Monthly Archives: January 2012

Let’s change the game in the Pro Bowl

The Pro Bowl starts at 7 p.m. on the East Coast, 4 p.m. on the West Coast, and 6 p.m. Texas time, but no matter where you live, we all have one thing in common.

We won’t be watching the damn Pro Bowl.

No, the Pro Bowl is only good for one thing—to show your significant others that you’re not hooked on football.

“Of course I love you more than football, baby. Let me take you out to dinner or to the movies. Yes, yes, I’m absolutely willing to walk out on this game.”

Still, the NFL definitely needs an all-star game, and I’m all for the tradition of sending the leagues stellar players to Hawaii.

Let’s just dump the actual football game.

It’s not like the NBA or MLB all-star games, where upwards of 40 to 60 percent of the players might well be giving their best. This a football game where no one wants to get hurt, so only one percent of the players give it their all.

But who gives a damn about kickers, anyway.

My first inclination was to send the NFL besters to Hawaii for a foosball tournament. No one gets hurt, they all can compete at 100 percent, and you only have to change one letter in the game.

The downside? It’s not very good television, since all you’d see are the player’s hands.

Then I thought maybe a bowling tournament would work. Competitors could even drink during the competition, and there would be a lot of face time in a bowling tournament.

The downside? What’s the point of being in Hawaii if you’re going to stay indoors?

So the answer is the NFL Pro Bowl Golf Tournament, sponsored by Titleist. The NFL could make it a three-day event, starting on Friday and ending Sunday. Think of it, the Hawaiian great outdoors, real competition, and lots of celebrity face time and interviews.

Now that’s something I’d be willing to watch a week before the Super Bowl.

And as to showing our loved ones we care about them more than football, don’t worry. We can always walk out on the East-West Shrine game.
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NFC and AFC Championship picks, based on two criteria — whim and caprice

Yes, I’ve been stalling.

I wanted to collect every last bit of information I could before I committed this column to print, as both these games will be close contests. Let’s get started.

NFC Championship

I pick the SF 49ers over the NY Giants.

Am I biased? Of course, I’m a Niners fan. But not blindly so. I amassed some key information and analyzed some important match-ups to back up my pick, although I did that after I already made my pick, hence the bias.

Here’s what I learned.

Youth Movement

I examined both rosters for age, and gave the edge to the younger team. That would be the 49ers, which come in at a mean average of 26 years old, while the NY Giants came in at 27.

Nine players on the 49ers are 30 years of age or older, compared to 11 on the Giants.

Injury Reports

The Giants reported nine players with issues, including Manning’s 24-hour bug. I expect him to be healthy for the game, though.

Running back Ahmad Bradshaw’s foot problems could be a sticking point.

On the 49ers side, there were only six players hobbled, but Ted Ginn Jr., Patrick Willis and Jonathan Goodwin could be major losses if they don’t play. All are listed as questionable.

I’ll call this one a push.

Coaches Corner

I’ll take Jim Harbaugh over Tom Coughlin. Do I really have to explain why? Okay, I will then.

Harbaugh’s like Tony Robbins. He motivates. Coughlin’s like the guy who won’t give your ball back when it goes on his lawn. He’s cranky.

Weather Conditions

Candlestick Park looks to be cold, windy and rainy on Sunday, according to weather.com. These conditions favor defense, and I prefer the 49ers fourth-ranked defense over the Giants 26-ranked crew —although I’ll admit they’re playing over their heads in the playoffs.

The weather will also take away any quarterback advantage the Giants have. Eli Manning may be one of the elite quarterbacks in the league, but not when he’s throwing knuckle balls into the winds of Candlestick. But QB Alex Smith should have no problem doing what he does best — short, laser-like passes and handing off to Frank Gore.

I know I said this about last week’s game, but I’m saying it again — Frank Gore must have a great game for the 49ers to win.

The Key Match-up

The 49ers need to stop Manning to win the NFC Championship. And that means 49er pass rushing specialist Justin Smith will have to kick butt on Giants left tackle David Diehl.

Whoever wins that match-up wins the game.

Kicking Game

David Akers will continue to be rock solid, as he kicks the 49ers to a one-point win.

AFC Championship

While my NFC pick went against conventional wisdom, I’m with most of the ESPN pundits on their AFC predictions—Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will defeat the Baltimore Ravens. Handily.

The key match-up? Ravens safety Ed Reed versus common sense. What kind of idiot criticizes his own quarterback before a big game, thereby creating a distraction for this entire team?

That idiot would be Reed. Idiot.

Still, he’s right. Joe Flacco did look rattled in the game against the Texans, and he’ll look even more rattled in Foxborough.

Tom Brady will pick apart the defense, and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will run roughshod over the Ravens secondary. Wes Welker will be the usual stone in everyone’s shoe, and just when Baltimore thinks they’ve got the New England offense contained, midget running back Danny Woodhead will come out of nowhere to score.

This game doesn’t need a whole hellofa lot of analysis. Patriots by 14.

(Note: Here’s one idiotic prediction. Ray Lewis will get injured in the game. Why? Because he’s older, he’s a warrior, and he’ll try too hard.)

There. Now go make that phone call to Vegas.

Last Minute Notes

– I just checked, and there is one ex-Penn State player on the 49ers, two on the Giants. If there is a distraction from Joe Pa’s death it favors San Francisco.

– New England 23, Baltimore 20. Why was it so close? Because Flacco played way better than expected. And Brady way worse.

– The game ended in a 17-17 tie, and the Giants won with a field goal in overtime. I was thinking it would be a 49ers win at 17-16. Oh, well.
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The San Francisco 49ers: Now featuring offense (Patriots also win, because of god’s will)

The Niners won, just like I said they would. The Patriots blew out the Broncos, just like I said they would.

Can I get an amen?

So far, my NFL revelations look a lot better than my one college prediction from last week, when I picked LSU to win the BCS over Alabama.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

But two days ago, I preached (probably to the choir) that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots would crucify Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos by 21 points.

That turned out to be a conservative estimate, as the Pats exorcised Tebowmania with an old-fashioned asswhooping, 45-10.

Brady threw six touchdown passes in the game and tied an NFL playoff record, putting him alongside Oakland’s Daryle Lamonica and San Francisco’s Steve Young.

Lamonica threw six TD passes in a playoff game against the Houston Oilers in 1969, and Young did it against San Diego in the 1995 Super Bowl.

Oddly, Brady had a chance to surpass the record early in the fourth quarter, but Belichick called for three straight running plays. It’s hard to say if it was sportsmanship, gamesmanship or just plain old divine intervention.

I wasn’t surprised by the blowout, although the fear of god was put in me early in the second quarter when Denver scored a touchdown to trim New England’s lead to 14-7.

But my prayers were soon answered when Brady threw for three more touchdowns and secured a 35-7 lead at the half.

You could see this route coming, couldn’t you?

You have to believe that all of the Tebow talk this year stuck in Brady’s craw just a bit. You have to believe that the New England QB wanted to make a statement. You have to believe that every other player on the Patriots was sick of hearing the name TimTebow, too.

Since you have to believe in something, why not Brady? Ain’t nothing mystical about that, just talent, skill, and good old American know-how.

Score one for the non-seculars.

Besides, the real miracle came earlier in the day when the 49er Faithful watched the Niners sneak past the New Orleans Saints by a, 36-32.

They won with offense. They won with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. They won with Alex Smith and Vernon Davis for crissakes.

Can I get an amen?

The competent but normally workmanlike Smith turned into an avenging angel Saturday, connecting on three touchdown passes and a surprising 28-yard TD run—the longest playoff run by a quarterback in SF franchise history.

Hell, I didn’t even know Smith could run at all.

The defense played as expected, forcing six turnovers and pressuring Saints QB Drew Brees all day long. Running back Frank Gore turned in a solid performance, including a 42-yard run that led to a fourth-quarter field goal.

But the miracle happened on the 49ers final offensive play, when Smith hit Davis for a touchdown with nine seconds to go, reminiscent of Steve Young’s pass to Terrell Owens to defeat Green Bay back in 1998 and on the 30-year anniversary of “The Catch,” when Joe Montana hit Dwight Clark in the end zone to defeat the Dallas Cowboys in 1981.

In the end, not even a Hail Mary could save the Saints, so they didn’t even try.

I don’t know exactly what to make of this. A born again 49ers offense puts the NFC on notice and adds a new wrinkle to my playoff predictions.

If the NY football Giants can somehow upset the Packers at Lambeau Field, I think the Niners could beat the Giants at Candlestick and go on to the Super Bowl.

But I do not think the 49ers can beat the Packers in Green Bay. I know. Me of little faith.

I’m sticking with my earlier predictions. I’ll be rooting for the Texans and the Giants this afternoon, but I still think Baltimore and Green Bay will meet in Indianapolis.

Sure hope I’m wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Can I get another amen?

[UPDATE at 8 p.m., Eastern Time]

Well, what do you know. The NY Giants defeated the Green Bay Packers, 37-20. That means the 49ers get to play the NFC Championship at Candlestick.

Hallelujah.
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Accountability and some NFL playoff predictions

Yeah, my BCS predictions were all wrong. Hope you learned something. Here’s what I learned.

If I say it. And if I say it with passion and conviction. It’s probably a lie.

“I’ll never live in the South.” Or how about, “I’ll never own a truck and a pit bull.” And then there’s always, “I’ll never write for free on the Internet.”

I also learned that as much as I despise OK State, the Cowboys and Stanford played a much more exciting game at the Fiesta Bowl than ‘Bama and LSU did at what I now call the Bigass Bore Bowl.

No excuses though. I was wrong, all wrong, so congrats to the Crimson Tide.

Now. Let’s move on to my NFL playoff predictions. First, the San Francisco 49ers vs. the New Orleans Saints. I like the 49ers.

In the interest of full disclosure—I’m a 49ers fan. But I don’t think that influenced my pick, I just like the match-up. Saints QB Drew Brees will have to throw, throw, throw and do it perfectly, because I think the ‘9ers will shut down the run.

For the ‘9ers to win, running back Frank Gore will have to be on his game and Alex Smith just has to do his job and not screw up. No heroics there.

San Francisco by three in Saturday’s matinee.

The night cap on Saturday features Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos vs. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. It’s difficult for any NFL team to beat another NFL team twice in a season, but that’s what the Patriots will do.

In fact, Brady will hand Tebow his ass. Not even close. Patriots by 21.

Sunday’s games are tougher to read, but I think the Baltimore Ravens easily and evenly defeat the Texans by a touchdown. The afternoon game is the biggest chance for an upset. But it won’t happen.

I take the Packers over the Giants by ten.

I’ll probably have to rewrite this next week, but I see the 49ers losing to Green Bay in the NFC Championship. Too damn cold.

And Baltimore will grind it out against the Patriots for the AFC Championship.

But that’s not what I want to happen, that’s just what I think will happen. I want the 49ers to beat the Packers and New England to beat the Ravens.

Then I want the ‘9ers to beat New England in the Super Bowl.

But I just don’t see that happening. Too bad for me.
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My pick for the BCS winner

Here’s my pick for the Bowl Championship Series winner—LSU over Alabama by 14 points.

Frankly, my pick is as good as yours. Yours might even be better. My pick is based on three criteria—whim, caprice, and bias.

LSU already beat Alabama on the Crimson Tide’s home field, but tonight’s game (it’s 90 minutes to kickoff as of this writing) is pretty much being played on LSU’s home turf.

Okay, at least it’s being played in LSU’s home state, right?

So. Why do I say LSU will win by 14 points? No reason, really. That’s where the whim and caprice come in.

Here’s where the bias comes in—I despise Oklahoma State aka billionaire T. Boone Pickens’ main charity. I despise the alumni, the whiny coach, the color scheme, the aging QB, and even the Cowboys name.

See where this is going yet?

If LSU wins, OK State will have no claim whatsoever on the national championship. But if Alabama wins, we’ll be forced to endure the crying and gnashing of teeth from Stillwater until next August.

Go Tigers. And hook ’em Horns.

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