Looking ahead towards the NBA Finals

There are a lot of great teams in the NBA right now and that makes it real hard to predict the outcome of this years playoffs…but I’ll give it a shot anyways. Everybody is hating on the Heat this year just because they ain’t at .500 and haven’t been there since they started the year 3-3 but let’s be realistic, that doesn’t mean anything. The playoffs are all about the segregation of the conferences and this year more than most provides us with one of the most lopsided divisions of power we have witnessed in a long time. Making a prediction for the NBA championship is more than just picking the best team in the NBA or the Suns would be my choice (they aren’t by the way), but it’s about realizing that the Western Conference has so many strong teams that it leaves every team in the conference at a serious disadvantage compared to the East.

You see, the West has the Mavs, Spurs, Suns, Lakers, Rockets and Jazz whom can all be considered among the top ten teams in the league and unfortunately for them, they all reside in the same conference. Anyone of those teams could probably easily win the entire Eastern Conference and make it easily to the NBA Finals this year…had they been in the East to begin with but now face their inevitable demise in the playoffs as only one team can come out to play for a championship. My pick for the Eastern Conference Champs are the reigning NBA champions as I honestly can’t see any East team beating them in a seven game series. The Heat will most likely be one of the top 3 seeds in the East at the end of the season as they finally have Shaq back (although he is over the hill), Wade is playing at such an unbelievable level (I mean did you see him singlehandedly beat the entire Spurs team in the 4th quarter on Sunday) and Riley will be back after the all star break that the fact that they are only 7.5 games back of the Eastern Conference lead with half a season to go must have Shaq salivating.

As for the West? Whatever team has the good fortune to come out of the conference will most likely have had to go through at least 2 grueling and tiring seven game series of which they will emerge so emotionally and physically exhausted that the the notion of having to defend Wade and Shaq for another series would simply crush their spirits. The Mavs, Suns or Spurs will most likely come out of the West but they will probably have to play each other to do it, resulting in 2 seven game series while the Heat probably won’t even have to play one.

It’s real simple, the West’s dominance is just going to cost them. I mean, can you imagine being Bowen, Bell or Howard (each teams best defender) and after having to defend the likes of Nash, Marion, Nowitzki, Howard, Parker or Genobli (depending on who comes through) throughout a combined 14 consecutive games, now you gotta go and defend a probably well rested and still very hungry Wade and Shaq for another seven games? I know Howard and the Mavs can and they didn’t like how it turned out.

NBA Champs: Miami Heat
Finals MVP: Dwyane Wade

And no I am not biased…I’m just smart.

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Colts will win Superbowl…and Manning impressed me

First off, I would like to say how much Peyton Manning impressed me yesterday. I’m not talking about his play or the fact that he put his team on his shoulders after throwing an interception to Samuel for a TD that put his team down 21-3 in the first half and completed the largest comeback in AFC Title game history (because no one should be impressed that Peyton Manning was able to do it) but with the way he handled himself during the post game press conference after the most emotional and meaningful game of his career. During the press conference, Peyton was understandably asked if this game was retribution for him, if this victory against the Patriots in the AFC Title game was his revenge or vindication against Brady and Belichick. Everyone would have understood if he said yes and proceeded to explain how the giant monkey that had lived on his back for the last 4 years had been lifted but Manning was PERFECT.

“I don’t get into monkeys and vindication,” he said. “I don’t play that card. I know how hard I worked this season, I know how hard I worked this week.”

Thats just one of the perfect lines Manning uttered yesterday and it exemplifies just how great a person he is. Refusing to be labeled despite the fact that he had been labeled for the last 4 years and for the last 72 hours especially…he spent most of the time criticizing himself for his interception and complementing his teammates for a job well done. No monkey, no vindication, no revenge…Peyton made no excuses, gave no explanations. He’s just plain great.

Now I cannot imagine any circumstance where the Colts could possibly lose the Superbowl to the Chicago Bears. The amount of momentum the Colts and especially Peyton Manning are entering the Superbowl with is overwhelming and reminds me of a certain Red Sox team just a couple of years ago. When the Red Sox came back from 3-0 to beat the Yankees, they had so much momentum that the World Series was merely a formality. That is how I imagine this Superbowl will go. Despite the fact that the leagues best offense will face the leagues best defense, I just find it hard to imagine Peyton Manning getting to the big game (especially considering the record setting way he did it) and coming up short.

Colts win and I guarantee no matter what his stats are (although chances are they’ll be pretty good) Peyton Manning takes home the Superbowl MVP.

Is this the Colts’ year?

The Colts have made it to another AFC Final…unfortunately for them, so have the Patriots. To be honest, I thought the Colts were going to be eliminated in the first round of this years playoffs and when they weren’t, I attributed it to…well come on, it was just the first round. Then I thought they were definitely going to lose in the second round to the Ravens but they didn’t and now, I find myself becoming more of a believer by the second. The last couple of years, the Colts have entered the playoffs by blowing through the regular season and leaving nothing left for the playoffs. They come in as favorites to win it all but can’t seem to even make it to the big game for reasons that are probably beyond any of our comprehension (no offense).

But this year is different.

The Colts came into this year’s playoffs having completely self destructed the second half of their season, or so the media would have you believe. They come in with so many defensive issues that I’ve heard people completely dismiss them as Superbowl contenders (umm…ya, I’m talking about myself) despite the fact that they have the second best QB (but most talented) in the league (in case you were wondering, Brady is #1). The Colts are fooling us all into thinking that they are not title contenders because they want to finally be the underdog. Less pressure is better but the Colts have taken it to a whole new level. Despite all of this, I STILL think they will lose to the Patriots come this weekend because it looks like the PAts have some of that old playoff magic still with them…that interception to a fumble to a recovery reminded me of the tuck play a couple of years ago.

Fool me once Manning, shame on me…Fool me twice, shame on you.

Titans ALMOST make the playoffs…

I have to mention this simply because of how disappointed I am that the Titans didn’t win their game against the Patriots yesterday. The Tennessee Titans were one of the MANY teams still vying for a playoff berth yesterday afternoon although the odds of them claiming that last playoff spot were far greater than most teams. The Titans needed the Broncos, Bengals and Jaguars (all teams that were fighting for playoff spots as well) to lose as well as winning their game against the Patriots. They were written off as a 60-1 underdog to make the playoffs. 60-1! That’s less than a 7 percent chance!

Well, Sunday came and went and heres what happened.

First, the Steelers vs. Bengals game:

Thanks to a Willie Parker TD during the second quarter, the Steelers led the Bengals for pretty much the entire game until the 4th quarter came around and both teams started to light up the eachothers endzones like it was the fourth of July. The Bengals were down 7-3 until Chris Henry caught a 66 yard TD pass from Palmer to take the lead 10-7. Willie Parker scored with seven and a half minutes remaining to retake the lead but then with just 2:47 left, Palmer and Stewart connected on a 5 yard TD pass to give the Bengals the lead and what looked like the game. The Bengals were sitting pretty and were probably looking forward to a playoff spot and a nice post game party, that is until the Steelers marched down the field like the Bengals had replaced their starting defense with some of their cheerleaders and Jeff Reed kicked a 35 yard field goal to tie the game with just over a minute to go. Graham missed his kick for the Bengals and the game went to overtime. The Steelers won the toss and on their first possesion, Big Ben connected with Santonio Holmes for a 67 yard TD pass. Game Over…23-17.

Second, the Chiefs vs. Jaguars game:

This game was an absolute firefight as both teams seem to score at will. A combined three TD’s in the Second Quarter and a combined four TD’s in the Third Quarter made this game very unpredictable and extremely entertaining. The Chiefs took the lead early in the game and never surrendered it as every time the Jags scored they answered back with a score of their own. Going into the Fourth Quarter, the Chiefs were up 35-23 and the Jaguars could only muster a single TD in an attempt to save their season. It wasn’t good enough. 35-30.

Third, the 49ers vs. Broncos game:

This game was really the one that gave me no hope before the start of Sunday’s games. The Denver Broncos just needed to win their game to ensure they make the playoffs and all they had to do it against was the lowly 49ers. The Broncos took an early 13-0 lead on a pair of Jason Elam field goals and a Champ Bailey (my pick for Defensive Player of the Year) 70 yard interception return for a TD. Going into halftime the Broncos were up 13-3 and looked to have a comfortable lead over San Fran…but the 49ers would not be taken for granted. In the Third Quarter, Smith threw a 32 yard TD pass to Moran Norris (who?) and Walt Harris scored on a 28 yard interception to give the 49ers their first lead of the game. Going into the Fourth it was 17-16…for the 49ers. In the Fourth, a pair of Nedney field goals gave San Francisco a seven point lead with just over 6 minutes remaining but the Broncos refused to let their dreams of a wild card berth die on New Years eve. In a four and a half minute drive, Jay Cutler marched his team 80 yards down field on just 10 plays and with only a minute and a half left, connected with Tony Scheffler for a nine yard TD pass to tie the game and send it into overtime. Unfortunately for the Broncos, that is where they fell short. After a very long overtime period where both teams failed to score, Joe Nedney kicked a 36 yard field goal with under two minutes left to win it for the 49ers and end the Broncos season. 26-23.

The Titans game actually happened before the Broncos game so I knew they were eliminated well before the Broncos game finished but the fact that pretty much everything that the Titans needed to happen (besides for them winning of course) actually happened is still pretty unbelievable. As for the Titans game…

Titans vs. Patriots game:

The Titans went into this game knowing they needed a lot of help to make the playoffs but for any of that to matter, they needed to win their game first. Vince Young had led his team to four Fourth Quarter comebacks in their last four games and that was very comforting considering they trailed the Pats going into the Fourth. One of the most entertaining parts of the game was actually watching the battle between PacMan Jones (the Titans punt returner) and Todd Sauerbrun (the Patriots punter). After PacMan returned a punt 81 yards for a TD with just 30 seconds left before halftime to put the Titans back in the game, Sauerbrun began to punt the ball several different ways in an attempt to remove PacMan’s return skills from the game…and it worked. With PacMan unable to return the ball the way the titans needed him to, the entire game was put on Vince Young’s shoulders, and he delivered…for a couple of minutes. With a minute and half remaining in the Third Quarter and the Titans down by 11, Vince Young rallied his team down the field and on a broken play, made an absolutely unbelievable 28 yard run into the endzone by breaking tackles and dodging flying Patriots to restore hope to the Titan faithful. That hope didn’t last long. Key mistakes by the Titans and Vince Young gave the Patriots the ball and they capitalized by scoring two consecutive TDs to restore their huge lead. There would be no Fourth Quarter comeback and the Titans dreams of a playoff berth remained just that…a dream. 40-23

I can’t help but wonder what could have been if only the Titans had won that game. A 60-1 underdog with perhaps the slimmest shot of making it to the NFL Playoffs in NFL History could have made it if not for just one game. The Titans got all the help they needed but couldn’t take care of the one game they had control over.

Happy New Year, Vince.