Monday, January 30, 2012

Super Bowl History - Ranking Games of 2000's

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-Digger's Daily-

Super Bowl XLVI will crown the first new champion of the decade. We've had 10 Super Bowl contests of the new millennium. A few great games and a couple of blowouts.

2007 SB XLIII Giants 17 - Patriots 14 Story line: Patriots entered riding an undefeated season (16-0 = 2 playoff victories) trying to match the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only undefeated NFL teams. They entered SB XLII having scored 589 regular season points behind 50 TD passes by QB Tom Brady. New York's defense rose to the occasion by pressuring Brady all game long disrupting the rhythm of Patriots high scoring attack. Then, Giants QB Eli Manning engineered a late game winning scoring drive by dodging NE defenders and completing unbelievable passes. Giants 17-14 win constitutes one of the greatest Super Bowl upsets in league history.

2003 SB XXXVIII Patriots 32 - Panthers 29 New England and Carolina went toe to toe right up until the gun sounded on Adam Vinatieri's 41 yard Super Bowl winning field goal. All of the games points were scored in 2 quarters (2nd & 4th). The teams traded scores at will during a 4th quarter frenzy letting everyone know the team with the ball last would win... and the Patriots did just that.

2008 SB XLIII Steelers 27 - Cardinals 23 Steelers snatched victory in final seconds on one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history by Santonio Holmes

2004 SB XXXIX Patriots 24 - Eagles 21 Tight game most of the way. Eagles poor clock management & a tiring McNabb couldn't pull off any late game miracles.

2010 SB XLV Packers 31 - Steelers 25 Pittsburgh's comeback falls short. Packers exposed NFL's top defense to score their first championship in 14 years.

2001 SB XXXVI Patriots 20 - Rams 17 After opening the season 0-2, Tom Brady became their starting QB. Brady's career has been well documented after leading New England to their first ever Super Bowl championship. Adam Vinatieri's 48 yard field goal was the game winner.

2002 SB XXXVII Buccaneers 48 - Raiders 21 Somewhat of a fun game to watch unless you're a Raiders fan. This was a no contest all the way. Tampa Bay dominated every aspect of SB XXXVII. Bucs seemed to know every audible called by Raiders. Of course they did - Tampa's head coach was Raiders former head coach. Guess someone should have changed the playbook. Raiders haven't been the same since.

2006 SB XLI Colts 29 - Bears 17 Peyton Manning led the Colts to their first Super Bowl victory as residents of Indianapolis. Mistake filled anti-climatic game.

2005 SB XL Steelers 21 - Seahawks 10 Game filled with big plays, bad plays and teams struggling to score. Defenses played bend don't break. Not one of the more memorable games of the decade.

2000 SB XXXV Ravens 34 - Giants 7 The New York Giants have played some of the most exciting Super Bowl's in league history. This was not one of them. Ravens first championship featured NFL's smartest, quickest and heaviest hitting defense which beat up on Giants players from the opening kickoff to the final gun. Ravens entered the game as NFL's top defense giving up only 165 points during regular season and 13 combined in first two playoff games. Giants only score was on special teams - Ron Dixon 97 yard kickoff return.

A new decade of Super Bowl games begins Sunday...

(Super Bowl history/recaps)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Crash Landing - Jets Locker Room Turmoil Continues

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-Digger's Daily-

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan promised a Super Bowl championship would return to the Big Apple. Little did he know a late season Jets loss opened the door for another New York team to make a run at Super Bowl history. The Jets were trounced 29-14 by Eli Manning & company ending any shot at Ryan's team advancing to post-season play while simultaneously sparking the Giants hot streak which has taken them into next weekend's game against New England.

By season's end, the Giants were celebrating winning the NFC East and the Jets immediately starting finger pointing at each other after a dismal 2011 performance. The focus of their post-season tirades have been on many levels all centering around a lack of camaraderie with players. Locker room disruptions, lack of leadership, failure of coaching staff to address inner circle problems and too many captains are just a few examples of what's spilled into local papers in recent weeks. Guess what? Maybe there's a bit of camaraderie surfacing? Most players finally agree on something - the 2011 New York Jets problems were based on being their own worst enemy.

Great teams overcome difficulties from injuries to infighting. It begins with leadership. The buck stops here line falls at the feet of Coach Ryan. Heading into 2011 the Jets assembled a team of bad attitude players. Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress and a few defenders were thrust into a situation of big heads, big ego's and terrible work ethic. Game day sideline shouting matches between players vs coaches and players vs players eventually took its' toll with on field performances. New York was 8-5 before being embarrassed in their final three contests.

I remember reading New York sports pages warning of locker room misfits and if Ryan would be able to tame fragile ego's. Obviously, he couldn't. Ryan's claims of not knowing problems were brewing carries a stench of non-involvement or turning the other cheek mentality. This is your ship Rex. You decide what is and isn't acceptable. Players don't have to like each other to succeed. Not at all. One thing must prevail - the mission - and how 50 players working as a single unit helps everyone. Jets players with wide ranging playoff experiences of success and near misses should clearly have known better. What they displayed, and continue to gripe about, was an utter disgrace to New York football. Even legendary Joe Namath got in on the action publicly.

Jets fans can only hope this moment transforms into the biggest learning experience in New York football's recent history. There's plenty of blame to be evenly divided between players and front office. Question - will the Jets learn a positive lesson or will they continue griping throughout the spring and into training camp? 2012 off season test number one is getting rid of all disruptive players. Ryan has a chance to get a grip on his team here and now before all is lost before a new season begins.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tigers Roar... Sign Fielder to 9 Year $214M Deal

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-Digger's Daily-

Did the Detroit Tigers panic after losing DH/C/1B Victor Martinez for the 2012 season? What else could lead to Detroit's front office offering a contract to another DH? Martinez signed a 4 year $50M deal before the 2011 season. 1B Miguel Cabrera has 4 years & $84M remaining n his deal. Detroit's third and newest DH/1B becomes their richest contract - 9 years, $214M. Welcome Prince Fielder!

This deal will be dissected for years to come. Here's my take.
Pro's: Fielder's career stats are superb (.282/.390/.540, 230 HR, 656 RBI in 7 seasons). Hit 50 HR's in 2nd full MLB season. Led NL with 141 RBI in 2009. Finished in top 5 MVP voting 3 times. He's relatively young and will now play for the franchise where his dad once starred (Cecil Fielder 1990-96). Fielder plus Cabrera creates one of AL's most potent 1-2 punches. Health has always been good (never misses extended time due to injury).
Con's: Nine years is an awfully long contract. Roster moves will have to be made down the road. Initial reports suggest Cabrera will play some games at 3B (where he once played earlier in his career). This risks defense on both infield corner positions, risks potential injuries for 3B. How will splitting time with Cabrera at 1B/DH work out? Fielder's production could take a hit playing AL Central baseball in big parks. Fielder moves from hitters friendly Milwaukee, Houston, Cincinnati and Chicago into pitchers friendly division featuring Detroit, Minnesota, Kansas City & Chicago. Homers or doubles off the wall could become long outs. Expect career number totals to drop off a bit. How about weight issues? How much money does Detroit have left over to find top of the order type players sorely needed for this lineup?

All in all it's rarely a bad thing when signing a premier ball player of Fielder's caliber. Time will tell. However, I believe Detroit could have found better ways to solidify their roster instead of investing so heavily in one player. $214M could have secured at least 2, 3 or 4 impact players. Tiger's rationale is to win now at any and all costs. Their owner desperately wants to win a World Series. Perhaps his wish will come true in 2012?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Random Rumblings - Rough Week of Sports News

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-Digger's Daily-

It's been a rough week in the world of sports. Family, friends and fans lost two icons. NFL Championship Games won, or lost, by miscue's sending fans into delusional fits of rage. And, a sports hero refusing to meet with President Obama.

Joe Paterno
"JoePa" passed away this weekend after losing his bout against aggressive lung cancer. Paterno was a college football legend. He coached Penn State University for over 46 years resulting on 409 victories, 37 Bowl appearances (24 wins), two national championships. His 409 victories is the most ever recorded by a Division I head coach. Over 250 of his former players entered the NFL.

Paterno was seen as a father figure within the Nittany Lions community. His image was hurt by the sexual abuse scandal which rocked PSU late in 2011 involving JoePa's former assistant coach Sandusky.
Paterno will be dearly missed by all those who knew and respected this man among men.

Sarah Burke
Sarah Burke lost her battle to survive fatal injuries suffered during practice earlier this year. She was a Canadian freestyle skier who was a pioneer of the superpipe event. Burke was a four-time Winter X Games gold medalist, and won the world championship in the halfpipe in 2005. She intensively & successfully lobbied the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to have the event added to the Olympic program for the 2014 Winter Olympics. She was instantly considered the medal favorite.

A quote from her website says it all: "Sarah is a pioneer of her generation. Her life and legacy embody the true spirit of action sports; a movement of individuals driven to innovate, master and explore the frontier of physical possibility. Sarah’s love of skiing took her life to amazing places.
Her accomplishments on skis continue to inspire girls everywhere to believe in themselves and follow their hearts. Her passing is not a cause to pack up our skis, but rather a reason to step-in and ski for Sarah and the dreams that inspired her star to shine."

Political Statement
Tim Thomas
Boston Bruins Stanley Cup Champion goaltender Tim Thomas refused to join his teammates at the White House to meet President Obama due to political differences. Thomas plans to discuss skipping the event later this evening on his Facebook page.

In the Bruins' 2011-12 media guide, Thomas, cited conservative TV pundit Glenn Beck as the person he'd most like to have dinner with.

Playoff Failures
Exciting AFC & NFC Championship Games were both decided on bad special teams plays. Baltimore Ravens lost to New England Patriots when place kicker Billy Cundiff game typing chip shot field goal attempt sailed wide left. Only a few plays earlier, wide receiver Lee Evans failed to hang onto a go-ahead touchdown reception setting up the ill-fated kick. Baltimore players were stunned at what happened ... and their dreams of playing in Super Bowl XLVI came to a crashing halt as New England players jumped with joy.
The Billy Cundiff watch has officially begun. How long will it take the Raves to sever ties with Cundiff? No quickly enough for Ravens fans.

The Giants prevailed in San Francisco after the 49ers second special teams miscue setting up a Super Bowl rematch against Belichick's Patriots. Rookie backup punt returner Kyle Williams messed up twice. The first time he failed to get out of the way of a punt which grazed his knee and the Giants recovered. The second, and most crucial, was a fumble directly leading to New York's NFC Championship Game winning overtime field goal.

Credit 49ers players for coming to the side of their beleaguered teammate. Too bad crass San Francisco fans can't find their humanity to do the same. Instead, Williams is being victimized by a slew of death threats from irate fans. Not much love found in ultra liberal San Francisco.

Just because both games were ultimately decided by bad plays doesn't warrant fans threatening players. Get a grip folks. At days end - it's only a game!!! They're going to have a very difficult time living with their goat plays. It happens to the best of players and sometimes some who just play the game. Remember Jackie Smith's dropped TD pass from Roger Staubach (Dal vs Pit SB XIII)? Scott Norwood's last second miss (NYG vs Buf XXV)? Donavan McNabb running out of gas (PHI vs NE SB XXXIX)? Or the countless other times in sports history when a bad play turned the tides. Just ask any Chicago Cubs or Boston Red Sox fan. At the end of the day we're all human and it's only a game. Give these guys a break.

Friday, January 20, 2012

NFL Championship Game Weekend

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-Digger's Daily-

The NFL will have two new conference champions Sunday night. Defending AFC Champion Pittsburgh and NFC Champion Green Bay are yesterday's news. Football's version of the final four kicks off at 3:00 pm Sunday from Foxboro when Baltimore battles New England. The nightcap certain to set viewing records when New York plays San Francisco on a muddy Candlestick Park turf.

AFC Championship Game
Baltimore Ravens (12-4) @ New England Patriots (13-3)
These two teams couldn't be more opposite if they tried.

Baltimore: As everyone knows, it's all about defense. If they expect to win this game Harbaugh's defense will need to play the game of their lives. Creating pressure and disguising coverages is their only chance. Or, is it? If the Ravens ground game gets rolling on long ball control drives (remember Giants vs Bills? Giants vs Patriots?), then they'll be able to keep Patriots offense on the sidelines. A must for Ravens is to finish drives with touchdowns instead of field goals. Ray Rice will get plenty of touches rushing as receiving out of their backfield. Keeping the chains moving is key. Don't be surprised if Baltimore gives New England an old fashioned whipping!

New England: Success relies squarely on Tom Brady's right arm. New England's defense gives up yards and points in bunches. It's a good thing their offense scored the most points in the AFC. Brady's targets are plentiful. Speedster Wes Welker reeled in 122 and 9 TD's. Tight End Rob Gronkowski caught 90 & 17 TD's. Next up, another TE, Aaron Hernandez with 79 & 7. There's reliable vet Deion Branch chipping in with 51 & 5. This is a gifted group nearly impossible to cover. Baltimore's defense represents New England's greatest challenge of the year and visa-verse. Offensive line must play huge. Coach Belichick is NFL's best game planner.

Prediction: Patriots roll, 33-24.

NFC Championship Game
New York Giants (9-7) @ San Francisco 49ers (13-3)
Field conditions could become most dominating factor.

New York: Timing is everything and Giants timing is perfect lately. This team is in a grove on offense, defense, special teams and coaching. A dangerous 9-7 team. QB Eli Manning is on fire. Only sore spot is poor run blocking failing to open lanes for Ahmad Bradshaw & Brandon Jacobs. Pass protection is key and line better come up big in bad field conditions if the Giants expect to win this game. Manning needs to stay calm, cool & collected against an oft-blitzing 49ers aggressive defense. No turnovers another big key. Giants defense has been on the money lately and came up huge vs Green Bay's celebrated offense in last weekend's divisional match-up. 49ers ground game is strong. Defense will prevail if they're able to keep San Francisco in 3rd & long situations.

San Francisco Are these guys really as good as their 13-3 record? We'll find out Sunday night. San Francisco had a weak schedule aided by playing in NFL's weakest division (NFC West). They only played 4 teams with winning records and scored 20 or below 6 times. Divisional opponents ranked 12, 13 & 16 in points scored contributing a long way towards posting a NFL low 229 points against. Defense sets the tone. Field position is everything. This offense isn't geared for long yardage drives. They're an efficient run oriented attack even though QB Alex Smith came up huge vs New Orleans last weekend. Ball control and defense remains the key. Without one or the other it'll be a long day vs a hot Giants squad.

Prediction: Straight up I'd pick Giants to win huge, 34-10. However, weather may become a big contributing factor. Candlestick resides below sea level. It's raining now and expected to last through Sunday night. If this game turns into a slop bowl then this becomes an anything can happen game.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Texas Rangers Say Yu's Da Man!

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-Digger's Daily-

If one trusts Nolan Ryan's opinion of future star pitchers - then be sure to watch every game Yu Darvish pitches in the majors.

Yu Darvish (Japan career stats) comes to Major League Baseball with outstanding credentials. Japan's best pitcher hands down has 7 knockout pitches. Good luck hitters. Darvish's domination in Japanese Baseball is mind boggling. His five year career totals: 76-28, 1.72! I don't care what league your hurling in... 1.72 ERA! Want more? How about 1,083 strike outs in 1,024.1 innings! Okay, these aren't stacked major league lineups (as many would argue). But, the difference is he pitched against mainly contact hitters - very good ones - and only gave up 691 hits! Control? To the tune of 1.9 bb/game.

Only one or two things might stand in the way of major league domination. Will this guy get homesick? Can he handle a 162 game season (139 in Japan, never started more than 28 games in any season)? Arlington Texas is a long way from Japan. Talk about signing an impact player - Nolan Ryan and Texas know exactly what they've got. A dominating pitcher nearly impossible to scout. Too many great weapons will keep hitters off balance all season long.

Texas wanted Darvish above all others. The Rangers submitted a blind bid of $51.7M to win rights of negotiating with Darvish. Yu signed a 6 year, $60M ($56M guaranteed) contract just as time was running out on negotiations before Wednesday's deadline. The winning bid will now be released to his former Nippan Ham Fighters team.

If Yu Darvish can stay free of arm problems in the coming years then we're soon to witness history. I'm hoping he can successfully adjust to life in America. Ranger fans will hang on his every pitch. Nolan Ryan made a shrewd deal.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Red Hot Giants Sack Pack

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-Digger's Daily-

Jets head coach Rex Ryan promised New Yorkers a Super Bowl Championship. His predicted promise may soon come true. The New York Giants eliminated Super Bowl defending champions Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field yesterday 37-20. The Giants, not Jets Rex, moved to within one game of Super Bowl glory.

Four consecutive mid-season losses dropped the 6-2 first place Giants into disarray at 6-6. No rhythm on offense or defense coupled with shoddy special teams performances. Suddenly, the Giants got hot - red hot - with dominating play ruling the day during their current four game win streak.

New York Giants scenario couldn't have played out any better. I've often claimed the hottest team heading into playoff action has the best shot at winning it all. The San Francisco 49ers helped the Giants Super Bowl chances this weekend after stunning the Saints 36-32 in a fantastic game featuring 4 lead changes in the final 4 minutes. There's no way New York would have beaten the Saints in New Orleans so the 49ers victory sets up a more favorable match-up.

Next weekends NFC Championship Game promises to be another great contest. San Francisco represents the opponent New Yorker's wanted. The 49ers enjoyed a fine season winning the NFC West with a 13-3 record. 49ers ground and pound style is better suited for the Giants defense which has all sorts of trouble defending New Orleans quick strike attack.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin is hands down NFC's best game planner. Rest assured another great game design will be in place for next Sunday's game. It'll be up to players to execute and win. Giants recent play, especially on offense, is making him look like a genius. It was only a couple of months ago New York sports papers were calling for his firing. Now, he's a hero once again. So is the smart playing of quarterback Eli Manning. Manning's 2011 decision making has been great. Protecting the ball and precision passing helped engineer 29, 31, 24 & 37 points during the Giants current streak. Suddenly resurgent defense is chipping in big time. Sacks against Aaron Rodgers turned sure touchdowns into big losses and turnovers at key moments throughout yesterday's Divisional Playoff victory.

Giants fans shouldn't get over confident after yesterday's Blue Cheese style Sack of the Pack. Winners of four in a row 49ers are no slouches either. San Fran's defense ranked #1 in NFC with only 229 points against. Their efficient offense brings back memories of 1980's Giants teams. First year coach James Joseph Harbaugh's made believers out of this group of gritty players. Get ready for a great Championship Game.

Friday, January 13, 2012

NFL Playoffs - Divisional Round Breakdown

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-Digger's Daily-

Denver's first overtime play from scrimmage shocked a football nation and sent Pittsburgh packing. The Giants swatted Atlanta 24-2. Texans survived the battle of rookie quarterbacks and New Orleans out gunned Detroit. Home teams prevailed in all Wild Card games and now take on new foes in Divisional action.

Denver Broncos (9-8) @ New England Patriots (13-3)
(Saturday, January 14 - 8:00 pm, CBS)
Keys for Denver: Tebow proved he's an NFL QB. Even non-believers must give this guy his due after last weekend's performance. He took on a tough Steelers defense and prevailed. Denver's newest test will be facing the NFL's most prepared game day coach (Belichick). Broncos defense holds all the cards. New England's offense can be explosive on the flick of a switch. However, they've stuttered when strong defensive fronts consistency pressure Brady. Don't over pursue on blitzes or Brady will strike open receivers for big gains. On offense, Denver must control the line of scrimmage or this will be a very long day. Zero turnovers means Denver will stay in the contest for as long as their defense holds up.
Keys for Patriots: Brady and company - were you really expecting a different answer? Brady needs to stay calm and cool. If given time he can pick apart any defense in the league. Pats defense is highly underrated. They'll have lapses at times - not many in playoff football. Most often these guys play with huge leads so don't read too far into stats. They'll be ready to play.
Prediction: Patriots 31 Broncos 14

Houston Texans (11-6) @ Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
(Sunday, January 15 - 1:00 pm, CBS)
Keys for Texans: Offensive line is the key, plain and simple. Creating gaps for Adrian Foster to excel is the entire plan. Texans cannot win if Ravens blitz successfully or force 3rd and long all afternoon. Rookie QB Yates has been efficient in ball control safe schemes. Misdirection plays, not dropping passes, ball security and keeping yellow flags in refs pockets determines if Houston has a chance in this game. Good news, Baltimore's offense can be held in check. Defense, it's up to you!
Keys for Ravens: Execution on offense. Baltimore's a team built for winning reminiscent of 80's Giants football. Except the Giants always found a way to score more than opponents. Ravens offense should be scoring 30+ every week - especially when defense sets them up with great field position all game long. If Ravens win turnover battle then they should be victorious.
Prediction: Ravens 24 Texans 10

New Orleans Saints (14-3) @ San Francisco 49ers (13-3)
(Saturday, January 14 - 4:30 pm, FOX)
Keys for Saints: This might be the perfect example of why it's important to strive for home field advantage. New Orleans was 5-3 in road games during 2011 and their wins were struggles. They've never won a playoff road contest in their history (0-4). 49ers defense is stingy at home allowing only 10.9 points per game. Not a good recipe unless you happen to be a Giants player not wanting to play the Saints again (if NY advances). First things first. Brees hasn't faced this new and improved 49ers tenacious defense. Offensive line must play big. Sproles & special team performance could be the key players deciding this game. The scat-back is hard to cover. Defense needs to play in top form to disrupt 49ers plans.
Keys for 49ers: Everything. NFL low 229 points against. It's imperative defense finds a way to keep Saints off the field. Defensive line has to disrupt Brees timing. Linebackers take down runners and find a way to effective remove TE Graham from Saints pass offense. Defensive backs must play physical. Not too much to ask for, huh? Offensive line must dominate time of possession and wear down Saints defenders. Back's Gore and Hunter need to find running lanes and protect the pigskin at all costs. Crabtree (WR) & Davis (TE) combined for 139 pass receptions. However (RED ALERT), no other player recorded more than 20 catches. Someone other than these two needs to find open lanes as you can bet your bottom dollar Saints defense is focused on shutting down these two. A few takeaways will certainly go a long way to helping Frisco advance. A solid team effort is all these guys can hope to produce. Can they do it?
Prediction: 49ers 24 Saints 23

New York Giants (10-7) @ Green Bay Packers (12-4)
(Sunday, January 15 - 4:30 PM, FOX)
Keys for Giants: The Giants will be further pumped up if San Francisco knocks off New Orleans on Saturday. Giants can't match the Saints in New Orleans and would welcome a shot at playing the 49ers. New York has really found their rhythm for the first time all season reeling off 3 consecutive convincing victories including dominating Atlanta 24-2 in Wild Card action. Smart decisions by Manning and WR's key here. They all need to be on the same page. This could quickly become a shootout on the frozen tundra. Wind may or may not play a factor (currently snowing in Green Bay - cold clear skies predicted for Sunday). Can the Giants finally find their running game? Packers give up a whopping 4.7 yards per carry. If Giants offensive line dominates then it can translate into keeping Aaron Rodgers and Packers high powered offense on the sidelines. Giants pass rush another key to success. They've been creating havoc for opposing QB's and need more of the same Sunday.
Keys for Packers: First and foremost is surviving devastating news so bad it might have shaken the entire team. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin's son - 21-year-old Michael T. Philbin - tragically drowned in thinly frozen Fox Lake Sunday night. No one knows for certain how this will effect the Green Bay Packers on the field until the game is played. This sad news has shaken a strongly bonded team. Priorities are with the Philbin's during their time of grieving. Packers success will come from team solidarity. We all know the talent is there. It's been a tough week. Have they been able to fully prepare? There's no way to formula an honest preview here.
Prediction: Giants 35 Packers 31

Monday, January 9, 2012

No Suitors for Prince Fielder?

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-Digger's Daily-

Take a quick look at Prince Fielder's Major League Baseball career resume (here). One of baseball's premier clutch hitting sluggers. Prince's 162 game average after 7 big league season's is tough to beat: .929 OPS, .282 BA, 37 HR, 106 RBI. Why haven't more teams stepped up and offered Prince a contract?

Rumor mills claim Fielder received offers from Seattle and Washington. Forget about it Seattle (unless no other offers come up). Washington would be a nice fit for Prince. Time is running out. The Nationals don't really need his services. Where are the other teams? A great fit for Texas? LA needs a new gate attraction - their well publicized financial woes probably prohibit the move.

It appears Fielder wants top dollar and a long term deal. If he's smart - considering a deferred payment plan will ultimately land a large sum deal. Why not? His future would be set?

No reports seem to hit it out of the park as to why Milwaukee's slugging first baseman remains without a contract. It's getting late. The later it gets, the harder to find a long term deal. Something needs to give. San Francisco Giants make the perfect home in my book. They long for a big gamer. Cubs new GM Theo Epstein's bosses and fans want to win NOW - and Fielder is a perfect fit. Florida made a big splash chasing after Albert Pujols who decided sign with LA Angels. Why hasn't Florida chased after Prince?

It's odd when a relatively young talent isn't signed. No collusion seen as in year's past. An unsigned Prince Fielder remains the great question of the day.

Power Rankings Top 10's

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-Digger's Daily-

Week of January 9, 2012

1 - Green Bay Packers
2 - New Orleans Saints
3 - San Francisco 49ers
4 - New England Patriots
5 - Baltimore Ravens
6 - New York Giants
7 - Houston Texans
8 - Pittsburgh Steelers
9 - Detroit Lions
10 - Cincinnati Bengals

1 - Miami Heat
2 - Oklahoma City Thunder
3 - Chicago Bulls
4 - San Antonio Spurs
5 - Portland Trailblazers
6 - Indiana Pacers
7 - Philadelphia 76ers
8 - Atlanta Hawks
9 - Los Angeles Lakers
10- Los Angeles Clippers

1 - Boston Bruins
2 - New York Rangers
3 - Vancouver Canucks
4 - Detroit Red Wings
5 - Chicago Blackhawks
6 - St Louis Blues
7 - Philadelphia Flyers
8 - San Jose Sharks
9 - Pittsburgh Penguins
10- Minnesota Wild

1 - Syracuse
2 - Kentucky
3 - Baylor
4 - North Carolina
5 - Indiana
6 - Ohio State
7 - Missouri
8 - Duke
9 - Michigan State
10- Georgetown

NCAA Women's BB
1 - Baylor
2 - Notre Dame
3 - Connecticut
4 - Stanford
5 - Maryland
6 - Texas Tech
7 - Rutgers
8 - Duke
9 - Tennessee
10- Kentucky

Random Rumblings - Tebow, Larkin, Juan's Gone

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-Digger's Daily-

Tim Tebow's heroic performance in Sunday's spectacular AFC Wild Card Playoff Game overtime victory against defending AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers showed the world how dreams come true. Tebow's overtime record setting 80 yard laser strike to teammate WR Demaryius Thomas electrified Denver Broncos fans everywhere.

Let there be no doubt - Tim Tebow is an NFL quarterback, period! 

Pittsburgh's defense main objective was containing Denver's cagy QB. Tebow and his Broncos entered the game losers of their final 3 regular season games. Tebow made mistake after mistake during this forgettable stretch from costly fumbles to amateurish interceptions. Tebow shook off any cobwebs and all detractors by shredding Pittsburgh's defense on the ground and through the air. In the end, after Tebowing, Tebow took a victory lap in front of screaming Broncos fans. Tebow's rise to fame proves, once again, dreams do come true.

Baseball's Hall of Fame will soon welcome a new member. Former Cincinnati Reds short-stop Barry Larkin was named on 86.4% of ballots cast. Larkin will join Ron Santo. My past blog re: Santo (12/05/11) - Santo's injustice of being named after he died is a disgrace to his legacy. "Ron Santo is finally heading into the Hall. I will never understand how Santo wasn't voted in during the 15 year eligibility votes. Then comes the HOF Veterans Committee which basically has the power to elect players who never received enough votes. Here's the real injustice. Veterans Committee had 12 years - 12 - to right a wrong. Is it their inner guilt taking over? Ron Santo died one year ago. Now, he gets in? Why not when he was alive allowing him the feeling of being a Hall of Fame inductee? Bittersweet. "

Larkin enters on his third try. His career spanned 19 years, all with Cincinnati. Larkin won 1995 NL MVP. He was a gamer but never really put up great numbers. I often wonder how some guys like Larkin receive enough votes and how others, such as Alan Trammell, do not? Hall of Fame voting is one of baseball's great mysteries.

Another fine moment is to be taken from voting results. Steroid junkie Juan Gonzalez didn't receive enough votes to considered for future voting. Gonzo needed 5% of votes cast to remain. I'll cheerfully use a slogan often used on days Gonzo blasted one of 434 career home runs. Juan Gone! Justice is done - so are his chances of ever being considered again. Perhaps Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro will soon join him in nowhere land. One can always hope.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

NFL Playoff Predictions - Wild Card Weekend

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-Digger's Daily-

The time has come. The road to the Super Bowl kicks off this weekend. Some have said it often doesn't matter how a team qualifies for post-season play. This line holds true for a few teams preparing for a run at Super Bowl glory. Giants, Bengals & Broncos earned their right to play on the final weekend of the regular season. Funny thing is only the New York Giants won to secure the NFC East while Cincinnati and Denver backed in on tie-breakers after losing their final games.

Now, the slate is clean. Let the best team from here on in win. Here's what to expect...

Saturday - January 7
Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) @ Houston Texans (10-6) These two met on Week 14. Houston scored with :03 remaining to stun Cincy 20-19.
Texans were rolling along early in the season before devastating injuries hit key players. QB Matt Schaub had his club looking like Super contenders after a dominating 7-3 beginning to 2011 before an injury ended his season. His replacement, Matt Leinart, got hurt in his only start replacing Schaub opening the door for rookie T.J. Yates. Texans defense has been tremendous and represent reason #1 this team finished on top of AFC South. It's been a team effort in the second half of the season - this needs to continue. Offense is on the shoulders of RB Foster (averaging 94.2 yds/game).
Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis and his team cleaned house in the off season dumping many locker room distraction players from recent seasons. The Bengals are lead on offense by rookie QB Andy Daulton. This rook has been a superb team leader. Bengals rejuvenated defense allowed 30+ points only two times all season long.
It's a match-up of rookie quarterbacks and hard hitting defenses. Turnovers & special teams might rule the day.
Prediction: Cincinnati 20 Houston 17

Detroit Lions (10-6) @ New Orleans Saints (13-3)
Saints dominated their only match-up of the year winning 31-17. Expect more of the same on Saturday night. Saints high powered offense will be too much for Lions to handle unless an over confident New Orleans club doesn't take their opening round opponent seriously. NFL single season record breaker Drew Brees will shred Lions.
Lions deserve credit for their first winning season since 2000. Obscene penalties & lack of on field discipline could turn this game ugly unless these guys finally learn to win and lose like professionals.
Prediction: New Orleans 38 Detroit 10

Sunday - January 8
Atlanta Falcons (10-6) @ New York Giants (9-7) (first meeting of the season).
Giants won NFC East on final game of the year by beating up rival Dallas 31-17 on Sunday Night Football. Giants outclassed and over matched a banged up Cowboys squad. Atlanta brings a new challenge - and low down dirty football tactics - into the Meadowlands. The Giants are ready. Not many teams play better playoff football than New York. Eli Manning has been tremendous between the 20's this year. Hold your breath when he's inside the 10 if he starts forcing throws. Giants offensive line has done fairly well pass protecting, but, they've been less than stellar opening running lanes for Bradshaw & Jacobs.
Falcons looked great against weaker NFL teams and not so hot against playoff bound teams. Expect a not so hot performance as Giants defensive line causes havoc rushing Matt Ryan. Key for Falcons is RB Turner. Can Atlanta shut down Giants pass rush with effective running? Stopping the run hasn't been one of New York's strong suits in 2011.
Prediction: New York 31 Atlanta 23

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) @ Denver Broncos (8-8) (first meeting of the season).
Talk about a complete mismatch. Pittsburgh is no stranger to making a Super run as a wild card entry. QB Roethlisberger should be well enough physically (ankle) to perform usual playoff-like magic of years past. Pittsburgh's defense should have no trouble whatsoever containing QB Tebow. I'm feeling a shutout coming in this game. Steelers too strong on offense, defense, special teams & coaching staffs. Only turnovers can doom Pittsburgh.
Prediction: Steelers 31 Broncos 0

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Random Rumblings - NFL 2011

Visit - "All World All Sports"

-Digger's Daily-


2011 NFL regular season concluded Sunday night in MetLife Stadium. The New York Giants (9-7) won the NFC East by romping over arch division rival Dallas Cowboys (8-8) 31-14. The Giants performed as if this game was their Super Bowl. They were simply quicker, stronger and better than Dallas in every positive aspect of this contest completing a season sweep and wrapping up the league's final playoff berth. It was over by halftime as New York built a commanding 21-0 lead. Another December collapse by Dallas ruined the Cowboys new year.

What is it with Dallas and end of season swoons? Their record stood at 7-4 after a November 24 one point victory against Miami, 20-19. Cowboys then lost 4 of 5 to fall from division leaders to end of season choke artists. Getting swept by New York and Philadelphia in the same season will not sit well with Jerry Jones. They barely beat Washington twice (18-16 & 27-24). Offensive line exposed. Defense exposed. Special teams late game chokes. Ineffective play calling. Lack of leadership. It's the same old song in Dallas. 1996 - the last season Dallas posted a winning record within the final month of regular season action. Cowboys fans are sick to their stomachs.

Dallas needs one major change - in their front office. It's not likely team owner Jerry Jones will fire team GM Jerry Jones anytime soon. When will owner JJ realize GM JJ isn't any good at piecing together a championship caliber squad? Stubbornness comes in many destructive forms.


A handful of football vets were handed walking papers immediately following the conclusion of regular season games.
-Indianapolis stunned the football world - or perhaps just franchise star Peyton Manning - by cutting loose team vice chairman Bill Polian and his GM son, Chris.
-Chicago Bears sent GM Jerry Angelos and offensive coordinator Mike Martz packing after another disappointing season.
-The Bucs fired coach Raheem Morris on Monday after 10 consecutive losses to close out the season.
-St. Louis Rams cut ties with Steve Spagnuolo after three lackluster seasons.
-Miami Dolphins aren't wasting any time in their search for a new head coach after Tony Sporano was fired after going 4-9. Dolphins certainly have fallen a long way into the depths of mediocrity after Coach Shula.
-Jacksonville Jaguars new ownership group wants a new direction and new coaching staff in place a.s.a.p.
2012 off-season will feature plenty of shake-ups, coaching announcements and free agent frenzy leading up to draft day.


Drew Brees re-wrote a few major passing records in 2011. He shattered Dan Marino's single season passing yards mark. Brees finished the season with 5,476. Brees also bested Peyton Manning's single season completion record with 468. Brees then beat his own regular season completion percentage record, finishing 2011 with an incredible 71.2%.

Who will be named NFL MVP? Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers. Let's not take anything away from Brees sensational record breaking season. However, the league MVP has been Rodgers.


My NFL week by week game by game regular season prediction record concluded with 164 correct picks (64.1%). 70% correct was my goal in 2011 and would have come to fruition had it not been for two bad weeks (lately due to upsets).


Time to get ready for NFL Playoffs. Stay tuned for game by game breakdowns and what to look for in coming days.