Tuesday, November 26, 2013

NFL Week 12 Recap: What We Learned & Expect This Thanksgiving

Well folks we have finally made it the holiday season! Thanksgiving is just hours away and with it, a full day of food, family and plenty of football to stuff your appetite this holiday season.

Week 12 was a huge week in painting the postseason picture in the NFL with a number of teams falling out of contention and a handful of teams maximizing their postseason value at the same time. Of course the biggest game of the past week had to be New England's 34-31 OT triumph over Denver that not only shakes up the playoff picture, but becomes one of the many facts we learned about this week in the National Football League...

1) New England may have grabbed home field in the AFC: No disrespect to the Kansas City Chiefs, but by losing to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday it made it even more obvious that home field in the AFC will come down to New England and Denver, and, on Sunday we got a clue as to who gets such a prize. 

When the football bounced off the leg Tony Carter allowing New England to jump on it as a Denver fumble a shift may have occurred in the AFC. 

The Broncos have been treated as a the defacto number one seed in the AFC since the season started, but there have been signs all year that the Broncos might be a bit overhyped. Denver couldn't hold a 24-0 lead on the Patriots, and Peyton Manning put up pedestrian numbers in the wind and cold at Gillette Stadium -- not a good sign for a team that is trying to reach the Super Bowl. Denver can still win the division, and in turn, capture the number one seed, but if New England and Denver should both finish 13-3 -- the Patriots, not the Broncos, are the top seed in the AFC. 

2) Tony Romo and the Cowboys are indeed for real: Never thought I would say Tony Romo and for real in the same sentence, but after Sunday's impressive victory over the chirpy Giants, Romo and the Boys have the upper hand in the NFC East. Romo was impressive, especially on a 14-play drive to win the game in the fourth quarter. He got a lot of flack as an anti-clutch performer -- but those days look numbered. More importantly the Cowboys are 4-0 in the division, with games against the Redskins and Eagles left. If Dallas finishes 6-0 in the East they will beat out a good Philly team for the title. 

3) Is the 2nd NFC Wild Card from the West a sure thing? San Francisco decimated the Redskins 27-6 Monday night, with Colin Kaepernick leading the way with 235 yards and three touchdown passes. The Niners (7-4) are tied with the Arizona Cardinals (7-4) for the final wild card slot in the NFC, but the loser of the NFC East could be on their heels. Both the Eagles and Cowboys have very favorable schedules until they play each other in week 17. Don't be shocked if either is at 9-10 wins by that point -- which could bring the wild card into play too. 

The Cardinals are having an amazing season led by their terrific secondary and a resurrected quarterback, Carson Palmer. Nobody thought Arizona would sniff playoffs this year, but Bruce Arians is a genius. The Cards take on the Eagles on Sunday in a game that could go a long way in telling us who the final NFC wild card will be.

4) Ravens - Steelers on Thanksgiving night is a wild card playoff game. Both the Steelers and Ravens are making a serious push for the postseason. Pittsburgh has won three in a row, and Baltimore destroyed the Jets last week. Now they face each other on turkey day. With six teams in the mix for the final playoff spot in the AFC, conference victories become that much more important -- and this is a huge one. The Ravens are 5-4 in the AFC, the Steelers are 4-4. While the winner of this game doesn't necessarily mean they are in the playoffs, they will have the upper hand over other close competitors like Tennessee and San Diego. 

The Steelers have a very favorable schedule after Thanksgiving, with the Dolphins, Bengals at home, the struggling Packers and Browns left. The Ravens have a slightly more daunting slate with visits to Detroit and Cincinnati and a home game against New England left on the docket. The edge right now leans Pittsburgh. 

5) Greg Schiano is saving his job? As hard as it is to believe but Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano could be saving his job in Tampa. The Bucs have played their hearts out over the past month and have won three in a row to jump over Atlanta with a 3-8 record. While the rest of the schedule isn't easy, there is talk that Schiano could be safe in Tampa because rookie quarterback Mike Glennon has looked very good thus far. 

6) the NFC North stinks: Boy oh boy, does the NFC North stink or what? The Lions couldn't handle the prosperity of being in first place and lost to the Buccaneers at home -- an inexcusable loss for a team that is right now the favorite to win the North. 

Meanwhile, Chicago can't keep anyone healthy, as both Jay Cutler and Lance Briggs are still on the shelf. Lastly, the Packers are so bad without Aaron Rodgers that they couldn't even figure out a way to beat the Vikings at home, settling instead for the tie. All three teams have five losses this year, and it is anyone's guess who is going to come out of this division. Green Bay's visit to Detroit on Thanksgiving day will be a huge factor. 

7) The Colts are in big trouble. There is a reason for concern in Indianapolis with the Colts playing some very poor football of late in spite of the fact that this team is still in first place in the AFC South, and in control of a potential three seed in the AFC playoffs. In their last four games, the Colts have been outscored in the first half by a combined score of 93-12. That is not a recipe for success, and if it weren't for huge comebacks in Houston and Tennessee, the Colts would be on a mega losing streak. 

Sunday, the Colts were blown out again by an NFC West opponent, this time it was the Cardinals to the tune of 40-11. It doesn't help matters that the Colts have lost five players to injury including Reggie Wayne. Andrew Luck has struggled to find a dependable receiver since Wayne went down with a ACL tear against Denver in late October. It's anyone's guess what Chuck Pagano must be telling his team on a week in-week out basis, but it doesn't seem to be sinking in. This style of play will get the Colts nowhere in January. The only saving grace for Indy is their large lead in the South. They play Tennessee at home this week in a must impress and win for Luck and Co. 

NFL Coaches Hot Seat Week 12 
1) Rex Ryan, NYJ. Seat: RED HOT: It's getting stuffy in New York and it could be Rex Ryan's head on the platter before too long. Last week it was Dave & Buster's gate up in Buffalo; this week was another listless performance on the field as the Jets were blown away by Baltimore. Geno Smith has greatly regressed, yet Ryan is standing by his guy the way he did with Mark Sanchez. Major red flag alert here. 

2) Joe Philbin, MIA. Seat: WARM: His seat is not as hot as it was two weeks ago in the midst of the Incognito-Martin mess, but that doesn't mean Philbin is off the hook. The Dolphins (5-6) are in need of some big time wins, and with two games against the Jets -- they need those to have a shot at the postseason. Then again the Incognito story is not going away and could come back to haunt the coach later. 

3) Gary Kubiak, HOU. Seat: HOT: Gary Kubiak was off the hot seat after a serious health scare, but since his return this team has still stunk it up. Now they are losing games to the Jaguars at home and the once fabled Case Keenum is looking pretty ordinary. Look at the rest of the Texans schedule and it is hard to see this team winning again -- and they haven't won since week 2. 

4) Mike Munchak, TEN. Seat: LUKE WARM: Tennessee's road victory over Oakland a week after blowing a big lead to Indianapolis was a huge victory for Munckak and company, but they still have to get it done. They have tie breakers against three potential wild card competitors, but Tennessee needs more consistency. If they miss the playoffs, the coach could still get the ax here. 

5) Dennis Allen, OAK. Seat: LUKE WARM: It's the Raiders, any coach would be on the hot seat. 

6) Mike Shanahan, WSH. Seat: RED HOT: Shanahan's relationship with RGIII is deteriorating before our eyes, and Griffin is coming off more and more like a spoiled child who has gotten too much good PR too early in his career. Yet, when Dan Snyder evaluates this team at the end of the year, he will more likely side with Griffin then with the steely-eyed Shanahan. 

7) Jason Garrett, DAL. Seat: LUKE WARM: Garrett took a lot of pressure off with his team's gutsy performance against the Giants. He could take himself totally off the hot seat with a nice finish, a division title and playoff berth. By the way, Jerry Jones offered the dreaded vote of confidence here as well. 

8) Jim Schwartz, DET. Seat: LUKE WARM: There was pressure on Schwartz to win this year in Detroit, and Sunday's loss to Tampa was really, really bad. The Lions are expected to win the North with Aaron Rodgers out for the Packers, but if the Lions keep shooting themselves in the foot and miss out on serious January football the blame will be on Schwartz. 

9) Leslie Fraizer, MIN. Seat: RED HOT: He's done. The rest of the season is a formality. 

10) Mike Smith, ATL. SEAT: WARM: Received the dreaded vote of confidence from owner Arthur Blank -- but since Blank has shown a quick trigger finger in the past -- nothing will be surprising here. Smith does deserve another shot since the guy is the winningest coach in Falcons history for a reason.

11) Greg Schiano, TB. Seat: WARM: Talk is Schiano may end up keeping his job, but let us not forget how things have unraveled here in Tampa Bay. Unless Schiano has pulled a page out of the Tom Coughlin book of overcoming adversity, and is now treating his players with respect, I still find his return a dubious card to play. We shall see here. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! 

THANKSGIVING DAY PICKS
Detroit 27, Green Bay 21 
Dallas 34, Oakland 9 
Baltimore 20, Pittsburgh 16 

Jets Will Stick with Struggling Geno

Rex Ryan won't back off his tough talk that Geno Smith is his new "guy."

The now embattled head coach said that Smith would start the Jets next game on Sunday, saying the now universal language of Rex Ryan and his struggling QB's, "He gives us the best chance to win."

Somewhere Mark Sanchez must be jealous.

It is getting harder and harder for Ryan to continue to defend Smith just like it was getting harder for Ryan to defend Sanchez through his mediocre tenure as Jets' quarterback. And time will only tell if Ryan's defense of Smith will cost him his job.

Smith has been woeful. In the month of November, Smith has completed only 39 percent of his passes with zero touchdowns and five interceptions. His 21 turnovers are one of the highest in the league, and he has had the leagues worst passer rating three times this year.

The situation Ryan finds himself in is the same situation he was in the last two years with an underachieving quarterback. Last season Ryan was pushed to make a decision between Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Greg McElory, but he was steadfast in his support of Sanchez until he couldn't take it anymore against the Cardinals and inserted McElory.

Now Ryan's got a new mess. He has an untested rookie in Matt Simms right behind Smith, and oft-injured David Garrard on reserve -- the former Jaguars quarterback who hasn't taken a snap since 2010.  So it's not like Ryan is full of options to choose from at quarterback.

However at this point in the season, the Jets are the least likely of the six 5-6 wild card contenders to make the playoffs, since they already have six conference losses and lost tie-breakers to Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and Cincinnati. The Jets play Miami this week, and a loss to the fish will almost certainly finish the Jets off.

So why not just go with Simms and see what he has. The Jets have nothing to lose, and Ryan certainly has nothing to lose at all -- since his job is the one that is on the line. Who knows Simms may light a charge into the Jets?

Perhaps part of the reason Ryan is sticking with Smith has something to do with GM Jon Idzik, who drafted Smith, and wanted Smith to start over Sanchez -- starting a quarterback competition. Perhaps Ryan feels he needs to start Smith in order to keep Idzik happy, and, in return keep his job.

If that's true (again, reading between the lines here) then one has to question Idzik's football smarts here too. Of his three first picks in last year's draft, only Sheldon Richardson has turned into a player his rookie year. Smtih along with cornerback Dee Milliner have been busts.

So it is fair to say while Ryan has failed once again to get this team ready, the failure of Geno Smith -- if he is indeed a lost cause, is Idzik's failure as well.

Both are accountable, but Ryan is the one putting his face on this mess.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Giants Streak & Season Goes Limp Against Dallas

COWBOYS 24
GIANTS 21

To all of the Giants fans who have been chirping that their beloved Big Blue football team was back in the playoff race, who do you want fired now that the team has finally lost? 

After beating up four struggling football teams to keep their highly unlikely playoff hopes alive, the Giants couldn't pull this out of the fire as Tony Romo led an inspired final drive to lead Dallas to a 24-21 victory at MetLife Stadium, Sunday. 

Romo as anti-clutch? Ha, not anymore. Romo was more than clutch for Dallas on arguably the most important drive of the Cowboys season. 

After the Giants tied the game on a remarkable drive with 4:45 remaining, Romo picked apart the Giants on what turned into the final drive of the game. He was on target with his throws, some of which were just past the out stretched hands of a couple Giants. Yet, Romo always found his man. 

Romo connected with Dez Bryant on three consecutive passes for gains of five, 19, and eight yards, before he hit Miles Austin for 17 yards to the Giants 28 yard line. The Giants were clearly shell-shocked at this point. Their zone reads were getting picked apart, and by the time they went to man it was too late. 

On one big pass to Bryant that the receiver actually caught at the Giants five yard line was waived off by officials, who thought Bryant never had the football, forced Dallas into a third and long at New York's 28. However Romo hit Cole Beasley underneath for 13 yards to put Dallas in position to win the game. Romo ran the clock out, and with two seconds to go, Dan Bailey put a stake in the Giants hearts nailing the field goal to win it. 

Not lost in this game was how the Giants truly struggled offensively in this game. For three plus quarters it was like watching the Giants play through quick sand whenever they got near the Dallas red zone. It didn't help matters either that the reason Dallas took the early lead had to do with a fumble by Victor Cruz that was brought back for a touchdown in this game to make it 7-0 Boys. 

Twice in the first half the Giants put together long time consuming drives, and twice they were denied. First, Big Blue moved to the Dallas 27 on a 22-yard pass from Eli Manning to Ruben Randle, and were later awarded a pass interference penalty to move up to the Dallas nine, and still, the Giants couldn't get it in. 

Check downs and conservative play calling became the norm, as the Giants settled for the field goal to cut their deficit to 7-3. 

Later, after a monstrous 37-yard run by Brandon Jacobs to the Cowboy's four-yard line, the Giants again went ultra conservative with a couple of ineffective runs and were forced to kick again to make it 14-6. 

The Giants defense, while the culprit at the end was decent. They kept New York in this football game, but when plays needed to be made, mistakes were made instead. Non bigger than the roughing the passer penalty on Mathais Kiwanuka that whipped away a fumble recovery by Will Hill. 

Tom Coughlin and the rest of Big Blue nation was up in arms over this ruling, but it was clearly roughing the passer; Kiwanuka had his arm around Romo's neck and pulled him down. While it wasn't totally flagrant -- Kiwanuka was near the head of the quarterback and the flag had to be thrown. 

The flag turned out to be a huge turning point. The ball was placed at the Giants six yard line, and after two plays Romo found Jason Witten uncovered for the touchdown to make it 21-6. 

Give credit to the Giants for trying to mount a comeback. The Giants responded immediately, when Manning found Brandon Myers for six points. The tight end caught the football at the Cowboy 11, rolled on the ground, was never touched by a Cowboy, and got up to score to make it 21-13. 

From there the Giants defense clamped down on the Cowboys forcing them to punt on their next possessions, while setting up Manning and offense with one last comeback attempt. 

And, for a moment, it appeared the Giants had the game in their possession at long last. A couple of nice bursts by Andre Brown and Jacobs advanced the football to the Dallas 29. A 22-yard pass from Manning to Victor Cruz, set up shop at the five yard line, before Manning found Louis Murphy in the back of the end zone for the score. Cowboys 21, Giants 19. 

Brown dashed in easily for the two-point conversion, and MetLife Stadium was a rocking. Giants fans expecting to see Romo make his trade mark mistake however never did, as the embattled quarterback earned the star on his helmet. 

This loss is damaging to the Giants season. After an 0-6 start it was going to be next to impossible for this club to honestly make a playoff push, but there were enough Giants fans, and even players (Terrell Thomas this means you) who thought that this team was going to make a serious push for the postseason. 

There are too many holes to fix. The Giants ground game is still a quagmire, and the inability for this offense to do anything in the red zone, considering its talent is baffling. 

This team is flawed. And anyone who thought the problems were fixed as the Giants took advantage of some weak competition better look closely here. This is still a team that needs to be rebuilt in a lot of areas. 

I guess this means that Giants fans are going to back to calling for the heads of offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, and for Tom Coughlin to retire -- just like they did earlier in the year -- or at least until the next Giants win streak.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Geno Smith Stinks It Up Again, Jets Embarassed in Baltimore

RAVENS 19
JETS 3 

It's time to let the great fantasy come to an end. Those few and fleeting Jets fans who thought this team could be a serious playoff contender after the teams stunning 26-20 victory over New Orleans need not worry about playoffs anymore.

The Jets season is over.

And with it, Rex Ryan's career as Jets coach might be close to over with it.

The Jets were listless, helpless and depressing to watch Sunday. Their anemic offense mustered only 137 yards, when the game was actually mattered with Geno Smith playing the roll of Mark Sanchez-redux for the fourth consecutive week.

Awful doesn't do justice to describe Smith's performance. He was 9-of-22 for 127 yards, two interceptions and a rating of 22. It says a lot when the best quarterback on the field for the Jets was Josh Cribbs, who threw two gimmick passes.

There was nothing to like about the Jets performance. They were uncompetitive in every phase of the game. Culprit number one and two has to be Head Coach Rex Ryan, and Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who slapped together an ultra conservative game plan meant to have the Jets work around the excuse of a football player they have under center.

Of the Jets 13 possessions, eight of them finished in a three-and-out with less than 10 yards per drive. Why? Because the Jets decided to force the run down the throat of the Baltimore Ravens, and Baltimore would not budge. Bilal Powell (11 carries, 41 yards) and Chris Ivory (9 carries, 35 yards) were inept. Every time they touched the football they ran into a wall of purple.

This put Geno Smith into several third and long situations that the quarterback couldn't handle; and whenever there were plays to be made in the passing game, he either succumbed to the rush, or was picked off.

Case in point: midway through the third with New York down only 12-3, Smith heaved a pass down the length of the ball park on a ridiculous third down and long, only to have it picked off at the Ravens 10. Baltimore turned the interception into points, when Flacco hit Jacoby Jones in stride at the Jets 15 for a 66-yard touchdown to make it 19-3, Baltimore. Game over.

Now New York is now in a precarious situation. They are 2-6 in conference, and likely will not qualify for the playoffs now that the Ravens (5-6), Steelers (5-6), Dolphins (5-6), and Chargers (5-6) are all ahead of them for the final wild card slot.

The Jets blew it. They could have been the surprise team of the year, instead the folded back into the team we thought they would be -- a lousy football team that has no quarterback, no offense, and a bumbling coach who is on the hot seat.

For whatever reason Ryan continues to defend Geno Smith. Why? Why defend a quarterback who was not even a first round draft choice, let alone the guy who was expected the start this year? Smith stinks, and needs to be benched. Matt Simms might not be any better than, but until the Jets try the question will continue to be asked.

Yet, ask anyone on this Jets coaching staff, and they will tell you that they think Smith is the guy. Problem for the Jets is that everyone sees and knows that Geno Smith is NOT even close to being the guy for the Jets.

Hence the long tortured story of Jets football. A recurring problem for this franchise has been investing itself in guys whom they think are THE guy, when the opposite is true. Geno Smith, Mark Sanchez, Chad Pennington, Kellen Clemens, the list goes on forever. The Jets don't have a quarterback --- as usual. And as usual, it will eventually cost the head coach his job. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Yankees Ink Brian McCann to 5-Year $85 Mil. Deal

Who says that the Yankees are concerned about adding to their payroll?

The Bronx Bombers made their first big move of the off-season by signing former Braves catcher Brian McCann to a five year $85 million deal, as was reported to me by Doug Rush of Yankees101.com.

This is a huge move for New York. For starters it takes the most prized free agent catcher in this year's class off the market and away from possible suitors like the Red Sox and Rangers. It also gives the Yankees a much needed bat in the lineup. This past season, the Yankees were banged up, missing pieces like Mark Tiexiera, Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter throughout the season.

The signing also signals that the Yankees are not too concerned about what could happen with Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez is now waiting a ruling from an arbitrator in his appeal of MLB's 211 game ban. Rodriguez didn't do himself any favors by pounding a table and screaming in the court room before storming out, and running to his buddy Mike Francesa.

While A-Rod might drag his case to federal court, the likelihood that he will indeed be suspended increased with this weeks proceedings.

Therefore without A-Rod the Yankees can spend some money, and they did just that with McCann. McCann hit .256 with 20 homers and 56 RBI in 102 games for the Braves in 2013. He is only 29-years old, but it feels like he's been catching for forever in the ATL.

McCann's deal could exceed $100 million over six years, with the six year being an option year. He has has a full no-trade clause, another boon for New York.

Who will the Yankees add next? Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, there have been unconfirmed reports that Robinson Cano and Jay-Z are in Detroit talking to the Tigers. So stay tuned there as well.

I will discuss this trade with another Yankees101 writer, Karen Vankat on Sunday morning at 11 a.m. ET on MTR Radio.com with the OPEN MIKE PROGAM!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rex Ryan's Last Stand? Next Two Games Could Play Role in Head Coach's Fate

It didn't have to come down to this, but when Rex Ryan decided that chilling out at Dave & Buster's in Buffalo the night before his club's game in western New York was more important than defensive and offensive meetings, he put himself back on the hot seat.

For nine weeks Ryan had basically taken himself out of the hot seat conversation with a team that had overachieved with a 5-4 record and wins against Atlanta, New England and New Orleans; three teams that everyone thought the Jets would lose to.

Now one mistake and one horrific performance by the Jets in Buffalo has New York reeling. The Jets (5-5) have let everyone into the race for the final playoff spot in the AFC, and it is fair to say that the next two weeks for the Jets will go a long way in determining their playoff fate.

While New York could still make the postseason, the disturbing fact is that if this team should fail to qualify, it could be curtains for the coach.

Ryan came into this season on a short leash after two disappointing seasons in a row where he both coddled Mark Sanchez, and let his own goofs catch up to him. This past week was a return to the same old song for the Jets.

By taking his team out the night before the Bills game, Ryan echoed memories of some classic Rex follies, from the middle finger in Miami, to foot-gate, Tebow mania, the Mark Sanchez jersey tattoo, and of course the empty guarantees for the Super Bowl.

While, Rex has been fairly quiet this season, taking his team out the night before a huge divisional contest spoke volumes about how Rex still struggles to grasp the moment, and still struggles to grasp the pulse of his team. Reports earlier in the week stated that Ryan felt his team didn't practice well on Wednesday and Thursday leading up to the game. If that was true, then it was his responsibility to make sure that everyone was on the same page for Buffalo, even in the late stages of Saturday night.

While Dave & Buster's-gate didn't lose the Jets the game on Sunday, it didn't help either.

On top of that people have questioned his new pet project quarterback in Geno Smith, who hasn't really played well since the Jets victory over Atlanta at the end of September. Smith has turned the ball over 18 times already this year, with 16 of those being on interceptions. His 8-for-23 performance against Buffalo has raised questions about whether Smith is the guy, and whether Ryan should bench him.

Smith is quickly turning into Ryan's worst nightmare: Mark Sanhez-redux.

Now Ryan is in an even bigger pickle. Does he stick with Smith, whom everyone agreed at the beginning of the year, wasn't ready to lead this team to the playoffs anyway, or does Ryan go to Matt Simms, who is the popular untested back-up?

Either way, Ryan could be burying himself no matter what he decides to do at the position.

The Jets play the Ravens and Dolphins the next two weeks. Both teams are on the Jets heels, and if the Jets should lose these games it will all but put the Jets behind the virtual eight ball, and likely out of tie-breakers to get into the playoffs.

The question then is, what does owner Woody Johnson and GM John Idzik do? A lot of people predicted Ryan's magic number to keep his job would be 7-8 victories, since expectations were so low anyway. Others thought playoffs or bust.

But here we are today, November 22, two days before the Jets are to take on the Baltimore Ravens. New York is 5-5, Baltimore is 4-6. If New York comes out of it 5-6, en route to a 7-9 finish, it is hard to argue that Ryan should stay, especially with a team so close to returning to the postseason.

It is hard to argue that in light of the events of last week and what doom could loom that Ryan should stay.

Then again, perhaps the Jets have a trick or two up their sleeve. This entire season has been a roller coaster for win, lose, win, lose, and if the pattern continues, the Jets should win Sunday, and Ryan and his gang will continue to defy the odds.

Keys to Success: Preview of Week 12 of 2013 NFL Season

We are now a a week away from Thanksgiving and the official stretch run of the 2013 NFL season. This has been a pretty strange year from the standpoint that mediocrity has truly rained supreme this year with 17 teams that are either a game over, or, a game under the .500 mark. This has created a log jam for wild card slots in both conferences and division titles in both the NFC East and North.

But that is why the stretch run is so much fun; chances are someone is going to come out of the muck and make a serious pre-January statement. So without further adieu, let's take a look at a few key games in week 12.


NY Jets @ Baltimore (-3.5): Unless Rex Ryan feels the need to take his team to the Hooters of 
Baltimore, there won't be any late night-before-the-game trips to go bar hopping this time around. But why is it that Ryan has to realize this now? (More on that in the next article). On the field, the Jets come limping into Baltimore, a city where they have never won a regular season game, against a Ravens team desperate to get a victory to stay in the thick of the race. The Ravens know that their next two games are keys to the playoffs; the Jets and Geno Smith make a perfect first victim. PICK: RAVENS 27, JETS 13.

Panthers (-4.5) @ Dolphins: The Panthers are the real deal. They have won six in a row, and their defense has led the way. It's not like the offense isn't doing anything, because Can Newton (63.2 completion %, 16 TD) has really come into his own in year three. There is no more discussion about firing Ron Rivera. The talk now is playoffs. The Dolphins responded after a two week period of adversity with a gutsy victory over San Diego, and they are a real threat to upset the Panthers at home in the MIA. PICK: UPSET ALERT: DOLPHINS 26, PANTHERS 21. 

Steelers @ Browns (-1.5): It goes to show you that even a two-game winning streak is not enough to give Pittsburgh a slight betting edge on the road in Cleveland, but the Browns have been real tough at home this year. The Browns already own victories over Cincinnati and Baltimore at home and are looking to sweep their divisional home games this week. However, just the idea of Jason Campbell taking on a hungry Steelers defense is a nightmare waiting to happen. I also expect Big Ben and the Steelers offense to continue their reclamation project for another week. PICK: STEELERS 20, BROWNS 17. 

Broncos (-2.5) @ Patriots: Ah, the game of the week! A game that will go a long way in determining who will get the number 1 and 2 seed in the AFC playoffs, the Patriots and Broncos square off in Foxboro, Sunday night. For Denver this is the middle game of a crucial three game stretch, which they already 1-0 on. A win in New England would pretty much assure that Denver will be either the number 1 seed or 5 seed (depending on what happens with Kansas City).

However, I never like picking against the Patriots at home after a loss. The Patriots need this game more than Denver does, and that will mean a lot in the end. The Patriots want to make a statement, and expect them to do so in a thrilling Brady vs. Manning battle. PICK: PATRIOTS 38, BRONCOS 31.

Cowboys @ Giants (-2.5): Listen to talk radio this week and you would think the Giants were 9-1, not 4-6 and clinging to a very slim playoff dream. But that is life in New York where being a prisoner of the moment is true bliss. However going up against the erratic Jerry Boys in Jersey might be the right tonic to get Big Blue back in it, even though Dallas has won its last two in the Meadowlands.

If the Cowboys want to make a statement and support their embattled coach, they will come out guns-a-blazing against the hyped up Giants. Keep in mind that during New York's four-game winning streak they have not faced a superior starting quarterback. Tony Romo, love him or hate him, is better than any of the QBs the Giants face the previous four weeks. Plus, Romo gets his favorite receiver Miles Austin back for this one. Fantasy owners get ready.

This could be a shootout, but if the Giants are to control this game they have got to cut down on the turnovers. Eli Manning (17 interceptions) is good for a pick a game. He had a pick last week, and a pick six the week before against Oakland. Turnovers on Sunday will kill Big Blue's chances. At least Manning will be throwing against one of the worst defenses in the NFL, as Dallas is 32nd in pass defense. On the plus side for New York, their defense has played a lot better of late, and the addition of the emotional Jon Beason has added a lot to this New York lineup. PICK: I won't be shocked if Dallas wins this, but until they get off the inconsistent bandwagon .... GIANTS 30, COWBOYS 27. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mets-Cano Rumors Another Wilpon Trick

Maybe it is because it came from a tabloid, or maybe it is because the Wilpon's need the attention, but speculation has gone crazy Tuesday that the Mets are in the Robinson Cano sweepstakes.

... Now that you have stopped laughing, continue reading ...

According to the report, Jeff Wilpon and Sandy Alderson met with Cano's agent the famed rapper/mogel/now agent and Nets part-owner Jay-Z about Cano's free agency and the Mets interest in signing him.

Last time we checked, Jay-Z and Cano were looking for a deal worth $300 million, and last time we checked the Mets were not willing to break the bank on any free agents this winter. Outside of Cano, the free agent class doesn't contain a lot of sure-fire franchise players, but a lot of solid players.

Would the Mets buck their current trend of cutting as much payroll as possible and going cheap for the Yankees second baseman? I find it hard to believe.

The Mets have been a stubborn group when it comes to spending, and I find it highly unlikely that Alderson will try to strap the Mets in a mega-deal with Cano who is already over the age of 30. It's not like the Mets are a player or two away from contending -- they are an entire roster overhaul away from contending.

The Yankees apparently have offered $160-plus million to Cano, a far lesser deal than $300 million, but the Bronx Bombers are not going to be unnerved by Jay-Z talking to of all people, the Mets.

The Yankees have a good package, a good brand and a recent history of success. They are more likely to win a World Series in the next season than the Mets are in the next decade.

If anything, Jay-Z and Cano are trying to intimidate the Yankees into increasing their offer, but the Yankees will not budge from their $161 million offer.

When asked about it, Yankees president Randy Levine laughed that if the Mets want to spend $300 million on Cano, they can have him.

Even Levine isn't dumb enough to believe the Mets rumors, because he knows like all of us do, that the Mets still don't have enough financial flexibility to even afford the second tier of free agents on the market let alone the top tier free agents.

This is the second time this off-season the Mets have tried to tweak the Yankees. After the Bombers released Curtis Granderson, the Mets quickly jumped into the mix as an interested party. However, if the Mets are indeed serious about putting fans in the seats this season, they better get off the rumor mill train, because it isn't impressing anyone.

If the Mets want to impress people, they better go right ahead and sign one of these players, but that of course would be calling Fred Wilpon's bluff.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Giants Put Forth Best Effort to Corral Packers

GIANTS 27
PACKERS 13

In their most convincing performance of the season, the Giants put together a total team effort in dismantling the battered Green Bay Packers, in turn, thrusting Big Blue back into the conversation for the playoff picture.

By no stretch of the imagination does New York's 27-13 thumping of Green Bay mean that Big Blue is a serious playoff contender. At 4-6, the Giants still have an uphill climb with almost no margin for error, but they look like a much different team than what they were five weeks.

On this day it was the Giants defense that took the lead for Big Blue, forcing the Packers into three turnovers, en route to victory, as New York was plus-2 in the turnover margin.

Bottom line the Giants defense made big plays when they needed to.

When the Giants offense went into a collective funk after jumping out to a 10-0 lead, it was the defense that stepped up. They held the Packers to two field goals in the second quarter, when it looked like Green Bay would be poised for touchdowns instead. Then to start the third quarter, New York's new defensive leader Jon Beason picked off rookie quarterback Steve Tolzien at midfield.

A 35-yard bomb by Eli Manning to Hakeem Nicks later, and the Giants were knocking on the door; New York settled for a field goal to make it 13-6.

Beason's pick was a huge turning point. It energized the Giants, and killed what started out as a promising drive for Green Bay when they were still in the contest down four points. Beason finished with eight tackles on the day and a hit to the quarterback. He's been a huge addition to this Giants defense, which played solid football for the fourth straight week.

After the Big Blue Wrecking Crew forced another Packers punt, Manning engineered a 10-play 63-yard drive, highlighted by a series of big completions to Victor Cruz to move the Giants deep into Packer territory. Facing a third down at the Green Bay 11, Manning hit Brett Myers for eight yards and first down inside the five yard line, setting up Brandon Jacobs' one yard plunge to make it 20-6.

Yet as had been the story all evening, the defense was star of the show. With New York holding onto a seven point lead late in the fourth quarter, and Green Bay looking to drive down field for the tie, Jason Pierre-Paul stepped in front of a Tolzien pass, tipped it, picked it off, and rumbled 24-yards for a touchdown.

The score: 27-13. Ball game.

The Giants are alive and well. Any fans, who once again thought that Tom Coughlin lost the pulse of his football team are eating crow as they seem to do annually with regards to the Giants. This Giants' team looks pretty good; unfortunately for them so do the Eagles who are on fire atop the NFC East, and the Giants do not own any tie-breakers with the Eagles.

While a playoff berth still looks highly unlikely, this team is going to fight right to the finish.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dave & Busted! Geno Channels Inner Sanchez, Jets Fall Flat in Buffalo

BILLS 37
JETS 14

If the Jets season falls apart and they miss the playoffs, the events that led up to and including the 37-14 embarrassment will weigh heavily in the minds of the decision makers at the end of the season. It could weigh heavily on the future of the head coach, and oh, by the way the Jets have another quarterback controversy to boot.

The Jets were in control of their own destiny; in the lead of the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs, needing a victory over the Bills to set up a crucial two game stretch against the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins, the two teams the Jets are competing with for that wild card slot.

Instead the Jets came out flatter than flat.

It was their most listless performance since the Bengals disaster earlier in the year, and to think a move by the head coach could have prevented it.

Reports surfaced late Saturday night that Jets head coach Rex Ryan ditched the clubs defensive and offensive meetings and took the entire team to a night of wings, drinks and arcade games at Dave & Buster's in Buffalo.

This for a team that was coming off a bye week and needed to be prepared to take on the Bills; the lack of preparation showed in every phase of the game.  Rex's feet will be held to the fire for taking this team out for a night of partying instead of getting ready for a divisional opponent. No one can blame the Buffalo Bills for taking this move by the Jets as a sign of disrespect.

Yet, when asked about the Dave & Buster's night, Ryan tried to avoid it saying he's taken his team out before, but it has never been reported before until now. Ryan should never have taken his team out the night before the game -- a huge mistake that could ultimately cost Ryan his job at the end of the year.

As for the game the Jets resembled zombies from the Walking Dead. Geno Smith looked more like Mark Sanchez with every snap. He turned the ball over four times, including three interceptions. He was totally lost, completing only eight of 23 passes for 103 yards and a rating of 10.1.

When asked about Smith's performance, Rex Ryan said "Even if you had Joe Namath back there you won't do anything with that protection." Haven't we heard that before? Haven't we seen this movie previously?

We have with Mark Sanchez, and Geno Smith is becoming Ryan's new Sanchez. He has played poorly in three straight games, and continues to be a turnover machine for the Jets.

Only once did Smith complete one nice pass to Santonio Homles on a cross route in the third quarter and that was it. He did nothing.

With the Jets trailing 10-0, Smith was stripped sacked by Kyle Williams giving Buffalo the football deep in Jets territory. Three plays later Frank Summers plowed through the Jets defensive line for the touchdown to make it 17-0.

Fast forward to the third quarter, and the Bills put their hooves on the throat of the Jets. EJ Manuel looked like Warren Moon hitting T. Graham for 40 yards and finally M. Goodwin for a 43 yard touchdown to make it 27-0.

Finally Smith turned into the Mark Sanchez show. He threw a pick to Jairus Byrd, and and a pick six to  Da'Norris Searcy to give the Bills a 34-7 lead.

It was a total smack-down.

The only saving grace in this drudgery was the play of Matt Simms who lit it up on a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Simms was very accurate completing four of six passes for 60 yards and a touchdown. With the way Simms played it is fair to say that a quarterback controversy now exists for the Jets once again.

Now the Jets get set for the Ravens in what figures to be the game of the year for Gang Green.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Jets Sign Free Agent Safety Ed Reed

According to New York Post's Brian Costello, during an interview with WFAN, the Jets have signed former Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed.

Reed will join a Jets secondary in desperate need of some veteran talent.

Reed who spent much of his career with the Baltimore Ravens, and winning a Super Bowl last season, signed with the Texans before the start of 2013, and was a total bust for the Texans. He was released earlier this week after he had some choice words for the Texans organization.

For the Jets this is an all Rex Ryan type of move that speaks volumes about Ryan's standing in the organization to this day. For an entire year, people have been pondering the future of Ryan and his status in the front office, and a move like this shows that he still has clout.

Ryan spent seven years with Reed in Baltimore from 2002 - 2008. He often called Reed the best safety in the NFL, and has long been his number one fan. Now he gets to have him back now with the Jets.

The question will be how much Reed has left. He didn't play well in Houston, but considering the number of tipped balls that have been caused by the Jets front seven, Reed is going to have plenty of chances to make interceptions and big plays.

At the very least, Reed will add a veteran presence in the locker room that had been lacking on this team for a while. While it remains to be seen how he plays, this is a solid move for the Jets.

Jets Twitter

We bolstered our secondary THURS, agreeing to terms with Ed Reed a day after the veteran S cleared waivers.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

NFL Week 10 Recap: What We Learned & What to Expect Moving Forward

After a week filled with the now infamous Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin story taking up both front and back pages, on the field, the NFL probably had its best week of the season in Week 10. Many questions were answered, and others were created after a competitive slate of games on Sunday and Monday. As we head into Week 11 here is a look at where things are at in the National Football League.

1) Carolina is for Real: Nobody thought the Panthers would waltz into San Francisco and dominate the 49ers the way they did on Sunday. An impressive 10-9 victory was highlighted by the Panthers tenacious defense led by Luke Kuechly who had 11 tackles, two for a loss, a sack and a pass defended. The rookie sensation was incredible, as so was the rest of the Panther defense, which allowed only 91 yards passing by Colin Kaepernick.

The Panthers are one of the best teams in the NFL in defense, ranked fifth in passing and second in rushing. They have adopted the style of their head coach Ron Rivera, a former member of the 1985 Chicago Bears. Watch out for Carolina if they get into the dance.

2) the final AFC Wild Card spot will likely be a 9-7 or 8-8 team: The final AFC wild card playoff picture is pretty cluttered. Right now it is a safe bet that Denver, Kansas City, New England, Cincinnati and Indianapolis will all make the postseason.

The question is who is the 6th seed. The Titans held the key to the six seed entering Week 10, but a loss to the Jaguars dropped the Titans to 4-5, coupled with the loss of their starting quarterback Jake Locker for the season.

With Locker out, and with games against the Colts and Broncos upcoming, it is hard to imagine the Titans finishing over .500 at this point. Therefore the door swings open for the Jets, Ravens, Chargers, Browns and Dolphins.

Right now the Jets are in charge of the six seed, but, it IS the Jets, one of the most unpredictable teams in the NFL. Rex Ryan's hot seat is cooling off, but he has to get the Jets to the playoffs at this point to keep his job. The Ravens and Dolphins are their likeliest competitors, since all three have to play one another down the stretch. The Jets-Ravens game on November 24, and the Jets-Dolphins game on December 1 will be key in determining the sixth seed. Don't be shocked if the winner of the spot has a record of 8-8.

3) The Eagles, not the Giants are the real threat to Dallas in the East: Pipe down all you Giants fans. Big Blue nation has gotten giddy over three wins against mediocre football teams, yet their road to the playoffs is still uncertain. Even if the Giants win their next two games against the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers and the inconsistent Cowboys, it doesn't mean the Giants are heading to the postseason. The Giants still have games against Washington, Seattle, Detroit, and San Diego. Even one loss will TKO the Giants chances for sure.

Therefore the best threat to the first place Cowboys is the Eagles. Over their last three games the Eagles found an identity, ironically it started in a loss to the Giants. They found out in a 15-7 loss to Big Blue that Nick Foles is their starting quarterback, when he couldn't play that game because of injury.

Foles came back the next week against Oakland and lit it up for seven scores. He then threw three more touchdowns in Green Bay this week. Foles has 16 TDs to 0 INTs this year, and has the Eagles rolling. Philly's schedule is also very favorable, so watch out for an Eagles run.

4) the Lions are the Kings in the NFC North: After an impressive showing on the road in Chicago the Lions are now in the drivers seat in the NFC North. It also helps that the Packers are without Aaron Rodgers, of course. The Lions are indeed for real, and unless they suffer a horrible loss down the stretch should win the division. They have some tough games left, but four of them are at home, where the Lions are 3-1. Matt Stafford is having another fine season through the air, and Reggie Bush has stabilized things on the ground. 11 wins is not out of the question.

5) the Packers are nothing without Aaron Rodgers: Want to know how bad a team really is without its star quarterback, look at the Packers. The Packers weaknesses, from a soft ground attack and porous defense have been exposed in their last two games since Rodgers went down in a loss to the Bears. Rodgers is expected to miss the next two-three games, but there is a chance he could miss the rest of the season. Now Green Bay is fighting for its season in the next few weeks. The big news is that they brought back Matt Flynn after experiments with Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien have produced little results. Tolzien is expected to start Sunday against the Giants, but don't be shocked if Mike McCarthy pulls Tolzien if he struggles.

6) the Colts, Cowboys, Bengals, and Saints are too Jekyll and Hyde for a serious run: We knew that the Cowboys were the most inconsistent team in football, but how bout the Colts and Saints?

One minute the Colts looked like a perennial Super Bowl contender after victories against San Francisco, Seattle and Denver; then the next minute, the Colts are getting their doors blown off by Kellen Clemens and the St. Louis Rams. That's right, Kellen Clemens!?!?!?!?!?! Bad losses can happen in a long season, but the 38-8 smack-down is leaving a lot of people wondering about the Colts.

The same can be said about the Saints, who lit it up against the Cowboys on Sunday, only a week after getting smacked around by the Jets of all teams. Just goes to show you that the Saints are a product of their building; take the Saints out of the dome and they are not nearly the same football team. That is a concern for the playoffs.

Honorable mention: Remember the Cincinnati Bengals team that won 49-9 over the Jets two weeks ago? Yeah, that team has disappeared the last two weeks in losses to the Ravens and Dolphins. Talk about inconsistent.

7) Yes, the Arizona Cardinals are in the mix: Don't look now but the Cardinals are 5-4 and in the mix for the wild card. With San Francisco's loss to Carolina, the Cards are only a game out. The schedule isn't easy with games against the Seahawks, 49ers, Colts and Eagles remaining, but what a story it would be if the Cardinals do in fact make a run down the stretch.

8) the Jaguars and Buccaneers are no longer winless: Yes, finally the Bucs and Jags are winners, at least for one week. All the talk about 0-16 can go to the back-burner, now the question is will both teams lose enough games to keep the 1 and 2 slot in the NFL draft? That's a legit question, because the schedule for both clubs is conducive to some victories down the stretch -- especially Jacksonville. The Jaguars have games against the Titans, Bills and Texans on their schedule. Jacksonville could play their way out of the number 1 pick in April's draft. Personally, I don't think the players or coaches care about that. Just win, baby.

9) the Broncos and Seahawks are still the top two teams in the NFL: As the smoke cleared on week 10, one thing is clear, the Broncos and Seahawks are still 1 - 2 in the NFL power rankings. Without their head coach, the Broncos held off the
Chargers in a 28-20 contest in So. Cal., however there are now questions about the health of Peyton Manning after he took a nasty hit to his already brittle ankles. However, interim head coach Jack Del Rio, said Peyton will play Sunday night against Kansas City in the first of two meetings between the AFC West Goliath's.

The Seahawks were teetering on the brink of becoming a Jekyll and Hyde team when they nearly lost games to the Rams and Bucs, but they rebounded nicely with a dominating effort against the Falcons in Atlanta. It was easy to pick against the Seahawks on the road after two shaky performances, but they put that to rest with a 33-10 win. The Seahawks are really, really good, and probably the likely NFC representative in the Super Bowl later this year.

10) NFL Coaches Hot Seat update: 
AFC Coaches: 
Rex Ryan - NYJ - Seat: luke warm -- If Gang Green wins, he's ok.

Joe Philbin - MIA - Seat: Red Hot -- the Incongito/Martin mess, coupled with a 1-5 record in their last six games could mean curtains for Philbin and his staff. Owner Steven Ross is conducting his own investigation into the Incongito/Martin case, which won't be good for the coach.

Doug Marrone - BUF - Seat: luke warm -- status unchanged, it was a bad situation to begin with.

Marvin Lewis - CIN - Seat: Cool --- But a second half collapse or another quick playoff exit will make people wonder if Lewis should go.

Mike Tomlin - PIT - Seat: Snowman Cold --- Tomlin is not at fault for a 3-6 season thus far. He will be allowed to figure it out next year.

Mike Muncheck - TEN - Seat: Warm -- Losing to the Jaguars and losing his starting QB could mean a second half swoon for the Tiatns, and for Muncheck, who was on the hot seat to enter this year means adios amigos.

Gary Kubiak - HOU - Seat: luke warm -- considering what happened to Kubiak with the mini stroke, it could mean that the Texans will realize how hard this year has been on him and give him another chance ... maybe.

Gus Bradley - JAX - Seat: Cool -- he's building a program here, and the Jags could end up with 4 wins by season's end a good launching point into 2014.

Dennis Allen -- OAK -- Seat: Warm -- the hot seat is always cooking in Oakland.

Tom Coughlin -- NYG -- Seat: Snowman Cold. Not going anywhere, unless he retires.

Jason Garrett - DAL -- Seat: Red Hot: Likely to get fired if Dallas doesn't make playoffs, or loses in 1st round.

Mike Shanahan - WSH -- Seat: luke warm: Not sure what the Redskins are thinking yet, but at 3-6 and still struggling, Shanahan may take the fall, especially for his work with RGIII.

Mike Smith - ATL -- Seat: Warm: Hard to believe that Mike Smith, a guy who is the winningest coach in Falcons history would get the ax, but if things continue like this, I wouldn't be shocked if Arthur Blank makes a change at coach.

Greg Schiano -- TB -- Seat: Red Hot: One win doesn't change anything. Schiano is good as gone.

Leslie Fraizer -- MIN -- Seat: Red Hot: Fraizer's coaching has been bizarre all season. From his handling of the quarterback to in game decisions, he's asking to get fired.

Alderson: Mets Won't Add a $100 Million Player in 2014

Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson made it very clear to fans and reporters that he will not spend big money recklessly on big ticket free agents. In short, the days of spending $100-plus million on one player are over for the Mets.

"It would be difficult to duplicate that again -- not from a financial standpoint, but just in terms of team building..." Alderson told reporters before the GM meetings.

And for the first time in his four year tenure with the Mets, Alderson is right on. The blueprint of recent World Series winners like the Cardinals, Giants, and Red Sox has been to build a team by spreading the wealth throughout the team with short term/financial stable contracts.

That is why the Mets are probably not players for Shin Shoo Choo, who is asking for a insane $100 million contract.

That is why the team has set its focus on the likes of Curtis Granderson, Jhonny Peralta, Corey Hart, and Rafael Furcal -- all good veteran players who could bring instant credibility back to a Mets club house that has been lumped with failed minor league experiments testing the majors.

Meanwhile, reports from the New York Post are saying that the Mets have received "a half-dozen inquiries" regarding dregs Lucas Duda and Ike Davis.

Food for thought: if there is any team or teams are dumb enough to take Lucas Duda and Ike Davis off the hands of the Mets then Sandy Alderson has to get this deal done. Duda and Davis have become poster boys for the Mets failures over the past four seasons.

Davis went from highly touted first base prospect to a strikeout machine the past two seasons. He hit only .227 in 2012, and .205 in 2013. The Mets came up with the excuse of Valley Fever to describe Davis' struggles in 2012, but the fact that Davis just doesn't have it became more and more apparent as he struggled throughout 2013. The Mets have to dumb this guy.

Meanwhile Duda has been a model of consistent mediocrity. A terrible outfielder, the Mets have even considered moving Duda to first base and he's struggled there. More importantly some Mets fans deluded themselves into thinking Duda could become a 30-plus home run hitter, but he has only hit a total of 30 homers in the last two seasons combined, while hitting on average .230 in 2012 and 2013.

Duda is another player that the Mets would be better off without, and if someone is willing to take him for cash or a low minor leaguer, the Mets have to do it.

Granderson Opts Out of Yankee Offer, Will Test Market

Curtis Granderson's days in pinstripes might be numbered.

Granderson was one of three Yankees to reject Brian Cashman's qualifying offer, which would have paid the right fielder $14.1 million next season. The others to reject the offer were Robinson Cano and Hiroki Kuroda.

While not surprising to Cashman, and also a bit of a relief since he won't have to fork over $14 million for one season, in the case of Granderson he could be done as a Yankee.

The Yankees main focus this off-season is finding a way to retain Robinson Cano, who is going to be asking for a steep price in free agency, and making a decision at third base with Alex Rodriguez.

Before the season ended, Cano and his representation, led by rapper and Brooklyn Nets part owner Jay-Z, asked for $310 million over 10 years. The Yankees are looking in the neighborhood of $161 million if not a little less.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez remains in the riptides of the biogenesis steroid scandal that could cost the former league MVP the entire 2014 season.

But let's get back to Granderson, who for four years carried himself with impeccable respect and dignity in the Yankees locker room. He didn't bring attention to himself and put up big numbers, including hitting 40-plus homers in 2011 and 2012.

If the Yankees should lose Granderson they are said to be interested in 36-year old Carlos Beltran, and overhyped free agent outfielder Shin Shoo-Choo. While Choo is a .285 career hitter, he's a bit of a lineup enigma. He's not a lead-off hitter since he doesn't steal enough bases, and not a middle of the order hitter since he doesn't drive in enough runs; yet he's seeking a deal in the $90 - $100 million range. He is a risk, but with the Yankees depth, he could disappear in the lineup.

Beltran would be a quick fix move. He was an under-apreciated player with the Mets for seven years before they dealt him to San Francisco a couple years ago. Since Beltran resurrected his career in St. Louis. He would be a nice addition, but at his advanced age, and considering the age issue on the Yankees, Beltran would not be the best move out there.

The Yankees loss could become the Mets gain, because the Mets are very interested in adding Granderson, going as far as to contact him after his release from the Yankees.

Forget that he will be 33-years-old next year, Granderson is the quintessential club house guy that the Mets desperately need. He is automatically better than any of the dregs in the Mets outfield right now form Juan Lagares to Lucas Duda and Eric Young Jr.

While his power numbers would likely go down in Citi Field, he can still produced big doubles and triples numbers for the Mets, if he joins. He would also take a lot of pressure off of David Wright, who has to juggle being the captain and only legit player on the Mets the past four years.

The Mets are very interested in adding outfield bats, having already inquired about talks with former Brewer Corey Hart, Choo, Red Sox' outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, and short stop Stephen Drew.

So for the first time in years it looks like the Mets will be big players in free agency. Let's hope they finally give their fan base something to smile about.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Giants outlast Raiders in sloppy mistake-laden affair

GIANTS 24 
RAIDERS 20 

MetLife Stadium may be the host of Super Bowl XLVIII later this year, but on Sunday it was host to Dunder Bowl X-tra Cheese as the Giants beat the Raiders inspite of beating themselves for much of the afternoon.

A game that featured a combined two blocked punts and five turnovers, the Giants managed to make one less mistake than Oakland in Sunday's slop fest at the Meadowlands.

The Giants won this game solely on the play of their defense down the stretch of this football game. An interception by Terrell Thomas with New York down 20-14, set the stage for the second half surge. Raiders quarterback Terrell Pryor telegraphed a pass right to Thomas, who picked it off and brought the ball all the way back to the Raiders three-yard line before he was tackled.

Two plays later, Andre Brown dashed into the end zone for the touchdown to make it Big Blue 21, Black Hole 20.

Later Eli Manning engineered New York's best drive of the day, a 13 play 65-yard drive that ate up 6:56, keyed by a 25-yard pass to Hakeem Nicks, and a 15-yard slant to Victor Cruz. However, as has been the case all season a Giants' drive stalled inside the Raiders red zone. Andre Brown got stuffed on two consecutive hand-offs at the five yard line, before Manning's pass to Cruz was wide of its intended target. The Giants were forced to settle for a field goal, keeping the Raiders in the game.

More insanity would occur. A blocked punt of Giants punter Steve Weatherford, set up Oakland at their own 33 yard line, giving the Raiders renewed life to make one last comeback in the fourth quarter. However, this is where the Giants D stepped up. They harassed Pryor, forcing him to throw an incompletion on first down, before stripping him of the football on a desperate scramble. Cullen Jenkins recovered the loose football, and the Giants went on to victory.

Still, it wasn't pretty.

The first half itself featured three combined turnovers and a blocked punt between the two teams.

The Giants opened up the game making more special teams mistakes. Jerrel Jernigan's fumble on the opening kick-off was recovered by Oakland's Andre Holmes, setting up shop at the Giants five-yard line. Oakland pounded it in from there as Pryor dove over the pile for the score to make it 7-0.

The Giants soon responded when Cooper Taylor blocked a Raiders punt and brought it back for a touchdown to even it up at seven.

However, the turnover bug bit the Giants again on their next possession, when Peyton Hillis fumbled the football back to the Raiders at the Giants 21-yard line. Oakland settled for a field goal to take a 10-7 lead.

Finally, midway through the second quarter with the Giants back in front 14-10, Manning telegraphed his league leading 16th interception of the year to Tracey Porter, who went 43-yards for a score to give Oakland a 17-14 halftime lead.  The pass was intended for Victor Cruz, but it should have never been thrown, as Manning looked Porter right in the eyes on the play.

In a lot of ways the Giants are lucky to have won this game. Considering all the mistakes this team made on Sunday, they would have succumbed to a better team, because the Raiders are still a mess.

Sure the Giants may have won three consecutive games, but all three have come against some bad football teams. They beat a Vikings team that has invented ways to lose this year; beat an Eagles team that was without its starting quarterback in Nick Foles; and today defeated a Raiders team that is ... well ... the Raiders.

Now the Giants get set for the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers. The Packers are clearly not the same team without Rodgers, a break for these silly Giants on their trek to make something out of this truly awful season. And in the woeful NFC East, where the Giants have now flipped over the Washington Redskins for third place in the division, and are only a game back in the loss column, they have a chance, believe it or not.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Nets Can't Pack Enough Punch to KO Pacers

PACERS 96 
NETS 91

The most expensive team in the NBA is now 2-4.  A week into the season the most expensive team in the NBA is in last place in the Atlantic Division. Time to panic? Not yet.

A team with very high expectations after a monster off-season that saw the franchise add old stars like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, and tapped their former superstar from a decade ago, Jason Kidd, as its next head coach is off to a rough start.

As I mentioned in a earlier article, the Nets will soon come to the forefront, and on a cold November Saturday in New York where they were the only show in town, the Nets were at that forefront against the best team in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers.

Result: the Nets had no answer for Paul George, David West and the Pacers.

At times overmatched, at times outplayed, and most of the night outsmarted, the Nets never recovered from a Pacers third quarter surge as the Pacers improved to 7-0.

Even though Brooklyn closed a ten point deficit with 5:05 to go to just five points, they couldn't overcome mistakes, nor come up with the one big clutch shot they have been missing thus far this year.

Down 94-91, a Deron Williams turnover was soon followed by a botched six foot hook by Garnett, and a missed three pointer by Joe Johnson. Mistakes like these are not allowed, especially for a team with so many All Stars.

Williams finished with 17 points on just 7-of-14 shooting, while Garnett struggled in 27 minutes of action, connecting on three of seven shots. He also had a major turnover at the end of the game.

Even Paul Pierce had his issues. He was 5-of-12 from the floor and 3-of-6 from long distance. It was almost little consolation that his desperate three pointer with less then two minutes to go, actually fell through the hoop after dancing around the rim, because most of his shots lacked the power everyone got used to seeing when he was Boston.

It was not a good night for Brookyln. Everytime the Nets had something cooking the Pacers answered. Brooklyn held a 46-44 lead at the half, only to watch the Pacers roll over them in the third quarter thanks to a 11-2 run to take a 57-51 lead with 8:18 to go in the period.

George was amazing for Indiana. He was all over the floor hitting big time three, jumpers and causing all kind of havoc on the boards. He led both teams in points with 24, and 8-of-14 shooting. His counterpart, David West was excellent too. West hit 7-of-15 for 18 points. Meanwhile, Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson collected 15 points each.

More importantly is the progress of Kidd as head coach. It is clear just by watching him on the sidelines, that he is still learning the ropes of being a head coach in the NBA. He almost rarely argues, and leaves a lot of the game planning during time outs to his assistants.

Six games in this strategy isn't working. Kidd is being asked to grow up as a HC fast with a cast of all stars, which is not fair to his own development as a coach. At 2-4, the Nets are already underachieving, and thing won't get easier when Brooklyn hits the road for three games this week on the west coast to play the Kings, Suns and Clippers.

There is no doubt that the Nets have immense talent. They have enough weapons to befuddle any opponent, but nobody is on the same page just yet; Pierce and Garnett look their age only six games into the season.

If the Nets are going to succeed they have to get big time production out of Williams and Joe Johnson. Brook Lopez has been the team's best player, but he can't do it alone. Someone has to step up.

That is where the head coach has to come in and put in the guys who are playing the best to give him the best chance to win. That is another obstacle that Kidd has to climb in the coming weeks.

If things don't improve, will the pressure get turned up on Kidd, or on the players? Keep posted.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Jets Stun Saints and NFL with Defensive Masterpiece

JETS 26
SAINTS 20

Let me guess, when you took a look at the schedule for week 9 you probably thought the Saints were an automatic lock to win against the Jets? Don't worry, I thought so too.

Instead the Jets blew up Las Vegas betting lines and wallets everywhere with a 26-20 stunner over the Saints, as New York's ferocious defense, combined with the running of ex-Saint Chris Ivory paved the way to victory.

This game was more about what the Saints did wrong against the Jets defense, then anything the Jets did right.

Every time Drew Brees dropped back to pass he was under incredible duress, with Quentin Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson in his face the entire afternoon. Brees, never had a moment to set himself.

He was sacked twice, and was hit more than a dozen times over the course of the afternoon. He even had two passes tipped and picked off by the Jets; with the way New York's defense played, the Jets could have easily had four interceptions of Brees.

The Jets gave Brees only two small glimmers of hope early in the contest and shut the door after that. Holding onto a 3-0 lead, the Jets allowed New Orleans to take the lead when Brees connected with Jimmy Graham for a 51-yard touchdown in single coverage to make it 7-3.

Then early in the second quarter, New Orleans went up 14-6 when Brees connected on a 60-yard bomb to Robert Meachem, to spot the ball at the Jets 20, before finishing off the drive with a 10-yard score to Jimmy Graham.

With the fire power of the Saints offense combined with the Jets lackluster showing offensively early in this contest, it looked like this game would be poised for the slaughter everyone predicted.

That was until Chris Ivory started to eat up his former team, gashing them for huge chunks of yards. Ivory totaled 139 yards on 18 carries for the Jets, and basically carried the entire offense, while Geno Smith played Robin to Ivory's Batman.

Still Smith had his moments. His only real positive drive of the day came in response to the Saints second touchdown of the day. Smith hit two big passes, one to Tommy Bohanon and another to David Nelson to move the Jets deep into Saints territory, before Ivory took over with two rushing for four yards each to move the ball to the Saints 7. Finally, Ivory plowed through a gapping hole in the Saints front for the score to make it 14-13.

Now it was the defense's turn to step it up a notch. Wilkerson and Coples rushed Brees into a hurried throw that bounced out of the hands of Nick Toon and into the waiting hands of Antonio Cromartie at the Saints 39-yard line. The interception proved to be the turning point of the game.

Next Smtih led the Jets on a quick five play, 38-yard drive culminating in his five-yard scamper for the touchdown, giving the Jets a 20-14 advantage.

The Saints would battle up hill for the rest of the afternoon.

Brees spent the rest of the afternoon running for his life, as the Jets front seven pressured the former Super Bowl MVP into errant throws, incompletions, and total confusion. Brees was so befuddled by the Jets defense that he even held onto the football longer than he would have liked at many points in the game.

The biggest game changing moment of the second half came midway through the third quarter after New Orleans converted a long third down on a screen to Pierre Thomas to advance to the Jets 22. Down only 23-14, a touchdown, would have almost certainly brought the Saints back into the game. However, Wilkerson and Calvin Pace sacked Brees on back to back plays to push the Saints on the fringe of field goal range at the 50-yard line.

Somehow the Saints were able to get enough yards on third and 38 to settle for a field goal to keep their heart beat alive at 23-17, but the phase of this game had taken a new turn.

The Jets were out playing the Saints in every facet of the game. They had Brees reeling, and for the first time since he was probably a Charger, Brees had a defense in his head. Mentally, the Jets had already won the game on that series.

The defensive stand was then aided by Ivory, who went totally ballistic. He gashed the Saints for 46 yards on four carries, including one carry for 30 yards, to set up a Nick Folk field goal to make it 26-17.

The Saints had a couple more chances, but Brees and the Saints offense still couldn't handle the Jets front seven pressure as the quarterback finished 1-for-7 down the stretch of this contest, with everyone and everything Rex Ryan could throw at him in Brees' face.

It was total domination by a Jets unit that got torn apart by the Bengals a week ago, and it was a heck of a statement too by a team that has been counted as DOA by everybody this year.

So for the fifth time this year, the Jets win after losing badly the previous week, and are now 5-4 on the year. The roller coaster ride continues for Rex Ryan; but after this win, I am sure his job security is getting safer by the minute. Now New York will have a bye week, before taking on the Buffalo Bills in  mid-November.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Kidd Returns to Nets Bench Sunday in Orlando

The over-hyped Brooklyn Nets are 1-1 without Jason Kidd so far this year.

 If I told you that the Nets one win would be against the Heat, you probably would have thought I was nuts, but that is the case. Brooklyn narrowly escaped the Heat 101-100, Friday night to get back to .500 before their head coach returns to the sidelines.

Kidd served a two game suspension to start the year due to a DUI he had last season while still playing for the New York Knicks. Now the Nets and their fans finally get a chance to see Kidd in action from the bench as head coach.

This is going to get interesting. What kind of respect Kidd garners from his players over the course of 80 games is going to be fascinating. There will be ebbs and flows throughout the season, and already we got a glimpse of Kidd butting heads with one of his stars when he took on Kevin Garnett in a back-n-forth on playing time.

Will Kidd be able to take losing? Can he handle a 3-4 game losing streak when it pops up? Can he manage a group of players who are mostly his peers? These are questions that are going to get answered, especially in the first half of the season. Right now the Nets are 1-1, way too early to tell what this team will be in 2013-14.

Through two games we saw the good Nets against Miami, a team that has enough weapons to match those of the Heat, and we saw the bad Nets that resembled the Nets of last year, where Deron Williams misses a million shots, as he did against Cleveland on Opening Night.

This will be fun, and all of the attention will be on Kidd and how he coaches on Sunday night in Orlando. For Kidd, maybe the best thing for him -- in his coaching debut -- is to coach on a Sunday evening in Orlando when the majority of the country will be fixated on football. In short he can sneak under the radar for a few days.

But soon enough, whatever the Nets record is, whether it be well over .500 or trickling under .500, the lights will find Jason Kidd -- and then we will know what kind of coach Coach Kidd really is.