Philip Rivers came back to life last weekend, throwing for just under 300 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. It was the second week in a row Rivers hadn’t thrown a pick and more games like that will help the Chargers win more games down the stretch.

GREEN BAY over Oakland – It was a close one last weekend, but the Packers prevailed and many think they have cleared the biggest obstacle remaining in finishing the regular season undefeated. It could be difficult for the Raiders to keep pace with the high octane Green Bay passing game because two of their top four leading receivers (and two of the top three wide receivers) are out with injuries.

DALLAS over New York Giants – The Giants secondary has struggled terribly the past couple games and things could get worse: safety Kenny Phillips will miss the game with a knee injury. Also out is Osi Umenyiora, which hurts the pass rush as well. The Cowboys have the seventh best passing game in the league and Miles Austin is expected to return after missing the past four games.

SEATTLE over St. Louis –Marshawn Lynch has really come on strong towards the end of the season. In his first eight games Lynch had 398 yards on 97 carries (4.1 yards per carry) with four touchdowns. In the last four games he has increased his production, rushing for 456 yards on 105 carries also with four touchdowns. In those games the Seahawks are 3-1. They are letting Lynch win games for them and he is in full-on “Beast Mode”.

This Week: 1-0

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 120-74

Photo Credits.
Tony Romo: AP Photo/Paul Connors

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Charlotte Hounds Making an Immediate Presence in Major League Lacrosse

The Charlotte Hounds are entering Major League Lacrosse with a bang.

In putting its inaugural roster together the expansion club is sparing no expense at making a splash. Management has been aggressive in putting together an offensive minded roster with plenty of big-time names.

The biggest move the team made was during the expansion draft, when they traded with the Long Island Lizards for perennial MVP candidate Matt Danowski.

“We decided to make a move that would provide us with MLL-ready players for training camp at the start of the season,” Hounds Director of Sales and Marketing Wade Leaphart said in an interview with MLL.

Danowski, a four-time All-American at nearby Duke University (where his dad also coaches), comes back to the state of North Carolina with an impressive professional career resume. He was an All-Star his first season in the league (2008) and has been every year since.

Last season Danowski finished fourth in the league in points, first in two-point goals and tied for second in game-winning goals continuing to show every week how dangerous he is on offense. He had at least two points every game. Danowski is also a starting attackman for the U.S. national team.

Charlotte scored big time in getting Danowski. The team acquires a player that is extremely talented, has a high profile and can bring in fans (he’s the star of Warrior’s “Manchine” commercials) and is a guy with local ties that will help with community relations. He’s also only 26-years-old so he can be the cornerstone of the franchise for a number of years to come.

The Hounds didn’t stop with Danowski though. In the deal to bring the attackman to Charlotte the team also received All-Star midfielder Stephen Berger. Berger has been a staple in the Lizards midfield since 2005 and was in the top-15 in points last season.

Another name joining the former Lizards is attcakman Billy Bitter, traded to the team from the Denver Outlaws. Bitter is another collegiate star from the state of North Carolina as an alumnus of the Tar Heels. He scored 12 goals in his rookie season to go along with four assists in only nine games.

“I’ve basically been down in North Carolina the past five years. I’ve grown to love the state a lot,” Bitter told MLL. “I have a lot of close people down here so I’m real excited…to be part of this organization.”

Rounding out a pretty talented and deep attack is 2011 MLL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Boltus. He was selected away from the Hamilton Nationals with Charlotte’s first selection in the Expansion Draft. Boltus scored 19 goals in 12 games last season and had a total of 30 points.

As the roster continues to fill out there is plenty here for Charlotte lacrosse fans to be optimistic about.

Much like the team has been aggressive in acquiring talent they have the makings of a dynamic offense that should not only be entertaining to watch but that could help make the Hounds a very competitive team, even as an expansion club.

Photo Credits.
Matt Danowski (top): Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Billy Bitter (right): Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Friday, December 9, 2011

Trading for "Big Baby" is Only the Start of a Turbulent Season for the Orlando Magic

On the first day that NBA teams could start training camp and make roster moves the Orlando Magic have been one of the most active teams out there. Active, however, doesn’t mean that they improved.

The team used it’s amnesty clause on Gilbert Arenas and waived him, signed free agents Larry Hughes and Gabe Pruitt and—the big move of the day—swapped Brandon Bass for Glen “Big Baby” Davis in a deal with the Celtics. There’s also the Dwight Howard trade and tampering rumors, making the Magic one of the more talked about teams in the NBA right now.

Most of the moves don’t actually improve the team though, which could mean this is only the beginning of a very tumultuous season.

Waiving Agent Zero was expected and smart. Through the amnesty clause, the remaining three years and $62 million of Arenas’ six-year $111 million deal will no longer count towards Orlando’s salary cap. Arenas didn’t produce much coming off the bench for Orlando and was not worth keeping around especially at that price.

With some cap wiggle room made available it was possible the Magic could’ve added some guys to improve the roster and possibly influence Howard to stay after this season. Going after Shane Battier—a good perimeter defender with a strong basketball IQ and that can knock down the open shot—was a promising sign, even if he did wind up signing with the Miami Heat.

Instead the Magic conducted a sign-and-trade for Davis.

When you think of Davis what comes to mind is his goofy “Shrek and Donkey” partnership with Nate Robinson, his game-winning shot against the Magic in the 2009 NBA playoffs when he ran down the sidelines and knocked over a little kid and him crying at the end of the bench after Kevin Garnett got in his face. His nickname is “Big Baby” for crying out loud. He also seems to be out of shape.

There is no sense that Davis is a mature player and his numbers don’t make him a guy you have to have on your team. Last year Davis averaged 11.7 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game, 0.4 blocks per game and shot 45-percent from the field.

You know who put up similar, if not better, numbers? Brandon Bass. He averaged 11.2 points per game, 5.6 rebounds per game, 0.7 blocks per game and shot 52-percent from the field, all in fewer minutes per game. Bass is a tougher player and is a much better free-throw shooter.

Where is the improvement?

Throw in Hughes, 32, who didn’t play last year and has seen his points per game average on the steady decline since a career-high 22.0 points per game in the 2004-05 season, and Pruitt, who hasn’t played in two years and never averaged more than eight minutes a game in his two seasons of work, and the moves are all questionable.

This is the first day of the new season, the first day since the lockout that moves can be made. The team swapped a tough power forward for one with a baby moniker, signed two players who haven’t played in the league in at least a year and are on the verge of trading away or losing one of the best players in franchise history.

Usually the start of the season is a day of renewed hope for all fans, where every team is equal and has a chance to win the championship. Yet already it seems like the Magic have set themselves up for a long, turbulent season.

Photo Credits.

Glen Davis: AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Thursday, December 8, 2011

NFL Week 14 Picks: Steelers Should Dominate the Browns on Thursday Night

Cleveland Browns (4-8) at Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3)

Although they are division rivals, this game has all the makings of a blowout.
The Steelers have won three in a row while the Browns have lost two in a row and five of their last six.

Cleveland, surprisingly, is first in the league in passing yards allowed, yielding only 173.3 yards per game. The Steelers don’t necessarily rely on the pass though. There are plenty of times Ben Roethlisberger’s numbers aren’t pretty but the team guts out a win. In fact, in the past two games Roethlisberger has failed to reach 200 passing yards and last week he recorded his lowest total of the season (176 yards) but the team had its biggest winning margin of the season.

It’s what Cleveland can’t do that will determine the outcome in this game.

The Browns are 30th in the NFL in yards gained (24th in passing yards per game and 30th in rushing yards per game) and 28th in points scored per game. They can’t move the ball or put it in the endzone and against the Steelers defense—first in total yards allowed and fourth in points per game allowed—things only get more difficult.

Viewers should expect to see a lot of Rashard Mendenhall as the Browns are 31st in the NFL in rushing yards allowed. They'll take advantage of a poor run defense and then just keep hitting them when they're up big to drain the clock.

Pittsburgh wins.

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 119-74

Photo Credits.

Rashard Mendenhall: AP Photo/Don Wright

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Twitter Report: Athletes Fawning Over Tim Tebow

Terrell Davis, former Denver Broncos player: @terrell_davis “I've seen this movie before. I won't ruin it for everyone, but it's starring Tim Tebow, so you know what happens.”

Eric LeGrand, former Rutgers football player: @bige52_RU “Always finding a way Tim Tebow and my broncos, tied for 1st place #leggo”

LeBron James, NBA, Miami Heat: @KingJames “He's done it again!! Congrats @TimTebow on the big W and now tied for 1st place in the division #allhedoiswin”

Tracy McGrady, NBA, Detroit Pistons: @TheReal_TMAC “winning > stats #tebow”

Marshon Brooks, NBA, New Jersey Nets: @Marshon2 “Tebow for president..” “Who buying me the tebow jersey for Xmas?”

Jonny Flynn, NBA, Houston Rockets: @J_Flynn “Tebow needs to replace the guy in the Dos Equis commercials”

Shane Battier, NBA, Memphis Grizzlies: @ShaneBattier “#TebowTime”

Jason Thompson, NBA, Sacramento Kings: @jtthekid “Tebow Bout to Get Another W...”

Abby Wambach, soccer, U.S. Women's National Team: @AbbyWambach “@TimTebow just HAS IT!!! Brings back what's good about sports and no one can debate the wins... Keep doing what u do. #inspired”

Christie Rampone, soccer, U.S. Women's National Team: @christierampone “Another victory for @TimTebow! #FRS”

Sacha Kljestan, soccer, U.S. Men's National Team: @SachaKljestan “I don't care what all these haters say, Tim Tebow is a winner.”

Dax McCarty, MLS, New York Red Bulls: @DaxMcCarty11 “Tim Tebow will never lose another football game in his life.”

Alexi Lalas, former U.S. Men's National Team soccer player: @alexilalas22 “I'm up to speed on Tim Tebow, so now I'm gonna watch him. He just threw a TD. I'm supposed to credit the Broncos defense, right?”

Photo Credits.
Tim Tebow: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

NFL Week 13 Picks: Aaron Rodgers and the Packers Will Put Up Big Numbers Against the Giants

Philadelphia over SEATTLE – I incorrectly picked the Eagles on Twitter on Thursday.

TAMPA BAY over Carolina – There was a time earlier in the season when the Buccaneers were a contender for a playoff spot. They’ve lost five in a row and that ship has since sailed. They are 2-1 in the division however, beating both New Orleans and Atlanta. Josh Freeman is inactive but the Bucs are high on Josh Johnson.

PITTSBURGH over Cincinnati—The Bengals have been a pleasant surprise this year and it seems like there is a good foundation for the future. The Steelers are arguably the best team in the AFC, however, and just beat the Bengals by a touchdown in Cincinnati. Heinz Field is a difficult place for away teams to play in so it looks like Pittsburgh has the upper hand here.

Atlanta over HOUSTON – Houston is down to its third quarterback this season, and while their running game is the third best in the league, the Falcons are second-best in rushing yards allowed per game (83.5). The Falcons will key on stopping Arian Foster and co. and force T.J. Yates to beat them, which I don’t see happening.

New York Jets over WASHINGTON –The Jets are 1-4 on the road this year and 1-8 against the Redskins in their previous nine meetings. Still, this Redskins team struggles at almost every facet of the game except for the pass defense and doesn’t have the same talent on the field as the Jets do. It hasn’t been pretty this year, but it’s not time to count out the Jets yet.

NEW ENGLAND over Indianapolis – Bill Belichick has gone about this game the predictable, yet proper way. He has said in the media that this has been a great rivalry over the years against a team that has given them fits and that he expects them to do the same here. I do not coach the Patriots, I am not worried about getting the Patriots overconfident or giving the Colts locker room material so I can say I fully expect the Patriots to dominate in this game.

Oakland over MIAMI – Even without Darren McFadden the Raiders are still getting it done on the ground. Michael Bush has 335 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the previous three games, which all were wins. The Dolphins had a nice little run, but Oakland is playing to win its division.

Denver over MINNESOTA – Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos are rolling, winning four straight. Adrian Peterson is out and the Vikings have lost three straight. Go with the team on the upswing.

BUFFALO over Tennessee – The Bills looked better against the Jets than they had in recent weeks and Stevie Johnson was more productive against Darrelle Revis than he was against a number of other guys lately. At home they should be another average team in the Titans.

CHICAGO over Kansas City – Ridicule Jay Cutler all you’d like, but are you anywhere near as confident about the Bears success with Caleb Hanie at quarterback? You know who Hanie may just be better than, though? Tyler Palko.

Baltimore over CLEVELAND – Not a tough decision here. The Browns struggle to get anything going offensively and the Ravens still have a stingy defense.

Dallas over ARIZONA – The Cowboys are hot, winning four straight games, and had a few extra days to prepare for the Cardinals. The Cowboys rank in the top half of the league in passing yards per game, rushing yards per game, passing yards allowed per game and rushing yards allowed per game.

Green Bay over NEW YORK GIANTS – The Giants laid an egg last week against the Saints and it only gets tougher against the undefeated Packers. It looks like another late-season collapse is in store for Tom Coughlin and the Giants, as they have lost three consecutive games.

SAN FRANCISCO over St. Louis – The Thanksgiving day loss to the Ravens was a small setback for the 49ers. They are 9-2 and that is with playing only two games against NFC West rivals, whom are all under .500. San Francisco should be licking its chops to bounce back against the NFC West bottom feeders.

NEW ORLEANS over Detroit – The Saints demolished the vaunted Giants pass rush last week and should be happy to hear that Ndamukong Suh’s suspension appeal has been denied and he will have to sit out this one.

San Diego over JACKSONVILLE – Can things get any worse for the Chargers? They’ve lost six consecutive games and have dropped from first to worst in the AFC West standings. Jacksonville just fired its coach and the ownership sold the team though so the organization is in a state of flux. Can the Chargers finally capitalize on someone else’s misfortune?

This Week: 0-1

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 110-67

Photo Credits.
Aaron Rodgers: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

Sunday, November 27, 2011

NFL Week 12 Picks: Is This the Week the Colts Finally Win?

On Thanksgiving I picked the Packers, Dolphins and Ravens on Twitter.


NEW YORK JETS over Buffalo

CINCINNATI over Cleveland

ATLANTA over Minnesota

ST. LOUIS over Arizona

INDIANAPOLIS over Carolina

Tampa Bay over TENNESSEE

Chicago over Oakland

SEATTLE over Washington

SAN DIEGO over Denver

New England over PHILADELPHIA

Pittsburgh over Kansas City

NEW ORLEANS over New York Giants

This Week: 2-1

Last Week: 11-3

Season: 101-60

Photo Credits.

Reggie Wayne: AP Photo/AJ Mast

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Third Kit's Mega MLS Cup Preview

Possibly the finest and most publicized season of Major League Soccer concludes today with MLS Cup. The league-best Los Angeles Galaxy take on the Houston Dynamo, underdogs but two-time Cup winners.

The Galaxy have all the names (and money): David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane. The Dynamo’s best player—Brad Davis—will miss the game due to a hamstring injury. That doesn’t mean the Dynamo should be counted out though.

Check out the mega preview on Third Kit, breaking down the players to watch, how each team can win, how each team can lose and other important observations as all eyes in Hollywood are set on soccer.

NFL Week 11 Picks: Chargers To Continue Slide Against Bears

New York Jets over DENVER – I picked the Jets on Twitter Thursday.

GREEN BAY over Tampa Bay

DETROIT over Carolina

Jacksonville over CLEVELAND

Oakland over MINNESOTA

MIAMI over Buffalo –

Dallas over WASHINGTON –

BALTIMORE over Cincinnati

SAN FRANCISCO over Arizona

Seattle over ST. LOUIS

ATLANTA over Tennessee

CHICAGO over San Diego

NEW YORK GIANTS over Philadelphia

NEW ENGLAND over Kansas City

Byes: Indianapolis, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Houston

This Week: 0-1

Last Week: 10-6

Season: 90-57

Photo Credits.
Philip Rivers: AP Photo/Denis Poroy

Sunday, November 13, 2011

NFL Week 10 Picks: Saints Will Triumph in Big Rivalry Week Game

It’s rivalry weekend in the NFL. Adding to the intensity of division battles is the fact that many of the matchups will determine who will lead the division going into next weekend. We already saw the Oakland Raiders pass the San Diego Chargers in the AFC West and we still have Saints-Falcons, Steelers-Bengals and Jets-Patriots. There’s also the Bears-Lions game, where although they both are behind the undefeated Packers they are both playing very well and are above .500.
Who do you think will win this week? Home team is in all capitals.

SAN DIEGO over Oakland – I picked the Chargers on Twitter on Thursday.

Detroit over CHICAGO – The Bears have been playing well as off late but their offensive line still leaves a lot to desire. Even Jay Cutler said the team’s outlook is a lot better when the guys in front of him allow him time to throw and he doesn’t have to pick himself up off the turf. Detroit has a very good pass defense and is fourth in the NFL in sacks.

INDIANAPOLIS over Jacksonville – Believe it or not, it is very difficult to lose every game in a single season. This is the Colts best chance at a victory.

Denver over KANSAS CITY – Coming into the week the Chiefs were the AFC West leaders despite dropping a game against the winless Dolphins by 28 points at home last week. That’s uninspiring. You know who is inspiring? Tim Tebow.

Pittsburgh over CINCINNATI – The Bengals have won five straight, but will this young team have what it takes to stand up against the veteran Pittsburgh Steelers, who will be looking for revenge after a disappointing loss to the Ravens last weekend? To stay in the playoff hunt the Steelers will have to knock off the Bengals.

DALLAS over Buffalo – After a hot start Buffalo has cooled down a bit lately with three losses in the past five games and is only 1-2 on the road.

New Orleans over ATLANTA – When you think of the Saints you think of Drew Brees and the passing game. But did you realize they are ninth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (126)? Meanwhile Atlanta, behind Michael Turner, is 13th (119). Darren Sproles may have been the best offseason pickup by any team.

CLEVELAND over St. Louis – Neither team looks good this season and this game could be very ugly, but the Browns do have home-field advantage.

MIAMI over Washington – Rex Grossman or John Beck? Flip-flopped by the hour. Even the Dolphins don’t have this kind of instability at quarterback.

Houston over TAMPA BAY – The Buccaneers are 2-4 against teams with winning records and their defense ranks 28th and 26th in passing and rushing yards allowed per game respectively. Even without Andre Johnson the Texans have taken advantage of lesser defenses lately, averaging just a shade under 32 points per game in the past three games, all victories.

Tennessee over CAROLINA – The Panthers defense isn’t very strong and Cam Newton seems to make quite a few mistakes when the game is on the line. The struggling Chris Johnson faces a good opportunity to have a good game against the 28th ranked Panthers run defense.

PHILADELPHIA over Arizona – Arizona is starting John Skelton against a very tough pass defense. Should be an easy one for the Eagles.

Baltimore over SEATTLE – Seattle has so much trouble moving the ball on offense. Against the Cleveland Browns three weeks ago Seattle managed only 137 yards and three points. What makes you think they will do any better against the much-more heralded Ravens defense?

SAN FRANCISCO over New York Giants – The 49ers are sixth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (137.6) while the Giants are 24th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (127.1). A good San Francisco offensive line and running attack should neutralize the New York pass rush, which has been the team’s strong point on defense.

New England over NEW YORK JETS – The Patriots defense is pretty bad, but that’s ok because the Jets offense isn’t very good either. The Pats are struggling but do you really see them losing three in a row? Can anyone remember the last time that happened? Tom Brady’s been a bit erratic lately and this just feels like a game where he’ll put the team on his shoulders, even against the Jets tough pass defense.

GREEN BAY over Minnesota – The Packers are rolling and when the teams met three weeks ago in Minnesota, Green Bay was able to pull away with the victory. Things should be even better at home.

This week: 0-1

Last Week: 8-6

Season: 80-50

Photo Credits.

Drew Brees: AP Photo/Tom Gannam

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New England Patriots: Why the Albert Haynesworth Experiment Was Always Doomed to Fail

When the New England Patriots traded a fifth round draft pick to the Washington Redskins for Albert Haynesworth, the now-waived defensive tackle reworked his contract as part of the deal. The Patriots were only on the hook for $1.5 million this season.

So the general consensus was that the move was a low-risk-high-reward move for the Patriots. He wasn’t a need, he was a luxury and if he played well that would be icing on the cake for the Patriots. However if he didn’t play well or more importantly he acted out of line the Patriots management could cut their very small losses and just get rid of him.

There is where Haynesworth was doomed from the beginning. The Patriots seemingly acquired him only with the caveat that they could easily dispose of him if and when he did not live up to the team’s expectations.

It was a self-fullfilling prophecy.

Haynesworth’s tenure with New England started off on the wrong foot both on and off the field.

The defensive tackle missed a number of practices after being traded and much of the speculation was because that he failed Bill Belichick’s conditioning test and did not come physically fit. Making it an even bigger issue was the fact that it was not the first time this had happened in Haynesworth’s career.

Off the field, Haynesworth was charged in two separate incidents and he was in the midst of taking care of both when he changed squads.

The 10-year NFL veteran was already behind the eight-ball in a number of ways. Not only was he facing his own legal and physical issues but he was not very high on the depth chart. Vince Wilfork was always going to be the starter at nose tackle, the team was high on youngsters Ron Brace and Brandon Deaderick and veterans Gerard Warren and Shaun Ellis were also in better standing than Haynesworth was.

There was almost a bit of hypocrisy in Haynesworth’s situation: the team needed him to turn around his play on the field and his attitude but there weren’t going to be many opportunities for him to do so.

Things never got better for Haynesworth. He registered only three tackles and zero sacks in six games (out of the team’s eight). He was abused by the Giants offensive line in Sunday’s game, at one point on his back on three straight plays which led to an unsavory interaction with coach Pepper Johnson on the sidelines.

So with the Patriots slumping and needing to make an example Albert Haynesworth was the obvious choice. Cheap, ineffective and possibly insubordinate made him very expendable.

The heated discussion with Johnson will make more of the headlines in the coming days, but don’t be fooled. Haynesworth’s days were numbered as soon as the trade with Washington was made. It seemed like everyone was just waiting for it to happen.

This isn’t the first time the Patriots have unceremoniously dropped a player and the season will churn on for the team, experiment abandoned and just as quickly forgotten.

But for Haynesworth does his failed tenure in New England put the final stamp on his career now too?

Photo Credits.
Albert Haynesworth: AP Photo/Stew Milne

Saturday, November 5, 2011

NFL Week 9 Picks: Pittsburgh to Get its Revenge on Baltimore

KANSAS CITY over Miami


NEW ORLEANS over Tampa Bay

BUFFALO over New York Jets

DALLAS over Seattle

HOUSTON over Cleveland

San Francisco over WASHINGTON

Cincinnati over TENNESSEE

OAKLAND over Denver

NEW ENGLAND over New York Giants

ARIZONA over St. Louis

Green Bay over SAN DIEGO

PITTSBUGH over Baltimore


Byes: Detroit, Minnesota, Carolina, Jacksonville

Last week: 7-6

Season: 72-44

Photo Credits.
Ben Roethlisberger: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Sunday, October 30, 2011

NFL Week 8 Picks

TENNESSEE over Indianapolis

New Orleans over ST. LOUIS


CAROLINA over Minnesota

BALTIMORE over Arizona

HOUSTON over Jacksonville

BUFFALO over Washington

Detroit over DENVER

New England over PITTSBURGH

SAN FRANCISCO over Cleveland

SEATTLE over Cincinnati


San Diego at KANSAS CITY

Bye: Atlanta, Chicago, Green Bay, Oakland, NY Jets, Tampa Bay

Last Week: 9-4

Season: 65-38

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

NFL Week 7 Awards: DeMarco Murray has Record-Setting Day

It’s popularly noted that the NFL has become the league of the quarterback.

In Week 7 it was the running backs that stole the spotlight. Some played hero while others weren’t in long enough to be the goats.

Injuries can sometimes cause for the question of someone’s toughness, but amidst the slew of injuries in Week 7 could a kicker have been the toughest player in the NFL this week?

So who rose to the occasion and who wished they could’ve gone and hide in this weekend’s games?

MVP of the Week

Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans

Last year’s breakout player had an absolutely monster game for the Texans against the Titans. In the past four games, Foster had only broken 100 yards rushing once. But against the Titans Foster not only had 100-plus rushing yards for the second time this season, he also had over 100 receiving yards for the second time this season.

Foster had 115 rushing yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns as well as 119 yards—a team high—and caught all five passes thrown to him. He also scored a receiving touchdown. He picked up six first downs and, oh yea, the Texans won by 34 points.
Foster was just flat-out untouchable Sunday.

Honorable Mentions: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints; Plaxico Burress, WR, New York Jets

Bust of the Week

Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers

He missed on 16 passes, completing only 50-percent of his passes. He threw for under 180 yards (outgained by guys like Matt Moore and John Beck). Yes, the Jets defense, especially its corners, is supposed to be very good but Rivers was abysmal.

His two interceptions were game changers. Sure, the second one was tipped by Vincent Jackson, but the interceptions were untimely both coming on third down. Also, on the all-important last drive down, down by four the Chargers faced a fourth down and three. Rivers threw a pass intended for Antonio Gates, but the ball sailed into the sideline. On a potential game-ending play you need a much better effort than Rivers gave.

(Dis)Honorable Mentions: Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Indianapolis Colts; Miami Dolphins

Surprise of the Week

Jacksonville Jaguars

It wasn’t pretty on offense, but they scored just enough point to beat the Ravens while Jacksonville’s defense manhandled Baltimore’s offense.

The defense held Baltimore scoreless until 2:02 left in the game. They limited Ray Rice to 28 yards rushing, his lowest total since Week 4 of last season, and they forced the Ravens offense into two turnovers.

But really, come on, did anyone expect Jacksonville to even be in this game, let alone win it? Gutsy performance from the guys in Jacksonville.

Honorable Mentions: Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets; Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans

Play of the Week

All defensive players in the NFL should watch Neil Rackers’s form on this tackle. That’s how you take down a guy. No need to spear him with your helmet.

Rookie of the Week

DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys

In his first start ever, Murray, filling in for the injured Felix Jones, surpassed legendary RB Emmitt Smith for the record for most rushing yards in a game by a Cowboy.

Murray ran for 253 yards and a touchdown (on a first-half run for 91 yards) on 25 carries. Other ways Murray made the history books: it was the most yards run for in the NFL this season so far, it was the second-longest run in team history, it was the second-most rushing yards in a game by a rookie in NFL history and it was the most yards rushed for against the St. Louis Rams.

“I never thought in a million years that I'd ever have a day like this,” Murray told the press after the game. “This is what I've been working hard for since my Pop Warner days.”

I don’t know if anyone else thought he would either, but it was a very impressive performance nonetheless. Maybe he won’t have another game this good, but at the very least he probably passed Felix Jones and Tashard Choice on the depth chart.

Honorable Mentions: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers; Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos

Tough Luck

Running Backs

Despite the successes of DeMarco Murray and Arian Foster it was a tough day to be a starting running back in the NFL.

Darren McFadden, Beanie Wells, Marshawn Lynch, Joseph Addai, Willis McGahee and Mark Ingram all left their respective games and did not return because of injuries (Lynch didn’t even make it to the game, he was pulled during warm ups). Also, Tim Hightower and Earnest Graham not only were taken out of their games because of injuries, but they will miss the remainder of the season.

It is unfortunate for all these backs, but for the ones that do miss more time maybe their replacement could be as big a surprise as DeMarco Murray.

Honorable Mentions: winless teams still winless

Photo Credits.
DeMarco Murray: AP Photo/Sharon Ellman

Sunday, October 23, 2011

NFL Week 7 Pick: Tim Tebow to be Victorious in First Start of the Season

The big news in Week 7 is the game of quarterback shuffle going on: at least six different quarterbacks will make their first start of the season.

The most hyped new quarterback is obviously Tim Tebow as he returns to Florida to take on the Miami Dolphins, who are still searching for a win.

Also on the slate of games is a match-up for first place in the AFC South between the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans. Both teams have lost key players to injuries and are coming off of losses. Who will take control of the division?

Who will win this week’s games? The home team is in caps.

NEW YORK JETS over San Diego – The Jets win over Miami wasn’t pretty but they couldn’t afford to lose a fourth straight game. That being said, the Chargers have struggled as well, specifically Philip Rivers and his interceptions. Against a dominant Darrelle Revis and a hyped-up Antonio Cromartie it will be a rough day for Rivers.

TAMPA BAY over Chicago – If the Bucs can force Drew Brees to throw three interceptions imagine what they can do to Jay Cutler, a quarterback notorious for turning the ball over under pressure.

CAROLINA over Washington – The Redskins brass talked about how good John Beck looked during preseason and still decided to start Rex Grossman at quarterback. So what does that say about Beck? He hasn’t thrown a pass in a regular season game since 2007, when he was not the answer for a one-win Miami Dolphins team. Four of the Panthers five losses have come by one touchdown or less, so the ball has to bounce they’re way one of these times (so long as Cam Newton stops throwing costly interceptions).

Atlanta over DETROIT – The Lions are without Jahvid Best, and with little depth at the position they have only two healthy runners. Coming off their first loss of the season the Lions are vulnerable right now, which should help the Falcons have their first winning streak of the season.

Seattle over CLEVELAND – Things are falling apart in Cleveland and Payton Hillis is having a rough season. Meanwhile the Seahawks should get a boost on offense if Charlie Whitehurst starts over Tarvaris Jackson. Whitehurst is a mystery still, but he showed last week he’s an upgrade over Jackson.

Denver over MIAMI – It’s a home game for the Dolphins. They are honoring the 2008 Florida Gators, whose starting quarterback is Tim Tebow who is now the starter for the Broncos. Not only will fans be cheering for the “Suck for Luck” campaign they will also be rooting for the opposing quarterback. This has disaster written all over it.

TENNESSEE over Houston – Without Andre Johnson and Mario Williams the Texans look like a team without any bite. The Titans on the other hand have gotten good contributions from other wide receivers since Kenny Britt went down with a season-ending injury and they’re still waiting for Chris Johnson to break out.

Kansas City over OAKLAND – If Carson Palmer starts the Raiders will be using a guy who had a bad year last year and hasn’t played since Week 17 of last season. If Kyle Boller starts it’ll be a guy whose team just traded potentially two first round picks for someone else to start. In a rivalry game things are just a bit too unsettled right now for the Raiders to come away victorious.

Pittsburgh over ARIZONA – The Steelers have feasted on opponents with sub-.500 records. The combined records of teams they’ve lost against: 7-4. And the combined record of teams they’ve beaten: 6-16. They may be older and not as strong as the past few years, but they’re still beating the bottom feeders of the league of which the Cardinals belong to.

Green Bay over MINNESOTA – Christian Ponder gets his first start against Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson and has to try and outgun Aaron Rodgers? No thanks.

DALLAS over St. Louis – Sam Bradford is out and A.J. Feeley is in. Sorry, but not even newly acquired wide receiver Brandon Lloyd can make Feeley look good.

NEW ORLEANS over Indianapolis – The Saints had a rough go of it against the Buccaneers last week. But that’s more reason for them to get back on track at home against a winless team.

Baltimore over JACKSONVILLE – This just seems like the biggest mismatch of the week. The Jaguars are 31st in the league in points scored per game, and you can bet points will be very tough to come by against the Ravens tough defense.
Byes: Buffalo, Cincinnati, New England, New York Giants, Philadelphia, San Francisco

Last week: 8-5

Season: 56-34

Photo Credits.
Tim Tebow: AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

Sunday, October 16, 2011

NFL Week 6 Picks: Miami Dolphins to Upset New York Jets on the Road for Win No. 1

DETROIT over San Francisco – As good as Alex Smith has played this year he hasn’t been able to produce the yards that the 49’ers would need to keep pace with the Lions.

GREEN BAY over St. Louis – The Packers are playing too well to lose at home to the winless Rams.

ATLANTA over Carolina – Look at the Falcons’ results: they win every other week. So after a loss to the Packers last week, naturally they are due for a win over the Panthers.

CINCINNATI over Indianapolis – The Bengals aren’t world beaters, but they do well against the other bad teams in the league. Their defense is playing very well and should contain the Colts.

Buffalo over NEW YORK GIANTS – The Bills played well against the Eagles and did what they had to do to win the game. The Giants played poorly and lost a game they shouldn’t have. And while they shouldn’t have lost are you really that surprised that they did?

PITTSBURGH over Jacksonville – The Steelers are banged up, but they proved last week that they aren’t done yet. And the Jaguars, to put it bluntly, stink.

Philadelphia over WASHINGTON – You just have to wonder how much longer the Eagles can keep losing. There’s too much talent here to be this bad. It’s not too late for them to turn the corner so there’s still a little bit of hope.

BALTIMORE over Houston – The Ravens have looked real good this season and the Texans are without their best offensive and defensive players.

OAKLAND over Cleveland – The Raiders had a big and emotional win last week and then went and traded for Aaron Curry because they believe they can make a push for the playoffs. Meanwhile Cleveland’s best player, Peyton Hillis, wonders how much longer he’ll be with the team.

NEW ENGLAND over Dallas – Tony Romo can throw the ball and the Pats pass defense is not very good. But are you really going to trust the “Romo Coaster” against a team that hasn’t lost at home since 2008?

New Orleans over TAMPA BAY – The Saints are the best team in the NFL in third down completion percentage. They’re really good at extending drives, scoring points and keeping the opposing offense off the field.

MINNESOTA over Chicago – This one could go either way but the Vikings finally got in the win column this week and that could give them some momentum. Adrian Peterson was huge against the Cardinals and the Bears are 28th in the NFL in rushing defense.

Miami over NEW YORK JETS – Since Rex Ryan has taken the helm of the Jets he’s 1-3 against the Dolphins and 0-2 at home. Just as tough as it is to go undefeated, it’s tough to go winless too. The Dolphins and Jets usually play close despite the records and the Jets are not only slumping but the locker room is starting to fracture.

Byes: Denver, Tennessee, Kansas City, Arizona, San Diego and Seattle

Last week: 8-5

Season: 48-29

Photo Credits.
Jason Taylor: AP Photo/J. Pat Carter

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

United States Men's National Team Holds Open Practice at Red Bull Arena

It’s been said in the media that new United States Men’s National Team head coach Jürgen Klinsmann is still in the honeymoon stage with the team and its loyal supporters. Klinsmann still seems like quite the charmer and is endearing himself to the fans.

Emotions are positive for the German coach. He finally won his first game with the USMNT on Saturday and on Monday, one day before the team takes on Ecuador Klinsmann opened the team’s practice at Red Bull Arena to the public.

Only a day before a game, the practice was light and featured a lot of stretching as opposed to an intense one, but it was a unique opportunity for fans to see how the team went about their daily business with a new coach as well as what Klinsmann’s personal interactions with individual players and the team as a whole are like.

As the players trotted onto the field Klinsmann explained the purpose of the practice and what the fans would see. Things started off with the players breaking up into small groups and doing some one-touch passes in a circle with defenders in the middle. The goalies, in the meantime, did some drills on their own at the end line.

The field players then went to the opposite end of the field and did a lot of stretching. All the players are in the middle of their seasons now. Add in intense training and playing with the national team and injury prevention becomes a big concern.

After stretching the team went into an 11-vs.-10 half-field scrimmage with Clint Dempsey donning a blue pinny and playing as the extra man for both teams. While the starting lineup for the Ecuador game isn’t out the white team featured mostly regular starters like Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo and Jozy Altidore while the orange team featured the likes of Nick Rimando, Jeff Larentowicz and Edson Buddle, three guys who did not play on Saturday.

The play was pretty back and forth for the most part but with little execution. Only two goals were scored during the 20 or 30 minutes the team scrimmaged for, one by Clint Dempsey (for the white team) and one by DaMarcus Beasley.

Beasley was an interesting player on the left-side for the white team. Beasley showed some speed on the flank and dribbled in circles around Michael Orozco Fiscal. At the same time though, Danny Williams seemed to have his way with Beasley, dribbling around him or pushing him off the ball.

Williams was impressive in his ability to push the ball past his defender and his crosses, as were scrimmage teammate Brek Shea’s, were dangerous.

The highlight of the scrimmage came in a series of nice plays. Kyle Beckerman, playing for the orange team, collected a loose ball and slammed a shot at Tim Howard. Howard saved it and –like his pass to Landon Donovan in the Algeria game at the World Cup—threw the ball almost the length of the field to Jozy Altidore. Rimando came out to cut Altidore’s angle off, but the big forward chipped it over his head for what appeared would be a nice goal. While the ball floated back down to the field however New York Red Bulls defender Tim Ream came in, got underneath the ball, and cleared it before it went in the back of the net.

When the scrimmage was completed some of the players that logged big minutes in Saturday’s game (Altidore, Onyewu and Bocanegra for example) stretched at midfield. The rest took part in a crossing drill.

On the left was, as suspected, Brek Shea, Timmy Chandler and DaMarcus Beasley. On the right was Williams, Steve Cherundolo and Jonathan Spector.

Each side would take turns crossing the ball to a man in the middle: Jeff Larentowicz, Teal Bunbury, Juan Agudelo or Orozco Fiscal.

The crossing and finishing both left a lot to be desired but Larentowicz had the goal of the practice when he took a cross and put a diving header into the net past Rimando.

Klinsmann himself got in on the drill as well, for a brief moment, collecting a rebound and shooting it into the back of the net, earning a nice ovation from the crowd.

At completion of the drill, Klinsmann talked to his team in a huddle and then he and the players thanked the fans for coming out.

The practice wasn’t too intense but it got the fans excited about the team and for the game against Ecuador.

Klinsmann, the players and the fans are optimistic about the team’s future. Now it’s up to the new coach and the players to see how long that optimism lasts.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Patriots vs. Jets: BenJarvus Green-Ellis pushes Patriots to Big Win

For one game BenJarvus Green-Ellis turned the pass-happy New England Patriots into a power running team, and the result was a winning one.

“The Law Firm” had a career-high 136 rushing yards to go with two touchdowns en route to a 30-21 victory over the rival New York Jets.

It was only the fourth time he had eclipsed the 100-yard plateau in his career, but it came at a good time. He became the fourth running back to rush for over 100 yards against a Rex Ryan-led Jets defense.

The attack for New England was a more balanced one than usual, throwing 33 passes and running the ball 35 times, and they had only one passing touchdown compared to both of Green’s rushing ones. Green-Ellis had 27 carries and averaged five yards a carry. He also had one catch for 13 yards, bowling over a couple Jets defenders in the process.

The Patriots held the ball on offense for 33:55, over seven minutes longer than the Jets. Green-Ellis pounded the ball up the middle effectively and wore out the Jets defense, which looked tired and sluggish as the game went on.

On the Patriots' last drive they ran 13 plays for 69 yards and took up 6:12. Of those 13 plays 11 were running plays with the ball going to Green-Ellis 10 times for 59 yards. The drive ended in a field goal, which put the Patriots up by two scores and the game just out of reach for the Jets.

With the Patriots never trailing it was easy to hand the ball off and work to kill the clock. But Green-Ellis made sure to put his mark on the game. The dreadlocked back had given way to rookie Stevan Ridley the past two weeks, with the new guy leading the team in rushing yards both games. But today Green-Ellis not only was the leading rusher, he was the team leader.

Photo Credits.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Twitter Report: NFL Week 5

The NFL makes sure to capture everyone’s attention on Sunday’s with thrilling performances on the gridiron. And with increased communication we can see what everyone is thinking on Twitter.

So in Week 5 of the NFL what were the headlines that had all of us, including other professional athletes tweeting?

Tim Tebow (@TimTebow) finally replaced Kyle Orton at quarterback in Denver and the Eagles continued their slide with a loss against Buffalo, so Michael Vick was a popular topic of discussion as well. Some pros even got to experience a game live in person and tweeted us their photos.

Here’s what the pros were saying on Twitter.

Carmelo Anthony, NBA, New York Knicks: @carmeloanthony “No matter what happen, Tim Tebow is always ready when his # is called!!!!! #TrueProfessional”

Jared Dudley, NBA, Phoenix Suns: @JaredDudley619 “I think Tebow lock up his starting job.. It wasn't pretty but will take the Win.. Can't wait to see what @RealSkipBayless says bout Tebow”

Jason Thompson, NBA, Sacramento Kings: @jtthekid “Congrats to @MikeVick on Being the All-Time Rushing Leader As a QB!!!! #Respect #Eagles”

Dwayne Wade, NBA, Miami Heat: @DwayneWade “WOW.. The Eagles have done everything in their own power to lose yet another game-and btw its not all @MikeVick fault.”

Heath Pearce, MLS, Chivas USA & USA: @thehp3 “OMG. I.DIE. 49ers r on a roll...... What a sunday for football. Now just need a fantasy win for my team. #repyourhood”

Herculez Gomez, professional soccer player, Estudiantes Tecos (Mexico) & USA: @herculezg “#JustWinBaby! #raidernation”

Stu Holden, professional soccer player, Bolton (England) & USA: @stuholden “C'mon Texannnnnns ! 4th quarter rally caps”

Marshon Brooks, NBA, New Jersey Nets: @Marshon2 “Tom Brady release is flawless...”

Maya Moore, WNBA, Minnesota Lynx: @MooreMaya “My 1st Vikings Game! Nice Win guys!”

Jose Bautista, MLB, Toronto Blue Jays: @JoeyBats19 “Let's go Steelers!! Time for that bounce back W!! #pregame #warmups #withmybro”

Photo Credits.
Tim Tebow: AP Photo/Joe Mahoney

Tim Howard Saves Shots and the United States Men's National Team

Under Bob Bradley, the United States Men’s National Team was a reactive team: play tough defense and withstand pressure from the opposition and go on the counter attack when the other team overextends itself and is vulnerable.

With Jurgen Klinsmann at the helm the USMNT is working on being a proactive team, attacking and imposing its will on its opposition.

The similarity of both regimes is that they both rely on Tim Howard being at his best.

In the team’s 1-0 victory over Honduras the goalie was once again asked to play hero in net in order to preserve a positive result, just like he has time and time again since being named the No. 1 keeper in 2007.

Howard made six saves, a number of which showcased his incredible athleticism, and was named Budweiser Man of the Match.

The win was his 37th for the red, white and blue tying him for second with Tony Meola on the all-time wins list, behind only Kasey Keller (53). And he has earned every single one of them, not to mention the ties the team has a direct result of his stellar play.

Against Honduras Howard made several big saves. In the 18th minute Honduras sent a ball over the top of the defense that Jerry Bengston collected and went in 1-vs-1 on Howard but the keeper made a point blank stop to deflect the shot away.

He made a diving save on Carlos Costly in the 26th and then in the second half he made a leaping grab on a long range shot from Boniek Garcia.

“Tim is getting to a time in his career where he realizes these are the golden years for him ahead,” Klinsmann told the media after the game. “We really enjoy what he brings to the table.”

Howard is one of only two players to start all four games under Klinsmann (Carlos Bocanegra is the other). His consistently strong play is very important to new German head coach right now.

As the team is adjusting to playing a more attacking style they sometimes get caught too far up field. The formation has changed, with only one defensive midfielder as opposed to the two the team used to put on the field. So on the counterattack there are only five players back to defend at most.

If (and at times when) a player is beat or when there is a lot of space many shots come through. It is up to Howard to save them and bail out the rest of the team while they (hopefully) hustle back.

Howard’s ability to make spectacular and clutch saves lets the rest of the team continue to learn how to attack and go up field, make and learn from mistakes and allows the team not to get frustrated giving up a number of goals and revert back to their old less productive ways.

Klinsmann knows he needs good goalkeeping during these experimental times so the players can learn on the fly but the team can still get results that aren’t too discouraging. One only has to look at his roster selections to see the faith that he has placed in Howard.

Brad Guzan has been the first-choice backup behind Howard the past few years and has started big games during World Cup qualifying and the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. But he hasn’t been called up to the National Team by Klinsmann yet. Neither has Marcus Hahnemann, the third goalkeeper on the 2010 World Cup team and Howard’s new teammate at Everton.

The backup has been Bill Hamid, a 20-year old goalie for D.C. United that has not made an appearance for the United States at any level.

There were games in the past, like the Argentina friendly at Giants Stadium or the game against England to open the 2010 World Cup, that the USA would not have gotten a point in had it not been for Tim Howard.

Last night, even with a new coach and new philosophy, was no different. And as the U.S. team continues to work on its attacking style of play and new young players are brought into the fold nothing will be more important than the veteran and extremely talented presence of Howard.

A feature of Tim Howard, his rise to stardom and his intensity. Video from YouTube.

Photo Credits.
Tim Howard: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

NFL Week 5 Picks: Oakland Raiders to Win In Memory of Al Davis

A quarter of the season is complete and we have reached the first week of byes as six teams will sit this week out.

Only two teams remain undefeated (and coincidentally they both play in the NFC North) but double that amount has yet to win a single game.

Tragedy struck the NFL this week as longtime Raider owner Al Davis passed away on Saturday. Many jokes have been made in recent years about the state of Davis while running the Raiders, but make no mistake about it he was a huge part of the NFL for a long time and will be missed, especially by Raider Nation. How will his team respond and play in his honor?

Who do you think will win this week?

Tennessee (3-1) at Pittsburgh (2-2)

It’s a small sample size but the Steelers are 0-2 against teams above .500 this season.

Ben Roethlisberger (foot) will most likely play, but he’s extremely banged up thanks to a porous offensive line. And while the line has not helped the quarterback out they also haven’t helped the running game either.

The Steelers are 21st in the league in rushing yards per game. Rashard Mendenhall has only 173 yards in four games and is questionable for the game against the Titans with a hamstring injury.

There was some concerns the Titans wouldn’t be as good offensively as they had been at the start of the season after Kenny Britt was lost for the year, but the team scored 31 points last week and Chris Johnson finally stepped up and had a 100-yard rushing performance. Now all he needs to do is score a touchdown.

Tennessee wins.

Seattle (1-3) at New York Giants (3-1)

Last year the Giants beat the Seahawks 41-7 and Ahmad Bradshaw scored two touchdowns. And that was in Seattle, where the Seahawks were 5-3 last year.

The Giants haven’t had a 100-yard rushing game from any back thus far this season but at home that could be changed this weekend. They give up 105 yards per game on the ground and that is mostly because they fall behind big early.

If the Giants can get up by a couple scores, probably thanks to wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, they can let Bradshaw run out the clock against a team struggling on offense to keep pace.

New York wins.

Cincinnati (2-2) at Jacksonville (1-3)

The Bengals are first in the league in defensive yards yielded (1,102). They are in the top 10 in both passing yards per game allowed and rushing yards per game allowed. They are also sixth in points allowed.

The Jaguars are last in the league in passing yards per game and last in the league in points scored.

Cincinnati wins.

New Orleans (3-1) at Carolina (1-3)

This one should be exciting: two of the top three ranked passing teams square off, Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees vs. rookie sensation Cam Newton.

But New Orleans averages almost 14 yards more per game on the ground and they score nearly ten more points per game than the Panthers do. And over the past two years the Saints have won three of four games against the Panthers.

Right now, the Panthers just aren’t at the same level as the Saints even if the game is a home one. The Saints are a legitimate Super Bowl contender and are playing like one of the best teams in the league right now.

New Orleans win.

Oakland (2-2) at Houston (3-1)

There have been a number of times where we have seen teams rally behind the loss of someone special to the organization. The Raiders will want to play a good game in honor of former coach, general manager and owner Al Davis, who pass away on Saturday.
The Texans had a big win last week but they will be without top wide receiver Andre Johnson. Johnson has 352 yards receiving this year. No other player listed as a wide receiver has 92 yards receiving. It’s a big loss in their offense.

Oakland wins.

Philadelphia (1-3) at Buffalo (3-1)

What it will come down to is which defense will yield more: the Philadelphia Eagles defense against Fred Jackson and the Bills running game or the Buffalo Bills defense against Michael Vick and the Eagles passing game?

The Eagles have gotten torn apart on the run, 30th in the league in rushing yards allowed and allowing Frank Gore his first 100-yard game of the season.

Meanwhile the Bills are 25th in passing yards allowed per game and are last in the league in sacks with only four in four games.

It’ll be a sigh of relief for Michael Vick if he isn’t hit or hurried. He’s been banged around a lot this season yet he’s still 11th in the league in passer rating, only two tenth of a point behind Tony Romo to fall in the Top 10.

The Eagles will have to play with some urgency to avoid falling to 1-4 and if Vick isn’t pressured then he could lead the Eagles to a very big game.

Philadelphia wins.

Kansas City (1-3) at Indianapolis (0-4)

At home, this could finally be the week the Colts get their first win.

Matt Cassel is 29th in the NFL in passer rating and the Chiefs are 30th in passing yards per game. He could be in for a long day with the pass rushing specialties of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Both have three sacks this season (in the top 20 in the league).

Curtis Painter played pretty well last week, throwing for 281 yards and two touchdowns. The Chiefs aren’t playing as well as the Bucs so it could be another solid outing for Painter.

Indianapolis wins.

Arizona (1-3) at Minnesota (0-4)

Despite Adrian Peterson and the third ranked rushing game the Vikings are winless. And the passing game is where they really are at a disadvantage.

They are 31st in the NFL in passing yards and 28th in passing yards allowed. A poor passing game in Minnesota definitely benefits the Cardinals defense, which has been poor in defending the pass.

They can throw the ball on offense though. They are 14th in the league in passing averaging 243 yards per game. And while winning games will be the team’s incentive, Larry Fitzgerald, the team’s leading receiver, will be extra motivated to make plays. He’s pledged to donate $1,000 per catch and $10,000 per touchdown this month to breast cancer research. A score or two from him would go a long way in this game.

Arizona wins.

Tampa Bay (3-1) at San Francisco (3-1)

The Buccaneers aren’t the only team that can make comebacks.

The Niners completed a 20-point second half comeback against the Eagles last week. Frank Gore ran for a season-high 127 yards and the game-winning touchdown and then said that the Eagles basically threw in the towel.

Another player to look out for this week is Niners wide receiver Michael Crabtree. After missing Week 3, Crabtree caught five passes for 68 yards against the Eagles. The Buccaneers have the 21st ranked pass defense in the league so it could be a good day for San Francisco in the air at home.

San Francisco wins.

New York Jets (2-2) at New England (3-1)

The Patriots haven’t lost at home since 2007.

The Jets may have the second best pass defense and Revis Island, but the corner can only cover one receiver. The Patriots have plenty of weapons in the passing game that have helped Tom Brady make the Pats the best passing offense in the NFL.

Wes Welker is first in the league in receiving yards (616). But then you have tight end Rob Gronkowski (296 yards, five touchdowns) who has been a huge red zone weapon as well as Deion Branch who also has over 200 yards receiving. Tight end Aaron Hernandez had 165 yards and two touchdowns in his first two games before being injured, but he did practice this week and the Jets will need to plan for him. And don’t forget Chad Ochocinco, who hasn’t made too big a splash yet this year but is learning the playbook more and more and will have a breakout game sooner rather than later.

The Pats have been balanced on offense, unlike the Jets, as they are also ninth in the league in rushing yards per game thanks to the trio of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead.

New England wins.

San Diego (3-1) at Denver (1-3)

The Broncos are 29th in the NFL in points allowed. And while the Chargers haven’t been as dangerous so far as in years past they still are an extremely competent offense just waiting to break out.

Kyle Orton may be sixth in the NFL in touchdowns thrown, but he also has six interceptions in only four games, including three last week. The Chargers are fifth in the NFL in passing defense and could make life hard for Orton.

San Diego wins.

Green Bay (4-0) at Atlanta (2-2)

The Falcons have struggled with consistency in the early going while the Packers seem to be effortlessly rolling.

Aaron Rodgers was unbelievable last week, throwing for 408 yards and four touchdowns and adding two rushing touchdowns. Everyone on offense is making contributions and this team is just firing on all cylinders right now.

It’s tough to go against a team that’s playing so well and looks like the best team in the league right now.

Green Bay wins.

Chicago (2-2) at Detroit (4-0)

The Bears are 0-2 against teams that have a record better than .500 and they lost their only game on the road so far this season.

The Lions and their fans are fired up right now. The team is undefeated, they have two 20-point comeback victories in back-to-back weeks and now they have their first primetime game in six years (they haven’t played on Monday Night since 2001).

The fans also will be excited for the potential debut of first round pick Nick Fairley.

The fans will be loud and the team looks good right now.

Detroit wins.

Bye week: Cleveland, Dallas, St. Louis, Miami, Washington, Baltimore

Last week: 11-5

Season: 40-24

Photo Credits/
Al Davis: AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Twitter Report: Athletes Remember Steve Jobs

Last night the world was shocked when Steve Jobs passed away due to pancreatic cancer. He was the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Apple Inc. and was also a CEO with Pixar Studios. He’s known as one of the best American innovators, being a part of so many things in the technology industry that have changed our world.

When the news was dropped yesterday many people took to Twitter to pay their respects. Amongst those Tweeting were many professional athletes, offering their condolences and remembering the genius of Steve Jobs.

Here is what some of them Tweeted.

LeBron James, NBA, Miami Heat: @KingJames “R.I.P Steve Jobs. Someone who definitely left his mark on this world! Innovations that will live and last forever!!”

Tracy McGrady, NBA, Detroit Pistons: @TheReal_TMAC “amazing how steve jobs changed people's lives all around the WORLD”

Cappie Pondexter, WNBA, New York Liberty: @cappa23 “I bought an ipad today in memory of#stevejobs thnkyou for ur genius!! Rip”

Serena Williams, professional tennis player: @serenawilliams “Steve Jobs the Thomas Edison of our day. You will be missed but your Legend will Live forever.”

Ndamukong Suh, NFL, Detroit Lions: @ndamukong_suh “It is very sad to hear that Mr. Steve Jobs has passed.He Will be greatly missed in many ways, will pray for his family!! #RIPSteveJobs#Apple”

Zoltan Mesko, NFL, New England Patriots: @ZoltanMesko “Forever the face of Apple...Steve Jobs. Bravo.”

Freddy Adu, MLS, Philadelphia Union & USA: @FreddyAdu11 “Wowwww Steve Jobs died. Man he changed the World with his vision. RIP Steve Jobs”

Nick Rimando, MLS, Real Salt Lake & USA: @NickRimando “I'm late but RIP Steve Jobs, don't know what I'd do without apple. What a Brilliant man!”

Carlos Bocanegra, professional soccer player, Rangers FC & USA: @BocaBoca3 “Steve Jobs , a modern day Da Vinci. He definitely warrants that shout. You changed the world.”

Abby Wambach, WPS, magicJack & USA: @AbbyWambach “Rip steve jobs! #iSad”

Photo Credits.
Steve Jobs: AP Photo/Paul Sakuma