Monday, September 03, 2012

2012 NFL Season Preview

Last year broke my four year streak of predicting at least one of the two Super Bowl team as both Green Bay and Baltimore missed the big game. In my defense, I should get partial credit for Baltimore seen as they were a Lee Evans dropped touchdown in the end zone from going. But, I digress and look to get back on the right track here in 2012.

New England 13-3
Buffalo 9-7
NY Jets 6-10
Miami 3-13

Analysis: As long as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are in Foxboro, why predict anything else. I like the addition of Brandon Lloyd and expect him to have a huge year. The tight end combo in New England makes Brady as dangerous as ever. The Bills defense is much improved and believe it or not, they may have the best defensive line in football. The offense should rely on Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller with some big plays from Stevie Johnson. The Jets are a bit confusing. They have a solid defense, maybe a top five defense, but the offense is awful. Mark Sanchez will continue his regression as the fans and media call for Tim Tebow. Sadly, the best QB on the roster, Greg McElroy will probably never see the field. Miami looks like a franchise lost and will be tough to watch. If they win any games this year, it will because Reggie Bush has put them on his back.

Baltimore 11-5
Cincinnati 10-6
Pittsburgh 9-7
Cleveland 4-12

Analysis: This will once again be one of the top two divisions in football. The Ravens are a bit older on defense and losing Terrell Suggs will hurt. But, Ray Lewis should never be counted out. He got leaner this year so he can be faster. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice have some good young compliments at WR. The Bengals were a surprise team last year and will continue to grow. They have a nice young nucleus on offense behind Andy Dalton. The defense is underrated. The Steelers are getting long in the tooth on defense like Baltimore, but they don’t seem to have developed any young talent on that side of the ball. Ben Roethlisberger has a new offensive coordinator who already seems to be making too many changes which will lead to some struggles. The Browns have 15 rookies on the team, but they do have talent. How well they take their lumps this year will determine who good they can be in the future.

Houston 11-5
Indianapolis 6-10
Tennessee 6-10
Jacksonville 3-13

Analysis: The Texans should have the division wrapped up by Thanksgiving. Andrew Luck and the Colts will be better than expected. The Jake Locker era is underway and it will help if Chris Johnson decides he wants to be an elite back again. The Jags got Maurice Jones-Drew back and that is already the best highlight of the season.

Denver 11-5
Kansas City 9-7
San Diego 9-7
Oakland 6-10

Analysis: Yes, my love for Peyton Manning has clouded my judgment on the Broncos. But, since 1999, when Peyton Manning plays a whole season, his team wins 10 games every year. I’m not sold on Matt Cassel in KC, but the defense and skill offensive players make them a team to look out for. Maybe this year will finally be the year Norv Turner gets axed from the underachieving Chargers. No Al Davis for the Raiders this year. A second season with Carson Palmer may show Raider Nation some signs of life.
NY Giants 10-6
Dallas 9-7
Philadelphia 9-7
Washington 7-9

Analysis: Its time to start showing Eli Manning some respect. Questions at WR are the only thing holding back the G-Men from a repeat. The Cowboys once again show promise but can all the individual personalities finally come together? The Eagles will probably not get a whole season from Michael Vick and will struggle down the stretch. RGIII will be the most exciting player in football this year. If only he had more talent around him.

Green Bay 12-4
Chicago 10-6
Detroit 8-8
Minnesota 5-11

Analysis: The Packers defense is much improved an Aaron Rodgers will have another MVP-type season. How well James Starks and Cedric Benson do in the backfield will determine how far they can go. Chicago improved their WR corps with Brandon Marshall, but the mental part of the game of Jay Cutler is always a question. The Lions will not be as strong as last season without a running game and the missing defensive players lost due to off the field issues. A healthy Adrian Peterson will help Christian Ponder, but other than Percy Harvin, they are thin at WR.

New Orleans 11-5
Atlanta 9-7
Tampa Bay 8-8
Carolina 7-9

Analysis: This will be the most competitive division in the league. All four teams have a legitimate chance at the playoffs. The Saints will be strong and it will be interesting to see how they do without Sean Peyton. The Falcons will be good again and the offense will put up a lot of points. The Bucs underachieved with Greg Schiano when their were much better coaching options. The big question is can Cam Newton repeat his stellar rookie year.

San Francisco 12-4
Seattle 9-7
St. Louis 5-11
Arizona 4-12

Analysis: San Francisco got better in the off-season and should be as good as last season. Hopefully, Randy Moss will not ruin a great team. The Seahawks will be surprisingly good under Russell Wilson who may be the best all-around QB of this past draft. The Rams will be better under Jeff Fisher, but still need more talent. The Cardinals will fight the Dolphins for worst team in the NFL. Don’t be shocked if Neil Lomax comes out of retirement to be QB.

1- New England
2- Houston
3- Baltimore
4- Denver
5- Cincinnati
 6- Buffalo

1- Green Bay
2- San Francisco
3- New Orleans
4- NY Giants
5- Chicago
6- Seattle

Denver 24, Houston 20

San Francisco 20, Green Bay 17

Denver 31, San Francisco 23

Analysis: Manning has more offensive talent in Denver this year than most of his year’s in Indianapolis. The compliment in a strong running game with Willis McGahee will make Manning even more dangerous. The Broncos defense was the real reason they made the playoffs last season. Elite QB, solid running game, good young WRs, top five defense equals a Lombardi Trophy for the Mile High city.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Who will draft Andrew Nicholson?

In about 24 hours, St. Bonaventure fans will know the answer to the question that has been on their minds for months now. What National Basketball Association team will Andrew Nicholson begin his professional career with? Nicholson is projected to be drafted in the first round anywhere between picks #15 and #25. If he is selected in the first round, he will be the first Bonnie drafted in the first round since Bob Lanier was the number one overall pick of the 1970 draft by the Detroit Pistons. Regardless, when Nicholson’s name is called, he will be the first player from St. Bonaventure to be drafted since Barry Mungar in 1986 by the Washington Bullets.
It is difficult to know exactly where Nicholson will end up, but we do have some clues of which teams are the most interested.

Nicholson was watched by NBA scouts at just about everyone of his games this past season. In fact, 27 of the 30 NBA teams, came to see him at least once. Only the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, and Sacramento Kings did not attend a game. Oklahoma City led the way watching Nicholson eight times. San Antonio saw him seven times, while Memphis, Golden State, and Charlotte each attended four games.

Twelve teams brought Nicholson in for a workout. They are listed below by their draft position.
#4 and #24 Cleveland Cavaliers
#13 Phoenix Suns
#12, #16, and #18 Houston Rockets
#15 Philadelphia 76ers
#19 Orlando Magic
#20 Denver Nuggets
#21 and #22 Boston Celtics
#23 Atlanta Hawks
#26 Indiana Pacers
#27 Miami Heat
#28 Oklahoma City Thunder
#29 Chicago Bulls

According to analysts mock drafts, the most talked about destination is Boston at pick #21 or #22. Nicholson has shot up many draft boards and so many people have slotted him in at #22 to back up Kevin Garnett, but his stock continues to rise and it seems he may not even be there after pick #20 which is the Denver Nuggets.

Although it may seem to be a stretch, don’t rule out the Phoenix Suns at #13.  Don’t be shocked if Nicholson goes this high. Phoenix can use a versatile big man and Suns free agent point guard Steve Nash, who is also the GM of the Canadian National Team, has spoke highly of Nicholson telling reporters this week, "He’s a terrific player, I really like his game. If I were a GM, I would look really hard at him, even in the low-teens, he’s that good." Phoenix hopes to re-sign Nash and his endorsement may sway the Suns front office.

The focus for Nicholson will start around pick #15. He worked out in Philadelphia over the weekend and he was the most spotlighted player of the eight who attended the workout. He got high praise from the Philadelphia Daily News as well. There has also been a lot of talk of teams moving into the high teens to trump Boston or Cleveland who are both interested in the early 20’s.

While you watch the ESPN telecast, the commentators will say this regardless of who drafts him: “Andrew Nicholson is the sleeper in this draft. He has great range as a shooter for a big man and had a very productive career at St. Bonaventure. He was impressive at the draft combine and shot up a lot of team’s boards. Once he adds some bulk to his frame, he will have a solid NBA career.”

Over/under on the times he is called a sleeper on the ESPN broadcast: 4.5

Ok, so where will Andrew Nicholson’s new home be when the draft is over? Here are my three projected scenario's:

(1) Nicholson is drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers at #15. Philadelphia is a good young team in need of depth in the front court. He was one of the last players they worked out and he left Philly on a high note in the minds of the Sixers front office. If Perry Jones III of Baylor and Arnett Moultrie of Mississippi State are off the board at this point, Nicholson is the pick.

(2) The Houston Rockets trade the #18 pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for PG Eric Maynor and the rights to OKC’s pick at #28. Then, OKC selects Nicholson at #18. OKC has coveted Nicholson for some time and have been rumored to want to move up from #28 to either take Nicholson or another big man in the mid-1st round. They came to watch him the most of any team in the league and with former Bonnie David Vanterpool a key member of the front office, this makes sense.

(3) If Philly takes Jones or Moultrie at #15 and Houston keeps the #18 pick, then Nicholson is selected by the Orlando Magic with the #19 pick. Orlando will definitely be the destination if you see a draft day trade between the Magic and the Rockets where Dwight Howard is swapped for a package of players, cash and Houston’s #12, #16, and #18 1st round draft picks. If Orlando gets multiple 1st round picks on Thursday night, start ordering your Magic Nicholson #44 jersey’s. New Orlando GM Rob Hennigan was the Thunder Assistant GM up until last week and is very high on Nicholson from his workouts in OKC. Hennigan has also fired the longtime Magic Assistant GM and all six of the team’s scouts, so Hennigan is most likely going off of his already compiled OKC draft board to use for his first draft with the Magic.

It is really anyone’s guess how any draft breaks down. Whatever happens, look for Nicholson to be gone by the time the Celtics and Cavs select. I can’t see him getting by Denver at #20 if he is still on the board at that point. Enjoy the draft!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bonnies in the NBA

On Thursday night, St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson looks to become the 33rd player and first since 1986 in Bonnies basketball history to be drafted by a National Basketball Association franchise. Nicholson is a projected first round pick. If he is drafted in the first round, he will be the fourth Bona player to be drafted in the first round. NBA Hall of Famer, Bob Lanier, was the number one overall pick in the 1970 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. Tom Stith was selected as the second overall pick in the 1961 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks and Brendan McCann was the fifth overall selection in the 1957 NBA Draft by the Knicks.

The last Bonnie to suit up in the NBA was J.R. Bremer. He was a second-team All-rookie team member in 2002-03 with the Boston Celtics as an undrafted free agent. He played in 2003-04 with both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. Since then, he is one of the highest paid point guards in Europe.

Prior to Bremer, David Vanterpool had a 22 game cameo with the Washington Wizards in 2000. He has been pro scout for the Oklahoma City Thunder for the last few years and is rumored to be promoted to assistant general manager of the Thunder in the coming days.

While Bob Lanier is the only St. Bonaventure alum in the Naismith Hall of Famer, he is not the only one in Springfield with a connection to the Bonnies. Hall of Fame coach Chuck Daly, who led the famous Pistons “Bad Boys” to two NBA titles and was the head coach of the Dream Team in the 1992 Olympics, played freshman basketball at St. Bonaventure in 1948-49 before transferring to Bloomsburg University.

In all, 15 Bonnies have suited up in the NBA. Here are the top five NBA players from St. Bonaventure:

Bob Lanier was one of the dominant centers of the 1970s. He averaged 20.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game while shooting 51.4 percent from the field in his 14-year career with the Detroit Pistons (1970-80) and the Milwaukee Bucks (1980-84). He played in eight NBA All-Star Games and was named Most Valuable Player of the game in 1974.Lanier had his #16 jersey retired by both the Pistons and the Bucks.

Billy Kenville played six seasons (1953–1958; 1959–1960) with the Syracuse Nationals and Fort Wayne/Detroit Pistons. He averaged 7.1 points per game and won a league title with Syracuse in 1955.

George Carter was selected by the Detroit Pistons in 1967 and was also selected by the New Orleans Buccaneers in the 1967 American Basketball Association draft. Carter played only game for the Pistons and then joined the Washington Caps of the rival ABA. He went on to play seven seasons in the ABA, spending time with eight teams: the Caps, the Virginia Squires, the Carolina Cougars, the Pittsburgh Condors, the New York Nets, the Memphis Sounds, the Baltimore Claws, and the Utah Stars. Carter represented the Squires in the 1971 ABA All-Star Game and retired from basketball in 1976 with 8,863 combined ABA/NBA career points.

Fred Crawford spent five years in the NBA. He was drafted in the fourth round in 1964 by the New York Knicks. Previously, he had been drafted by the Knicks in the 1963 NBA Draft. He would eventually play with the Knicks in the NBA in 1967. The following year, he was sold to the Los Angeles Lakers. In 1969, he was again sold, this time to the Milwaukee Bucks. Later, Crawford was selected by the Buffalo Braves in the 1970 NBA Expansion Draft and finished his career with the Philadelphia 76ers later that year. Crawford had his best season in the NBA in 1968 with the Lakers when he averaged 10.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game as a part of the west's representative in the NBA Finals.

Ken Murray was the first ever NBA player from St. Bonaventure. In 1950-51, he averaged 12.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game as one of the NBA's top rookies for the Baltimore Bullets and Fort Wayne Pistons. He played three seasons in the league with the Bullets, Pistons and Philadelphia Warriors totaling 1,471 points, 599 rebounds, and 482 assists.

Other notable NBA Bonnies:
Tom Stith was selected by the Knicks in the 1961 NBA draft and gave him a two-year contract.  But five weeks after he was drafted, Stith had a physical examination to determine why he had lost 15 pounds during his senior season. He was found to have pulmonary tuberculosis.  Stith recuperated in a sanitarium for several months. After his hospitalization, he began working out with his brother Sam, who was in his rookie season with the Knicks. Tom made the Knicks’ 1962-63 team, coached by Eddie Donovan, who had coached him at St. Bonaventure. The crowd at Madison Square Garden gave Stith an ovation when he made his Knicks debut against the Boston Celtics in mid-November, but he played in only 25 games that season and averaged 3.1 points a game. The Knicks released him at the beginning of the next season.

Whitey Martin and Sam Stith each played one season in the NBA, both for the Knicks in 1961-62. Martin played 66 games, while Stith appeared in 32 games.

Essie Hollis played 25 games for the Pistons in 1978-79 as a teammate of Bob Lanier.

Since 1950, there have been a total of 33 NBA draft picks (32 players) to come out of St. Bonaventure. Six picks have been in the top two rounds. Note: Fred Crawford was drafted twice.

1986    Rd 4, 82nd      Barry Mungar             Washington Bullets

1983    Rd 4, 82nd      Mark Jones                New York Knicks

1981    Rd 4, 87th       Earl Belcher                San Antonio Spurs

1979    Rd 7, 141st     Tim Waterman            Atlanta Hawks

1978    Rd 2, 43rd       Glenn Hagan              Philadelphia 76ers
1978    Rd 10, 162nd   Greg Sanders            New York Knicks

1977    Rd 2, 44th       Essie Hollis                 New Orleans Jazz

1976    Rd 9, 153rd     Bob Rozyczko           Buffalo Braves

1974    Rd 8, 135th     Glenn Price                 Buffalo Braves

1973    Rd 8, 122nd    Carl Jackson               Buffalo Braves

1972    Rd 4, 59th       Matt Gantt                  Phoenix Suns
1972    Rd 15, 189th   Paul Hoffman              Buffalo Braves

1971    Rd 4, 59th       Greg Gary                  San Francisco Warriors

1970    Rd 1, 1st         Bob Lanier                 Detroit Pistons

1969    Rd 9, 115th     Jim Satalin                  Milwaukee Bucks

1968    Rd 9, 116th     Bill Butler                   Boston Celtics

1967    Rd 8, 81st       George Carter            Detroit Pistons

1965    Rd 8, 65th       Bob Bamek                Philadelphia 76ers

1964    Rd 4, 26th       Fred Crawford           New York Knicks

1963    Rd 8, 63rd       Fred Crawford           New York Knicks

1962    Rd 4, N/A       Bob McCully             Syracuse Nationals

1961    Rd 1, 2nd        Tom Stith                   New York Knicks
1961    Rd 2, 10th       Whitey Martin            New York Knicks

1960    Rd 8, 56th       Sam Stith                   Cincinnati Royals

1957    Rd 1, 5th         Brendan McCann       New York Knicks

1955    Rd 5, 39th        Mal Duffy                  Syracuse Nationals

1953    Rd 3, 25th        Billy Kenville             Syracuse Nationals
1953    Rd 5, 43rd        Mike Bodnar            Fort Wayne Pistons
1953    Rd 10, 82nd     Bob Sassone             Philadelphia Warriors
1953    Rd 11, 92nd     Bill Edwards              Rochester Royals

1952    Rd 4, 43rd        Leo Corkery             Fort Wayne Pistons

1951    Rd 3, 28th        Fred Duite                   Rochester Royals

1950    Rd 4, 41st        Ken Murray                 Chicago Stags

PART II (post on 7 p.m. Wednesday): Who will select Andrew Nicholson Thursday Night.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sports Shorts May 16, 2012

Checking my (sports) shorts wondering whatever happened to Vince Ferragamo….

* Reaction to the Buffalo Bills signing of Vince Young seems to be mixed. I think this is an intelligent signing for the Bills for a few reasons. There is probably not a better coach in the NFL than Chan Gailey in getting the best out of mobile quarterbacks. Also, the Bills run a similar offense, quick strike spread the field, to the one Young ran in Texas when we carried the Longhorns on his back to the National Championship. Buddy Nix talked about upgrading each position and adding depth. Young does both as he should easily beat out Tyler Thigpen for the #2 QB spot. More importantly, if Ryan Fitzpatrick gets injured or struggles, Young has a proven track record of success. He is 31-19 as a starter in the NFL and been to two Pro Bowls. I discount his time in Philadelphia because he was in an offense that did not fit his skill set. The key to all of this is his maturity. After listening to his press conference, it sounds like someone has been in his ear to tell him its time to be a big boy and become a mature football player. He's not going to find a better opportunity than this one. This is his third team in three seasons so he is running out chances so I expect him to make the most of this chance. This is a nice, low-risk move by the Bills, a team that needed more stability behind Fitz. Plus, it is only a $2 million commitment by the Bills. Thigpen is scheduled to make $2.5 million this season if he makes the team. Now, you have a QB in Young who has been successful in the league and the Bills are getting him at a cheaper price.

* Prior to the season, I thought the San Antonio Spurs had too much tread on the tires to compete for a championship. But, head coach Gregg Popovich did a masterful job of keeping his veterans fresh during the regular season by giving them games off. Now, they look unbeatable and are my pick to win the NBA title. I think Oklahoma City will give them a great matchup in the Western Finals, but they will be schooled by Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and company. On the East side, the only team that has been impressive so far is the Indiana Pacers. I think they will push the Miami Heat to seven games, but don’t see them advancing. Boston may be able to upend the Heat in the Eastern Finals if Chris Bosh doesn’t come back. Even if he does, Miami doesn’t have the depth to go deep in any series.

* Speaking of Finals, I will pat myself on the back as being the only media-type who follows the National Lacrosse League to pick the Rochester Knighthawks in the finals prior to this season in my NLL Preview for Buffalo Stuff . I did not envision the Edmonton Rush making a run with all the turnover, but they were able to gel at the right time led ironically by a bunch of former Knighthawks. The game will be played Saturday night in Rochester and will be the first meeting between the two teams this season. The Knighthawks young guns will prove too much for the Rush as Rochester will win its third Champions Cup 14-11.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Sports Shorts..May 5, 2012

Checking my (sports) shorts wondering whatever happened to Spud Webb...

- I'm thinking either one of two things will happen to the Boston Celtics after this season. They get rid of the immature Rajon Rando or dismantle the Big 3. After Rando's latest look at me moment, I can't see guys like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce being on board with that kind of nonsense. Avery Bradley has shown he is capable of running the point and possibly helping these aging veterans win one more ring. If Rando stays, Allen will be sure to leave via free agency and I would not be surprised if KG or Pierce ask out.

- During the NLL preseason, I picked the Calgary Roughnecks to defeat the Rochester Knighthawks for the Champions Cup. The playoffs start tonight and while I still (kinda) like my picks, I think the more realistic approach is to look at a Colorado Mammoth v. Toronto Rock final. The East is as weak as it has been in years, but the potential West final between Calgary and Colorado may remind us of the NFC Championship games between the Cowboys and 49ers when it seemed like those were always the actual Super Bowl.

- While it is ridiculous to grade a draft when guys have never suited up for a team, I think Buffalo Bills GM Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey have made the right moves. Stocking up on CBs and LBs in the draft after a significant upgrade on the defensive line through free agency makes Buffalo look like a legit playoff contender for the first time in a decade. If RB Fred Jackson comes back 100% from his season ending injury, Buffalo will be a team to watch in 2012.

- I'm not sure if it is becoming a little league coach or returning to pro baseball (see below), but I have a new found rejuvenation for baseball. Already, I have watched more baseball on TV this season than I have in the last three seasons combined. Maybe it is the kid coming back out of me again or that being around the game again as once again made me a fan.

- Job news #1: I am excited to be returning to Major League Lacrosse this season. I worked the Long Island Lizards v. Chesapeake Bayhawks game at Hofstra for the MLL on ESPN3 last week and have the Rochester Rattlers games vs. the Ohio Machine and Denver Outlaws later this summer. I missed the league after working the TV broadcasts for the original Rattlers for three years before they left town after winning the championship in 2008. Even though I am still waiting for my championship (not really), my first game back was like I never left!

- Job news #2: I will return to pro baseball on May 31 as the Buffalo Bisons take on the Columbus Clippers at 10:35 a.m. I will be filling in for my good friend Ben Wagner on the Bisons Radio Network as he and Duke McGuire move up to handle the TV call on MLB TV. I was the on-field host for the Bisons in 2008 when they were part of the Cleveland Indians organization.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

NCAA Bracket Facts

Here are some important things to remember when you are filling out your NCAA Tournament pool:

* A #16 seed is not going to upset a #1. It has never happened and probably never will. Those #1’s are there for a reason. According to ESPN, the average margin of victory for a #1 seed in the First Round is 29.6 points.
* A #15 seed is probably not going to fair much better against a #2 seed. Yes, it has happened before, but only four times since 1985. The last #2 seed to flop in the opening round was Iowa State when they were upended by Hampton 58-57 in 2001.

* A #14 seed has been known to spring an upset as it has happened 16 times since 1986 (full disclosure, being a St. Bonaventure alum, they have already been selected in my pool). It has happened three times since 2005: 2010- Ohio over Georgetown, 2006-Northwestern State over Iowa, and 2005- Bucknell over Kansas.

* Since 2001, 11 #13 seeds have knocked off a #4 seed and has happened in the last four years. 2011- Morehead State over Louisville, 2010- Murray State over Vanderbilt, 2009- Cleveland State over Wake Forest, and twice in 2008- Siena over Vanderbilt and San Diego over UConn.

* Everyone knows that a #12 seed will in fact upend a #5 seed as it has happened 36 times since the Tourney was expanded to 64 teams in 1985. For you stat geeks out there, that is 1.3 times per year. Only three times since 1985 has their not been a #12 to advance (1988, 2000 and 2007). In fact, some years, multiple #5 seeds have been upset including three in 2006 and 2009 and twice in 1990, 1994, 1996, 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2008.

* Just like the #5 seed, a #6 seed as fallen 36 times as well since 1985. In the last two tourney’s, an #11 seed has advanced five out of eight opportunities (three times in 2011 and twice in 2010).

* Since 2008, five #12 seeds have advanced to the Sweet 16 (2011- Richmond; 2010- Cornell; 2009- Arizona; 2008- Western Kentucky and Villanova).

* A #11 seed has advanced to the Sweet 16 in each of the last two tournaments (2011- Marquette and VCU; 2010- Washington).

* There has only been one #12 seed to advance past the Sweet 16: 2002 when Missouri advanced to the Elite 8.
* Only 10 teams have reached the Sweet 16 as a #8 seed. Keep in mind the #8 seed will draw the region’s #1 seed in the second round. But, if a #8 gets to the Sweet 16, they usually advance to the Elite 8. It has happened seven times out of those 10 and four of those teams have advanced to the Final Four.
* No #9 seed has ever made the Final Four. Same goes for a #10 as well as #12 through #16).

* The top four teams in each region rarely end up all in the Sweet 16. While, the #1 seed has advanced to the Sweet 16 over the last 27 years 93% of the time, the rest don’t fare as well. A #2 seed has done it 68%, while a #3 seed makes it 61%. A #4 seed only advanced to the Sweet 16 only 36% of the time.

* At least one double-digit seed (#10 through #16) has reached the Sweet 16 in 25 of the past 27 years, and at least two have done so in 12 of the past 15 years. Four double-digit seeds advanced last year.

* It is a safe bet for an underdog to get to the Elite 8. At least one team seeded #6 or higher has reached the Elite Eight in 22 of the past 27 years. In 2011, #8 Butler advanced to the national championship and #11 seed VCU made the Final Four.

* There have only been three teams to advance to the Four Four as a #11 seed:
2011: VCU
2006: George Mason
1985: LSU

Good luck!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Peyton Manning Survivor

Now that Peyton Manning has become a free agent it seems just about every fan base is hoping #18 signs with their team. Manning will only go to a team where he thinks he can win a Super Bowl and some teams just don’t make any sense. So, lets play Peyton Manning Survivor and breakdown what teams are left standing to be the lucky potential suitors for Manning’s services.

Eliminate any team that just released him:

Eliminate any team his brother plays for:
New York Giants

Eliminate any team that has a franchise QB:
Green Bay
New England
New Orleans
San Diego

Eliminate any team that thinks they have a franchise QB:
St. Louis
Tampa Bay

Eliminate any team that drafted a QB in the first round last season and gave a ton of cash to:

Eliminate any team that is pretty sure they have the answer at QB, but regardless signed him to a huge contract last season:

Eliminate any team that has two QBs they really don’t want, but gave up the farm to get both:

Eliminate any team that plays in the same city as Manning’s brother because he doesn’t want to upstage him:
New York Jets

Eliminate any team that is so dysfunctional, no intelligent person would actually try and make it work there:

Eliminate any team that signed a second chance QB who had one great season and is now an average QB they gave a ton of cash to:

Eliminate any team that their Executive VP is the franchise’s favorite son, hates his current QB, but can’t go after Manning because the fans will curse him because they love their QB more than their own children:

Eliminate any team that has a head coach that was traded away so his team could draft Peyton Manning in 1998:
San Francisco

Eliminate any team that is rolling the dice on trading up to draft Robert Griffin III:

Eliminate any team that has a GM and head coach that used to work for Bill Belichick:
Kansas City

Keep any team that doesn’t have a QB, doesn’t have a good QB, regrets signing a bad QB or has a group of marginal to crappy QBs:

So now our list is down to three teams. Lets take a closer look at each:

Miami Dolphins- According to just about everyone in Miami, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has made it his mission to get #18 to South Beach. Miami has money to spend, a decent line, solid RB in Reggie Bush and a #1 WR in Brandon Marshall. The rest of the WR corps is above average with Davone Bess and Brian Hartline. Also, Anthony Fasano is one of the better TEs in the league. Their defense played very well in the second half of the season so the addition of Manning could make Miami and Manning think a Super Bowl is realistic. We should also mention Manning owns a condo in Miami.

Arizona Cardinals- Arizona was grossly disappointed in Kevin Kolb for many reasons. Head coach Ken Wisenhunt has no problem dumping a guy who has shown nothing in favor of a Hall of Fame caliber veteran QB (see: Warner, Kurt over Leinart, Matt). WR Larry Fitzgerald is a top three WR and is the main draw here along with the Cardinals playing in a dome. TE Todd Heap was once a top level player and could be rejuvenated with Manning. They don’t have much at RB as Beanie Wells has not lived up to expectations. They have some decent players on defense and play in a weak division.

Seattle Seahawks- This is a total dark horse team, but think about it. Pete Carroll is a players coach and will totally let Manning do whatever he chooses on the field. RB Marshawn Lynch is locked in for four years and WR Sidney Rice should be 100% come training camp. They also have a solid TE in Zach Miller. Plus, according to Sports Illustrated, Seattle has the checkbook already open.

Lets not forget their X-Factor in all of this. Manning is not a big fan of change so expect him to bring some friends with him. Reggie Wayne will more than likely sign with whomever Manning does. This is the spot where I tell you that Wayne went to college at Da U. Any of these three teams would be more than happy to add Manning’s favorite WR and maybe also C Jeff Saturday and possibly even WR Pierre Garcon. I know Garcon seems random, but don’t be surprised if Manning behind the scenes asks any potential suitor to bring in Garcon as well. Garcon was not franchised by Indianapolis and is a free agent. He may very well resign with the Colts, but why would he not entertain an offer from Manning to join him on his new team.

The question still remains, where will Manning sign.

Everyone else 10%
Seattle 15%
Arizona 25%
Miami 50%

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

NLL Game Balls and Power Poll- Week 9

The second half of the National Lacrosse League season is underway as team begin the final push for the playoffs. After a short break for the All-Star game, the Power Poll is back and once again we have a lot of movement. First, lets hand out some game balls from the weekend.


Mike Accursi, Rochester- The veteran had two goals and an assist in the fourth quarter including the game-winner against Philadelphia. He finished with three goals, four assists and five ground balls.

Kevin Croswell, Washington- Croswell was peppered with 50 shots against the Rock on the road and turned away 41 of those. He held Toronto to just four goals in the first half as the Stealth were able to build a three-goal halftime advantage.

John Grant, Jr., Colorado- Junior has assumed his weekly spot here again this week. Grant had nine points on four goals and five assists including his 500th career goal. He became only the third player in NLL history to score 500 career goals, joining Bandits forward John Tavares and NLL legend Gary Gait.

Ryan Benesch, Minnesota- Benesch netted two second half power play goals en route to a seven point night leading the Swarm over Calgary.


1- Colorado Mammoth 7-1(Last Week 1). Colorado just continues to stream roll the league. They did have the one hiccup against Calgary, but there is no stopping John Grant, Jr. who may be having the best season of his career which is saying a lot seen as he has been on top of the league for the last decade.

2- Calgary Roughnecks 5-3 (3). Calgary's three game win streak was halted by Minnesota over the weekend. I was tempted to drop them behind the Swarm, but Calgary is still a better overall team.

3- Minnesota Swarm 5-3 (4). The Swarm have made an impressive rise up the Power Poll this season. Through the first half of the season, no team has been more surprising than Minnesota.

4- Rochester Knighthawks 4-5 (9). No one in the East is playing well right now, but the Knighthawks are 2-1 over the last couple of weeks. Their one loss came to Toronto, but they have struggled as well. Toronto has lost Philadelphia who just lost to Rochester so any of these three teams can take this spot.

5- Philadelphia Wings 4-4 (5). Still can not get a good read on the Wings. They had a big win over Toronto, but followed it up with a loss at home to Rochester. Unfortunately, week in and week out, bad Philly can show up just as much as good Philly.

6- Toronto Rock 4-4 (2). The Rock got hammered by Washington who has not been that great this season so Toronto gets slotted behind Rochester and Philadelphia. At this point, the East is a three-team race, but not sure which team is ready to step up.

7- Edmonton Rush 2-4 (6). The Rush haven't played since Feb. 24 with a home win over Philadelphia so we will dub them the best of the rest. Out of the bottom three, they look to be the team most likely to make a run in the second half.

8- Washington Stealth 2-6 (7). Washington snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over Toronto on Saturday. The Stealth had a lot of potential to start the season, but just don't look like a complete team.

9- Buffalo Bandits 2-5 (8). Things are just ugly in Banditland. They have lost five straight and as I mentioned in the preseason, it looks like age is catching up to Buffalo. They did trade for Anthony Cosmo although they already had an All-Star goalie in Mike Thompson. Unless they plan to deal Thompson for some help on offense, the season may be done for the Bandits.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

NLL Midseason Awards and Playoff Projections

With the National Lacrosse League All-Star Game coming up on Saturday in Buffalo, its time to hand out some midseason awards and update the playoff predictions.

Midseason Most Valuable Player- Jon Grant, Jr., Colorado. If you need me to explain this, you haven't watched much lacrosse. Junior is having one of his best season's which is saying a lot for one of the all-time greats. He is either leads the league in goals and points and second in assists and power play goals. On top of that, he is leading Colorado to an undefeated record and has done a great job working with a lot of young talent.

Midseason Offensive Player of the Year- John Grant, Jr., Colorado. Again, no contest, see above.

Midseason Defensive Player of the Year- Pat McCready, Rochester. The veteran is top 10 in loose balls among all runners and one of the top scoring defensemen with 12 points.

Midseason Transition Player of the Year- Geoff Snider, Calgary. Snider leads the league in loose balls and faceoffs won.

Midseason Goalie of the Year- Chris Levis, Colorado. Levis has been a great story for the undefeated Mammoth. He is second in the league in goals allowed and save percentage and leads the league with six wins.

Midseason Rookie of the Year- Adam Jones, Colorado. The Canisius alum leads all rookies in goals, assists and points. His 15 goals is tied for 6th best in the league.

Midseason Coach of the Year- Bob Hamley, Colorado. There were a lot of questions coming out of the Rockies on what exactly to expect from the Mammoth this year. The answer was not a whole lot. Hamley has been masterful at meshing veterans with some very talented rookies to be the class of the league at the midway point.

Midseason prediction: East Final- Philadelphia 10, Buffalo 9

Midseason prediction: West Final- Colorado 14, Calgary 10

Midseason prediction: Champions Cup- Colorado 15, Philadelphia 11

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

NLL Game Balls and Power Poll Week 6

A little late this week, but with some off field news going down on Monday and Tuesday, I wanted to wait and see what was going on. On field, the games have been very unpredictable, which has made this season one of the most exciting and for some very frustrating. Off field, a huge trade that very well could shake up the league balance in the second half of the season came down earlier this week.


Ryan Benesch, Minnesota: The All-Star has scored a hat trick for the fouth time this season notching the game winner Friday night in the second-longest game in NLL history as the Swarm beat the Edmonton Rush 10-9.

Jeff Shattler, Calgary: Shattler gave Calgary a two-goal lead late in the fourth to seal the win over Washington. He finished with a game high four goals, an assist and a game high 12 loose balls.

Evan Kirk, Minnesota: Not one, but two strong rookie goalies for Minnesota. Kirk got the start Sunday after Tyler Carlson played in the marathon OT win over Edmonton. Kirk turned away 46 shots and surrendered only six goals, including just one over the final 28 minutes.

Drew Westervelt, Philadelphia: Westervelt had two fourth quarter goals, the first was the eventual game-winner 13-12 and then he made it 14-12 100 seconds later which proved to be the difference after John Tavares scored on a penalty shot. Westervelt finished with three goals, one assist and five loose balls.


1- Colorado Mammoth 5-0(Last Week 1). A well deserved week off for the leagues only undefeated team.

2- Toronto Rock 3-2 (2). Also a week off so Toronto stays put.

3- Calgary Roughnecks 3-2 (3). Calgary defeated a struggling Washington team by one goal after two straight losses in OT.

4- Minnesota Swarm 3-2 (8). The Swarm get the nod here for two wins over the weekend. Both rookie goalie's now have stepped in with wins as Evan Kirk held Rochester to just six goals on Sunday. There is a lot of young talent on this team which is quickly gaining confidence.

5- Philadelphia Wings 3-2 (9). Good Philly showed up with a big win over Buffalo. Unfortunately, week in and week out, bad Philly can show up just as much as good Philly.

6- Edmonton Rush 1-3 (7). The Rush fell to Minnesota in overtime, but they get the #6 spot for their win on Monday by trading for Paul Rabil. They gave up Athan Iannucci who would not suit up for the Rush. Rabil's arrival may propel the Rush into the top half of the league.

7- Washington Stealth 1-4 (5). Washington has struggled on offense this season but did get a lot of help with the Iannucci trade. He is one of the most explosive scores in the league of the last decade although they had to give up the best transition player to get him.

8- Buffalo Bandits 2-5 (6). The next three weeks are not going to be fun for the Bandits. No games until March 3. Maybe in that time they can figure out how to get out of their uncharacteristic funk with a rare four-game losing streak.

9- Rochester Knighthawks 2-4 (4). Not a good weekend on or off the field for the Khawks. We will see if they are at full strength when they host Washington on Saturday. If not, things could get worse.

Monday, February 06, 2012

NLL Game Balls and Power Poll Week 5

After five weeks, we know Colorado has established themselves as the elite team in the National Lacrosse League. After that, the other eight teams are hovering around .500. What teams are primed for a run over the next few weeks? That is hard to tell. Toronto has played better, but has some key injuries. Washington got their first win, but will that propel them into a win streak? Rochester snapped a losing steak and Calgary had the weekend off and their matchup with Washington this weekend is crucial for both teams.


Matt Roik, Toronto: Roik has 38 saves and allowed only six goals vs. Philadelphia. He shut out the Wings in the second half and only allowed two goals in the second quarter.

Rhys Duch, Washington: Duch was clutch scoring the game winner in OT in Buffalo. He finished with four goals and four assists.

Cory Vitarelli, Rochester: Vitarelli had two fourth quarter power play goals, both of which put the Knighthawks ahead with his final one being the game winner. He finished with four goals and three assists.

John Grant, Jr., Colorado:
Junior continues to be on a record scoring streak with another eight points this weekend. He finished with three goals and five assists along with five loose balls.


1- Colorado Mammoth 5-0 (Last week 1). Colorado is off to their best start in franchise history. John Grant, Jr. continues to put tons of points on the scoreboard and the rookies are playing like seasoned veterans. Jordan McBride and Adam Jones each had hat tricks.

2- Toronto Rock 3-2 (2). Toronto is averaging 14 goals game over their three-game win streak. An impressive stat considering Toronto is missing Colin Doyle (lower body injury) and Blaine Manning (broken collarbone). The Rock defense looked solid shutting out the Wings in the second half over the weekend.

3- Calgary Roughnecks 2-2 (4). Calgary was idle this week and looking to snap a two-game losing streak.

4- Rochester Knighthawks 2-3 (8). The Khawks snapped their losing streak with a solid home win over Minnesota. Their three loses have been 4th quarter breakdowns so if they can clean that up, they will stay in the top half of the league.

5- Washington Stealth 1-3 (9). Washington finally got in the win column picking up the victory on the road in Buffalo, possibly the toughest barn to play in. They got balanced scoring this weekend and a road win against the Bandits may be what they need to get started this season.

6- Buffalo Bandits 2-3 (7). Buffalo has dropped three games in a row. The Bandits have been slow out of the gate the last few games and have been playing from behind. Mark Steenhuis leads the Bandits in penalty minutes with 26 and has two game misconducts. They need the goal scoring Steenhuis to make a comeback.

7- Edmonton Rush 1-2 (6). The Rush ran into the hottest team in the league in Colorado this weekend and both losses are to the Mammoth. Still not sure what to make of them yet.

8- Minnesota Swarm 1-2 (5). Minnesota played well on the road in Rochester, falling by two goals. It does look like the Swarm has an emerging star in Jordan MacIntosh who posted his first career hat trick in the same town he played his college ball.

9- Philadelphia Wings 2-2 (3). The Wings got hammered by Toronto 15-6. Ouch. They have looked solid in their two wins, but down right awful in their two losses. They have lost by a combined 19 goals and have only scored 41 goals this season. This is a team desperate for an identity.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Super Bowl XLIV Prediction

The two weeks between the conference championship games has proved that it is way too much time to hype a game. So far, I have heard every analyst tell me their thoughts on Rob Gronkowski’s ankle, yet, no one decided to ask a medical professional about how the injury will affect him. I’ve heard a QB have to answer questions about his older brother even though his older brother didn’t play this year, while little brother had a career year leading his team to the Super Bowl. I have heard another QB bag a division rival’s local hotels and spend way too much time defending himself for his opinion, which he is entitled to have. Lastly, I have been told if I am rooting for the New England, I am disrespecting the Giants and if I am rooting for New York, I am a Patriots hater. So, which one am I?

First off, the Super Bowl they played four years ago is irrelevant. The game they played in the regular season is irrelevant. What each did in the conference championship games is very relevant. Both teams got very lucky breaks to get here. New England at least should have been in OT if not for Billy Cundiff fanning on a chippy. If not for a novice punt/kick returner not knowing to stay away and then protect the football, the Manning brothers would both be watching from a suite. Either way, both found a way to win a game they probably should have lost.

Cool Super Bowl stat: Giants coach Tom Coughlin was an assistant on Bill Parcells Giants staff when they won Super Bowl XXV. Patriots coach Bill Belichick was the Giants defensive coordinator that year.

Cool Super Bowl stat 2: This will be the Giants fifth Super Bowl. This is Belichick’s fifth Super Bowl appearance as New England’s head coach. Both the Giants and Patriots under Belichick are 3-1 in those Super Bowls.

Tight Ends: For those thinking Gronk will be a factor need to remember high ankle sprain’s are not fully recovered in two weeks. If he does play, sitting for 30 minutes at halftime will be a struggle because that ankle will tighten up. Don’t be surprised if he is a non-factor. Without a healthy Gronk, the Patriots are not at full strength, putting more pressure on Brady and the rest of the WRs and Hernandez to step up, which will be difficult seen as New England doesn’t really have an outside threat at WR. The Patriots will focus on the Giants’ top three WRs leaving Jake Ballard the possible breakout performer making him the most effective TE in this game. (Before you send me hate mail. Yes, I know he is the least TALENTED, but we are just talking one game.)

Quarterbacks/Offense: By Tom Brady’s own admission, he was not good in the AFC championship. Eli Manning is playing the best football of his career. Manning was the best 4th quarter QB in the league this season. Without his top threat and facing a better pass rush, Brady will not be the normal Brady. He will put up good numbers, but he may also put up a few INTs. Manning has a full arsenal of healthy WRs and a better running game. For tomorrow, Eli will be the better QB. (Again, no hate mail, yes, Brady is a Hall of Famer, just not tomorrow.)

Defense: The Giants ranked 27th overall and the Patriots 31st. New York has four studs that can rush Brady. New England has Vince Wilfork and not much else. The Giants have an above average secondary. The Patriots sometimes are forced to play a backup WR Julian Edelman at corner. Seeing this, who do you think will have an easier time making plays in the pocket? Again, not historically, not who is the Hall of Famer, who will be better tomorrow knowing this…Eli Manning.

Random Super Bowl nugget: Each Super Bowl champion since 2000 has had an above average QB and at least two defensive players who could be game changers and disrupt an offensive flow. Only one team in Sunday’s game has both. That’s the Giants.

Prediction: Tom Brady will have 300 yards and three TDs, but his best weapon will be limited and the Giants offense will be able to put up more points on the Pats defense. New York 35, New England 31.

Monday, January 30, 2012

NLL Game Balls and Power Poll #4

Please visit Buffalo Stuff to read my weekly National Lacrosse League Power Poll and Game Balls

This week(Jan. 30)

Prior Weeks
Week 3 (Jan. 23)

Week 2 (Jan. 16)

Week 1 (Jan. 9)

Friday, January 13, 2012

NFL Divisional Round Picks

After a 3-1 wild card weekend, I am feeling pretty good heading into this weekend. All four matchups can easily be toss ups, but after breaking them down, I think we can forecast the winners.

New England vs. Denver, Saturday at 8 p.m. on CBS
Yes, I understand the Patriots won the regular season matchup with a lopsided final score. Fact is Denver shredded the Patriots on the ground in the first half, but Denver fumbled the game away in the second half. New England’s defense is the worst in the NFL and the Broncos offense is much more efficient. I like the Broncos passing game against Pats D. Add to this that Tom Brady does not do well under pressure, expect the Broncos to bring the house at him with Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. New England has lost their last three playoff games and in each, the offense has been awful. Back-to-back home playoff losses only add to the pressure on the Patriots who haven't defeated a team that finished with a winning record this season.
Denver 17, New England 14

New Orleans v. San Francisco, Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on FOX
The 49ers are the best defense in the NFL, but the Saints have the most dangerous offense in the league. I don’t think the Saints will hang 600 yards on the Niners as they did last week vs. the Lions. RB Darren Sproles will be the X-factor in this game. If Drew Brees can find him in open spaces, he will have a big day. New Orleans has struggled against the power run game and Frank Gore will be looking to get a lot of touches. This may turn into a shootout and San Francisco just won’t be able to keep up. Drew Brees can’t be slowed down, even if the field is not in top shape.
New Orleans 34, San Francisco 24

Baltimore v. Houston, Sunday at 1 p.m. on CBS
These two teams had a great game in the regular season with Baltimore winning with a strong fourth quarter. That game also featured Matt Schaub, not T. J. Yates. The Ravens defense is too skilled and disciplined to allow a third string QB to beat them. Baltimore has struggled lately in the playoffs, but that was on the road. Ray Lewis wants another ring and will not let his boys settle for anything but a strong home showing.
Baltimore 21, Houston 16

New York v. Green Bay, Sunday at 4:30 p.m. on FOX
Three weeks ago, this would have been an easy pick: Green Bay. The Giants have been playing outstanding football the last month. QB Eli Manning has looked like an elite signal caller and his WRs have made huge plays. The Giants defensive line has played big during this stretch as well. The Packers have been the best team in the NFL all year and QB Aaron Rodgers has been light years ahead of defenses in 2011 and will put a lot of points on the board. The Packers defense is not strong and give up tons of yards so if it is a battle of offenses, I have to side with the discount double check.
Green Bay 38, New York 31

Friday, January 06, 2012

Wild Card preview

Before we take a look at what is going to happen this Wild Card round, lets take a quick review of how my predictions from August panned out:

I correctly forecast the Buffalo Bills at 6-10 (yes, I will pat myself on the back, especially after not wavering during their hot start).

Preseason predicted AFC Playoff teams:
1- San Diego (ok, I did drink the kool-aid on Norv Turner. Never again.)
2- New England
3- Baltimore
4- Indianapolis (this was pre- Manning surgery)
5- Pittsburgh
6- Houston

Preseason predicted NFC Playoff teams:
1- Green Bay
2- New Orleans
3- Dallas (I should have known Romo and a Ryan brother would fail me.)
4- St. Louis (This may have cost Steve Spagnuolo his job.)
5- Atlanta
6- Detroit

Baltimore 20, San Diego 17

Green Bay 35, New Orleans 31

Green Bay 24, Baltimore 20

I am sticking with my conference champions and Super Bowl teams. How they get there will be a different story.

Cincinnati @ Houston
For the first time in the Super Bowl era, two rookie QBs will be starting. Although Cincy’s Andy Dalton has been the starter since day one and Houston’s T. J. Yates is the third starter for the Texans this year, the Texans get the nod. Houston has a stronger defense and a better running game. The Bengals defense will struggle to keep Arian Foster in check. Houston 24, Cincinnati 14

Pittsburgh @ Denver
Pittsburgh took their regular spot in the playoffs, this time as a wild card while Denver limped into the playoffs despite winning the AFC West by default. It seems kind of silly for a 12 win team to have to go on the road to play an eight win team, but we did see a seven win Seattle team defeat a much better New Orleans team last season in the Northwest. History will not repeat itself. Pittsburgh’s defense is too disciplined and will force Tim Tebow to beat them with his arm which he is not able to do. Big Ben is hurting, but we have seen him be spectacular in the postseason so the Steelers are the pick. Pittsburgh 16, Denver 6

Atlanta @ New York
Atlanta had a very good season with a balanced offensive attack. New York struggled a bit late in the year, but started to gel at the right time. The last time they did that, they won the Super Bowl. QB Eli Manning has been playing like an elite signal caller and the Giants will ride his arm to the next round. New York 28, Atlanta 24

Detroit @ New Orleans
This will be the most exciting game of the weekend. Well, if you like defense, you may want to divert your eyes. Drew Brees and Matt Stafford combined to pass for more than 10,500 yards and 87 TD passes. Whichever defense makes the first stop (as in a punt, turnover or field goal) will win. I think I trust the Saints defense just a little more. New Orleans 45, Detroit 38

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Game Balls and Penalty Flags- Regular Season Final

The 2011 NFL season is in the books and the playoffs await. But, before we look at the matchups, lets honor some outstanding performers and of course condemn some others.


Eli Manning, QB NY Giants: Manning showed he is one of the best in the league as he put his team on his shoulders going 24 of 33 for 346 yards three TDs and no picks.

Victor Cruz, WR NY Giants: Great find by the Giants personnel department. A fantastic season capped by six catches for 178 yards including a 74 yard score to start the game.

Rob Gronkowski, TE New England: The Amherst native completed the greatest statistical season by a TE with eight grabs for 108 yards and two touchdowns. He set NFL records for yards and TDs by a TE this season.

Drew Brees, QB New Orleans: Brees passed for 389 yards and five TDs as the Saints end the season on an eight game win streak. Brees set records for passing yards with 5,347, 468 completions, and completing 71.6 percent of his passes, breaking his own 2009 NFL record 70.6 completion percentage.

Matt Flynn, QB Green Bay: The Packers sat soon-to-be MVP Aaron Rodgers and his back-up did his best discount double check with 480 yards and six TD passes. Flynn wins the 2011 Matt Cassel award as some team will grossly over pay for him to be their starter next season.


Rex Ryan, Head Coach NY Jets: If Rex is going to run his mouth in March that the Jets will win the Super Bowl, the least he could do is actually make the playoffs. The Jets under achieved and that rests with the head coach. They needed a win against the division rival Dolphins and laid a collective egg.

Rob Ryan, Defensive Coordinator Dallas: Ryan's defense was awful down the stretch and failed to keep the Giants out of the end zone in crunch time. Eli Manning and co. racked up over 450 yards of offense against Ryan's swiss cheese D.

Stevie Johnson, WR Buffalo: One step forward, eight steps back for Johnson. He keeps saying he is going to be more disciplined, then pulls another stunt to throw off his team. Johnson scored a TD only to show a "Happy New Year" sign on his undershirt drawing a flag. Then, he was benched for violating a team rule essentially put in place because of him.