Posts Tagged ‘playoffs’

And thus begins another year’s NFL Playoffs.

Considering the defending champions (Baltimore Ravens) and defending NFC No. 1 seed (Atlanta Falcons) both missed the playoffs, this postseason presents big change opportunities. Saturday’s match-ups feature prime examples of such opportunities.

Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts – Saturday Jan. 4 (4:35 PM ET)

Chiefs vs ColtsThe No. 4 vs No. 5 seed match-up may be the closest game to call. It’s no surprise then to discover a litany of parallels between the teams.

Both teams feature a starting QB that was the No. 1 overall draft pick, Alex Smith from the 2005 draft and Andrew Luck from the 2012 draft.

Both the Colts and Chiefs went from last place in the NFL to securing a wildcard spot the following year, the Colts from 2012 to 2013 and the Chiefs from 2013 to this current season.

Thanks, in part, to a disastrous AFC South Division, the Colts seemingly coasted to the division title. Such was the not the case for the Chiefs’ AFC West, which features the No. 1 seed Broncos and both the Wildcard teams (Chiefs and Chargers respectively).

Terrible division aside, the Colts certainly boasted perhaps the most impressive out-of-division record, having beaten the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos and the Chiefs themselves. In fact, the Colts held the Chiefs to a season-low seven points.

Arguments may be made that the Chiefs had already locked up a playoff spot by that point and lacked luster. However, I believe the Colts, and more specifically Andrew Luck, have proven themselves true contenders.

Ultimately this game will come down to defense and which team can win the turnover battle.

Prediction: Chiefs win 27-24.chiefs

New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles – Saturday Jan. 4th (8:10 PM ET)

Saints vs Eagles

The second Saturday game brings a sense of resurrection.

In the Saints’ case, this comes with the reinstatement of previously suspended Head Coach Sean Payton. Payton’s absence was almost unanimously understood to be the cause of the Saints’ poor season in 2012-13.

The postseason resurrection of the Philadelphia Eagles is two-fold. One, the hiring of the former Oregon Ducks’ Head Coach Chip Kelly and two, the Dallas Cowboys’ narrow throat.

The most interesting aspect of this match-up, in my opinion, is that each team’s offensive strength is the other’s defensive weakness. The Eagles own the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL while the Saints’ rush defense ranks 19th. The Saints are the No. 2 passing team in the NFL while the Eagles rank dead last in pass defense.

I tend to give the edge to the team with the better run game in a cold atmosphere, which Philly will definitely provide. However, Drew Brees and Co. are hungry and I cannot see an NFC “Least” team with a first year starter taking down the Saints.

Prediction: Saints win 31-24 Saints

Advertisements

It’s time once again for postseason greatness in the NBA.

Here are the Eastern Conference series:

(1) Miami Heat vs (8) Milwaukee Bucks

(2) New York Knicks vs (7) Boson Celtics

(3) Indiana Pacers vs (6) Atlanta Hawks

(4) Brooklyn Nets vs (5) Chicago Bulls

Break Downs and Predictions:

(1) Heat vs (8) Bucks:

image

This series hardly requires any breaking down. Simply put, the Miami Heat are out of the Bucks’ league.

It’s possible that the Bucks may come within ten points of the Heat in one or two of the games, but even that is being optimistic.

Prediction – Miami wins series 4-0

(2) Knicks vs (7) Celtics:

image

Much like the “2-vs-7” match-up in the West between the Spurs and Lakers, this series is very likely going to the final seventh game.

The New York Knicks have seen MVP level play from star Forward Carmelo Anthony and stellar support from J.R. Smith and Tyson Chandler.

The Celtics have been coping with the loss of All-Star Point Guard Rajon Rondo to an ACL injury. Stepping up to fill the void has been Avery Bradley. Forward Jeff Green has provided much needed scoring and will likely be the “X-factor” in the Knicks series.

Because both teams have formidable scoring threats as well as defensive abilities, I would give the edge to the better head coach. Doc Rivers is one of, if not the best coach in the East.

Prediction – Boston wins series 4-3

image

(3) Pacers vs (6) Hawks:

They should call this series the “under-the-radar” series.

Both the Indiana Pacers and Atalanta Hawks have done simply just enough over the course of the season to make the playoffs without turning many heads or making any waves.

This strategy worked well for the Pacers last season as they proved the first real test on the Heat’s road to their championship, nearly stealing the series while Dwyane Wade struggled and Chris Bosh recovered from injury.

The Hawks pose no such threat to the Pacers who, even without Danny Granger, should handle Atlanta without much issue.

Prediction – Indiana wins series 4-2

(4) Nets vs (5) Bulls:

image

The Chicago Bulls surely thought they’d be going into the first round of the playoffs this season with a healthy Derrick Rose, who tore his ACL in the first round of last year’s playoffs.

That, however, is not their reality as Rose continues his rehab months after being cleared by team doctors to return to action.

The Brooklyn Nets pose a large challenge for the shorthanded Bulls with All-Star Center Brook Lopez and elite Point Guard Deron Williams enjoying home court advantage.

The biggest chance the Bulls stand at beating the Nets is by exploiting their physical play. The X-factors for Chicago will be Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson.

Prediction – Chicago wins series 4-3

That wraps up the Eastern Conference first round match-ups. Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

The 2012-13 NBA season has concluded and the playoffs are on the near horizon.

Here are the Western Conference first round series:

(1) Oklahoma City Thunder vs (8) Houston Rockets

(2) San Antonio Spurs vs (7) LA Lakers

(3) Denver Nuggets vs (6) Golden State Warriors

(4) LA Clippers vs (5) Memphis Grizzlies

Breakdown and Predictions

(1) Thunder vs (8) Rockets:

image

Almost one full year removed from the Thunder’s defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder stand as the top contender and No. 1 seed in the Western Conference entering the 2013 playoffs.

Arguably, the biggest off-season move made in 2012 was the Thunder’s trade of James Harden to the Houston Rockets, after failing to reach an agreement to extend the sixth-man-of-the-year’s contract.

Harden has proven himself among the NBA’s elite, ranking fifth in points per game over the season at 25.9. On an interestingly ironic side-note, Harden scored a career-high 46 points against the Thunder Feb. 20th 2013.

The Rockets may need four of those games from Harden in order to pull out a series victory though.

The Thunder won the regular season series against the Rockets 2-1. Without any player capable of shutting down Kevin Durant, Houston will need to score 125 points a game this series to compete. I can see that happening possibly once at home, but that’s it.

Prediction – Thunder win series 4-1

(2) Spurs vs (7) Lakers:

image

There’s something about this series that screams “coin toss.”

A month ago, this match-up would likely have been dubbed an “easy sweep” for the Spurs. However, with the Lakers winning five straight games entering the postseason and the Spurs losing seven of their last ten, LA isn’t looking quite as outmatched.

Even without Kobe Bryant (out with Achilles injury), the Lakers have had success shooting the ball and big men, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, have been solid.

The coin flip aspect of this series, I feel, stems from the feeling that both the Spurs’ bad recent play and the Lakers’ stellar recent play are both anomalies, that could swap back at any time.

Only because I think it would be humorous to see the Lakers advance without the help of Kobe Bryant, will I give the Lakers the benefit of the doubt.

Prediction – Lakers win series 4-3

(3) Nuggets vs (6) Warriors:

image

With two of the up-and-coming teams in the West, this series between Denver and Golden State may be the most high-flying and action-packed.

Both the Nuggets and Warriors average over 100 points per game. Alternately, they both allow over 100 points per game, so prepare for some classic offensive battles.

Heading the Warriors’ offense will be rising star Stephen Curry, who just broke Ray Allen’s single season 3 point field goal record. Leading Denver will be Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, and Corey Brewer.

Denver won the regular season series 3-1 with the lone loss coming on the road 106-105. I anticipate similar results.

Prediction – Denver wins series 4-1

(4) Clippers vs (5) Grizzlies:

image

This series is an intriguing one in that the L.A. Clippers are the poster children for in-your-face, highlight-reel style basketball, while the Memphis Grizzlies are the prototype for flying under the radar with consistency and defense.

The Grizzlies are first in the NBA in points allowed at just 89.4 points per game allowed. I doubt the Clippers will worry much as they tend to gravitate towards the high percentage shots (A.K.A. the alley oop)

Memphis has their work cut out for them. We’ll see if they can use their size and defense to slow the game and make the Clippers beat them with range. I expect they will.

Prediction – Clippers win series 4-2

There you have it. Enjoy the Western Conference first round match-ups.

Jazz Lakers

After a heartbreaking loss to cross-town-rival L.A. Clippers, the Lakers are once again on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned.

That coveted eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff seedings is now held by the Utah Jazz, after they beat the Golden State Warriors on the road.

The Jazz hold a current half-game lead over the Lakers, which, because the Jazz own the tiebreaker between the two, is actually a 1 1/2 game lead. In other words, the Jazz’s proverbial destiny is in their own hands. Win out, and they’re in.

But, how likely is it that the Jazz win out? Not likely. However, the Lakers schedule is no treat either.

Jazz remaining schedule:

4/9 – vs Oklahoma City

4/12 – vs Minnesota

4/15 – at Minnesota

4/17 – at Memphis

Lakers remaining schedule:

4/9 – vs New Orleans

4/10 – at Portland

4/12 – vs Golden State

4/14 – vs San Antonio

4/17 – vs Houston

Mathematically, the Lakers need to win two more of their remaining games than the Jazz do. (i.e. if the Jazz win three of their four, the Lakers must win all five remaining games)

Looking at the Jazz’s remaining games against the Lakers’ remaining games, it seems highly unlikely that the Lakers get that spot back.

I would bet the Jazz end up winning three of their four games, with the lone loss coming against the Thunder at home.

This puts the Lakers in a terrible spot. Winning all five games is going to be nearly impossible. Nearly.

The two games I can see as the Lakers’ biggest issues are San Antonio and Houston.

The good news for LA is that both of those games are at home and both of those games are the last games of the season, which means both the Spurs and Rockets may be resting starters by then, as both of them have clinched their playoff spots.

The bad news, is that the Lakers aren’t exactly the most popular team in the NBA and it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that every team remaining on the Lakers’ schedule would love to play the “spoiler” role.

image

The Miami Heat have played the best basketball since the All-Star break in the Eastern Conference, in which many have penciled-in the Heat as champs.

The Western Conference, however, seems to be less top-heavy. The San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder are certainly two favorites to win the West’s Finals spot, but an upset somehow seems eminent this season.

If the Heat’s post-All-Star-break play is indicative of their postseason chances, the Denver Nuggets seem to me the current favorite in the West.

Their playoff road ahead may not be as friendly as the one the Heat are sure to see, with the potential of series’ against both the Thunder and the Spurs, but the Nuggets have proven capable of excellent road play of late.

Before the All-Star break, the Nuggets’ road record was an unimpressive 11-18. Since the break, the road record has improved to 18-21, or 7-3 since Feb. 19th, including wins at Oklahoma City, Chicago, and recently Utah.

They beat the Thunder on their home court as well, which is no surprise, considering the Nuggets own the league’s best home record at 33-3 (the Heat with only 32-4). Clearly, the Nuggets are the team no one wants to face right now.

What makes them so formidable, ironically, stems back to around the Carmelo Anthony trade in 2011. Piece by piece, the Nuggets have rebuilt the entire franchise. It’s no longer Melo, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, and Chauncey Billups, with the team living or dying on Anthony’s 25-30 shots, but now a completely balanced team playing as a unit all season long.

Whatever happens, George Karl deserves the “Coach of the Year” award for the production he is getting from this squad. Four of five starters have started 70+ of 75 total games, (Ty Lawson starting 68).

Six players are currently averaging double-digit points per game. The team is so evenly balanced that the top 10 of 15 players on the roster are within 5 points as far as player efficiency rating.

The highest PER (Player Efficiency Rating) belongs to, should-be, “6th Man of the Year” Javale McGee at 20.9.

Their point guard play is excellent. There is not another player in the league faster with the basketball than Lawson. That kid can fly. He also has the fortunate option of assisting McGee, veterans Gallinari and Andre Iguodala, or rising star Kenneth Faried.

Faried is no joke. He can jump out of the gym and goes 100% every game. With a bit of work in the off-season on his shooting and post game offense, Faried looks to be a force for the Nuggets for a few years yet.

Even a run into the late rounds of the Western Conference playoffs would prove a glimpse of future successes and possibly Denver’s first Championship team.

Don’t count them out.

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

***(2) San Francisco 49ers at (1) Atlanta Falcons: 3:00 PM ET (FOX)***

wpid-image.JPG

The San Francisco 49ers put on perhaps the most impressive offensive showing against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Round, winning 45-31. Perhaps most impressive about the win, was the fact that the Packers kept it close late, tying the game 24-24 midway through the third quarter, before Colin Kaepernick led three straight touchdown drives, putting the game out of Green Bay’s reach.

The Atlanta Falcons were considered by many analysts to be the most likely home team to lose their Divisional Round matchup – and they nearly did. The Seattle Seahawks, once again, had to come back from a multiple-touchdown deficit. With 30 seconds left in the game, the Seahawks scored to go ahead 28-27. However, Matt Ryan was not about to be denied a playoff win, yet again, and led the Falcons down the field to set up Matt Bryant for the game winning, 49-yard field goal.

Prediction: The Atlanta Falcons are in for a very rude awakening. If they can keep Matt Ryan on his feet, they might only lose by 10. San Francisco wins 42-21.

***(4) Baltimore Ravens at (2) New England Patriots: 6:30 PM ET (CBS)***

wpid-ravens-patriots-evans-droppg-vertical.jpg

In the more thrilling of the two AFC Divisional Round games, the Baltimore Ravens beat the Denver Broncos in overtime 38-35. The Broncos were a heavy favorite due to in no small part to their 11-game win streak. The last game the Broncos had lost was to the New England Patriots, Baltimore’s upcoming opponent.

The Patriots put a 41-28 beating to the Houston Texans, reminiscent of the 42-14 destruction of Week 14. The Pats are hoping not to have another repeat this week of their matchup during the regular season with the Ravens, when they lost 31-30. Both teams have been through a lot since then and this game looks to be a real block buster.

Prediction: The Ravens lost a heart-breaker in last year’s AFC Conference Championship game to the Patriots after a dropped TD pass and a missed field goal. This year, they get their revenge. Baltimore wins 35-31.

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

***(4) Baltimore Ravens at (1) Denver Broncos: 4:30 PM ET (CBS)***

The Baltimore Ravens handled their business against the Indianapolis Colts at home Sunday afternoon, winning 24-9. With Ray Lewis spotlighted in an emotional return, after tearing his left arm triceps muscle mid-season, the Baltimore defense shined most brightly, allowing zero touchdowns and 3 field goals.
This week the Ravens travel to Denver to play perhaps the one team no one wants to face: the Broncos. Denver is well rested, enjoying a much deserved first round bye. Considering they played the Kansas City Chiefs in their season finale, they really have been off for two weeks.

Prediction: Because the Ravens played such a stellar game against the Colts, they will likely play the Broncos down to the wire. That said, Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning. Denver wins 27-21.

***(3) Green Bay Packers at (2) San Francisco 49ers: 8:00 PM ET (FOX)***

The Green Bay Packers rolled over the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field Saturday, winning 24-10. The score of this game doesn’t explain much about how it went. The Vikings put the first points on the board with an early field goal, but fell behind 17-3 by halftime. Green Bay managed just one more score in the second half, going up 24-3 in the third quarter. Minnesota capped the game with an essentially meaningless touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Standing in the Packers way this week are the San Francisco 49ers, perhaps the remaining NFC team most feared. The 49ers beat the Packers on the road in Week 1, however, both teams are far from where they were. The “Niners” are led by a different quarterback, altogether.

Prediction: 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is under a major microscope this week, as his decision to swap Alex Smith out for Colin Kaepernick was a hot topic. If Green Bay beats San Francisco when Smith beat the Packers earlier this season…don’t check your email/texts/mailbox Jim. San Francisco wins 35-20.

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

***(5) Seattle Seahawks at (1) Atlanta Falcons: 1:00 PM ET (FOX)***

The Seattle Seahawks are the only wild card team left in the playoffs and are rolling. In Washington D.C., the Redskins went up early 14-0 in the first quarter and looked to be in control when Robert Griffin III suffered another knee injury and wasn’t the same.
The Atlanta Falcons have the NFC’s best record (13-3) but seemingly have yet to earn a consensus respect the #1 team usually commands. With an unmatched passing attack, Atlanta will put up a formidable test for Seattle’s gritty secondary.

Prediction: Seattle needs to make sure they don’t get behind to Matt Ryan or they might not escape again. That said, Seattle wins 28-24.

***(3) Houston Texans at (2) New England Patriots: 4:30 PM ET (CBS)***

In a less than stimulating opening game, the Houston Texans held off the Cincinnati Bengals 19-13 at home to slip into the divisional round and must now face the Patriots in Foxborough, MA.
The Patriots have wonderful memories of facing the Texans in Week 14 in their house to the tune of 42-14.

Prediction: Expect a similar outcome to Week 14, as the Patriots will be itching to get back to the Super Bowl. New England wins 38-17.