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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32 Teams in 32 Days – New York Jets

Football season is just around the corner, which means we will be commencing our 32 Teams in 32 Days special, where we examine every team in the NFL in just 32 days. we will be starting with the AFC East, specifically the New York Jets. Every year the New York Jets faithful get hyped up for a chance at the Super Bowl and every year their dreams get crushed, especially last season when they failed to even reach the postseason, luckily their head coach, Rex Ryan knows a lot about FOOTball.

2011 Record: 8-8
Result:
Did Not Qualify for Postseason
QB:
Mark Sanchez, 308/543 (56.7%), 3,474 Yds, 26 TD, 18 Int, 78.2 Rating
Best Offensive Target:
Shonn Greene, 1,054 Yds/253 Att (4.2 Yds/Att), 6 TD  
Best Defensive Player:
Darrelle Revis, 52 Tackles, 21 Pass Deflections, 4 Int, 1 TD
Important Offseason Acquisitions:
Tim Tebow QB, Chaz Schilens WR,
Laron Landry S, Quinton Coples DE, Jeff Otah T, Yeremiah Bell S, Hayden Smith TE
Important Offseason Losses:
Ladanian Tomlinson RB, Plaxico Burress WR,
Derrick Mason WR, Jim Leonhard S, Donald Strickland CB, Brodney Pool S,
Jamaal Westerman DE
Head Coach: Rex Ryan

After 3 tough losses, to the Eagles, Giants and Dolphins to end the season, the New York Jets finished with a record of 8-8 and failed to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2008. They were led by Mexican-American quarterback, Mark Sanchez. Sanchez had a decent year, but struggled at times, especially when it mattered most.

They had a very busy offseason, mostly because of the media attention surrounding Tim Tebow more than any of their other moves they made in the off-season. But before we get to that lets talk about some of their other acquisitions. They added safety Laron Landry who should be able to give the Jets everything Jim Leonhard gave them, without the injury trouble. They were also able to trade for T Jeff Otah, who should be able to help their O-line, which allowed Mark Sanchez to be sacked 39 times last season. One of the more interesting move the Jets made was to sign Hayden Smith who has never played a snap of American Football in his life, however the Aussie Rules Football star could give the Jets the blocking TE they so desperately need, and if not, they can always ship him back to Australia. They also added S Yeremiah Bell, WR Chaz Schilens and drafted DE Quinton Coples in the first round of the draft. And of course, they added Tim Tebow, the “savior” of the Jets. Realistically, he’ll play on the Punt Blocking team, and get put in for a few snaps under center in running situations. After all the only reason they picked him up is because Rex Ryan likes QB’s who are good with their feet. However, imagine how insane things would become if Sanchez gets hurt or struggles badly, Tebow takes over and takes them deep into the playoffs.

They also lost some pretty good talent in the offseason as well, including Ladanian Tomlinson, a top 10 back of all-time, retired in the offseason, he wasn’t a huge factor for the Jets last year, but he certainly helped. They lost WR Plaxico Burress who get arrested after he stabbed himself in the arm, no wait… apparently he’s a free agent, my apologies. They lost Jim Leonhard who played pretty well, but had trouble staying healthy. They were also unable to bring back minor, but important factors for the team: WR Derrick Mason, CB Donald Strickland, S Rodney Pool and DE Jamaal Westerman.

In the coaching front, Rex Ryan will enter his 4th season as Head Coach for the New York Jets, The defensive guru who loves to play mind games has brought his team to 2 AFC Championship games in his first 3 years with the team. The biggest new face in the coaching staff will be Tony Sparano, who spent almost 4 years as head coach of the Miami Dolphins, he will take over as Offensive Coordinator for the Jets. They’re also brining in new Offensive Line and Defensive Line coaches, as well as 2 new Assistant Strength and Conditioning coaches.

I predict a decent year for the Jets, I think they will just miss out on a playoff spot (maybe by a tiebreaker). Assuming the New York Jets fans don’t get too restless for Tebow, I predict about the same production we saw from Sanchez last year, maybe a bit better. I predict Shonn Greene will have almost identical stats to what he had last year, but with a few more touches. I also believe with the loss of Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes could go back to the Santonio Holmes of Pittsburgh and have a great season, but this will cause Dustin Keller’s stats to drop off. It doesn’t appear Revis will holdout, for now anyway, he will be thrown at even less, and his stats will reflect that.

2012 Prediction: 9-7
Result: Will Not Qualify for Postseason
QB: Mark Sanchez, 292/503 (58.0%), 3,598 Yds, 25 TD, 15 Int, 84.4 Rating
Best Offensive Target: Santonio Holmes, 1,094 Yds/78 Rec (14.0 Yds/Rec), 7 TD
Best Defensive Player: Darrelle Revis, 43 Tackles, 18 Pass Deflections, 2 INT, 0 TD
-Vernon Smells

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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 Fransisco Giants

All that needs to be said about the 2012 San Fransisco Giants is that the 2010 World Series Champs will be back with a vengeance, and ready for another title run! Here is there 2011 season review:
Record: 86- 76
Finish: 2nd NL West
Playoffs: None
Best Hitter: Pablo Sandoval, .315 AVG, 23 HR, 70 RBI
Best Pitcher: Tim Lincecum, 13- 14, 2.74 ERA, 220 SO
Manager: Bruce Bochy
Important Offseason Aquisitions: Melky Cabrera, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Ryan Theriot, Angel Pagan, Guillermo Mota
Important Offseason Losses: Carlos Beltran, Cody Ross, Jeff Keppinger, Orlando Cabrera, Pat Burrell

The 2012 season should be truly exciting for the San Fransisco Giants and their fans alike. The team had a down year last year due to an anemic offense, that scored the near worst amount of runs in the league. This year, things are looking quite a bit brighter in the bay, due to the return of a familiar face as well as some new ones. Back from injury this season will be rookie superstar catcher Buster Posey. In his rookie season Posey hit 18 home runs, and 67 RBI with a .305 clip. New to the club this year are outfielders Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera. Last season with the Mets, Pagan hit only 7 home runs, and 56 RBI while batting .262. This may seem disapointing, however, the outfielder is only one season removed from an 11 home run season,   to go along with 69 RBI and a .290 clip. That type of production could be very useful in the Giants lineup. Cabrera on the other hand, had a career season with Royals last year. He hit 18 HR, and 87 RBI while batting and impressive .305. These two additions, along with the return of Posey will surely help an offense that relied on the departed Carlos Beltran and third-baseman Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval is the Giants best hitter and was quite literally their only consistant source of offense. With an improving offensive core, the Giants boast one of the best pitching groups in the league. Led by all-star Matt Cain, the Giants rotation is in the leagues top 5 along with Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Washington and the LA Angels. Following Cain is two time CY-Young award winner Tim Lincecum, who never fails to pitch a jem. All-star Ryan Vogelsong comes next, followed by Madison Bumgarner. If the starting 5 isn’t tantilizing enough, the Giants bring out Sergio Romo (one of the best relief pitchers in the league) in the eighth, followed by “the beard” Brian Wilson. With arguably, the best complete pitching staff and an improved offense, the sky is the limit for the 2012 San Fransisco Giants, and if all goes correctly, the bay area could see the return of an all to familiar trophy.

Predictions:
Record: 93-67
Finish: 1st NL West
Playoffs: World Series
Best Hitter: Pablo Sandoval, 27 HR, 86 RBI, .312 AVG
Best Pitcher: Tim Lincecum, 18-6, 2.68 ERA, 240 SO
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-Zookeeper

 

 

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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-Vernon Smells

30 Teams in 30 Days – Seattle Mariners

Welcome to the 6th edition of 30 Teams in 30 Days. Sorry we missed a day, we had a bit of an issue, but we’ll try to get two articles out tonight. The first team of the day is the one, the only…….. Seattle Mariners, oh sorry, we’re you expecting someone better?
Seattle Mariners
Record: 67-95
Finish: 4th AL West
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Felix Hernandez 14-14, 3.47 ERA, 222 SO
Top Hitter: Ichiro .272 AVG, 5 HR, 47 RBI, 40 SB
Manager: Eric Wedge
Important Acquisitions: Geoge Sherril, Aaron Heilman,  Jesus Montero, Kevin Millwood, Brian Sweeney, Shawn Camp, Hong-Chih Kuo
Important Losses: Adam Kennedy LAD, Jamey Wright LAD, Josh Bard LAD, Greg Halman Death, Michael Pineda NYY

The nicest thing I can say about the Mariners is that they’re young. They are the second youngest team in the league with an average age of just 26.5, so you could say they have potential. Unfortunately, they’re last 2 seasons have been disappointing, being way under .500 in both seasons, and if you wanted to be picky you could call the last 10 seasons disappointing, as they haven’t made the playoffs since 2001 (Ichiro’s rookie season). Last season didn’t actually start out that bad, as they were 37-35 at the near halfway point of the season, but a 17 game losing streak in July ended any chance at a competitive season. After having an amazing, terrific, unbelievable, Cy Young winning season in 2010, King Felix struggled at times in 2011, but still had a pretty solid year. However the biggest shocker of the year had to be Chone Figgins, who had by far the worst season of his career, hitting just .188. ON the flip side, one of my favorite young pitchers to watch last year was Michael Pineda, he threw hard, he threw lots of K’s and he had a mean changeup. Disappointingly, the Mariners dealt him to the Dark Lord, New York Yankees in the off-season, it sucks, but they did get Jesus Montero out of the deal, a very good 22 year old catcher who hit .328 in 18 games with the aforementioned Yankees, Montero’s also currently hitting .417 in his first 4 spring training games with the Mariners, it’s not much of a sample, but it could be foreshadowing a strong 2012 campaign for the young catcher. The Mariners also added veteran righty Kevin Millwood to take Pineda’s place in the rotation, he should add some solid starts, but I think the 37 year old is more there to mentor the young arms and to add a veteran presence in the dugout. What do I expect from the Mariners this season? Not too much, an improvement from last season would be nice but not necessary. I predict King Felix will have a good year, but not 2010 good, and I think Ichiro will do better than last year, but will miss the .300 plateau for the second straight season and just the second time in his career. The best thing for the Mariners to do at this point is make sure they’re developing their young players properly, even if that means risking a few W’s by keeping them in the minors.

Prediction
Record: 69-93
Finish: 4th in AL West
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Felix Hernandez 14-11, 3.22 ERA, 237 SO
Top Hitter: Ichiro .296 AVG, 4 HR, 51 RBI, 42 SB
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-Vernon Smells

30 Teams in 30 days – Kansas City Royals

“Up-and-coming” is the best way to describe the incredibly young Kansas City Royals. Though the AL Central is a near lock for the Detroit Tigers, Royals fans and hopefuls have a lot to look forward to this season. Breakout campaigns and continued success will be something to look out  for in 2012. Here is there 2011 season review.
Kansas City Royals
Record: 71-91
Finish: 4th in AL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Bruce Chen, 12-8, 3.77 ERA, 97 SO
Top Hitter: Alex Gordon, .303 AVG, 23 HR, 87 RBI
Manager: Ned Yost
Important Acquisitions: Jose Mijares, Jonathan Sanchez, Jonathan Broxton, Yuniesky Betancourt, Kevin Kouzmanoff
Important Losses: Melky Cabrera SF, Yamaico Navarro PIT

The Kansas City Royals had a pretty good season, for their standards. For a team that has been regarded as one of the worst in the league for the past couple seasons, 2011 proved to be a real turning point for the crowns. The highlight of the season, for many, was the emergence of young star first-baseman Eric Hosmer. In his first season he hit 19 HR, with 78 RBI, and a .293 clip. Others like outfielders Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, Jeff Francoeur and DH Billy Butler, all had above average seasons to help create a pretty good royals lineup. Bruce Chen led the rotation with a career season, while other pitchers struggled against opposing lineups. 2012 will be a lot like last season, however the royals could see a jump in the standings if a few things go right. Eric Hosmer will look to continue his legend by putting up a career season, proving a sophomore slump isn’t in his sights. Alex Gordon will put up another set of good numbers, with a chance to have an even better season. Jeff Francoeur, as usual, will be stellar in the outfield while putting up good offensive stats. The addition of Jonathan Sanchez will prove to be a smart move, as he will form a good 1-2 punch with Bruce Chen. 2012 might not take the Royals to the playoffs, or even a .500 season, but it will be a great developmental year for the young players, and will see the royals jump ahead a few spots in the standings.

Prediction
Record: 79-83
Finish: 3rd in AL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Jonathan Sanchez, 12-7, 3.82 ERA, 157 SO
Top Hitter: Eric Hosmer, 312 AVG, 28 HR, 92 RBI
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- Zookeeper

30 Teams in 30 Days – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

This article was written by Simple Jack, not Vernon Smells, as the web site may suggest. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim…..Wait are they still called that? I don’t even know anymore. Well anyway the LA Angels will be one of the most interesting teams to watch going into the 2012 season (if you know what I mean. Ahem, Albert Pujols). Anyway here’s how they stacked up in 2011.
Los Angeles Angels 
Record: 86-76 (6 game improvement from 2010)
Finish: 2nd AL West
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Jared Weaver, 18-8, 2.41 ERA, 198 SO
Top Hitter: Mark Trumbo (Seriously?), .254 AVG, 29 HR, 87 RBI
Manager: Mike Scioscia
Important Acquisitions: Albert Pujols, Albert Pujols, CJ Wilson, Albert Pujols, Chris Iannetta, Albert Pujols, Jorge Cantu, LaTroy Hawkins, Jason Isringhausen, Jorge Cantu and of course Albert Pujols
Important Losses: Jeff Mathis TOR, Tyler Chatwood COL and not Albert Pujols

The Los Angeles Angels had a disappointing season in 2011. The once perennial power of the 2000s failed to make the playoffs for the second straight year and watched their division rival Texas Rangers make it to the World Series two consecutive years. It’s been 10 years exactly since the Angels knotted their last and only World Series title, and based on the moves they have made during this free agency it looks like they’re determined on making another title run. The Angels finished the 2011 season struggling, 11 games before the season ended they were only 3.5 games out of a playoff spot. Throughout much of the second half of 2011 they were within striking distance of the Rangers, most of the time within 2 games or less, however the Angels just couldn’t get over that hump and capture the division title. But 2012 will be a new era for the Los Angeles Angels and will be a year for them to most definitely assert themselves a powerhouse in the league and a force to be reckoned with. With arguably the strongest starting rotation in the majors which includes Jered Weaver (a competitor for the Cy Young in 2011), Dan Haren, newly acquired CJ Wilson, Ervin Santana, with Jerome William most likely assuming the role as the fifth starter. To put this rotation in perspective, in 2011 none of these pitchers had an ERA above 3.70 , four were below a 3.40 ERA, and two were below a 3.00 ERA. Together they post a combined record of 65-37 in 2011. The Angels starting pitching core is most certainly stronger and has more depth than any other aspect of their team (which considering their addition of you know who is saying a lot). The Angels pulled off the biggest free agent acquisition of the 2011 offseason and probably the biggest one since Alex Rodriguez signed with the Rangers back in 2000, with their signing of Albert Pujols. There really isn’t anything more to say. Along with signing Pujols the Angels were able to retain their core of strong hitters, despite most of whom posting a poor 2011, still have potential to return to prominence in 2012, who include Howie Kendrick 2B, Alberto Callapso 3B, Vernon Wells OF, Torii Hunter OF, Erick Ayber SS, Mark Trumbo 1B, Kendrys Morales 1B and even Bobby Abreu OF (well maybe not so much him). The only weakness that may be in store for the Angels is their bullpen. Without an established closer or setup man and some new faces such as LaTroy Hawkins the Angels bullpen has a lot of adjusting to do (but hey, who needs a bullpen anyway when you have 3 guys who can go 8 innings?). Anyway, I foresee the Angels will be a powerhouse in 2012 and in years to come and most certainly post one of the best records in the league.
Prediction
Record: 98-64
Finish: 1st in AL West
Playoffs: World Series Appearance
Top Pitcher: Jered Weaver, 21-6, 2.63 ERA 214 SO (Cy Young Winner)
Top Hitter: Albert Pujols, .314 AVG, 41 HR, 126 RBI (MVP candidate)
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-Simple Jack

30 Teams in 30 Days – Boston Red Sox

Hello everyone, and welcome to the second installment of 30 teams in 30 days. Today’s team was one of the biggest discussion last year and the most interesting story. The Boston Red Sox.
Boston Red Sox
Record: 90-72
Finish: 3rd in the AL East
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: John Lester 13-6, 3.16 ERA, 146 SO
Top Hitter: Adrian Gonzalez .343 AVG, 18 HR, 94 RBI
Manager: Bobby Valentine
Important Acquisitions: Cody Ross, Mark Melancon, Nick Punto, Kelly Shoppach,
Andrew Bailey, Ryan Sweeney
Important Losses: Liquor, Jonathan Papelbon PHI, Marco Scutaro COL, Josh Reddick OAK

Last season, the Boston Red Sox were on the verge of making the playoffs but then all hell broke loose. In September, the Red Sox had a 96% chance of making the playoffs. The Red Sox would go on to lose 18 of their final 24 games. In their last game of the season,  against the Baltimore Orioles, they blew their lead and lost their shot to make the playoffs, as The Tampa Bay Rays came back to win their last game in extra innings against the Yankees. Now the 2012 Red Sox have a lot to over come. Their pitching rotation (which was their achilles heel last season) hasn’t been drastically changed, they lost Papelbon who was their star closer and they are still stuck with “wild card” type pitcher John Lackey, who they need to produce to help their team. The BoSox also have a lot of interior problems. Their GM Theo Epstein resigned and Manager Terry Francona was relieved of his duties. They also lost their ability to drink in the clubhouse after their new Manager Bobby Valentine, banned all alcohol from the clubhouse. Now this will prove to be pivotal as last season the Red Sox had one of best records in baseball going into September, they did this with alcohol in the clubhouse, so it will be interesting to see how they do without it. Also the BoSox are lacking in a power hitter, their best option as one is an aging David Ortiz. I do believe though, that Carl Crawford will be the silver lining for the BoSox. I think unlike last season he will produce heavily. With the Rays, Yankees and Jays all getting better and the Red Sox getting worse and with the turmoil in the system at the moment I can’t see them doing any better then 3rd in the AL East.

Prediction
Record: 85-77
Finish: 3rd in AL East
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Josh Beckett, 17-11, 3.26 ERA, 220 SO
Top Hitter: Carl Crawford, .327 AVG, 24 HR, 97 RBI, 35 SB
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-McFultz