NFL Week 17- Playoff Picture, Scenarios, and Predictions

The NFL postseason looms near, but there’s still one more week in the regular season we must get through before all is decided. There’s still a lot that’s yet to be resolved. The 6 teams that will be representing the AFC in the playoffs have already been determined, however there’s still battles happening for seeding and a 1st round bye. In the NFC, just  4 teams have clinched a spot in the postseason and there’s five teams still contesting for 2 spots. Perhaps most important, however, is that despite trailing 39 points in the championship game, my fantasy team (Don’t Get Chad Mad) won’t go down without a fight and plan on giving it all they’ve got.

In this piece, I will examine each team yet to be eliminated from playoff contention. I’ll recap their season, give you their playoff scenario and give you my prediction.

All stats found on NFL.com

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals will be finishing with the 2nd Wild Card spot in the playoffs, however who they play has yet to be determined. Coming off their surprising postseason appearance in the 2011-2012 season, the Bengals finished their first four games of the season pretty strong, going 3-1. They looked poised for another decent year. However, in their next four games, the Bengals didn’t look as strong, losing all 4 (including losses to Miami and Cleveland), they were then sitting with a 3-5 record going into week 10. Be that as it may, the Bengals were able to pull their socks up and win 6 of their next 7 games (which included wins against the Giants and Steelers). My prediction for the Bengals is obviously the 6th seed in the AFC, because that’s already been determined. Watch out for the Bengals in the postseason though, I think they have the ability to beat a team like the Ravens or the Texans under the right circumstances.

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts will be finishing with the 5 seed in the AFC, but like the Bengals, who they play has still has yet to be determined. After posting the worst record in the NFL last season, expectations were extremely low for this Colts team, they’ve more than exceeded them to this point, posting 5 times as many wins through their first 15 games this season as they had all of last year. Now, I’m going to go on a mini tirade here about the Colts, because I believe they, along with Luck, may be getting just a little bit too much credit for the team’s success this year. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe Luck and the Colts have a very bright future, that being said, neither of them deserve the praise or results they’ve been getting for this season. Starting with Luck, his completion percentage of just over 54% ranks him 33rd among 34 eligible QB’s, and he’s tied with Brees for most interceptions in the league (18). People could argue that he’s 7th in the league in passing yards (4,183), but that’s only because he’s thrown the ball 599 times. If you look in depth, he’s only averaging 7.0 yards per attempt which ranks him just 17th in the league, his touchdown numbers aren’t incredible either, look for a rookie QB he’s had a good season, however, he’s been discussed in MVP talks, which is ridiculous, he shouldn’t even be rookie of the year (I’d rank RG3 and Wilson ahead of him). The biggest argument in favor of Luck is that he took a 2-14 team to a 10-5 team, first of all, team achievements should be in a completely different category than individual awards. Secondly, the team is extremely lucky to be at this record based on the closeness in the score of most of their games. Lastly, in my opinion the team has not improved this much because Luck has been so good, but because Curtis Painter was so bad, his stats were atrocious, he had twice as many turnovers as he had touchdowns, and when Orlovsky took over, the team wasn’t half bad, I along with most would probably still consider Orvlosky a below average QB, but he won 2 games in just 5 starts with the club. Now to speak about the team, the Colts are extremely lucky to be where they are, maybe it’s because of inspiration they’ve received from Chuck Pagano or whatever else, their talent and even their play on the field does not match their record this season. The Colts have -46 Net points (points for minus points against), of all the other teams who have already clinched a playoff spot in the NFL, the lowest Net Points is +60, you can’t tell me there wasn’t a little luck involved in their record. They have twice as many wins as losses, yet they are being outscored by 46 points. Another problem I have with this Colts team is that they haven’t beaten an AFC team .500 or better all year, now they’ve only played 2 games against AFC teams that were .500 or better. However, this shows us their ease of schedule, as they’ve already played 9 games against teams under .500, and still weren’t able to post a positive Net Points. The Colts will finish with the 5th seed, but will be blown out in the first round of the playoffs.

Baltimore Ravens: Even when the Ravens were a 9-2 team, I didn’t believe they were that strong, they proved me right by losing their next three games, they just aren’t complete enough, they have huge injuries on defense, Flacco can’t throw the ball on the road, and they refuse to give the ball to Ray Rice. Best thing that could happen to them is to play the Colts in the Wild Card Round, play the Texans in the Divisional round and hope the have an off night, and then hope that either the Broncos or Patriots miss their flight. They will have the 4th seed in the AFC unless they beat the Bengals, and the Dolphins defeat the Patriots, even though the Pats will probably win, they should throw the game to the Bengals just to make sure they get that Colts matchup in the 1st round. My prediction is they will finish with the 4th seed but won’t go far in the playoffs.

New England Patriots: In my opinion, the Patriots are the best team in the NFL, they have 4 losses, however they were all by really small margins. The offense is absolutely unstoppable, and the defense is much improved from last year, a big reason for their lead leaguing 190 Net Points. They should have Gronk back for the playoffs, I’m really hoping for a Patriots-Broncos AFC championship, it would just be terrific football. The Patriots still have a chance at a bye, they would need a win and a loss from either the Broncos or Texans, and a loss from both would get them the 1st seed. I don’t see the Broncos or Texans losing, so the Pats will probably have the 3rd seed and play the Bengals in the first round.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos may be the second best team in the NFL, I’d only put the Patriots ahead of them because of the schedules, the Broncos are in the worst division in the NFL and have posted just a 2-3 record against teams above .500, compared to the Pats 4-2 record in those games. The Broncos look extremely strong and are absolutely wiping the floor with their competition at this point, the defense is unstoppable, their passing game’s unstoppable and, and even without McGahee, their running game has been unstoppable. This is mostly due to the Broncos underachieving former first round draft pick, Knowshon Moreno. The only AFC team that I think can beat them is the Patriots, and they should have no troubles beating the Chiefs this week and will probably finish with the 2nd seed and a bye.

Houston Texans: The Texans are an enigma of a team. They can come out and destroy any team on any given day and on other occasions they look like a practice squad. Such as when they were destroyed by the Packers, Patriots and Vikings, and almost defeated by teams like the Jaguars and Lions. The Texans are definitely going to forget to show up to a game in the playoffs, and their whole season will come crashing down. They could finish with either the first, second or third seed. A win gets them the first seed, a loss and a Broncos or Patriots win gets them the second seed, and a loss accompanied with both a Patriots win and a Broncos win drops them to the third seed. They should beat the Colts and secure that first seed, but who knows, maybe it will be “one of those games”.

New York Giants: Boy, did the Giants ever blow this one. After sitting at 6-2 after week 8, and having a stranglehold on the entire division, the Giants have found a way to go just 2-5 since, and virtually eliminate themselves from the playoffs. The Giants always either get really hot or really cold at the end of the season. When they get really hot, they can win the Super Bowl, as they’ve already done on two occasions since 2006, however when they get cold, they can mess up their entire season. It’s sad to think that the G-men have done this to themselves considering that they’d have a much better chance to win the Super Bowl than at least 2 of the teams that are going to make it. Don’t worry Giants fans, this isn’t the end of an era, you’ll just go silent for a few years then come out of nowhere to win the Super Bowl again in 2015, it’s a fact. Now, I’ve been talking as if the Giants have  already been eliminated from playoff contention, they haven’t technically but it’s going to be pretty hard for them to sneak in. They need to beat the Eagles, they will also need the Redskins to beat the Cowboys, the Packers to beat the Vikings, and the Lions to beat the Bears, maybe 3 of these 4 results could happen but I can’t see the Giants getting that lucky. Nevertheless, I would like to say that the Giants have had one of the hardest schedules in the NFL to this point, but a great team should have been able to overcome that and make the playoffs. I think the Giants will finish 7th in the NFC.

Dallas Cowboys: These guys have somewhat secretly stuck around in the NFC East all year, and will be playing for the division championship this Sunday. Romo has been playing terrifically as of late and will surely be a big factor in this matchup, along with Dez Bryant, who I tried to acquire in my fantasy league in week 10, I decided not to give what was being asked of me, boy do I regret it, as since then, Bryant has been one of the best receivers in the NFL. The scenario’s easy for the Cowboys, win and you’re in, lose and go home. I have not been a big believer in the Cowboys all year, especially after almost losing to the Browns (who are a better team than their record indicates, but still a team the Cowboys should handle easily). However, the Cowboys surprised me with wins against the Steelers and Bengals, this proved to me one of two things, either the Cowboys are better than I thought, or the AFC is even worse than I thought. They were unable to beat the Saints, but they didn’t get humiliated against them either. I feel as if the Cowboys may be able to win this game, however there are two factors that stop me from picking them, the first is based on a prediction I made a while back that I will explain in the Redskins section, the second is the fact that they are the Cowboys and they will find a way to lose. Due to this, I’m predicting a Cowboys loss, and a a 9th place finish in the NFC.

Chicago Bears: After a terrific 7-1 start to the season, the Bears have fallen to the point where they no longer control their own destiny. They’d lost 5 of 6 before their win last week, and Bears fans are looking for someone to blame, as a result, Lovie Smith’s name’s been thrown around as a coach who could potentially be fired. I don’t think that’s deserved, however, I can’t quite figure out what the problem with this team is. It’s certainly not the defense, and despite the struggles, if you told me I could have Cutler, Forte, and Marshall on my team, I’d take it. Maybe it has to do with the O-Line, which for the 4th season in a row, has given up more sacks than at least 27 other NFL teams. For the Bears to make the postseason, they’ll need a win against the Lions along with a Packers win against the Vikings, meaning the Bears will have to cheer for the Packers this week, the humor in that is unbelievable. I do believe the Bears will be able to hold on for a win, and watch their arch nemesis Packers win to give the Bears the 6th seed in the playoffs.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have put together a pretty nice season for their fans behind an unbelievable Adrian Peterson and their stellar defense. AP of course just 207 yards back of the single season rushing records, but the Vikings can’t be thinking about that this weekend against the Packers, if the situation calls for them to force feed the ball to Peterson (which I really hope it does, my fantasy team needs it), then do it. However, if it doesn’t call for that, then throw the ball, they need to believe in Ponder, who’s quietly put together a decent season. To make the postseason the Vikings need to win, they could still make it if they don’t win, but it’s unlikely, they would need the Redskins to beat the Cowboys, the Lions to beat the Bears, and the Giants to beat the Eagles. If the Packers weren’t playing for anything, I think the Vikings may have been able to pull off this W, but with the Packers playing for a bye, I just can’t see it happening. I predict the Vikings to finish 8th in the NFC.

Seattle Seahawks: There was a lot of excitement surrounding the Seahawks start the season after a terrific preseason by one 5’11″ 3rd round rookie QB. Throughout the year, Wilson hadn’t done anything incredible but he continually playing decent football. With the combination of Lynch and that great defense, the Seahawks were able to keep themselves in it. Over the last 3 weeks, we have begun to see that great QB that we saw in the preseason, who can not only beat you with his legs, but with his arm as well. Adding to that, the incredible play of Lynch and the defense, have made the Seahawks absolutely unstoppable, outscoring their opponents 150-30, and really cementing themselves as a contender in the NFC. This is a young team who’s going to be really good for years, but I can’t see them coming up with big road wins that they would need in the playoffs this year. The Seahawks could still win the division and even get a bye. To win the division they will need a W against the Rams, along with a 49ers loss by the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. To get a bye, they will need both of those things to happen along with a Vikings win over the Packers, this would be huge for the Seahawks because the higher seed you have, the longer you get to play at home, where the Seahawks are a perfect 7-0, compared to a 3-5 record on the road. I predict they will win in week 17, however so will the 49ers and the Packers, so they will finish with the 5th seed in the NFC.

Washington Redskins: I don’t like to brag or anything (yes I do), but when the Redskins were 4-6, I told my fellow CTFC writer, Simple Jack, that the Skins would run the table and win the division, he laughed in my face, as he claimed that “the Redskins could never pass the Giants”, I also told him RG3 would win the MVP, but let’s not mention that, even though I believe he’s definitely been a top 5 QB this season.  After starting the season 3-6, there was some controversy at the head coach position, Mike Shanahan may or may not have implied that the team had given up on the year, maybe the team wanted to prove something to him, as they haven’t lost since that incident, winning 6 in a row to move to 9-6. The Redskins are playing for the division title this weekend against Dallas, but they can still win a wild card spot if they lose, though they would need some help, they would need the Packers to beat the Vikings, and the Lions to beat the Bears, but the better option would be to just beat the Cowboys on Sunday night. I do predict the Redskins to beat the Cowboys, mostly because of the prediction I made 5 weeks ago, however, I doubt they will go very far in the postseason if they make it.

San Francisco 49ers: When the 9ers are playing their best football, they’re the best team in the NFL, the problem is they let their weaknesses show way too often, like last week against the Seahawks, or in the second half a couple weeks ago against the Patriots. They obviously have a terrific defense, and an awesome run game. The inconsistency comes from the quarterback position, as despite pretty good play from Kaepernick (who started for my Madden 13 Connected Careers team for 4 years before he even took over in San Fran) and even Smith when he was playing, they seem to just go really cold from time to time, and it lets the opposition possess the ball a lot, and score points in bunches. The 49ers, just like the Seahawks can finish with either the 2nd, 3rd or 5th seed in the NFC, with a win against Arizona they would win the division, with a loss to the Cards accompanied with a Seattle win, they will have the 5th seed, and with a win along with a Packers loss, they will have the 2nd seed and a first round bye. I predict a win for the 49ers and a 3rd seed in the playoffs.

Green Bay Packers: The Packers have very quietly put up a very respectable 11-4 record this year and they currently hold the 2nd spot in the NFC standings. The Packers’ season looked to be in trouble after the notorious missed call against Seattle, and the blown halftime lead against the Indianapolis Colts. After that 2-3 start, the Packers have won 9 of their last 10, and put themselves in a position to earn a first round bye behind another very strong season by Aaron Rodgers and a surprisingly decent defensive core Their defense has been good against both the run and the pass. If they win their game against the Vikings the Packers will secure that second seed and a first round bye, however, if they are defeated, and either the 49ers or Seahawks win, the Packers will be left with the 3rd seed. I predict a Packers win in week 17 in Minnesota giving them the bye. Their passing game is just too strong for the Vikings defense. You heard it from me, watch out for the Packers this postseason, they could put together something special.

Atlanta Falcons: Oh, the Atlanta Falcons, the Falcons have the best record in the NFL and are still not considered a top 5 team by many around the league. I was part of “the doubters” for most of the year, until i saw that blowout they pulled off against New York Giants. The Giants are not an easy opponent, especially not when their fighting for their lives, and the Falcons shut them down; handling them as if they were the Chiefs. Their defense is great, their passing game is great, and between Turner, Jacquizz, and Snelling their running game’s been up there among the top in league as well. One of the arguments constantly made against the Falcons is that yes, they have been one of the best home teams in the league for years, but they need to prove they can win on the road. My response is that 6-2 on the road isn’t bad, and also, because they secured home field, they wil be playing at home every game they play in the postseason until the Super Bowl. Maybe the biggest argument against the Falcons, however, is that they haven’t proved they can win in the playoff. I cannot fully argue against this, however they’ve only played 3 postseason games in the Matt Ryan era, and all 3 of the teams they’ve played against went on to play in the Super Bowl. It may have just be a case of “wrong place, wrong time”. Whether the Falcons win or lose in week 17 is irrelevant as they’ll probably rest many of their players. The Falcons will finish with the 1st seed in the postseason, and I’m telling you, don’t take them too lightly.

-Vernon Smells (Kalib Tilley)

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NHL Playoff Predictions 2012

The NHL playoffs are once again upon us, and there are certainly some surprises in the seeding. I mean if someone at the beginning of the year had told me “Florida will be a 3 seed, Washington will be a 7 seed, St. Louis will 2 seed and Ottawa will not only not finish last in th East but make the playoffs too”, I would probably ask you for some fish (sorry, I’m in the mood for fish), ans then I’d tell you you were crazy. Anyways, with game 1 of the series I’m most excited for (Pittsburgh-Philly), lets get the picks started.

Round 1- Eastern Conference
#1New York Rangers vs. #8 Ottawa Senators
Pick: New York Rangers in 6 games
X Factor: Henrik Lunqvist & Jason Spezza
This series will actually be pretty close considering it’s a 1 vs. 8 matchup, the Sens have fared very well against the Rangers in the recent history, especially at MSG. However I don’t believe that the Sens will be able to solve Lundqvist, or play solid enough defensively to take this series, however they should be able to scare the Rangers a bit.

#2 Boston Bruins vs. #7 Washington Capitals
Pick: Boston Bruins in 4 games
X Factor: Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom & Zdeno Chara
A lot of people have the Caps upsetting the Bruins in this series, I don’t. The Bruins have the best goal differential in the league (+67), Washington has the second worst amongst playoff teams with a -8 goal differential. Boston finished the year off with a 9-2-1 record in their last 12 games. To go along with all of this, Tim Thomas is scorching hot with a .934 SV% and a 1.70 GAA in his last 8 games. Unless Washington surprises me this year and starts playing as a team rather than individuals, they have no chance in this series, especially with their injuries to their goaltenders.

#3 Florida Panthers vs. #6 New Jersey Devils
Pick: New Jersey Devils in 6 games
X Factors: Ilya Kovalchuck, Martin Brodeur & Jose Theodore
The Panthers are in the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. I ca’n't see them beating the Devils, who I think is a team built for the playoffs. However, they should still be happy about making it to the postseason, and you never know if their goaltending can be great and they can generate some offense anything can happen. Definitely don’t count them out, they’ve won a lot of close games this year and have some real heart.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Philadelphia Flyers
Pick: Philadelphia Flyers in 7 games
X Factors: Ilya Bryzgalov, Scott Hartnell, Evgeni Malkin & Sidney Crosby
This is the one true upset I’m going to pick (depending on how you look at the Preds-Wings matchup), the Penguins are certainly the more skilled team in this series, and have more depth up the middle. However, there’s a big rivalry between these two team, and a lot of times what matters most in a rivalry is who’s toughest? And I know Pittsburgh has some tough guys but I can’t see them being able to get by the physicality of this Flyers team (which is also very skilled). With bad blood already running between these two teams, this is the series I’m most looking forward to of the entire first round, and ultimately, it will come down to goaltending, and considering bears are in the forest, I had to go with the Flyers. I’m still scared to make the pick though, because if they get past the Flyers, I see them winning it all.

Round 1- Western Conference
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings
Pick: Vancouver Canucks in 6 games
X Factors: Roberto Luongo & Jonathan Quick
The Kings have a really good team, and of course, really good goaltending. If the Kings do pull off the upset, there’s no doubt in my mind, Jonathan Quick will be the reason why. Unfortunately I don’t see them pulling off the upset, the Canuucks team is too good, especially with Daniel Sedin returning soon.

#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #7 San Jose Sharks
Pick: St. Louis Blues in 5
X Factors: Joe Thornton & Anti Niemi
The Blues easily win the defensive matchup between the two clubs, as well as the goaltending matchup. And with the Sharks offense much older, the great streak of Regular season success the Sharks have enjoyed since the 2003-2004 season may be coming to an end, and with not even a Stanley Cup appearance coming out of it, the Sharks need a great postseason this year to keep their fans happy. Unfortunately, I don’t see them being able to do it against the Blues, they’re way too solid of a team.

#3 Phoenix Coyotes vs. #6 Chicago Blackhawks
Picks: Chicago Blackhawks in 5
X Factors: Jonathan Toews, Mike Smith & Corey Crawford
Phoenix is a very fundamentally solid and defensively tight hockey club. They’re coached wonderfully and have had surprisingly great goaltending this year from Mike Smith. However, they just don’t have the skill yet, but if Phoenix eventually moves, and grows a big fan base, and is willing to go out and get big names this team can be great in years to come. Unfortunately, the only way they win this series is if Corey Crawford plays poorly in net for the Hawks.

#4 Nashville Predators vs. #5 Detroit Red Wings
Pick: Nashville Predators in 7 games
X Factors: Pekka Rinne & Henrik Zetterberg
This will be a great series, the Red Wings have the history, the veterans and the skill, the Preds have the young talent, the goaltending and the physicality. This series could really go either way, but I have to give it to the better goalie, no offense to Jimmy, but Rinne’s got him by a hair in my opinion.

Round 2- Eastern Conference
#1 New York Rangers vs. #6 New Jersey Devils
Pick: New York Rangers in 7 games

#2 Boston Bruins vs. #5 Philadelphia Flyers
Pick: Boston Bruins in 6 games

Round 2- Western Conference
#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #6 Chicago Blackhawks
Pick: Chicago Blackhawks in 6 games

#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #4 Nashville Predators
Pick: St. Louis in 5 games

Round 3- Eastern conference
#1 New York Rangers vs. #2 Boston Bruins
Pick: Boston Bruins in 7 games

Round 3- Western Conference
#2 St. Louis Blues vs. #6 Chicago Blackhawks
Pick: St. Louis Blues win in 6 games

STANLEY CUP FINALS
#2 Boston Bruins vs. #2 St. Louis Blues
Pick: Boston Bruins win in 6 games

I know it’s boring to see a repeat but I still believe the Bruins are the best team in the league, stay tuned before round #2 starts as I re-evaluate my picks.
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-Vernon Smells

30 Teams in 30 Days – Cincinnati Reds

After a great year in 2010, which landed the Reds their first NL Central title since 1995, the Reds disappointed a lot of people last year. Despite having 2010 NL MVP, Joey Votto (who just so happened to attend my high school back in his youth), they couldn’t even reach the .500 plateau. Let’s recap.
Cincinnati Reds
Record: 79-83
Finish: 3rd in NL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Johnny Cueto 9-5, 2.31 ERA, 104 SO
Top Hitter: .309 AVG, 29 HR, 103 RBI
Manager: Dusty Baker
Important Offseason Acquisitions: Mat Latos, Sean Marshall, Ron Mahay, Dioner Navarro, Ryan Madson, Wilson Valdez, Willie Harris, Ryan Ludwick, Jeff Francis
Important Offseason Losses: Francisco Cordero TOR, Ramon Hernandez COL, Edgar Renteria FA, Dontrelle Willis, Edinison Volquez, Yonder Alonso SD,  Travis Wood CHC

There were high hopes for the Reds in 2011 after a great 2010, but with the amazing years the Brewers and the Cardinals put up, the Reds didn’t have a chance. Joey Votto (CANADIAN)! got some heat last year, which I didn’t quite understand, I know he had a drop-off from 2010, but he still hit over .300, he had 29 Jacks and over 100 RBI’s. The real problem lied in their pitching, they finished exactly 20th in the league in ERA, WHIP and SO. It was mostly their Starters, besides Cueto and Leake, their Starting Pitching was horrendous, I mean, just look at the stats, of their 5 pitchers with 13 starts or more (not including Leake and Cueto), their Starting Pitching finished with an ERA of 5.00 on the dot. That is unacceptable. They had a decent Bullpen and a decent offensive attack, but their Starting Pitching lost them a lot of ball games. The Reds certainly went after improving that in the offseason, with the addition of young stud, Mat Latos. The 24 year old right-hander has shown great promise, posting an ERA of 3.37 in his first 72 big league starts. They also added veteran lefty, Jeff Francis (also CANADIAN!), who once had great potential, being selected 9th overall in the 2002 Draft, but was never able to live up to expectations, posting a career 4.78 ERA as a starter, the Reds may try to use him in a relief role this year, seeing as he’s already made 3 relief appearances for them in the Spring. So, I believe their Starting 5 should be greatly improved this year, with the hope of continued success from Cueto, Leake and Latos, and then if they can get improved years from Bailey and Arroyo (who had two successful campaigns before struggling last year), they could even be considered a somewhat dangerous starting rotation at times. Their bullpen should be improved a bit with the additions of Marshall and Mahay, but with them parting ways with Cordero, they brought on Madson to take over the closer role, unfortunately it was just announced that he will miss the whole year due to Tommy John surgery, so they’re going to have trouble finding saves from time to time, having established closer. Their offense has lost a little fire power in Alonso, Hernandez and Renteria, but it should still be a very dangerous offensive group. Ultimately I think the Reds will fall short of the Cardinals and the Brewers once again (despite their losses of Prince and Pujols). I just don’t see this team being able to compete with them. However, they are still young (28.0 yr old average) and I believe that they’ll be a threat in this division for years to come.

Prediction
Record: 82-80
Finish: 3rd in NL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Mat Latos 14-9, 3.06 ERA, 197 SO
Top Hitter: Joey Votto .311 AVG, 31 HR, 108 RBI
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-Vernon Smells

30 Teams In 30 Days- San Diego Padres

My dear San Dieagons, San Diegites, San Diegans (Anchorman reference) or whatever you call yourselves, I can’t say I bring good news. Last season your Padres finished last in the NL West, and I don’t expect much improvement. So let’s see how your Padres finished last season.
San Diego Padres
Record: 71-91
Finish: Last in AL West
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Aaron Hang, 14-9, 3.64 ERA, 124 SO
Top Hitter: Camerin Maybin, 9 HR, 44 RBI, .264 AVG, 40 SB
Manager: Bud Black
Offseason Acquisitions: Houston Street, John Baker, Ryan Kelly, Cory Burns
Offseason Losses: Aaron Hang, Ryan Ludwick (Both of their top players),  Pedro Hernandez, Wade LeBlanc, Nick Schmidt

Los Padres are not looking too shabby this season. They finished last in their division last season, and I can’t see them improving beyond that. With the Giants, Diamondbacks and Dodgers all either improving, or relatively staying the same, the Padres don’t have a great chance. Their pitching and batting is still sub par and I can’t see their record improving.  The Padres are in a division that is filled with teams that are all going to be competing for a playoff spot. The NL West may easily become the most competitive division in the MLB. With this all being said the Padres are not looking like they stand a chance. This once was a team that was a late season collapse away from making the playoffs. For the people of San Diego, at least you have the Chargers…. HA! I feel as if I should send you all my condolences, first Manning to Denver and now your stuck in one of the best divisions in the NL.

Prediction
Record: 69-93
Finish: Last in AL West
Playoff:N/A
Top Hitter: Carlos Quentin .249 AVG, 29 HR, 91 RBI
Top Pitcher: Cory Luebke 10-11, 3.23 ERA, 184 SO
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-McFultz

30 Teams in 30 Days – Atlanta Braves

Atlanta completely collapsed in September last year, losing their Wild Card spot to the Cardinals on the final day of the season. Luckily for them, it was completely overshadowed by the Red Sox collapse. You start to wonder, who would have won the World Series if Hotlanta had of been able to play just average in September, and were able to cruise their way to a playoff spot? Let’s see how they looked overall last year.
Atlanta Braves
Record: 89-73
Finish: 2nd in NL East
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Jair Jurrjens 13-6, 2.96 ERA, 90 SO
Top Hitter: Brian McCann .270 AVG, 24 HR, 71 RBI
Manger: Not Bobby Cox (Fredi Gonzalez)
Important Offseason Acquisitions: Adam Russell, Josh Wilson, Robert Fish (he’s not really important, I just enjoy his name),
Imortant Offseason Losses: Derek Lowe CLE, Nate McLouth PIT, Alex Gonzalez MIL, Scott Linebrink STL, George Sherrill SEA

On August 28th, 2011, the Atlanta Braves led the Cardinals in the Wild Card race by 10 games. I want to put this in perspective here, the Braves were just 6 games back of the Phillies at this time, the Tigers were only 6.5 games ahead of the Indians, and the Giants only trailed the D’Backs by 3 games, at that time, it would have made more sense  for one of those teams (Braves, Indians, Giants) to have have caught their division leaders  
instead of the Cardinals catching the Braves. Apart from September, the Braves had a terrific season, despite struggling offensively from time to time, their pitching more than made up for it, finishing top 4 in the league in ERA(3.48), WHIP(1.25), SO(1332), Opponent’s Average(.240), Home Runs allowed(125), Runs allowed(605) and Saves(52). They also did a great job defensively, finishing 4th in the league in Fielding Percentage(.987). Unfortunately, they struggled offensively, finishing in the bottom 8 of the league in AVG(.243), R(641), RBI(606) and SB(77), they do have some pop in their bats as they hit 173 Home Runs, but they will need to improve their offense this season. The Braves have some AMAZING young talent, for whatever reason, I find a lot of people thinking the Braves have an old team, this may be because of Chipper Jones and Tim Hudson, but they’re the 6th youngest team in the league. Examples:
Freddie Freeman 1B
Age: 22
Rookie Season: 2011
2011 Stats: 157 G, .282 AVG, 21 HR, 76 RBI
Brandon Beachy RHP
Age: 25
Rookie Season: 2011
2011 Stats: 25 GS, 7-3, 3.68 ERA, 169 SO
Craig Kimbrel
Age: 23
Rookie Season: 2011
2011 Stats: 79 G, 77 IP, 46 SV, 2.10 ERA, 127 SO
Eric O’Flaherty
Age: 26
Rookie Season: 2007
2011 Stats: 78 G, 73.2 IP, 0.98 ERA, 67 SO
Jason Heyward
Age: 22
Rookie Season: 2010
2011 Stats: 128 G, .227 AVG, 14 HR, 42 RBI
Jair Jurrjens
Age: 26
Rookie Season: 2008
2011 Stas: 23 GS, 13-6, 2.96 ERA, 90 SO
Tommy Hanson
Age: 25
Rookie Season: 2009
2011 Stas: 22 GS, 11-7, 3.60 ERA, 142 SO

It’s pretty clear that the Braves have tons of young talent on their team, and even some of their established players like Brian McCann and Miguel Prado are still fairly young, as their each only 28 years old, and their star reliever Jonny Venters just turned 27 yesterday. The team didn’t make many moves in the Offseason, nor should they have. If Uggla (who hit .296 and 21 of his 36 HR post All-Star break last year) and Heyward have bounce back years, and the rest of their players can keep up what they did last year (not including September), this team should have no problem nailing one of the two Wild Card spots, even with the improved Marlins. I even have them winninng the World Series, but I’m kinda crazy. Their bullpen might be a bit worse (but still amazing), but their offense will improve and their Starting pitching should be just as good, and having Bourn for the entire year should help them tremendously on the base paths. I expect good things from the Braves this year, but there’s still one question left to be asked, would the Braves have collapsed if they still had Bobby Cox as their bench boss? Too many what ifs, let’s just see how they play this year.

Prediction
Record: 92-70
Finish: 2nd in NL East
Playoffs: World Series Win (I have this strange gut feeling about the Braves this year, I don’t know why)
Top Pitcher: Brandon Beachy 17-8 3.16 ERA, 204 SO
Top Hitter: Dan Uggla .284 AVG, 36 HR, 108 RBI
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30 Teams in 30 Days – Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have been one of the worst sports organizations of the last 20 years. Not only have they not made the postseason since 1992, that year also marks the last time they had a winning season (above .500). Not to mention the fact that they haven’t won a World Series in over 30 years. Let’s see how they did in 2011.
Pittsburgh Pirates
Record: 72-90
Finish: 4th in NL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Jeff Karstens 9-9, 3.38 ERA, 96 SO                                                             Top Hitter: Andrew McCutchen .259 AVG, 23 HR, 89 RBI                                 Manager: Clint Hurdle                                                                                           Important Off-season Acquisitions: Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes, Jake Fox, Nick Evans, Jose Morales, Erik Bedard, Nate McLouth, Casey McGehee, Jo-Jo Reyes, Doug Staten, Brian Tallet, Juan Cruz, A.J Burnett                                            Important Off-season Losses: Ryan Doumit MIN, Chris Snyder HOU, Ronny Cedeno NYM, Paul Maholm CHC, Derrek Lee FA, Ryan Ludwick CIN, Xavier Paul WAS, Pedro Ciriaco BOS, Jason Jaramillo CHC, Ross Ohlendorf BOS, 

On July 19th, 2011, the Pirates were leading the NL Central with a record of 51-44, which made me (along with most of the MLB community) become a temporary Pirates fan. Unfortunately, the Pirates went on a 10-game skid from Jul 29-Aug 7, causing them to fall to 54-59, and put them 10 games back of the Brewers for the division, causing their temporarily large fan base to plummet. Neither their Offense nor their pitching was very good last year. They finished in the bottom 10 in the league in R, AVG, HR, Opponents Average and WHIP, along with a 17th place finish in ERA. Despite posting 72 Wins, these stats will come as no surprise if you watched them play last year, as during their hottest period (Jun 3-Jul 25), 17 of their 26 wins were by 2 runs or less (65.3%), meanwhile, during their coldest period (Jul 28-Sep 21), 24 of their 39 losses were by 3 runs or more (61.5%), meaning they were losing by a lot, and winning by a little. The team was expected to struggle, but hitting .244 as a team, along with having a team ERA of over 4.00 is completely unacceptable. The thing that bothers me the most is when people say it’s okay because the Pirates are young, their really not that young of a team, yes they have McCutchen, Walker and McDonald, but their the seventh oldest team in the Majors with an average age of 28.2 years old.

This season for the Pirates is unpredictable, and by that, I mean they’re either going to be a terrible team or just a really bad team. They made some interesting moves in the Offseason, ultimately, I think their Pitching will improve a bit and their hitting will get even worse. One of the moves I really enjoyed was the signing of Canadian pitcher, Erik Bedard, this guys always flown under the radar due to the fact that he played for small market teams (Baltimore, Seattle), not including the 8 games he played in Boston last year, Bedard hasn’t had an ERA over 4.00 for an entire season since his rookie year in 2004. When I first heard that the Pirates traded for Burnett, I thought it was a terrible move, but when I found out the Yankees were practically paying them for a pitcher who put up some decent numbers in the past, I changed my mind. However, when he bunted that ball into his face at Training Camp, sidelining him for 2-3 months, my mind was instantly changed back. The reason I think their pitching should be improved, is because I think Bedard is an improvement on Maholm (whom they released), I see great potential in young pitcher James McDonald and I think he’s going to have a terrific year, and their bullpen has been improved. The reason I believe their Offense will be worse, is despite additions like Barmes, Mcgehee, McLouth and Barajas, I believe the losses of Doumit, Snyder, Lee, Cedeno, Ludwick and Paul, outweigh them. I believe Mcgehee will have a good year, but I don’t think Barmes, McLouth or Barajas will please the Pirate faithful. I predict that this year will mark the 20th straight season that the Pirates will have gone without a winning season. Hopefully the next 20 years will be better for them.

Prediction
Record: 65- 97
Finish: 5th in NL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: James McDonald 12-10, 3.81 ERA, 158 SO
Top Hitter: Andrew McCutchen .269 AVG, 27 HR, 96 RBI
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-Vernon Smells (Kalib Tilley)

30 Teams in 30 Days – Oakland Athletics

The Oakland A’s, the Oakland A’s.. you know I’m really not sure where to start. Probably the most historically storied franchises (who has knotted 9 World Series titles and 15 AL pennants, which gets overlooked), the Oakland Athletics had a 2011 in which they surely will not forget too soon. Posting a deplorable record of 74-88, the A’s weren’t ever in the hunt for a playoff spot during the entire 2011 season, the highlight of which was the release of a popular feature film about their general manager (who is apparently doing quite a $h177ty job lately). Let’s see how ‘dem A’s stacked up during their 2011 campaign.
Oakland Athletics
Record: 74-88 (7 games worse than 2010)
Finished: 3rd in AL West
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Gio Gonzalez 16-12, 3.12 ERA, 197 SO
Top Hitter: Josh Willingham .246 AVG, 29 HR, 98 RBI
Manager: Bob Melvin
Important Offseason Acquisitions: Bartolo Colon SP, Jonny Gomes OF, Manny Ramirez LF, Ryan Sweeney OF
Important Offseason Losses: Gio Gonzalez WAS, Hideki Matsui (probable retirement), Josh Willingham MIN, Mark Ellis LAD

Ahh remember the good ol’ days of the Oakland A’s, with the Big Three (Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, and Mark Mulder). Well for those of you who don’t remember, from 2000-04 the Oakland A’s arguably had the best pitching tandem in the league, before well, all three of those guys descended in diaspora. A lot has changed since those days, and the Athletic faithful should seriously be worrying. The 2011 Oakland Athletics were horrendous, in their pitching game (aside from their ace Gio Gonzalez.. oh wait he’s not even on the team anymore, he was traded to the Nationals this offseason for some prospects you haven’t heard of), and in their offensesive game. I mean seriously, the highest batting average on the team came from Cliff Pennington who hit .264 in barely 550 plate appearances. Josh Willingham, who was leaps and bounds above the majority of the A’s offense, posted a solid 2011… oh wait, he’s not on the A’s anymore either, awkward (Twins). I mean the A’s still have some good sounding names in their lineup including Hideki Matsui (who is still undecided about coming back), Mark Ellis (oh wait he went to the Dodgers!), and Kurt Suzuki. And the one who is actually coming back out of that group, Kurt Suzuki, batted a career low .237 to go along with 14 homeruns, and he really hasn’t improved as a player, as many people thought he would. But have no fear A’s fans! The A’s signed Jonny Gomes and Manny Ramirez (to a minor league contract! Oh wait he’s also suspended). These two guys will surely take them places, and definitely revitalize this dying A’s offense….. yeah right. I will not go as in-depth in their pitching but they acquired Bartolo Colon in the offseason, but as stated earlier, they lost their #1 pitcher Gio Gonzalez. Besides Colon their starting pitching has very little depth. It includes Brandon McCarthy, who had a decent season, but really hasn’t thrown enough innings to be considered a solid starter, Dallas Braden (perfect game guy), who had an injury riddled 2011, and a couple of other for lack of a better word “scrubs”. Well A’s fans you better look forward to seeing your Athletics in 2012! That is, if you would be excited to see your A’s scratch together 65 wins, because I don’t foresee the Green and the Gold winning more than 70 games in 2012.
Prediction:
Record: 69-93
Finish: 3rd in AL West
Playoffs: None
Best Pitcher: None
Best Hitter: Coco Crisp, 0.274, 14 HR, 75 RBI
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30 Teams in 30 Days – Cleveland Indians

Oh, the Indians, they’ve made the playoffs just once since 2001, and with their last World Series title being way back in 1948, fans are getting impatient. However, they didn’t look half bad through the first third of the season in 2011. Let’s recap.
Cleveland Indians
Record: 80-82
Finish: 2nd in AL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Justin Masterson 12-10, 3.21 ERA, 158 SO
Top Hitter: Asdrubal Cabrera .272 AVG, 25 HR, 92 RBI
2012 Manager: Manny Acta
Important Off-Season Acquisitions: Felix Pie, Andy Laroche (no, not Adam), Robinson Tejada, Chris Ray, Jeremy Accardo, Fred Lewis, Kevin Slowey, Ryan Spilborghs, Dan Wheeler, Casey Kotchman, Cristian Guzman, Derek Lowe
Important Off-Season Losses: Chad Durbin WAS, Kosuke Fukudome CWS, Jim Thome PHI,

On June 1st, 2011, the Indians were 33-20 and held the best record in the majors. I was convinced the world was about to end. It didn’t, the Indians would soon come back down to Earth, going just 20-32 from then until July 31st . Despite the struggles, the Indians still found themselves just 2.5 games back of the division leading tigers, causing them to trade for star pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez. He had no affect, Jimenez, like he’d been doing with the Rockies, struggled, notching just a 4-4 record to go along with a 5.10 ERA in the 11 games he started with the Indians.  Throughout it all, the Indians proved that they had a lot of depth at the plate, as they only had 2 players play in more than 114 games, and were still able to prove that they were almost an average ball club, finishing just below .500. Unfortunately, they’re pitching was sub-par, finishing with the 23rd ranked ERA, but they were able to find a solid closer in Chris Perez, who finished the season 36/40 in save opportunities. The Indians added some very good pieces in the off-season to improve their bullpen, including Dan Wheeler. They also added Kevin Slowey to replace Fausto Carmona, because who knows whats going to happen to him. Grady Sizemore will miss all of Spring and the beginning of the 2012 Regular Season after back surgery, is this guy ever healthy? As of right now, I could see the Indians being a potential threat this season, don’t call me crazy yet. They have a lot of depth, but the one thing they’re missing is a star, they’re hoping Jimenez can fill that role, but in my eyes, he’s only pitched like a star in the first half of the 2010 season, apart from that he’s just been okay. However, if he can pitch well, along with the rest of the rotation, the tribe COULD, I REPEAT, COULD be a threat for that second wild card spot. I know it sounds crazy but look at their rotation:
1. Ubaldo Jimenez Best Season, 2010: 19-8, 2.88 ERA, 214 SO
2. Justin Masterson Best Season, 2011: 12-10, 3.21 ERA, 158 SO
3. Josh Tomlin: Best Season, 2011: 12-7, 4.25 ERA, 49 SO
4. Derek Lowe: Best Season, 2002: 21-8, 2.58 ERA, 127 SO (2010: 16-12, 4.00 ERA)
5. (possibly) Kevin Slowey: Best Season, 2010: 13-6, 4.45 ERA, 116 SO

To me, that’s a pretty solid rotation, along with an improved bullpen and a solid lineup, the Indians could threaten for a playoff spot. The team will need to be well coached and managed, as again they don’t really have a star-status player, but if they are, they have the pieces to do well. I’m not exactly sure what the lineup will look like, but with talent like: Cabrera, Santana, Hafner, Choo, Sizemore (after he recovers), Brantley, LaPorta, Duncan, Kipiris, Hannahan and Donald, along with newly acquired pieces: Kotchman, Lewis, Spilborghs, Laroche, Pie and Guzman, I don’t think the Indians will be slacking in the offensive department. They are a very young team, so inconsistency may be a factor, but they’re a team with a ton of talent, I see them competing for a playoff spot, but ultimately missing out. The AL Central could be a very tough division this year, as the Tigers  are looking very good, the White Sox have a good team on paper, the Royals are improving, the Twins had been the division powerhouse consistently before last season, and if the Indians can be competitive, this division would become one of the toughest in baseball.
Prediction
Record: 83-79
Finish: 2nd in AL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Josh Tomlin 15-10, 3.31 ERA, 106 SO
Top Hitter: Shin-Soo Choo .306 AVG, 19 HR, 91 RBI
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