Tuesday, January 10, 2012

NFL Playoff Picks: Divisional Round



Week one of the NFL playoffs are officially in the books and before we move on to the divisional round we should take a look back at last week’s action to see what we learned:

Lesson 1: The Giants are peaking
There may not be a hotter team right now in the NFL than the New York Giants. They have won three in a row all against teams that were facing possible elimination from the playoffs if they lost. Even scarier is the fact that none of these games have even been close. Their defense is in the zone holding their opponents to an average of 10 points per game over their last three contests. Eli Manning is also playing up to his potential averaging 280 yards and 2 ½ touchdowns combined with only one interception in the last 3 games.  Does this mean they can go into Green Bay and upset the Packers? I am not sure but I do know that they go into this game with something they had been lacking for most of the year: Confidence.

Lesson 2: Drew Brees is the MVP of the league this year
I don’t need to see anymore. Even if the Saints go into San Francisco and somehow manage to lose the game I still think that Brees is all but guaranteed the MVP this year. He continued to put up Madden type numbers last week against the Lions completing 33/43 passes for 466 yards, 3 touchdowns, and zero interceptions.

Lesson 3: Don’t bet against Tim Tebow
I figure if I keep telling myself this then maybe I will take my own advice and avoid betting on this game altogether. So let me say it again. DON’T BET AGAINST TIM TEBOW… DON’T BET AGAINST TIM TEBOW… DON’T BET AGAINST TIM TEBOW!

So let’s do this:

MY PICKS (Home team in CAPS)

GAME 1:  New Orleans Saints vs. SAN FRANSISCO 49ERS
LINE: SAINTS -3 ½
MY PICK: New Orleans Saints
SCORE:  New Orleans 34 San Francisco 17

When I look at this matchup I can’t help but think that the Saints are the superior team. I understand that the 49ers had a better record throughout the regular season and I understand that Drew Brees is going to have a much harder time playing away from the comfort of artificial turf and a dome but with that being said I don’t think that the 49ers defense will be able to contain him. San Francisco has one of the top defenses in the NFL. They limit teams to an average of only 230 passing yards and are in the top ten in the league in sacks and interceptions.  However, upon closer review,  it turns out that the 49ers have only played three games against  teams with a QB  passer rating of over 90 (Cowboys, Lions, Giants) and during these three games they have allowed an average of 316 yards passing. They are also not able to pressure the elite QB’s as much either as their sacks and interceptions are down in these three games as well. The bad news for the 49ers is that Drew Brees is a better quarterback than anyone they have faced all year so I would expect him to throw for at least 350 yards with a few touchdowns. Can Alex Smith keep up? I don’t think so. He is averaging 180 yards and only one touchdown per game. I get the feeling this is going to be a long day for both Alex Smith and the 49ers defense so I am picking the Saints to win easily.

GAME 2:  Denver Broncos vs. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
LINE: PATRIOTS -13 ½
MY PICK: Denver Broncos
SCORE:  New England 28 Denver 16

As tempting as it may be to take New England in this game, I think that the Broncos are just good enough to cover. In their 1st matchup of the year, Denver got smoked 41-23. So why would I expect different results this time around? After all, as far as the Broncos were concerned, that was a must win game at the time. So after Denver backed into the playoffs with three straight loses, they do something they have been doing for the entire year, defying expectations and shocking the world. This time they did it by beating a better Steelers team in overtime on an amazing 80 yard pass by none other than Tim Tebow. I would love to throw stats at you to convince you of my argument like I did in the game above but I can’t! All the stats point to a New England blowout. They have a much better quarterback, home field advantage, and tons of playoff experience. That is what makes this Denver team so frustrating for some: They just keep continuing to defy logic by winning games. They have a solid defense that capitalizes on mistakes and a quarterback that barely makes any. They won’t wow you, they just hang around. The New England and Buffalo games were the anomalies, not the norm, for this Bronco team which is why I will not put much weight on either of those two games. For the rest of the year since Tebow has started, they have proven that they can stay close down the stretch and win games. I expect this to be the case again with New England coming out on top.

GAME 3:  Houston Texans vs. BALTIMORE RAVENS
LINE: RAVENS -9
MY PICK: Houston Texans
SCORE:  Baltimore 21 Houston 20

In terms of matchups, this is the most interesting game of the week. It puts together two teams that have both the same strengths and weaknesses. Houston and Baltimore are both run first, pass second teams. They have two of the most productive running backs in the NFL on their teams in Arian Foster and Ray Rice. Foster had a huge game against the Bengals last week rushing for 153 yards and two touchdowns. However, what concerns me is that he did seem very anxious early on in the game. He lost the ball twice and the Texans were fortunate that he recovered the ball both times. I look for the Ravens to try to capitalize on any mistake Foster may make. I am looking for big games from both RB’s as the quarterback play from both teams in average at best. Yates managed the game rather nicely against the Bengals but still only managed to throw for 150 yards. Expect both teams to run the ball all day and try to wear down the other team’s defense. We will be watching two of the best defenses in the NFL face each other and whichever defense can stay fresh is the one that will win this game. The team that controls the time of possession and runs the ball best in this game will be the team that comes out on top. I expect this to be the Ravens because in my opinion Rice has been the more consistent RB throughout the year. Even though their numbers are similar, Rice runs for more yards on average than Foster. More importantly however is that Foster had less carries than Rice but double the amount of fumbles. I think that this game could go either way but if Foster has trouble protecting the ball then expect Baltimore to come out on top.


GAME 4:  New York Giants vs. GREEN BAY PACKERS
LINE: Packers -8
MY PICK: New York Giants
SCORE:  Green Bay 31 New York 26

The NFL has saved the most entertaining game for last when the New York Giants travel to Green Bay to play the Packers. Eli Manning is red hot and the Giants seem to have everything going the right way. However, Green Bay doesn’t have a bad quarterback either in MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers. Expect solid play from both of these QB’s. New York should continue their solid defensive play and I expect them to be able to pressure Rodgers throughout the game. If they can force him into making a few bad throws then they will have a chance of winning the game. However, I believe that the best QB in this game will be the one that wins it and it is hard to argue against Aaron Rodgers. Even though I love the run New York has made at the end of the season and into the playoffs, I think it will come to an end against Green Bay even though they will cover the spread.

Last Week Against the Spread: 2-2


Monday, January 9, 2012

First impressions of Coachella lineup and week 2 NFL playoff picks...


There is so much to write about that I am not sure where to begin. Week two of the NFL playoffs kick off on Saturday when the Saints travel out west to face the surging San Francisco 49er's. This weeks action is sure to be just as good if not better than last weeks. Speaking of last week, my predictions seemed to hold up pretty nicely. I went 2-2 against the spread picking both the Texans and the Giants correctly. I was 3-1 picking the winners straight up and my only big downfall was underestimating the power of the Tim Tebow effect on the outcome of big NFL games. The guy just knows how to win and he showed it all day long against The Steelers.  I will be posting my picks for the second round of action later on tomorrow.

As for the recently released Coachella lineup, all I can say is WOW! The lineup is packed this year and I have no idea which day I am looking forward to most. Some of the highlights will no doubt include Radiohead, Bon Iver, The Black Keys, Feist, and for the first time ever on tour in the United States, The Weeknd. I have decided that I will be putting up a three part “mega-blog” dissecting each day of Coachella. Who is worth checking out and who is worth skipping over? I guess you will just have to wait a few more days to find out! Until then, thank you for your continued support of my blog. I have really enjoyed putting my thoughts out there and I hope some of you have enjoyed reading them as well. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Betting the First Round of the NFL Playoffs





"It’s the most wonderful time of the year". No, I am not talking about Christmas or New Years Day or that annoying song we have to hear Andy Williams sing over and over again during the holidays. I am talking about that special time of the year that brings sports bettors and their millions of dollars together: The NFL playoffs! In fact, betting action on the Superbowl alone may top $100,000,000 dollars this year. Keep in mind that this is only accounting for "legal" sports betting action. Add up all the under the table action that goes on between bookies and friends and some say that betting on the NFL playoffs may be a billion dollar industry. So it is pretty easy to see why people take these games so seriously when there is so much money on the line. I am going to try my best to make sense of the first round of the playoffs and pick the winners against the spread while hopefully making myself some money in the process. So without further ado, let the madness begin:


*home team in CAPS

GAME 1: Cincinnati Bengals vs. HOUSTON TEXANS

LINE: TEXANS -3

MY PICK: Houston Texans

SCORE: Houston 17 Cincinnati 10

I will start out by saying that this was the toughest game for me to pick. Being successful in the playoffs is all about peaking at the right time and neither of these teams come into this game peaking. In fact, they are doing the opposite. Houston comes into the game limping into the playoffs. They have lost their last three games and have had the benefit of playing in one of the weakest divisions in football. The AFC south has a combined record of 26-38. Meanwhile, the Bengals backed into the playoffs by losing a "must-win" game against the Baltimore Ravens and somehow still got in with the help of some other teams. On top of that, their best win of the entire year was against the Tennessee Titans who did not even make the playoffs. This really is a terrible game and whichever team wins is definitely one and done. That being said, I like the Texans to win and cover. It looks like T.J. Yates will play after suffering a separated left shoulder in week 17. He has shown glimpses of being a respectable QB with wins over both Atlanta and Cincinnati during the year. This will be the Texans first playoff game in franchise history so I am expecting the crowd to be pumped up and ready to make some noise and that should spell trouble for first year quarterback Andy Dalton. I am predicting a low scoring game being that both defenses are legit and both quarterbacks are unproven in the playoffs. It will be a battle of wills but I think that the Texans come out on top 17-10.



GAME 2: Detroit Lions vs. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

LINE: SAINTS -10.5

MY PICK: LIONS

SCORE: Saints 38 Lions 31

This game is going to be a shootout! I am not a big fan of betting the over/under in games but as of right now the line is at 58.5 and I don’t see a way that these teams do not put up at least 60 points combined. It is a battle of great quarterbacks and terrible pass defenses. The Saints are ranked 30th in pass defense while the Lions are 22nd. Meanwhile quarterbacks on both teams are putting up numbers that are just sick. Drew Brees broke Dan Marino's long standing record for most passing yards thrown for in a single season. Meanwhile, Stafford has quietly thrown for over 5000 yards this season. I don't believe that either defense will play well and because of the high powered offenses on each team I expect a close scoring shootout that results in a Saints win but a Lions cover.





GAME 3: Atlanta Falcons vs NEW YORK GIANTS

LINE: GIANTS -3

MY PICK: NEW YORK GIANTS

SCORE: Giants 30 Falcons 17


When these two teams meet in New York on Sunday my guess is that it will not be pretty. The weather in New York is expected to be cold and wet as the forecast calls for highs in the low 40's and lots of rain. So why is this important? It is a fact that the QB for Atlanta, Matt Ryan, fares much better indoors than he does outdoors. Ryan has one of the lowest QB ratings in the NFL during outdoor games. Nobody knows for sure why Ryan is affected so much by playing outside but I am sure it has a lot to do with him playing all of his home games in a dome. In the 11 games that the Falcons played indoors this season, they had a combined record of 8-3. In contrast, the 5 games they played outdoors they had a record of 2-3 which includes a win against the Seattle Seahawks that could have gone either way. So in reality this Falcons team has only one quality win playing on an outdoor field for the entire year. On top of that, the Giants may have the best pass rush in the NFL. Pro-bowler Jason Pierre-Paul leads the Giants pass rush attack with 16.5 sacks. Combine that with Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck and I get the feeling that the Falcons are going to be in for a long day. I picked the Giants to win by just 13 points based on their inconsistency throughout the year as well but do not be surprised if this game turns out to be a blowout.






GAME 4: Pittsburg Steelers vs. DENVER BRONCOS

LINE: STEELERS -9

MY PICK: STEELERS

SCORE: STEELERS 20 DENVER 10

The last game of what is sure to be a crazy wild-card weekend puts the Pittsburgh Steelers up against Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. Will Tebow lead the Broncos to another improbable win or has he run out of miracles? Even though I don't like giving all those points to a stingy Denver defense, I think that when it is all said and done, the Steelers will just barely cover. The Steelers come into this game extremely beat up. Rashard Mendenhall is done for the year and Roethlisberger is literally limping into the playoffs. On top of that, their safety Ryan Clark will not be allowed to travel to Denver because of a rare sickle cell disease that can flare up in high altitude. The reason I am still sticking with the Steelers even though they are so beat up is simple: DEFENSE. Pittsburgh has the best pass defense in the entire NFL. Combine that with Tebows poor accuracy and I think it is going to be very hard for the Broncos to get into the end-zone. They are going to have to lean solely on their defense and I just don't see them shutting down Roethlisberger for the entire game even if he is hurt.




FINAL THOUGHTS:

While I feel more strongly about my picks for the Giants and the Lions than the Steelers and Texans, one thing is for sure: Anything can happen on wildcard weekend and we see upsets year after year. The only underdog I have covering this week are the Detroit Lions and I don't even have them winning the game. Are all 4 favorites really going to win their games? Who knows, but anything could happen. Thanks for reading and be sure to let me know what you think about the games!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

R&B and its slow infiltration into the indie world



When you think about indie music, what is the first thought that pops in to your head? Chances are, you are not thinking about R&B music. However, over the past few years, the R&B genre has slowly infiltrated itself into the mainstream and is now a force to be reckoned with when it comes to indie music. As little as a few years back, R&B music got almost no respect in most indie circles. People dismissed the entire genre as untalented and boring. However, for the past three years it seems like R&B music is slowly but surely making a name for itself in the indie world. In my opinion, it all started back in 2009 when a little known band that called themselves "Discovery" released their debut LP by the same name. What made this debut so special is that any casual follower of indie music would recognize the artists that made up this new group. Ezra Koenig, the lead singer form "Vampire Weekend, took lead vocals and Angel Deradoorian, "Dirty Projectors", backed him up. With two well known singers playing a major part in the band, the record was destined for success. Scott Plagenhoef, of Pitchfork Media, said that "this could be your favorite or most loved record of the year." Sure enough, the record did not disappoint. I think that the highlight of the LP was a song titled "Orange Shirt". The song itself seems to be about a crush the singer has on a girl but after one listen, it is hard to get this catchy song out of your head.



After the Discovery LP, a lot of people, including myself, were left searching for more. My search led me to an artist working under the stage name "How to Dress Well." In 2010, he released his debut album titled "Love Remains". If I could describe this album in only one word it would be "haunting". Instead of relying on poppy beats and uptempo songs like Discovery did, How to Dress Well took a much darker approach. The entire album is filled with layered vocals and tons of reverb creating an all around dark album which is only enhanced by his high pitched falsetto voice. One of the albums best songs, which I believe encompasses all of the above is titled "decisions".



The last, and possibly most influential artist that I feel has impacted indie music the most as it relates to R&B is a singer by the name of Abel Tesfaye. His project goes by the name "The Weeknd". Since his debut album hit in March of 2011, artists from all over have taken notice. From being mentioned on twitter by Drake to being sampled by bands like Florence and the Machine and Lady Gaga, it seems like The Weekned could be the first indie R&B artist to have a real chance of actually ending up in the mainstream. Once you take a listen to his music it is obvious why I would think this. There is so much emotion in each of his songs. One of my favorites is titled "Wicked Games". Take a listen for yourself and see what you think.

If you liked the last song, here is another..more upbeat song from The Weeknd titled "House of Balloons"

In closing, I really do feel like R&B is here to stay. It can no longer be described as boring and bland. Instead, thanks to some talented new musicians, it is now one of the most interesting types of music out. Whether you are looking for something upbeat and poppy or dark and gloomy, the genre offers something for everyone.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What should The Lakers do now that they are out of the Chris Paul sweepstakes?


What should The Lakers do now that they are out of the Chris Paul sweepstakes?


If the recent trade involving Chris Paul going to The Los Angeles Clippers has taught us anything, it is that fortunes can change, and change fast. For the past 27 years, the Clippers have been the laughing stock of the NBA and the city of Los Angeles.  Even when they had good teams in the past people would say, "Yeah, but they are still the Clippers." But then, suddenly, everything changed. The Clippers did the impossible: They beat the Lakers. Granted it took the commissioner of the NBA to step in and veto The Lakers deal with The Hornets just for The Clippers to have a chance of landing Paul but that is beside the point. The point is, The Clippers wanted to do something that the Lakers also wanted to do and they were actually successful at it.

So where does this leave the Lakers? Arguably the most successful franchise in the history of the NBA is left wondering what the hell just happened?! Last week it looked as though the Lakers were going to be just that…The Lakers! It looked as if not only they were going to work out a trade with The Hornets to send Chris Paul over to Los Angeles, but it also seemed inevitable that Dwight Howard was going to be right behind him. Lakers fans went to bed last week dreaming of a backcourt that would instantly be the best in the NBA. They dreamed of having their own bigger and better version of "the big three" with Kobe, Paul and Howard. They were going to be unstoppable. They were going to win championships. But then all the sudden something happened: they woke up, and as they woke up they realized that they were living a nightmare. Instead of having possibly the best backcourt duo in NBA history, they watched as their coveted player walked into Staples center wearing not purple and gold but instead wearing red and blue. And then to make matters even worse, they turn on the news and read the latest reports saying that Dwight Howard isn't going anywhere. He is content staying put in Orlando and will play there for the rest of the year. So instead of "the big three", the Los Angeles Lakers are now faced with the very real possibility that their 3rd best player is Andrew Bynum, a player that has managed to play only one full season in the past six years.

So that brings us to the question that we need answered. What should The Lakers do in order to remain one of the top teams in the NBA? As far as I am concerned, they only have two choices. I do not believe that one choice is to do nothing. If you do nothing, you will not compete for a championship this year or for many years to come. Kobe Bryant is aging and even the most optimistic Lakers fan will admit that he only has three years left tops as a game changer in the NBA. This leaves The Lakers with an also aging Pau Gasol and an unproven six year veteran that can never manage to remain healthy for an entire year. This is not a possibility if you are a Lakers fan. They need to do something soon or risk not only being overtaken by a better team in their own building but also being overtaken by the majority of better teams in the league. So here are the only two options that I think the Lakers have:

Option 1: Call the Magic and throw everything you got at them! The Lakers have to come to the realization that it is going to take more than either Gasol or Bynum to get Dwight Howard. Look at what The Clippers just gave up for Chris Paul. In all honestly it is going to take both Gasol and Bynum to even get the Magic to pay attention. On top of that they are probably going to have to throw in another player or future draft picks. To a Lakers fan, this may seem like too much to give up for just one player. However, think of the alternative. If you do not make an aggressive move for Howard I already outlined what will happen to the Lakers in the paragraph above. They should not worry about the price, because in five years from now when both Kobe and Gasol are irrelevant, Dwight Howard will still be in the prime of his career. Sure you will still need to find other pieces to put around Howard to make the team successful, but it is my guess that other players around the NBA would be much more interested in playing on a team with Howard then they would be playing on a team with an aging Kobe and Gasol.

Option 2: Do the unthinkable. Trade Kobe Bryant! I am no genius but I can almost guarantee that if you offer Kobe to any team that is close to contending for a championship, they will throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Lakers in order to obtain him. Now I am not going to sit here and speculate what teams would be interested in Kobe and who they would give up for him but I do know that there would be plenty of teams interested. Do you think that a team like Oklahoma City would pass up the chance of getting Kobe Bryant if it meant that all they had to trade away was Russell Westbrook. If I was the GM for Oklahoma City, I do that trade in a second. You can immediately contend for a title for the next two or three years. However, if you are the Lakers, you know that you have an elite young player in Westbrook plus you already traded away Gasol and Bynum for Dwight Howard. I am not sure about what Lakers fans would think but looking at it from an objective perspective I would much rather build around Dwight Howard and a player such as Westbrook rather than have to face the fact that if they hang on to Kobe and Gasol that they will both be irrelevant in five years.

I am not saying that the Lakers need to make that specific trade with The Thunder but what I am saying is that they should shop Kobe around and see what offers they get. The Lakers did not become The Lakers because they are afraid to make big moves. If they were afraid of making moves then they would not be where they are today. That is why I fully expect the Lakers to shock everybody and make a big trade in the next few months. All though it may not be popular with the fans, it sure beats the alternative. Tell me what you think! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

11 best songs of 2011

As the year comes to a close, I thought it would be a good idea to start out my brand new blog by posting my 11 favorite songs for 2011. There has been a lot of great music this year so I find it very hard to narrow down my list to just eleven songs but I will try my best. Let me start out by saying that I am by no means a music "expert". In fact, I only really started getting in to music a few years ago. Since this list is very subjective, I should start out by letting you know what my taste in music is like. While I listen to a little bit of everything, I tend to focus on Indie Rock and Rap. When it comes to indie rock, I like all sorts of sub-genres. I enjoy everything from psychedelic rock to post dub-step to folk and everything in between. When it comes to rap I prefer mostly indie but I do get in to a few mainstream rappers as well. The bottom line is, if it sounds good, I will listen!  In future music blogs I will focus much more on certain genres of music and review certain artists or songs but for now I just want to get something out there so you can see what my taste in music is all about. One of my favorite ways to kill time is by listening to new music..so please..after you check out my top 11...tell me what some of your favorite songs of 2011 were!!!!


11. Feist- How come you never go there


10. M83- Midnight City


9. James Blake- The Wilhelm Scream


8. Phantogram- Don't Move


7. Atmosphere- Millennium Dodo


6. Radiohead- Separator 


5. Fleet Foxes- Montezuma


4. Bon Iver- Perth


3. The Weeknd- Wicked Games



2. Jay-Z and Kanye West- Otis


1. Yeasayer- Devil and the deed