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Super Bowl LI: New England vs Atlanta

The Championship Round games certainly weren’t as competitive as most fans, including myself, expected them to be, but the I think the decisive fashion in which both New England and Atlanta leaves no doubt that the best teams from each conference remain and that will set the stage for a potentially great Super Bowl Game.

I think Vegas installing the Patriots -3 as the favorite is about right. I picked the Patriots to win the whole thing in a pre-season blog post and I’m not changing that prediction now. Here is what I wrote last September…

AFC Conference Champion: New England–Steelers, Bengals, as well as Kansas City and possibly Denver could provide tough tests to the Patriots in the play-0ffs. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots fare with Jimmy G at QB. If they go 2-2 with Garoppolo at the helm I think there a good chance that they will be able to amass the best record in the AFC and secure home field advantage in the play-offs and that will be important.

NFC Conference Champion: Green Bay–I think there are at least four teams that have a good shot at winning the NFC. In  addition to Packers I would add Arizona, Seattle and, of course, the defending NFC champions, the Carolina Panthers. I won’t be at all surprised if any of those wins the NFC, I’m going to go with the Packers.

Superbowl Champion: New England–Any doubts about Belichick and Brady both being GOAT’s  will be put to rest when the Patriots win Super Bowl LI in Houston.

 
Packers came close, but obviously collapsed in the end. I must admit that I did not see the rise of the Falcons coming. They really exceeded expectations this season.  I am concerned about the Falcons because of their prolific offense. I think highly the Falcons coaching staff and I like Ryan. He was definitely the league’s MVP this season.
However, I think Belichick and his coaching staff will have the Pat’s well prepared and they will take away a few of Ryan’s weapons on offense. They may not be able to shut down star WR Julio Jones, but they will stop other guys. I also expect the Patriots to limit the Falcons offense simply by keeping it off the field. I know, easier send than done, but I think NE’s offense can do that. I expect they will run the ball a lot and Brady will throw a lot of short passes to pile up 1st downs and time of possession.
If the Falcons offense does drop bombs early and they jump out to a big lead the Pat’s will be in deep trouble, but I think they can avoid that.
So, I’m going to take Patriots -3.
The Over/Under is a SB high 59 and I will take the Under.
Patriots 31 Falcons 27

 

 

2017 NFL Playoff Predictions (Rd One)

All right, here we are, it is playoff time and it is time to find out which team is truly the best in the NFL. I just reviewed my pre-season picks for each division, which I posted on this blog back in September, and I did pretty well. My predictions for all four AFC division winners were correct and I predicted that the Patriots would have the best record and secure home field advantage. Check and check.

In the NFC I did not fare quite as well. I only went 2 and 2. I was right about Green Bay and Seattle winning the NFC North and West, respectively, but I did not see the Cowboys winning the East or Atlanta dethroning the Carolina Panthers in the South. I always thought NFC East would be a real dogfight and that the Redskins would win the division again. I thought the Cowboys would struggle to take the division after they lost starting QB Tony Romo for the first half of the season. I knew Dallas had a lot of weapons on offense and a terrific O-Line, but I did not think rookie RB Zeke Elliot and rookie QB Dak Prescott would be truly great as they were. Both were real stars this season and they will make the Cowboys a Super Bowl contender for years to come.

As for the Giants, they delivered an unexpected Christmas present by making the playoffs. I must admit they exceeded my expectations. I never thought they would do any better than 8 and 8 this season, but the D and Beckham carried them to playoff!?! I have to give GM Jerry Reese some credit this time around. He bet big on the FA’s he signed for the defense and won.

I did predict the Panthers would suffer more losses this season as the rest of the league focused on them, but I was surprised by their really poor start (1-4). They never recovered from that. Atlanta, on the other hand, made a marked improvement in HC Dan Quinn’s second year. Hawks QB Matt Ryan was masterful this season and he would be my choice for league MVP this season.

Now, who will win the NFC?  It appears to me at least 3 or 4 teams could win the conference, but there is no question that Dallas should be considered the favorites with home field advantage at AT&T Stadium.

Back in my pre-season Blog post I ended up picking Green Bay to win the NFC and face the New England in the Super Bowl. I must admit I really questioning myself when the Packers still under .500 at the 10 game mark, but then they got their act together and ripped off 6 straight victories to end the season 10-6 and Packers that we saw at the end of the season was the team that I expected. I’m going to stick with the Packers. I think they are the one team in the NFC that can take out both the Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons.

However, winning the NFC is one thing, winning the Super Bowl is another. I predicted that Patriots would win Super Bowl this season and I see no reason to change that prediction.

OK, on to the first round games.

Oakland at Houston

Houston -4.0

The Oakland Raiders would have been a real threat to win the AFC, but the loss of QB Derek Carr effectively ended their hopes to reach the Super Bowl. Houston wasn’t very good this year, in large part because new QB Brock Osweiler has been a big bust. So, we have two teams here that will be offensively challenged. I think the Raiders will win, but I don’t see them to winning any more playoff games after this one.

Oakland 21 Houston 17

Detroit at Seattle

Seattle -8.0

Detroit had a pretty decent season, going 9-7, and gave the Packers some serious competition for the NFC North. However, the Lions still seem like a work in progress and  I don’t think the Lions have enough weapons to defeat the Seahawks at home, where they are extremely tough to beat.

Seattle 31, Detroit 21

Miami at Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh -10.0

I think it fair to say Miami exceeded expectations this season, going 10-6 with rookie head coach Adam Gase. Well done, welcome to playoffs. The Fins are now taking a big step up facing a veteran Steelers team in cold, snowy Pittsburgh. The Steelers  were up and down at various points this season, but when they bring their A game they can complete with any team in the league.

Pittsburgh 27, Miami 14

NY Giants at Green Bay

Green Bay -4.5

This is the definitely the best of first round games. I’m conflicted here because I am a big NY Giants fan, but predicted that the Packers would go all the way to the Super Bowl. The Giants excellent defense gives them a chance against any team in the league, but they catching a Packers team that is peaking at the right time. Giants WR O’Dell Beckham will be a problem for Green Bay, but I don’t see the G-Men putting up enough points to win this game. I won’t be real disappointed if I’m wrong because that will set-up a very interesting 3rd game vs the Cowboys. The Giants, of course, were the only team to beat the Cowboys during the regular season,

Green Bay 24, New York 17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My 2o16 NFL Predictions

 

Here are my picks for each Division:

 

AFC East: New England. Hard to seriously consider any only teams in the AFC East as long as Bill Belichick is coaching and Tom Brady is playing QB. I think the NY Jets will also be good, too. I predict the Jets will secure a wild-card slot for the play-offs.

AFC North: Pittsburgh–Tough choice. In the end I had pick between the Steelers and Bengals. Not much separating these teams, but I have a little more confidence in Big Ben and the Steeler’s offense than I do Andy Dalton and the Bengal’s offensive, especially in view of the fact that Cincy installed a new Offensive Coordinator for this season. The Bengals offense may indeed improve, but that is a question mark. That said, I think both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati will make the play-offs.

AFC South: Houston. The addition of Brock Osweiler gives the Texans that advantage in this this division. The JJ Watt lead defense has always kept them in the hunt for the division, but if Houston can field a decent offense it will make them truly dangerous. Brock may make a formidable all-around team.

AFC West: Kansas City-Can’t pick Denver, the defending SB champ’s, because they have no proven players at the QB position with the retirement of Peyton Manning.

NFC East: Washington-I think this weak division will come down to battle between the Washington Redskins and NY Giants. I can’t see Philadelphia winning the division with a rookie QB and Dallas may be in same boat, with starting QB Tony Romo out for at least 6 games.

NFC North: Green Bay.-Gotta go with Packers. I expect Detroit and Minn. to be competitive, but I see the Packers as the best team in the division. Rodgers still one of the QB’s in the league, if not the best. The return of star WR Jordy Nelson is big for the Packers.

NFC South: Carolina.-No contest here. The NFC Champs should win this division easily.However, I expect the Panthers to suffer a few more losses this season than they did last season because they caught the league by surprise last season and opposing teams were not as well prepared for them as they will this season.

NFC West: Seattle-A toss up here. Very difficult to pick between Seattle and Arizona.

AFC Conference Champion: New England–Steelers, Bengals, as well as Kansas City and possibly Denver could provide tough tests to the Patriots in the play-0ffs. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots fare will Jimmy G at QB. If they go 2-2 with Garoppolo at the helm I think there a good chance that they will be able to amass the best record in the AFC and secure home field advantage in the play-offs and that will be important.

NFC Conference Champion: Green Bay–I think there are at least four teams that have a good shot at winning the NFC. In  addition to Packers I would add Arizona, Seattle and, of course, the defending NFC champions, the Carolina Panthers. I won’t be at all surprised if any of those wins the NFC, I’m going to go with the Packers.

Superbowl Champion: New England–Any doubts about Belichick and Brady both being GOAT’s  will be put to rest when the Patriots win Super Bowl LI in Houston.

UFC 200: Anderson Silva steps in as the Underdog

It was truly stunning news a couple of days ago when it was announced that Jon  “Bones” Jones was pulled from his HIGHLY anticipated showdown with Daniel Cormier for the UFC LHW title because he came up hot on pre-fight drug test. The UFC 200 main event was put into peril and UFC President Dana White  had to scramble to find respectable substitute for Jones. A number of prominent fighters volunteered, including Gegard Mousasi, who is the #9 ranked LHW in the world. Mousasi was already on the undercard, scheduled to fight in an another LHW bout and I was hoping Dana White would allow him to take on the Champ. Many others felt the same way and there were many calls to Dana White on social media, especially Twitter, to make that fight happen, but White went another direction and gave the nod to the legendary former UFC MW champ Anderson Silva. I think that choice caught many people by surprise, myself included, because Anderson normally fights at middle weight, although he walks around at 200 pounds or more when he isn’t cutting weight for a MW fight. More surprising though, at least to me, is that Anderson wanted this fight on such short notice, with no training camp at all.

So, now we have a very interesting fight indeed.

Dan Cormier (+410)

vs

Anderson “Spider” Silva (-375)

You very rarely see Spider Silva as a significant underdog, even now, in the twilight of his singularly great career. From a betting perspective I think Anderson is a great bet -375. Some Vegas books have Silva at -400 or -410. I totally understand that because Cormier is still arguably in his prime and is supremely talented. He has pretty much destroyed everyone in his path, but Jon Jones. But if there is one fighter out there, besides Jones, who has the skill set to deal with Cormier’s nearly superhuman strength and Olympic level wrestling ability it may indeed be the Spider. However, there a number of big flashing question marks concerning Silva. Just what kind of shape is Anderson really in? He weighed in a fairly trim 198 pounds, which is a good weight for his 6’2″ frame, but will he have the stamina to go more than a round or two with the powerful Cormier? Can Anderson, without a training camp, just go in there and wing it against a fighter at Cormier’s level. What will the Spider’s strategy be?

Part of me is still disappointed that Mousasi will not be Cormier’s opponent because I think he would have given Daniel a tough fight, but I think he also would have been a significant underdog. That said, after thinking it over, I think Silva vs Cormier is the most intriguing fight that UFC could have arranged. Although Silva is a big underdog he still has certain moves that very few UFC fighters have and even in his 40’s his quickness give him an advantage over most opponents. Cormier better not underestimate him or he may find himself receiving a flying knee to his face or a variety of other head kicks. Anderson is also very skilled on the ground so even if Cormier scores a takedown or several takedowns for that matter he may find himself in trouble if he gets caught in Anderson’s guard. Silva has quickly ended a few fights on the ground and in dramatic fashion. His submission (triangle armbar) victory over Chael Sonnen, in the closing minutes of the 5th round of a title fight he was losing, is an excellent example of just how dangerous Silva can be while on his back.

In the end, I do think Cormier will probably win this fight, but if Anderson Silva is in good shape he may shock the world here. If I had a chance to fly to Vegas tomorrow night and make a bet a couple of hundred bucks on this fight Silva would be my choice simply because I think he offers the best value.  It would also be very cool to see him add another win to his spectacular career.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking back on the NBA Finals and the season ahead

Well, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the NBA Play-offs and Finals this season, even though I was not correct on two major predictions I made. I will explain shortly. I also found the the post Finals free-agency period very exciting. Gosh, it is a real good time to be a NBA player. The league is making a ton of money these days and the players are entitled to 51% of the revenue as a result of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. That means just average players are being rewarded with very lucrative contracts. Makes me really wish I was an NBA agent.

OK, so, going back to the Play-offs and the Finals, I picked the the OKC Thunder to defeat the Golden State Warriors in 6 games and then I picked the Warriors to defeat the Cavs in 6 games. Both teams I picked were up 3-1 and ended up losing in 7….ugh. That is ironic.

I don’t think there was much separating the top 4 teams in the NBA this season, and those teams were the Cavs, Golden State, OKC, and San Antonio. I knew the Thunder were for real when they took out the venerable SA Spurs. Honestly, I still think they should have finished off the GS Warriors on game 6 at home, but they let that game slip away by not playing good D down the stretch. I still believe that Thunder good have gone on to defeat the Cavs if they had advanced to the Finals.

That said, I was very happy to see the Cavs win the championship. It was good to see the City of Cleveland be rewarded with a championship after so many years. Lebron James certainly played his heart out. His block of Andre Ig at the end of game y became an instantly iconic play in the history of NBA play-off basketball. LBJ certainly earned his latest ring, but I was more pleased to see his teammates become Champions after all the hard work they have but in the last couple of years.

Of course, the BIG story of the post Finals was Kevin Durant deciding to leave the OKC Thunder and join Golden State. I’m sure that move will make the Warriors the odds on favorite to win the championship next season, but I still think they are they can be defeated. I’m not ready to concede that they will be a dynasty. Sure, on paper they are fantastic, but they still have to prove it. There is only one basketball and remains to be seen how well Curry, Thompson and Durant can share it.

On a more parochial  note, I was pleased with moves that both NY Knick and Brooklyn Nets made. The Knicks brought former MVP Derrick Rose and his Chicago teammate Noah, as well as SG Courtney Lee. The Nets brought Jeremy Lin back to NY by signing him to a 3 yr deal and he will will reunite with new head coach Kenny Atkinson, who was an assistant coach with the Knicks when Lin first burst on to the NBA scene with Knicks. Lin-sanity returns!! Both teams should show improvement and the intra-city rivalry could grow into something quite intense. Should be a lot of fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Predictions for UFC 200: Las Vegas

So, we have finally made it to UFC 200!! I look forward to this UFC event with great anticipation. I have been a serious fan of MMA for about 10 years now. I was always bullish on the UFC and I thought the promotion enjoy significant growth, but I must admit it has exceeded my expectations and probably the expectations of most other people in the MMA world. Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta bought the UFC for 2 million dollars in 2001.  The Fertitta’s and their partner UFC President Dana White are now rumored to be entertaining offers for the promotion that exceed4 Billion dollars!?!

I don’t think I have ever posted predictions for an entire UFC card, including the preliminary fights, but I going to give this one a shot. The entire card is stacked!! I must say I envy those that have tickets for this event in Vegas.

Main Card

Light Heavyweight: Daniel Cormier (+235) vs. Jon Jones (-305)

I have to go with Bones Jones. Both fighters are absolutely great, but Jones is simply the best fighter in UFC history imo. His size and reach advantage combined with outstanding wresting skills and extraordinary take defense give him the edge vs Cormier.

Heavyweight: Brock Lesnar (+130) vs. Mark Hunt (-160)

This late addition to the card is certainly welcome. It should a really interesting fight. It may not last very long, but it should not lack for action.

I think Brock is going to pull off the upset and win in return to the Octagon. Lesnar by ground and pound. This fight could also go Hunt by KO very easily, but I think Brock stands  decent chance of winning this fight. Lesnar himself has admitted that if the fight stays standing he will probably lose. The 42 yr old Hunt is a very experienced former kick boxer and powerful hitter that is very capable of KO’ing Lesnar or any other HW if he is able to land a clean shot. OTOH, Lesnar has also said if he can bring this fight to the ground it will be over for Hunt and I agree.

 

Women’s Bantamweight: Miesha Tate (-265) vs. Amanda Nunes (+205)

I have to pick Champion Miesha Tate here. I don’t know too much about Nunes, but I have followed Miesha Tate for a long time and I know she is a very solid, well rounded fighter.

Featherweight: Jose Aldo (-110) vs. Frankie Edgar (-120)

I think the near even odds do accurately reflect just how tough call this fight is. Two absolutely top tier fighters. I think Frankie is going avenge his prior loss to Aldo.

Jersey Strong wins by decision.

Heavyweight: Cain Velasquez (-305) vs. Travis Browne (+235)

I have to pick former HW Champ Cain Velasquez for this fight. Browne is a very capable HW and his size and reach may present some problems for Velasquez. However, if Cain is healthy I just don’t see Browne stopping him.

Fox Sports 1 Preliminary Card

Women’s Bantamweight: Cat Zingano (-170) vs. Julianna Pena (+140)

Another toss up. I’ll go Zingano simply because she

Welterweight: Johny Hendricks (-175) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (+145)

Hendricks

Bantamweight: T.J. Dillashaw (-400) vs. Raphael Assuncao (+300)

T.J. Dillashaw

Lightweight: Sage Northcutt (-335) vs. Enrique Martin (+255)

Northcutt is a significant favorite. I don’t know anything about his opponent, but Northcutt is a very promising fighter who has potential to become a huge star for the UFC because of his youth, spectacular athletic ability and good looks. Sage suffered his first defeat in his last fight and I don’t think he wants another L at this stage of his career.

UFC Fight Pass Preliminary Card

Lightweight: Diego Sanchez (-115) vs. Joe Lauzon (-115)

I have no idea how this fight will go, other than to say it probably won’t end in a decision. Oh, and there will probably be a lot of blood spilled in this too. I think that is a safe bet.

Ok, I have to make a choice here and I will go with Sanchez, but I won’t be surprised at all if Lauzon pulls this fight out.

Middleweight: Gegard Mousasi (-667) vs. Thiago Santos (+445)

Gegard Mousasi comes in as the big favorite and that is justified. He’s won 3 out of last 4 fights and he is still a top ten MW.

Lightweight: Jim Miller (-230) vs. Takanori Gomi (+180)

Miller. Going with the Jersey guy. That’s all I need to base my choice on. Seriously, both these guys are tough UFC veterans, but I think Miller

UFC 194: Aldo vs McGregor – Las Vegas – My Predictions

I am really looking forward to UFC 194. What a totally stacked card!! Thanks Dana White!

The Main Event alone makes this card very interesting, but the top 4 fights all feature excellent fighters. I think all of these fight have the potential to be great. There are no heavy favorites in the top 4 fights. The odds are very close and, frankly, making picks for these fights is very difficult because the fighters are so evenly matched, at least on paper. That may not turn out to be the case once the fights these guys really start trading punches and kicks. I can’t say that I would want to bet a lot of money on any of these fights because I could see every one them going either way. I honestly won’t be shocked if I go 0-4, but here are my predictions:

Featherweight Championship
Champion Jose Aldo (25-1) vs Interim Champion Conor McGregor (18-2)

Odds are basically even for this fight. This might be the toughest pick of all, but I’m going to pick McGregor despite the fact that I concerns about his reckless style. McGregor’s aggressive style is a two edged sword because it leaves him open at times and against a fighter as skilled as Aldo that may prove his undoing because Aldo is one the those fighters who can instantly end a fight with either his fist or feet. However, I think stylistically this is fight works in McGregor’s favor because Aldo is not a great wrestler and that is the type of fighter that I think would have the best chance of beating McGregor, although that fighter would have to have excellent striking as well (someone like Frankie Edgar). Not sure how it will happen, but going with Conor by KO. I think NcGregor’s height and reach advantage will be very helpful to him in this fight.

McGregor wins by TKO 3rd

Middleweight Championship
Champion Chris Weidman(13-0) vs Luke Rockhold (14-2)

Man, strike what I wrote above about Aldo vs McGregor being the toughest fight to pick on this card. This fight is just as difficult. I am a huge fan of both fighters. Both fighters are incredibly well rounded and extremely well trained. Very hard for me to pick against Rockhold, a former Strikeforce champion who has looked devastating in his last few fights. Rockhold thinks Weidman is slow and he will be able to exploit that. I’m not so sure. Weidman is not flashy, but the former NCAA Wrestling Champ is very discipled and has a wide array of weapons. I think Weidman will bring this fight to the ground and there is his wrestling will give him an advantage. Woodman wins by ground and pound.

Weidman wins by TKO, 4th Rd

Middleweight
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (22-3-1NC) vs Yoel Romero (10-1)
Romero is a former Olympic Silver medalist (Cuba – Freestyle Wrestling) who has soundly defeated everyone he has faced in the UFC, where he is 6-0. The guy is a real beast in the Octagon. But Jacare is a truly elite MMA fighter, a former Middleweight Champion in Strikeforce and a very highly decorated multiple time World Jiu Jitsu champion. There are very few UFC middleweights that can defeat Romero right now, but I think Jacare posses the skill and athletic ability to do it.

Souza wins by TKO, 3rd Rd

Welterweight
Demain Maia (21-6) vs Gunnar Nelson (16-1-1)
I admire both of these fighters. Two very intelligent fighters with superb ground games, although both are very well rounded and class acts, too. I’m going to give the edge to Nelson because Maia is 38 yrs old and Nelson is 27 yrs old. Maia has been fighting very well the last year and is on a 3 fight win streak, but Nelson is a young gun on the rise and I think youth will prevail in this fight.

Nelson wins by UD

POST EVENT THOUGHTS:

Well, went 1-3 on my picks, not 0-4. But I did get the Main Event right in predicting that Conor McGregor would win by KO and I’m happy about that. Although, I must admit that KO came a lot faster than anyone would have predicted, including McGregor himself!!


George M. Fattell.

The gmf journal is a general subject blog that reflects my thoughts and opinions on a variety of topics that are of interest to me. Current home base is Easton, Pennsylvania, USA. Retweets do not equal an endorsement.

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