Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Year in Review...

Well, another year down, another year without any of my teams winning a title. It looks like Falcons have a pretty good shot at the 2011 Super Bowl, and the Braves look like the 2nd best team in the NL next year (This Phillies might win 115 games, but that's for another day). However, the Hawks are back outside the top 10 NBA teams, UGA football just finished another year of mediocrity, and UGA hoops is still a ways away from being nationally significant.

But I digress...for my year in review, I have a top 5 list of my games of the year...good and bad. These games were the 5 most enjoyable games I watched my teams play in, and the 5 most painful losses. So without further dudes...

Top 5 Most Painful Losses

5. September 18, 2010 - Arkansas 31 - UGA 24

I almost wish Arkansas had just run away with this game rather than see UGA come back and then lose it at the end like they did. Arkansas led 24-10 in the 4th quarter with under 8 minutes left when UGA came alive and got TD's from Tavarres King and Washaun Ealey to tie the game with 4 minutes left. Then, they get the ball back with 2 minutes left just outside mid-field with an All-Conference kicker on the sidelines. But the team can not pick up a 1st down and are forced to punt it back to the high-powered Razorback offense, who score a TD with 15 seconds left.

4. May 8, 2010 - Orlando Magic 105 - Atlanta Hawks 75

Saturday night in Philips Arena, the Hawks down 2-0 in the series but still confident after a 34-7 home record on the season. Beat the Magic in Game 3, get back in the series, and see what happens. Nope. The Hawks went down 10 in the 1st quarter and never got closer than that and got embarrassed by Orlando. The lead was 19 at half and got as high as 32 and I don't think I watched a second of the 4th quarter after looking forward to the game all week.

3. October 30, 2010 - Florida 34 UGA 31

Another game where UGA went down by 2 touchdowns in the 1st half, only to rally to tie the game on a pass to AJ Green with 4 minutes left. Aaron Murray had the INT in overtime and Chas Henry kicked home the game-winner. The Dawgs seem to always find a way to lose the Jacksonville game, and the 2010 loss was a real tough one to swallow.

2. June 26, 2010 - Ghana 2 - USA 1

For the 2nd straight World Cup, the Americans were knocked out by the small African nation of Ghana. This loss was particularly painful after the dramatics of group play gave the USA the top spot from the group. It was also another World Cup without a goal from a forward, as Altidore and company just couldn't muster up a goal to advance in the tournament. It may be decades before USA soccer is in a position in the World Cup like they were in 2010, if ever.

1. October 10, 2010 - San Francisco Giants 3 - Atlanta Braves 2

AKA, the Brooks Conrad game. The Braves were on the brink of leading the eventual World Series champions 2-1 with a home game to close it out, when Brooks Conrad inexplicably forgot how to field a baseball. An Erik Hinske home run in the bottom of the 8th gave the Braves a 2-1 lead and Craig Kimbrel was given the ball to close out the game in the 9th. Craig got a pop-out, walked a batter, and struck out Andres Torres to bring up Freddy Sanchez with 2 outs and a runner on 1st. Sanchez singled, Dunn gave up a hit to Aubrey Huff, and then Buster Posey hits a one hopper to Brooksy that he lets get past him, scoring the winning run. Making the loss even more painful was that the Giants 1st run was also on a Conrad error. Thinking about Bobby Cox and sending him out with a series that was turned by this game still sickens me.

Top 5 Most Joyful Wins

5. September 2, 2010 - Georgia State 41 - Shorter 7

This one makes the list more for what it represented than what happened on the field. The 1st game for the school I attended, in the GA Dome, with 30,000+ in the stadium was quite a sight. I just wanted to record the whole experience so I could re-live it the next few weeks.

4. May 2, 2010 - Atlanta Hawks 95 - Milwaukee Bucks 74

It is always fun to win playoff series in the NBA, but this one was particularly exciting because I was there and sat just a few rows off the court. The Hawks played really well and blew out an over-matched team they should have eliminated 2 games earlier.

3. September 26, 2010 - Atlanta Falcons 27 - New Orleans Saints 24

This game was eerily similar to the 1998 NFC Championship game with the Birds taking on a high-powered offense and taking an unexpected missed field goal and turning it into an overtime win. This game was played at a very high level and it was apparent even in Week 3 that both these teams would be a factor in the playoffs. They may even meet with a spot in the NFC Championship Game or even the Super Bowl on the line.

2. October 8, 2010 - Atlanta Braves 5 - San Francisco Giants 4

The extra inning thriller in San Francisco that was won on a Rick Ankiel home run into the drink. There were a ton of awesome moments in this game, the Ankiel homer, Farnsworth getting Posey to hit into a double play to end the 10th, and Gonzalez's double off Wilson in the 8th.

1. June 23, 2010 - USA 1 - Algeria 0

Even countries with strong national teams at times go a World Cup or 2 without winning a match. Qualifying for the tournament is quite a feat, scoring a goal even more so, and winning a game is something historical. What the USA and Landon Donovan did in this match is something that will be shown on American highlight reels for centuries. The USA won their group with this win and did so in about the most dramatic way possible, in stoppage time.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Love vs Griffin

Another night in the NBA, another highlight reel dunk for Blake Griffin. Blake has already established himself as a must-see NBA talent that produces insane dunks with his freak-athleticism. At 21 PPG and 12.5 RPG, Blake is the clear ROY favorite and a superstar in the making that may eventually lead the Clippers out of, well, wherever they have been for the last 30+ years.

As good as Blake has been, Kevin Love has been better statistically. Rewind to the week before Thanksgiving, Griffin went for 12 and 8 against the Pacers on 11/18, and Love went for 0 and 7 versus the Lakers on 11/19. Since those games, the Love/Griffin combo has produced a double-double in every game they have played, a total of 33 straight games. In 3 of Griffin's last 5 games, he has gone for 20+ and 17+.

Love's season, while not as highlight-filled, has produced some gaudy statistics. He currently averages 20.5 and 15.5 on the season, but that has risen with 23.6 and 16.5 averages in December. With his rebound totals continuing to rise, Love has a chance to have a rebounding season unlike any other in the past couple of decades.

Since Dennis Rodman's run of 7 rebounding titles from 91-98, only Ben Wallace in 02-03 has topped 15 rebounds per game. Dwight Howard, KG, and Deke all won rebounding titles, but never reached the 15 rpg number.

The biggest difference between Love currently averaging 15+ rpg and the Wallace/Rodman seasons, is that Love is also getting 20+ points per game as well. In the 8 seasons where the Wallace/Rodman duo put up 15+ rpg seasons, they never once topped 10 ppg.

The last player to top 20 ppg and 15 rpg in a season was Moses Malone in 82-83. If Love can top the 20/15 threshold in 2010/2011, he will join quite a group of players that have accomplished the feat in the last 40 years.

Moses Malone
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Artis Gilmore
Wilt Chamberlain
Elvin Hayes

Not bad company at all...and he is only 22 years old. Griffin is even younger at 21, and could certainly make this list at some point in his career.

I've been watching quite a bit of college hoops the last month and have a decent feel as to the top teams so far this year. The biggest rise/fall of any team so far has to be Tennessee. Beating top 10 level teams Nova and Pitt and then losing three in a row to Oakland/Charlotte/USC. No secret what they want to do, bang it inside with Harris/Williams and then open up their shooters to knock down 3's. The problem the last 3 games? 10-50 from downtown...

RSM Top 25 Hoops Poll

1. Duke
2. Ohio State
3. UConn
4. Kansas
5. Pittsburgh
6. Syracuse
7. Georgetown
8. Missouri
9. San Diego State
10. Villanova
11. Texas
12. Kentucky
13. Kansas State
14. Washington State
15. Memphis
16. Central Florida
17. Wisconsin
18. Purdue
19. Baylor
20. Illinois
21. BYU
22. Texas A&M
23. Temple
24. Louisville
25. Michigan State

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dirty Birds Rolling...

It is not often that your NFL team has itself in a position going into week 16 to wrap up home field advantage for the Conference playoffs. I am trying to soak up this season as the Falcons are sitting at 12-2 right now and seem destined for even bigger things. As I wrote 2 years ago, you never know what a given NFL season will produce, so do your best to take advantage of seasons where the breaks seem to go your way.

Here is where we sit right now: The Falcons can clinch the #1 seed, which comes with a 1st round bye and 2 possible playoff games at the GA Dome, by winning either of their 2 final regular season games against NO and Carolina.

Assuming the Falcons get one of these wins, that would make them the #1 seed and Philadelphia looks like the most likely #2 seed after the Miracle in the Meadowlands Part Deux.

Chicago is 10-4 like the Eagles, but have to play the Jets and at Green Bay the last 2 weeks while Philly is at home with Minnesota and Dallas. I think Philly ends up 12-4 and gets the #2 seed, while the Bears go 10-6/11-5 and are the #3.

I also think the SF/STL winner this week will win the West and earn the #4 seed, which will be a home game against the best Wild Card team, probably New Orleans.

The last playoff spot in the NFC will come down to the Giants and Packers as the Bucs appear to be fading. They happen to play each other this week, and the winner will have the inside track at that final spot.

So, assuming the West winner doesn't pull a huge upset, the Falcons will have to beat two of the following teams in consecutive weeks at home to get to the Super Bowl:


No easy task, but I'll take my chances against any of these teams in the GA Dome. It would be sweet to get some revenge on Philly from 2004 and have a Vick/Ryan showdown, but that team is the scariest of the group. With NO looking like a solid #5, if Chicago holds serve at home against NYG/GB, a 3rd meeting vs NO could take place in mid-January.

How did the Birds get to this point? Well, they have had some breaks (SF, GB, TB, NO, and others), but they also made plays in those games to win them. Ryan, Turner, Gonzalez, and White are all Pro-Bowlers on offense and Lofton, Moore, and Grimes have played at a very high level on defense.

Grimes has had a particularly incredible season. He currently leads the NFL in pass deflections with 27, is 6th in INT's with 5 (tied w/Moore), and is 25th in tackles by corners with 73. He has made huge plays, taken away good receivers, and established himself as a top-tier corner in the league.

The Defensive Player of the Year usually goes to someone with huge numbers in sacks, INT's, etc, but even receiving some votes would go a long way towards getting Grimes the national attention he deserves.

A Super Bowl MVP would do that too though...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Interesting Numbers

The Kansas City Chiefs recently locked down Jamaal Charles with a 5 year deal worth over $30 million dollars. Jamaal has split time with Thomas Jones in the backfield this season, but still has racked up over 1,000 yards and about 6 yards per carry for the second year.

Think about that for a second…6 yards per carry in the NFL as a running back, and Jamaal is just shy of 200 pounds. In comparison, Barry Sanders highest yards per carry in his career was 6.1 in 1997, and Barry had no other seasons of higher than 5.7 ypc. In fact, Jamaal can join Jim Brown this year as the only players with 2 seasons of over 1,000 yards and a higher than 5.85 ypc.

Jamaal still has some time to go before his feats will be recognized in the NFL record books. The NFL requires backs to have at least 750 carries before their ypc will register on the record books. Who is the leader as of today? Randall Cunningham at 6.36. – Who is the highest running back on the list? Mr. Brown at 5.22 comes in at #2.

It is also interesting to note that the single-season leader in ypc is Michael Vick, with an 8.45 average in the 2006 season. Vick also has the record for a single game with a minimum of 10 attempts in the infamous Minnesota overtime game in 2001 with 17.3.

So, with 449 career carries and a 5.9 ypc career average, sometime in the 2011 or 2012 season, barring injury, Jamaal could take over the #2 spot behind Cunningham, just ahead of the great Jim Brown.

But, he may be in a race with Vick. He has an astounding 7.0 ypc in his career with 635 career attempts.

It appears the days are numbered for Randall Cunningham as the top QB and Jim Brown as the leaders in NFL yards per carry. The Chiefs may have gotten a steal at only $32 million...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday night musings...

Interesting to look at the 2010 coaches salaries and see how each team performed. If you are a trivia guy/gal, take a quick 5 and see if you can guess the 3 head coaches in 2010 that were in the top 10 in salary, but failed to achieve a winning record. Scroll down for the answer…

While you are thinking, I also want to throw in a quick NBA tidbit, as I have not written much on the season so far. Locally, as much heat as Joe Johnson is taking for not performing up to his salary, Al Horford needs the same amount of praise for living up to his. For the 4th straight year, Al has improved his FG%, assists, and points per game. Horford and Dwight Howard are the only 2 players right now in the NBA that average 17+ points per game, 9.5+ rebounds per game, and shoot at a FG% higher than 55%. Not bad for a guy that everyone wants to move from the center position.

Our coaches that failed to achieve a winning record while getting paid out the wazoo?
#2 Mack Brown
#8 Jim Grobe
#9 Mark Richt

Just missing the list are 5 more that are in the top 20

#13 Houston Nutt
#15 Paul Johnson
#16 Jeff Tedford
#18 Derek Dooley
#19 Turner Gill

On another note, how good do some of the signings and potential signings at the winter meetings look?

1) Boston Lineup – Crawford/Pedroia/Gonzalez/Youkilis/Ortiz
2) NYY Rotation – Sabathia/Lee/Hughes
3) White Sox lineup – Konerko/Dunn/Quentin

I think with Lackey/Lester/Beckett/Buchholz/Dice-K and that lineup they will be very tough to beat in the AL.

When Cameron Newton said the other day that he did nothing wrong in his recruitment and he simply chose Auburn over Mississippi State after spending Christmas break at home discussing both schools with his Dad, did anyone else get the picture in their heads of Cecil writing dollar amounts on 2 sheets of paper and shrugging his shoulders at the Heisman winner?

People in Sports I love…

10) Martin Prado - A true gamer that is an easy guy to root for. The type of guy you want and one of my favorite Braves.
9) Mike Zimmer - Nobody dislikes Bobby Petrino as much as I do, but the way Zimmer attacked the former Falcons coach earlier this year was awesome.
8) Aaron Murray - This story makes liking a guy that is all-everything as a freshman QB in the SEC even easier.
7) Thomas Dmitroff - I have so much confidence in this guy to do what is necessary to keep the Birds in the mix for a Super Bowl for the next several years. He has hit home runs in the draft, free agency, and does not want the spotlight.
6) Bill Curry - Like my brother says, "I would listen to him talk about anything." I have seen this video about 25 times, just an awesome guy to have coaching your team.

5) Rex Ryan - I just like this guy. I know he coaches a team in NY, but I think he is genuinely funny. He made this seasons "Hard Knocks" episode the best ever.
4) Jason Heyward - Great guy and player for the Braves that should be the face of the team for 10+ years. I love his approach to the game and how he plays every day.
3) Roddy White - You can always count on Roddy to be there when the game is on the line (see Baltimore this year)...He and Matty Ice have become quite the duo, and if they can get a Super Bowl, they may move to 1-2 on the list.
2) Al Horford - I have always wanted someone on the Hawks who seemed to care as much about the team winning as I did. Finally, Al Horford came along and has been the leader and emotional guy they the team has needed.
1) Matt Ryan- Have you seen a shirt? I want to be with homo.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Interesting Stat...

Now that the college football regular season is complete (minus Army/Navy), it is always fun to look back at some of the final stats for the season. One that struck me this year as interesting is the final numbers for QB Rating. The final national ranking for QB ranking for the quarterbacks that led their teams to BCS games are (assuming at-large births):

1) Cameron Newton - AU
3) Ryan Mallett - ARK
4) Scott Tolzein - Wisconsin
5) Andy Dalton - TCU
7) Andrew Luck - Stanford
12) Tyrod Taylor - VT
14) Terrell Pryor - OSU
21) Darron Thomas - Oregon
27) Landry Jones - OU
113) Zach Frazer - UConn

I know the Big East was down this year and had a lot of mediocre teams, but 113th out of 115 in the nation in QB rating? Amazing what the guys at UConn did with a strong D and the legs of Jordan Todman (4th in the nation in rushing yards).

Final RSM Poll

1) Auburn
2) Oregon
3) TCU
4) Stanford
5) Michigan State
6) Wisconsin
7) Ohio State
8) Arkansas
9) Oklahoma
10) LSU
11) Oklahoma State
12) Missouri
13) Nevada
14) Boise State
15) Virginia Tech
16) Texas A&M
17) Nebraska
18) South Carolina
19) Alabama
20) Mississippi State
21) West Virginia
22) Utah
23) Connecticut
24) Florida State
25) USC