Friday, January 30, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII: Arizona vs Pittsburgh

Visit All World All Sports (

by Digger

Super Bowl XLIII is a very intriguing matchup on paper. On the surface, everyone is talking of the NFL's #1 ranked Pittsburgh Steelers defense against a revved up Arizona Cardinals offense. I going deeper in this blog. Exposing where the game will be won or lost and how coaching familiarity comes into play.

Arizona Cardinals (9-7)

Head Coach: Ken Whisenhut. Arizona's rookie coach is one victory away from leading the Cards to their first ever Super Bowl Championship. Interesting twist, Whisenhut is Pittsburgh's former Offensive Coordinator which might pay dividends for his defensive play calling packages. His previous stint in Pittsburgh might tip off is defense to certain looks. Whisenhut's offense likes to mix it up and take advantage of mismatches on the outside. Look for many misdirection runs to freeze Steelers aggressive linebackers.

Offense: QB Kurt Warner leads the NFL's 4th ranked unit. He's coming off a stellar season (4583 yards, 30 TD). Cards offense supplies Warner with plenty of weapons. Three 1,000 yard wide receivers (Fitzgerald, Boldin, Breaston) and former All Pro RB Edgerrin James are the main targets. Warner knows he'll be facing relentless Steelers blitzes all game long. He needs to hang tough in the pocket with Marino-like quick releases to cutting WR's exploiting single coverages.

Defense: Cards overlooked D has 8 Playoff interceptions. They've been playing bend but don't break D making big plays at the right moments. Pass rush needs to pressure Roethlisberger into mistakes and to shut down an elusive Willie Parker out of the backfield. Secondary provides big hits but has had moments of ineffectiveness throughout the year. Steelers offense will bring many different looks. Key for Cards is keeping plays in front of them and not getting burned deep or by Pittsburgh gadget plays. Defense must step up by forcing Steelers into many 3 and outs.

Special Teams: Any game can be changed on a dime when special teams makes or blows big plays. Steady place kicker Neil Rackers and newly acquired punter Ben Graham cannot make any mistakes. Rackers is steady. Graham sometimes out kicks coverages which could come back to haunt Cards.

Key: In my eyes, this game will be decided by how effectively Arizona's offensive line can hold off the Steelers front unit. It's the names nobody knows which will determine success or failure. RT Levi Brown, RG Duece Lutui, C Lyle Sendlein, LG Reggie Wells and LT Mike Gandy. These 5 players must have their career best game or it could be a long evening. Simple plan, staving off blitzes for Warner and creating running lanes for Edgerrin James. Running attack execution is a must or Warner will be looking at dangerous 3rd and longs. If Warner gets time to throw, Arizona's attack will be hard to stop. Protect the ball is another must. Steelers thrive on creating costly turnovers.

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

Head Coach: Mike Tomlin. Tomlin is a defense specialist. Steelers own #1 ranked defense. Continues in Knoll/Cowher tradition of mis-direction ball control offense supported by tenacious defense. No nonsense coach isn't afraid to mix it up with trick plays.

Offense: QB Ben Roethisberger gets the job done. Sometimes it isn't pretty but he's one of the QB's in the league you want at the with the game on the line. Pressure is no stranger to Big Ben. He's already won a Bowl game. RB Willie Parker handles the running attack and might be in store for a big day. I think Pittsburgh will rely heavily on Parker as they try to dominate time of possession to keep Arizona's offense on the sidelines. Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward provide the deep threat while TE Heath Miller will be a possession go to guy along with Nate Washington. Offensive line should not take Cards D unit for granted. Cards D has made big plays when they've had to. Steelers front 5 need to dominate.

Defense: Well deserved hype surrounds this crew. NFL regular season #1 and +5 turnover ratio in two playoff games. These guys swarm around the ball and destroy those daring enough to touch it. Farrior, Clark, Harrison, Woodley, Timmons, Taylor, Polamalu, Foote, Keisel & Co. will be ready to bring punishment. Steelers blitz from all angles and bring pressure on nearly every single snap. Coverages are often disguised to fool opposing blocking techniques. Biggest challenge of the year vs Cards three 1000 yard receivers. Blitzes make for single coverage which could easily be exploited.

Special Teams: Santonio Holmes already has one punt return TD this post-season and might find plenty of room to roam vs Cards coverage unit. PK Jeff Reed and P Mitch Berger will be counted on to play mistake free football.

Key: All the talk has focused on Pittsburgh's defense. Yes, they'll have to step up and shouldn't have much trouble putting a pounding on Warner. Key on D is pressure and covering wideouts. Another key is their offense. Willie Parker needs to turn it up field and penetrate gaps for positive yards. Steelers drop-a-lot WR's will find plenty of lanes vs Cards zones. This is not the game for drops. If Roethlisberger & Co. is sharp early then folks will be talking of Steelers offensive prowess after the final gun.

PREDICTION: Steelers pounding offense controls the clock. Willie Parker roams for 150+ yards. Roethlisberger moves offense at will. Steelers defense creates turnovers. Cards show a few early flashes but can't sustain any sort of momentum. Steelers knock off Arizona, 33-20.

Steelers Set Sights on Sixth Championship

All World All Sports (

by Digger

AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers shoot for their sixth Super Bowl Championship this weekend against Arizona. If it wasn't for Neil O'Donnell phantom throws against Dallas... they might be going for 7.

Much of the talk leading up to this game has centered around Pittsburgh's top ranked defensive unit. I'm sure they'll be blitzing all game long trying to rattle Warner into rushing passes. No question Warner will be landing on his rump often. Covering the Cardinals receivers will decide the game. If the Steelers secondary can get the job done then victory is within reach. Don't underestimate underdogs. Especially the Cardinals. Their offense can control games if Warner is sharp and James explodes throw holes.

(Super Bowl history)

Previous Pittsburgh Super Bowl teams were filled with some of biggest names in the game. Heach Coach Chuck Knoll's touch has been emulated throughout the years. It if isn't broke, don't fix it. Terry Bradshaw, Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier, Jack Ham, Mike Webster, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Mel Blount, Jerome Bettis. Those guys played in some of the more memorable games.

Some may say, including myself, current players get it done with the same Steeler style and tradition. QB Ben Roethlisberger knows how to win. It isn't always pretty but he's tough in crunch time. Hines Ward & Santonio Holmes stretch the field while the defense led by AP Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, Casey Hampton and James Farrior punish opponents. Quite a cast of characters.

So far Super Bowl XLIII previews have gone as I expected. Pittsburgh garnering most of the attention between Big Ben and defense. Watch out for Arizona! Games are won on the field. NY Giants are prime examples being heavy underdogs in two of their victories.

Stay tuned for my Super breakdown.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Benched? Stars Without Teams - 3 Weeks Until Spring Training!

All World All Sports (
The SportsRagePage (
Sports Sections of the World

by Digger

Has our nations current economic downturn begun to take hold on Major League Baseball?

There's quite a list of solid players still looking for teams as Spring Training 2009 begins in three weeks (ESPN Free Agent Tracker). Check out this list of unsigned players: Manny Ramirez, Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr, Orlando Hudson, Ivan Rodriguez, Kevin Millar, Ben Sheets, Frank Thomas, Jason Varitek, Ty Wigginton and a load of other players who could prove to be valuable pickups.

The Yankees & Phillies were quick to sign a few big names right out of the gate. Manny Ramirez remaining unsigned is quite baffling. Is baseball collusion back in business? The Dodgers are NUTS if they don't sign Manny after what he did for them last season. How about seeing Manny in a Mets, Angels, White Sox or Indians uniform in '09? These four teams have cash and will be challengers this season.

Call me crazy. The best fit for Manny is ......... Oakland Athletics!.

Think about it. A tremendous boost for an already redesigned 2009 lineup. Oakland brought back Jason Giambi and went hard after Matt Holliday. Add Manny and fans will fill a usually empty Oakland ballpark. Add Manny and become an instant AL West contender. Add Manny and become AL West favorite over LAA for the first time in years. Add Manny, and if he wants out, trade him for future draft picks, young talent or all the above. Oakland is the one team in MLB where signing Manny makes most sense for wins, economics, marketing and fans. Add Manny, and his new teammates receive an instant shot in the arm boost knowing Oakland is now a serious Title contender. Add Manny, and watch tv revenue/team exposure soar. No downside here. Manny can be Manny all he wants as an Athletic. Ego's are not an issue with this squad. Bust a move Billy Beane!

Bobby Abreu (career .300 hitter, .405 OBA) without a team is crazy. Who wouldn't want him? Adam Dunn and his 40 homer seasons is suddenly unwanted after being the subject of trade rumors every season. Many remaining free agents have me wondering if how many could sent to the showers for an early, unwanted retirement. Are offers not coming? Or, are players holding out for more gold?

If the rationale behind unsigned players is they're holding out for more money... then someone wake them up to what's going on in the world. Pettitte did, too little to late for his wallet. He had rejected a $10M Yankee offer only to resign a couple of months later (yesterday) for $5.5M with incentives. Holding out doesn't appear to be an issue except for players renegotiating with '08 teams. It's evident, just like millions of others, owners wallets took a big hit which will ultimately trickle down to lower salary offers when negiations begin/resume.

I wonder if the Yankees are having buyers remorse? Sabathia for $161,000,000. Teixeira $180,000,000. Burnett $82,500,000. Timing is everything. Pressure has never been greater on NY to win, on both sides of town, especially with two new over budget ballparks getting ready to debut.

We'll see if countdown to spring training heats up a quiet free agent market. There's too many talented players sitting on the sidelines. Buckle up! The next few weeks could be very telling.

Monday, January 26, 2009

NCAA's Top 10 Hoop Power Rankings

All World All Sports (
The SportsRagePage (
Sports Sections of the World

by Digger

2008-09 NCAA Basketball season has been filled with action packed wire to wire games featuring some of the best teams in our nation. Teams have been fighting to climb the ranking/poll ladder. Wake Forrest & Pittsburgh held #1 briefly, now it's Duke's turn to secure top honors.

Approximately one dozen games remain in the regular college basketball season. I'm betting the rankings will change quite a bit between now an then.

For the serious college fans seeking to catch every game in HD surrounded by big time parties... head to Las Vegas for March Madness. When it comes to sports, the best time to be in Vegas is for the NCAA Tournament. During the Sweet 16 to be precise. It'll be one heck of a party filled experience for those seeking exciting times.

Here it goes, my College Top 10 for the week of January 26th:
1) Duke (18-1)
2) Pittsburgh (18-1)
3) Connecticut (18-1)
4) Oklahoma (19-1)
5) North Carolina (17-2)
6) Wake Forrest (16-1)
7) Xavier (17-2)
8) Marquette (17-2)
9) Michigan State (16-3)
10) Louisville (15-3)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"The Yankee Years" - Joe Torre Swings Away!

All World All Sports (
The SportsRagePage (
Sports Sections of the World

by Digger

Joe Torre comes out swinging in his new book about turmoil within the Yankees. Sunday's online edition of the New York Post (01/25/09) suggests Torre's "explosive" book gets a bit personal in attacks against Alex Rodriguez and GM Brian Cashman.

Leave it to the New York media types to create another controversy. NY reporting all state Torre's book is seems revenge filled. Interesting to then read ESPN excerpts stating:"... it's "inaccurate'' to suggest that Torre used it (book) as a forum to get even with the Yankees or settle old scores. The source said some of the controversial angles being reported in the New York tabloids have been taken out of context or "overblown."

According to ESPN, The Yankee Years, "... is a third-person narrative by Verducci (Sports Illustrated), who interviewed dozens of players and team personnel while researching for the book..."

As for the juicy tidbits, expect more and more as the book release date nears (February 3). Some of the highlights:-Alex "ARod" Rodriguez was called "A-Fraud" by teammates because of a "Single White female" obsession filled rivalry with team captain Derek Jeter. -GM Cashman criticized for not being supportive during contract negotiations just before Torre rejected a lame Yankees offer. -Team doctors informed owner George Steinbrenner of Torre's cancer diagnosis before telling Torre.

Anyone who remembers the Yankees-Torre relationship in the closing days knows it wasn't pretty. NY media hounded Torre and Yankees players. Often calling for Torre to be fired and replaced by Joe Girardi, Lou Piniella, Don Mattingly or Bobby Valentine. Yanks began 2007 slowly as the headlines roared before turning it on in mid-July. Their failure to win another World Series irked the Boss. They continued player shopping and handing out whopping contracts to players who turned to mud in October (ARod, Giambi, Randy Johnson). Outspoken Boss had publicly cut down coaches, most notably Don Zimmer and Mel Stottlemyre. The Yanks haven't been the same since their departure.

Before Joe took the helm, George Steinbrenner made 18 managerial changes since the Yanks last one a World Series (1978). In his first 5 seasons, Torre's Yankees won 4 Championships and were a perfect 12 for 12 qualifying for post-season play. Joe's best revenge, as the 2nd winningest manager in team history, was watching the 2008 Yankees fail to make the playoffs... and Torre's new team (LA Dodgers) won the National League West.

Torre had every legitimate reason to be disgruntled when regecting the Yankees lame one year incentive driven contract offer before agreeing to a multi-year deal to manage Los Angeles. 10 American League East Titles, 2 Wild Cards, 4 World Series Championships, 5 American League Championships. Results created Yankee Stadium attendance records, new television contracts and birth of YES Network, record mechandising sales, licensing fees, price increases etc. Guess what else his tutelage brought to NY? Millions of dollars in public financing for the "New" Yankee Stadium.

Torre's guidance resurrected a flailing Yankees Dynasty.

Until I get my hands on a copy of this book I'll choose to stay with my current impressions of Joe Torre no matter how the spin reads before release date. Don't forget, publishers are looking to sell books so don't get lost in the self created pre-release firestorm via juicy headlines. Joe deserves all the respect he's earned. He stayed relatively silent in public affording the Boss, fans, players and coaches all due respects. He guided a team surrounded by a media circus for over a decade. He was an inspiration during the aftermath of September 11. A cancer survivor. Philanthropist. Winner!

So, if Joe let off a little steam in a book... good for him. He lived through many New York storms. I'm certain "The Yankee Years" doesn't focus on negative chastising. At the same time, it'll be fun reading the behind the scenes stuff he never spoke of publicly while it was happening. A must read for Yankee fans. Intriguing read for millions of Yankees haters.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Power Ranking NHL's Top 10

All World All Sports (
The SportsRagePage (
Sports Sections of the World

by Digger

NHL 2008-09 has already been a wild race. Things are starting to heat up once again as the All Star break is just around the corner. Key injuries to valuable players have shaken up a few teams as they scramble to compete. Evgeni Malkin's 70 points leads all scorers.

Here's my quick version of the NHL Top 10 teams so far:

1) San Jose Sharks (34-6-5) - NHL's best.
2) Boston Bruins (34-8-5) - Hanging tough as injuries mount.
3) Detroit Red Wings (31-9-6) - League's #1 power play.
4) New Jersey Devils (29-15-3) - Broduer out, Clemmensen to the resue.
5) Montreal Canadiens (27-13-6) - Team effort.
6) Calgary Flames (28-14-4) - Trying to find a way to beat SJ & Detroit.
7) Chicago Black Hawks (25-12-8) - Great defensive team. Should have more W's.
8) Philadelphia Flyers (25-12-9) - East's #1 power play.
9) New York Rangers (28-16-4) - Need to score more goals.
10) Washington Capitals (30-15-3) - Low ranking due to losing road record.

Future Hall of Famer Kent Calls It Quits.

All World All Sports (
The SportsRagePage (
Sports Sections of the World

by Digger

Jeff Kent has played his last professional baseball game after 17 seasons. Baseball's All Time Leader in Home Runs by a Second Baseman (351) is a certain future Hall of Famer. His career started in Toronto and soon took off after being traded by the Mets to San Francisco. A career .290 hitter, 377 HR, a 2B record 8 100-RBI seasons.

Kent was a fiery competitor. Anyone who remembers watching Giants games when Kent and Bonds went at it a few times knows this was a no nonsense player on the field. I remember Kent being one of the very few outspoken players against steroid usage. Funny thing is he has remained silent when it comes to the Bonds - Balco HGH fiasco.

Kent will probably become a first ballot Hall of Famer based on offensive records by a 2B.

Baseball has it's moments of teams making famously horrible trades. Certain teams have made numerous bad deals throughout their team history. The most well known and fabled dud deal was Boston trading Babe Ruth creating what would soon translate into Red Sox curse folklore.

A few of my favorites have been made by the New York Mets. They've had some real doozies over the years. Nolan Ryan traded away for Jim Fregosi. Ryan became baseball's all time strike out leader and most no hitters. Tom Seaver for 5 non impact players. Seaver promptly throws a no hitter for Cincinnati. To this day, Mets have never had a pitcher throw a no-no. Mike Scott for Danny Heep. There have been many more including Jeff Kent for an over the hill Carlos Baerga. Kent was already the Mets best 2B in team history before someone thought it best to trade their slugger. Kent went on to have a HOF career with SF and Houston.

2000 NL MVP, 4 Silver Slugger Awards, 4 NL All Star Games. One glaring omission from his 17 year career. Zero World Championships. He came very close playing for the Giants in 2002. Leading the Angels 3 games to 2... leading Game 6 5-0 in the 7th inning, lost 6-5 (lost Game 7). '02 was his only Series appearance out of 7 Playoff seasons.

MLB has a new generation of slugging 2B soon to challenge Kent's records. Utley, Uggla, Phillips, Cano? Perhaps one of these players is a future Hall of Famer? Time will tell.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Selfish Boldin Bolts Cardinals Title Celebration!

All World All Sports (
The SportsRagePage (
Sports Sections of the World

by Digger

Here we go again. The stage is set for another potential Super Bowl distraction. For those of you who missed it, during the Cardinals first ever NFC Championship victory, WR Anquan Boldin instigated a heated shouting exchange with Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley.

(Video clip)

The timing of Boldin's selfish outburst couldn't have been much worse. Trailing Philadelphia 25-24, Arizona was in a do or die situation trying to move downfield. Boldin was called to the sidelines as Haley changed offensive packages. Boldin could be seen screaming his head off as Haley was calling a play. Haley finally responded as Cardinals teammates pulled Boldin away.
It was a selfish stunt by a veteran player who should've known better. Arizona history on the line, advancing to the Super Bowl, needing to score or the season is over, ending a franchise 61 year championship drought, etc... and one player nearly wrecked it all.

Boldin then takes his selfish attitude one step further. Arizona won 32-25 and now faces Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII. Arizona's first ever SB appearance. First ever NFC Championship Game. What does this guy do after a great come from behind victory? He ran off, packed up his gear and left the stadium! Wow! NFC Championship Trophy presentation? Dissed. Saluting faithful fans? Dissed. Let bygones be bygones? Dissed. Most importantly in my eyes... he dissed every singled teammate by not celebrating with them. Stay mad at your coach, big deal. But, to create such drama by storming out of the stadium like a child stomping his feet looking for attention was a bad move.

Boldin is a top notch receiver on the field. He was one of three Cardinals WR's to surpass 1,000 yards receiving. He's played hard for many losing Cards teams. He fulfilled a dream... his team is going to the Super Bowl. Too bad for him this experience will forever be tarnished as opposed to relishing something special.

Every so often leading up to Super Bowl Sunday a team has player distractions or disciplinary problems. Often times it stems from too much partying before the big game or other notable troubles:

Eugene Robinson (Atlanta, 1998) - On the eve of XXXIII All Pro Cornerback arrested for soliciting a prostitute, spend a few late night hours in jail, got burned early (80 yard TD) and often as Atlanta (14-2) lost to Denver.

Stanley Wilson (Cincinnati, 1988) - Fullback found zonked out on cocaine in hotel room eve of XXIII, missed game, contributed to loss, banned for life by way of NFL 3 strike substance abuse rule.

Jeremy Shockey (Giants, 2007) - Injured before Playoffs but due to poor team attitude was asked to stay away from sidelines during games including Giants XLII victory. Skipped many team celebrations and White House visit. Traded to Saints before '08 season.

Thurman Thomas (Buffalo, 1992) - Misplaced helmet before XXVI causing a mini-drama sideline distraction. He missed the first few plays of the game and was horrible when he finally strapped on a new one. Heart was never in it before being benched. Thomas had three miserable Super Bowl games for Buffalo (all losses). Distraction before a couple of games was "is the real Thurman Thomas going to show up". Nope. Total letdown.

Arizona newspapers have quoted Cards players stating Boldin's sideline tantrum will not become a distraction. The simple fact players are now answering questions of this incident, replays posted on the internet, re-run on sports highlight reels nationwide... only confirms it's at least a minor distraction for now. Barring any further gripes this will be put to rest as the Cardinals practice their game plan. Question is, how much of their initial scheme includes Boldin and will he act out during practices?

The is the big game. Boldin is needed vs NFL's best big game defense (Pittsburgh). Throw every weapon you have and worry about discipline afterwards. In all likelihood Anquan and Arizona will part ways before next season. Cards coaches, front office, ownership and players will continue to downplay this experience, as they probably should. Focus is squarely aimed on mission at hand, winning Super Bowl XLIII in what will be Boldin's last game in red.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Cards Attempting to End 61 Year Drought

All World All Sports (
The SportsRagePage (
Sports Sections of the World

by Digger

Way to go Arizona Cardinals!

Baseball's Chicago Cubs are the current leaders is years between Championships in all of sports. 100 years since the Cubs last won a title.

Second on the list of underachievers of all time is the Cardinals franchise... 61 years. Can the Cardinals end their drought? Not many gave these guys any sort of chance to play in Super Bowl XLIII. Not with New York, Carolina, Philadelphia and Atlanta as foes. Kurt Warner & Co. shocked everyone, including the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday in the closing minutes to win their 1st NFC Championship 32-25.

(Franchise year by year results)

The Cardinals were born as a Chicago franchise in 1920, moved to St. Louis in 1960 before settling moving to Arizona in 1988. One of the most startling stats is over the course of 88 years, Cardinals teams have won 10 or more games a measley 5 times. 1976, 32 years ago as the St. Louis Cardinals, was the last 10 game victory season.

It's amazing to watch how some franchises just can't get it straight. In Arizona's case, it wasn't from a lack of trying. Multiple GM's had selected what appeared to be excellent players via draft. Until recently, many didn't pan out, got hurt, traded or in personal trouble. Nothing seemed to gel. Head coaches have come and gone.

For the 2008 Cardinals... all the chips fell into place at the right time. NFC West teams imploded right out of the starting gate. Seattle was expected to challenge and ended up playing ugly football (4-12). Rams (2-14) are in distress. SF (7-9) didn't wake up until Mike Singletary took over as head coach. Basically, it was an easy first half of the season for rookie Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt. The skeptics were quick to point out Arizona's failures when they went flat down the stretch... and never gave them a shot of winning any of three Playoff games.

Now, it's onto Super Bowl XLII to play the NFL's top team, Pittsburgh Steelers. Contrasting styles to the extreme. Pittsburgh plays defense first football but can be very explosive at times on offense. Cardinals rely on Kurt Warner's right arm. It should be a great game. I'll tackle this game deeper next week.

Arizona's nucleus is set for the short term. It would be great to see the Cards become a legit Playoff contender over the next few years. Time will tell. As for now, I'm curious to what kind of offensive play strategy Whisenhunt devises for Super Sunday? They derailed an aggressive Eagles defense early on building a big first half lead. Looks like we're in store for a great finale to the 2008 NFL season.

Friday, January 16, 2009

AFC Championship: NFL's Top 2 Defenses Square Off

06:08:00 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs

All World All Sports (
The SportsRagePage (
Sports Sections of the World

by Digger

On paper, Sunday's AFC Championship is a defensive fans dream game. Pittsburgh vs Baltimore represent the best defensive units in the NFL. Both defenses force opposition offenses to change game plans. Both usually batter opposing QB's, RB's and wideouts. Sunday probably won't be any different.

Pittsburgh is challenging to become the NFL's first SIX time Super Bowl Champion. The Steelers franchise has been one of the best in history. Art Rooney was team founder and beloved throughout Pittsburgh. His son's now run the team rich with the same traditions. Over the years, their successful teams all seem to emulate former Head Coach Chuck Knoll's mold. Tenacious defense, pounding running game and pressure tested QB.

The Steelers have been challenged all season long. They've played many dramatic games including winning a few in the closing minutes. Pitt has already beaten the Ravens twice (23-20, 13-9). Creative play-calling is a Steelers staple. Be prepared for many misdirection plays designed to catch Baltimore over off guard. QB Roethlisberger is a gamer when it counts most. His receivers will need to catch everything they touch... drops could be costly in this one. Defensive schemes feature heavy blitzes. Steel Curtain D sets out to rattle Ravens QB Flacco into game changing turnovers.

Baltimore's chance for victory lies squarely on the shoulders of rookie QB Joe Flacco. The Ravens play within a methodical ball control plan. Poise and accuracy in the face of Steelers blitzes is key. Pittsburgh has already sacked him 7 times and picked off 2 (losses). Running will be no easy task either. McClain & McGahee will need to pound the ball effectively. Overall, Ravens offense isn't designed for 80 yard drives. Ravens D must control field position wars to give its' half field offense a chance to put up points. Going for it on 4th and short could be tempting in the right situation but could ultimately cost valued field position if failed. Ravens D will need to snag a few turnovers.

Steelers are battle tested having already beaten some of the leagues top teams (Philadelphia, Baltimore 2x, Dallas, New England, San Diego 2x). Pittsburgh gets their shot at #6 after beating Ravens.

Steelers 27, Ravens 10

Thursday, January 15, 2009

NFC Championship: Deck Stacked Against Cards?

All World All Sports (
The SportsRagePage (
Sports Sections of the World

by Digger

Is anyone giving the Arizona Cardinals a shot at beating Philadelphia in the NFC Championship game this weekend?

Nobody predicted their victory over Carolina last weekend. Nobody outside of Arizona is predicting the Cardinals to win the battle of the birds this weekend. Look out! Arizona has a great chance at knocking off Philly. Here's why:

Arizona's passing attack is one of the best in all of football. QB Kurt Warner enjoyed a statistically great season completing 67.1%, 30 TD's and 4583 passing yards. His receivers could start for any NFL team. Fitzgerald, Boldin & Breaston all netted over 1000 yards receiving. All are used to double teams and still find ways to drive defensive coordinators nuts.

One would expect Philly D to pressure Warner as often as possible. This will be the Eagles demise unless they're able to successfully jam Cards WR's at the scrimmage line. Once the Eagles start blitzing and cheating on pass plays, Edgerrin James will have a wide open field to roam. If Philly creeps up to the line trying to stop James, Warner's receivers will break free all game long. Believe it or not, the Eagles best chance on D is to play zone and cut off passing lanes. Man to man is no match... advantage Arizona.

As I handicap this game, Arizona has one weakness... stopping the run. Cards must do one of two things. Contain either Westbrook or McNabb. Everyone knows Philadelphia will try to get their running game going. All teams know the Eagles front line is suspect on short yardage. Numerous times they were stuffed on 3rd or 4th and short this year. Arizona's defense must be up for the challenge of containing Westbrook. McNabb has been lazar sharp in recent weeks. Problem is Eagles receivers often suffer from too many pigskin drops. In a game of such magnitude, drops will prove to be costly. Cards secondary will have no coverage problems ... bringing the focus back to Westbrook.

I'm not sure why the general consensus now seems to be shifting towards Philadelphia winning it all when there's one big obstacle standing in their way. Arizona. As of this moment, Arizona is every bit as hot as Philadelphia. I'd venture to say hotter since nobody game them any chance of playing in this game. Surprise! First, they disposed of a Falcons team which was supposed to win big. Next, they dispatched NFC #2 Panthers in Carolina last weekend when many considered them the leagues best chance at beating any AFC team. Now, they're being given no respect as we're only a few days away from the NFC Championship Game.

Guess what? Arizona will win this one. Fickle Philly boo-birds will once again start calling for Reid & McNabb to be run out of town after Warner torches Eagle defenders for 300+ yards.

Cardinals 33, Eagles 17

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Early Season Rankings - NBA's Top 10 Teams!

All World All Sports (
The SportsRagePage (
Sports Sections of the World

by Digger

The 2008-09 NBA season is quickly approaching its' halfway point. Star players have been making names for themselves this year. Boston and LA are on another collision course for the Championship. Orlando, Cleveland & San Antonio may have a thing or two to say about it before the season concludes. Even the New York Knicks are back to winning games after being NBA's doormat the past few years.

Time to rank NBA's Top 10 teams (current standings):

1) Boston Celtics (31-9) Champs on a mission to repeat remain leagues best team even after a slight rough patch.
2) Los Angeles Lakers (30-6) Looking to dethrone Celtics as NBA Champs.
3) Cleveland Cavaliers (29-6) Don't believe the hype of LeBron leaving Cleveland for NY.
4) Orlando Magic (30-8) Young team keeps improving. Watch out NBA, they're on a mission.
5) San Antonio Spurs (24-12) Aging Spurs will be at their toughest in Playoffs.
6) Detroit Pistons (22-13) Team still looking to find their offensive groove.
7) Denver Nuggets (25-13) 5 consecutive 1st round Playoff losses.
8) Houston Rockets (24-15) Still waiting for one healthy team season. McGrady is out for an extended period. If they're healthy come Playoff time... fear this team.
9) New Orleans Hornets (22-12) Exciting young team not to be taken for granted.
10) Utah Jazz (23-15) Streking squad finally realized they are a good team.

Henderson & Rice Newest Hall of Fame Members!

by Digger
Baseball Hall of Fame’s newest members were announced Monday. All Time Stolen Base leader Rickey Henderson and former Red Sox slugger Jim Rice will forever reside with baseball’s greatest players. Anyone who had the thrill of watching these two tear up opposing teams was treated to two players who dominated their era.

Rickey Henderson (career stats):

Henderson was arguably baseball’s all time greatest leadoff hitter. 10 All-Star selections, three Silver Slugger Awards, the 1990 American League Most Valuable Player, the 1989 AL Championship Series MVP and 12 seasons as the AL leader in stolen bases. Single season (130) and career (1406) stolen base record holder. He’s also baseball’s all time runs scored record holder (2295).

Everyone knew the flamboyant Henderson would become a first time ballot winner. There was never any doubt. Only one question was floated regarding his candidacy. Was Rickey to become the first ever unanimous selection? No. Henderson received 94.8% of ballots cast. There will be plenty of talk in the following years as to how it’s conceivable the games greatest leadoff hitter wasn’t named on all ballots.

Henderson’s early career was a sight to see. Every pitcher/catcher battery attempted to slow down Rickey’s base stealing ability. Not many succeeded. He stole at will. Perhaps one of the least talked about attributes Henderson possessed was his ability to make teammates better hitters while he was on the base paths. Pitchers, managers, coaches and catchers were always on guard doing whatever possible to disrupt his skills. More often than not, pitch counts would advantage hitters over pitchers due to so many pitchouts, bad pitches, and throws designed to keep Rickey off balance. Countless times batters hitting with Henderson on base were soon swinging away in comfortable 2-0 & 3-1 counts or getting a few mistakes right down broadway. There may never be another player of his calibur ever to play baseball again. His 130 single season stolen base record seems forever out of reach.

Jim Rice (career stats):

Jim Rice was often called the American Leagues most feared hitter of his generation. And yet, for some strange reason, it took Rice 14 long years before he was finally elected into Cooperstown’s shrine. Hall of Fame Class of 2009 was the last time Rice’s name would be on a HOF ballot. He garnered 76.4% of the vote which makes him one of three players elected on final season eligibility voting joining Ralph Kiner and Red Ruffing.

An 8 time All Star, 382 career HR, 1978 MVP, 8 100-RBI seasons, .298 career hitter. Rice will now hopefully get his Red Sox #14 jersey retired and hung with former Boston LF greats Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski.

1975 World Series was one of baseball’s greatest ever. Outside of Boston, there’s one tremendously overlooked ingredient which was missing as the Red Sox lost the epic Series 4 games to 3. There was no Jim Rice. ‘75 was his 1st full season and any Yankees fan will tell you his arrival made quite an impact. During his rookie year he was beating up pitchers to a .309 tune with 55 extra base hits and 102 rbi’s before breaking his wrist late in the season. We’ll never know if his injury was the difference maker? But, the Reds had to breathe a sigh of relief knowing their weaker junk ball starting pitchers didn’t have to face slugger Jim Rice.

Baseball has many players on the bubble who deserve Hall of Fame recognition after tremendous careers. All have been the focus of great debate which I’ll get to in future blogs. Here are a few names which spark fierce reactions: Burt Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Mark McGwire, Lee Smith, Dale Murphy & Alan Trammell.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Grand Jury vs Roger Clemens

All World All Sports (
The SportsRagePage (
Sports Sections of the World

by Digger

The Roger Clemens saga is set to continue. U.S. Congress vs Clemens is headed to extra innings as a the Justice Department brings their case before a grand jury. Clemens had made a spectacle of himself denying usage of HGH/steroids leading up to and juring a congressional inquiry.

Hey Rog, lying under oath (if proven) will cost you big time. Just how steep of a penalty will Clemens face? Will repercussions effect what was once a lock on entry into baseball's Hall of Fame? Will his marriage survive? Remember, not too long ago after Clemens' testimony, rumors surfaced of various road trip affairs.

So far, Roger has been left out of many baseball related promotions. His name removed from a children's wing of Houston area hospital. Baseball writers already questioning his eligibility following association and suspected use of performance enhancing drugs. In other words... Clemens has a long battle staring down at him.

Love him or hate him off the field, Clemens career ranks with the best of all time. I watched him pitch in person many times. During his prime baseball may not have witnessed a more intimidating pitcher. Clemens was a power pitcher who thrived on intimidating hitters with high & hard fastballs. He ruffled many feathers with head hunting bean balls (most notably Mike Piazza).

And now, it's his arrogance which has ruffled feathers of the Justice Department and thousands of fans nationwide. I think many, including myself, wanted to believe Roger was clean. The blogger's world was filled with people chiming in defense of accusations presented by a former friend of Clemens. It wasn't until his close friend and training partner Andy Pettitte acknowledged experimenting (once or twice) with substances. There may or may not have been direct testimony by Pettitte to investigators directly imlicating Clemens. It's my guess there was and it will come to light if a grand jury chooses to indict Rocket Roger.

Personally, Roger shouldn't be the only one up for investigation for perjury. What about Rafael Palmeiro's famous finger waving denial? McGwire's famous non-denial and the other players who gave direct testimony to congressional committee's. Go after them all if there's a case to be made.

As I've blogged many times previously... no player, coach, team owner, baseball commissioner, team physicians or general manager in the know should be given a free pass. The now famous Mitchell Report was a perfect side show of distraction away from league officials and owners. No team owner (usually staunch political contributors) has even been officially interviewed/questioned. Only a couple of team general managers were ever informally questioned about how they discussed players suspected of doping during trade feelers.

The stink from baseball's steroids/HGH saga has mostly dissapated.. but, it's about to come back into public focus with Spring Training getting ready to begin next month. Even a couple of super star deniers are seeking to re-enter America's favorite game (Bonds & Sosa).

It's funny how people in the wrong always scream of their innocence to anyone willing to listen. Whether it's politicians caught with their hands in cookie jars... to spouse's denying affairs when caught red-handed... to baseball players denying use of steroids... why not just fess up to what everyone already knows? People are generally forgiving by nature when truth's are told. Lie, and feel the vengeance.

Roger, you're in deep thanks to your ego running amuck.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

NFL's Top 3 Sacked in Playoffs!

All World All Sports (
The SportsRagePage (
Sports Sections of the World

by Digger

NFL's top 3 Playoff seeds were elimated this weekend!

The biggest upset was Arizona's (9-7) victory over NFC #2 seed Carolina Panthers (12-4) on Saturday. Arizona's 33-13 blowout stunned a Carolina team which had not lost a single home game all season. Many thought the Panthers were the NFC's toughest team heading into post-season play. They crumbled early and often. Cards took advantage of turnovers and blew the game wide open.

Baltimore won a defensive battle in Tennessee and knocked off AFC's #1 seeded Titans 13-10 on a late Matt Stover game winning field goal. I can't consider this game much of an upset beyond a lower seed knocking out a higher seed. Baltimore's defense is one of NFL's top ranked units. Tennessee was also injury riddled before and during the game. Ravens are one of AFC's best and they took advantage opportunities in key situations.

Today, it was the World Champions time to fall. Arch rival Philadelphia bested the Giants 23-11 in blustery conditions at the Meadowlands. The Giants blew this game. Terrible play calling which relied on an ineffective passing game over a strong running attack which could have devoured Philly's small defensive line if they only ran up the middle more often. The Giants were physically and emotionally beaten long before two late game 4th and short failures ended their chances of repeating. New York could have buried Philadelphia in the first half. Time and time again the Giants were in Eagles territory is walked away without points. Eventually, chances evaporated and turnovers killed drives while defensive failures on Philly 3rd downs lost the field position wars. Mix in two missed field goals and it was an ugly ending to a great season by New York.

Three road teams won this weekend with San Diego playing in Pittsburgh as I type.
That's why games are played on the field and not on stat sheets or tv studios. No commentators gave Arizona any chance to win even though the Cards offense is one of the best when clicking. In New York, theory was if Giants contain Westbrook then victory was in hand. Giants limited Westbrook to 46 total yards and lost by 12. Tennessee fans figured the key to winning was a solid ground game. Titans were effective but gave up on the running attack. Red zone passing plays (interception, fumble) doomed their once great season... as did no flags thrown on a key 3rd down late in the game when Baltimore clearly let the play clock expire. Pittsburgh has their hands full today too. SD has never won in Pittsburgh during the regular season (0-13). However, when it comes to Playoff football, SD has never lost in Pittsburgh (2-0).

Next weekend AFC/NFC Championship Games will determine who plays in the big game. As of now, AFC rep holds a big advantage. The same was said last year when everyone outside of New York favored the Patriots.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

NFL Year End Awards by All World All Sports

All World All Sports (
The SportsRagePage (
Sports Sections of the World

by Digger

2008 NFL regular season was one for the books. Cinderella stories (Dolphins, Titans), Favre follies in New York, Chargers improbable season after disasterous beginning, Broncos late season choke and Shanahan firing, winless Detroit, Cowboys miss out, Cardinals win division, Brady injured during opening minutes of '08, last minute heroics, successful rookie head coaches and much more...

It's time for 2008 All World All Sports Football Awards

Team of the Year: (tie) Tennessee Titans (13-3), Miami Dolphins (11-5)
Coach of the Year: Tony Sparano, Miami
Offensive Player of the Year: Michael Turner, RB - Atlanta
Defensive Player of the Year: James Harrison, LB - Pittsburgh
Special Teams Player of the Year: Steven Gostkowski, PK - New England
Comeback Player of the Year: Chad Pennington, Miami
All Time NFL Futility Record: Detroit Lions "0-16"
Most Disappointing Team of 2008: Dallas Cowboys

Friday, January 9, 2009

NBA Game Fixing Swept Under the Rug?

NBA Game Fixing Swept Under the Rug?

All World All Sports (
All World All Sports Blogs (
SportsRagePage (

by Digger

Former NBA ref Tim Donaghy's admission of guilt for his role of NBA game fixing has been neatly and quietly swept under the rug. When this story 1st broke, many of us sports fans were in a mild state of disbelief. But, not too much.

Games being fixed by those in trouble with illegal gambling operations is nothing new to sporting communities large and small. The most notorious case involved baseball's Chicago White Sox throwing the 1919 World Series. Many notable players & colleges have been accused or proven guilty of illegal wagering.

NBA's Donaghy case makes it hard to believe only one referee determined games via questionable foul calls. To any fair thinking individual, Donaghy could not have acted alone. If this is so, and with the NBA already bloodied by this incident, why is Commissioner Stern emphatically turning a blind eye to a possible larger problem which will only come back to bite the league at a later date? No thorough league investigation into this matter has ever been made public (to my knowledge, if one ever existed).

NBA has also turned it's back, at least publicly, on the games Donaghy was supposed to have interfered with while calling fraudulent fouls. Everything was swept under the rug. Fans keep lining up at the turnstiles across NBA cities so what's so hard about getting to the bottom of something as serious as game fixing?

Sports survive scandals. Fans continue to fill stadiums and arena's nationwide even while scandals are fresh and happening. Take a look at baseball. How many scandals from illegals drugs, owner collusion, steroids, juiced baseballs, betting etc has baseball survived? Every single one!

I'm not one for conspiracy theories, however this appears to be a clunker of the highest magnitude. NBA officials work in groups. They often room together, travel together, socialize.. it isn't too far fetched to think Donaghy didn't act alone.

Furthermore, he's on record via testimony and with the FBI stating he did not act alone. Yet, NBA Commish Stern was way too quick brushing off Donaghy's story as a desparate indivual just looking for a better sentencing deal therefore his statements should not be taken at face value.
Stern is either a fool, coverup artist, or has not desire to dig deeper into what could be a very unpleasant truth. Dismissing allegations so serious without due scrutiny is as silly as our country blaming Bush for the state of our economy when the U.S. Congress is completely culpable due to their lack of oversight, and in some cases, conspired with banking executives or received illegal campaign contributions.

Since when did investigative journalism stop short of digging deeper into stories? I guess we live in an era of 24 hour news cycles often passed on as infomercials instead of news. Whether it's politics or sports, media types rarely go the extra mile except to substitute opinions for fact or slanted coverage of a topic to suit individual misguided ideologies.

What surprises me most in this NBA saga is the subtle quietness displayed by team owners and head coaches during this mini-scandal. Owners pay millions to their players. Coaches bust their butt's for victory with grueling practices. Why remain silenced? Players have remained quiet too which might be a good thing since NBA is quick to hand out fines to free thinking individuals.
The blog world went haywire over this subject when it was fresh. Time to wake up the dead... perhaps it's time to highlight Donaghy's officiating partners?

The NBA should not get a free pass on this one.