Browsing Posts published in September, 2012

Eli Manning and the Giants head to the City of Brotherly Love to play the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday night. Which NFC East power will take home the win?

The NFL odds couldn’t be any closer for this matchup, with the Eagles favored by just one points at a majority of sportsbooks.

New York has an excellent shot at winning this game and moving their record to 3-1 though. And that mainly has to do with the play of Eli Manning.

Manning has orchestrated a passing attack that’s ranked second in the league at 325.7 yards per game. Despite a mediocre running game (100.3 YPG), Manning’s play has allowed the Giants to have the third-best team offense in the NFL.

We knew Manning had taken a step up last season, but it’s still amazing to see what he’s doing on a weekly basis. He already had 1,011 passing yards and five touchdown passes through three games.

Life’s a lot easier for a quarterback out on the football field when you’ve got two stud wideouts in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks to rely on. The pair have accounted for over 500 yards of receiving already, to go along with two touchdown scores.

And, though the running game hasn’t been as prolific as Manning and company, Andre Brown’s emergence has given New York a nice one-two punch. Ahmad Bradshaw is set to return to the starting lineup this weekend, but coaches have already made it clear that Brown has earned himself a bigger role going forward.

These offensive guys will be the key up against the inconsistent Eagles on Sunday. Lincoln Financial Field will be rocking, but the Giants seem to be at their best when the odds, as well as the crowd, are against them.

With the NHL lockout set to continue for quite a while, franchises have started sending out their players elsewhere in order for them to keep up fitness.

Star Devil Ilya Kovalchuck has reportedly agreed to join up with SKA St. Petersburg, a team that competes in the Kontinental Hockey League. Kovalchuck was the NHL’s point leader last season, so you better believe the Devils made sure he had an opt-out clause in his contract when (or if) the lockout ever comes to an end.

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The NHL lockout has entered its second week and it’s not looking good. Negotiations between the players and the league have been sparse, and common ground has been hard to find. That’s why a number of players have already bolted overseas to join European clubs. One star that’s still making up his mind is Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist.

The New York Rangers goaltender was hoping to be in training camp at this time and preparing for a very important season. The Rangers ventured to the Eastern Conference final last season and then added Rick Nash to the roster in the offseason, so there’s plenty of excitement in the Big Apple. However, that’s been doused by the lockout and now the Rangers players are left to evaluate their options.

Experts making their NHL picks are expecting Lundqvist to make a move to the Swedish Elite League – if he does decide to play overseas. A recent ban on short-term contracts was lifted, so it is now more likely that Lundqvist goes back to his home country to play.

The problem right now is the players aren’t sure just how serious the owners are about a lockout. At this point, there’s no negotiating, so that’s why some players have already jetted away. However, some others are being optimistic as no regular season action has been missed yet and they feel like the lockout will only take place through the preseason.

As for the European clubs, some leagues have put a ban on short-term contracts as it tends to disrupt team chemistry (assuming that the players come back to the NHL at some point in the near future). They want to see a commitment from the NHLers, which is something they simply won’t do if the NHL gets back up and running.

Regardless, don’t be surprised if you see Lundqvist between the pipes in the Swedish Elite League in the near future. The NHL and NHLPA will have to get some serious work done in the next week or two to prevent that.

Love it or hate it–the NFL’s replacement referees are here to stay. For a little while longer, at least. For the last few months, the owners and Referee’s Association have been squabbling over $3.3 million in referee pension benefits. For some, it may seem silly for a league that generated revenues in excess of $10 billion last season. However, the owners are smart, savvy business men and won’t make a deal unless it’s right for them. It’s worth noting that the ‘regular’ NFL referees are part-time employees and have weekday jobs outside of football. The very best referees make in excess of $100,000 for working 16 or so games per year! That’s not a bad gig at all.

As a fan, the technicalities of the stalemate don’t interest me. However, most people fail to realize that the owners simply don’t care about the fans. They didn’t care during the lockout last season and they don’t care about the shortcomings of the officials this year. To them, it’s all about business and there’s nothing wrong with that. More importantly, the owners realize there is an inelastic demand for football and as consumers, we simply cannot get enough of it. The NFL is a catalyst for social gatherings, fantasy football leagues, gambling, and advertising. Football has become a major component of Americana–and we eat it up.

As much as some want to ‘petition’ or ‘boycott’ the NFL, their advantaces will fall on deaf ears. For most, watching football is an effortless hobby that temporarily removes the stresses of everyday life. No one wants to ‘work’ at his/her hobby. It should be an enjoyable experience.

While a few groups of fans may not have an impact, losing advertisers, TV subscriptions, or the interest of Las Vegas may force the owners to make a deal. Alike any business, money talks and the owners are always all ears. During last year’s lockout, the owners wised up and agreed to new a Collective Bargaining Agreement after a few of their main sponsors started to sour. It was reported that over $350 million dollars shifted hands after Monday night’s blown call. Some reports are even suggesting that some of Vegas’s biggest fish are refusing to bet until the ‘regular’ referees return. As much as the NFL pretends to frown on gambling, it generates a lot of capital on a secondary markets and is a key part of Americana.

For most fans, it’s time to face the facts–the Replacement Refs are here to stay–until something drastic happens. If Budwesier threatens to pull out of their deal with the NFL, expect to see Ed Hoculi’s 20-inch pythons in a city near you. However, that’s a drastic measure that’s unlikely to occur. Unless one side decides to budge, you may see your high school gym teacher refereeing an NFL game this weekend..

Already we’ve seen some large movement in the line between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots this weekend.

The opener had the Patriots favored by seven points on the road, but now that number’s at 3.5. Which side do we choose with our NFL picks?

Well, the Bills are on a roll now after a shaky opener. They were destroyed 48-28 by the New York Jets in Week 1 but have rebounded with wins over the Kansas City Chiefs (35-17) and Cleveland Browns (24-14).

The key to Buffalo’s success so far has been one of the NFL’s best rushing offenses. The Bills are third in the league at 178.0 YPG, but now have further injury problems to deal with in their backfield.

After Fred Jackson went down in the opener, CJ Spiller stepped up and was electrifying as the starter. However, he hurt his shoulder this past weekend and is likely to miss at least one or two weeks.

There are rumors going around that Jackson could be available for Sunday, but if he isn’t then Tashard Choice will get the bulk of the carries. Bills fans are surely praying to the football gods that Jackson will be able to suit up.

That said, New England has been pretty darn good against the run this season, so that should at least partially neutralize one of Buffalo’s biggest advantages coming in.

The Bills have certainly rebounded nicely, but they could be in for a long day against Tom Brady and company this Sunday. The Patriots are going to feel aggrieved by their loss on Sunday Night Football because of the poor officiating, and should come out with an extra fire, especially against a division opponent.

Either way, this is undoubtedly Buffalo’s biggest test of the season and could very well determine the fate of their season.

Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets barely escaped with a win last weekend, but now return home for a three-game stretch against San Francisco, Houston and Indianapolis.

It sure wasn’t pretty in Week 2 against the Miami Dolphins, but a win’s a win.

The Jets needed a Nick Folk field goal in overtime to get the victory, with Rex Ryan’s team again struggling to find their feet offensively.

Mark Sanchez passed for over 300 yards and a touchdown, but he threw two interceptions and completed less than half of his pass attempts. His final rating was 58.2.

The running game (33 carries for 88 yards) was also a mess. The highlight of the offense was the play of Santonio Holmes (nine catches for 147 yards) and Jeremy Kerley, who had two grabs for 73 yards and a touchdown.

It was also a pretty good defensive effort from the Jets, who hassled Ryan Tannehill all game long. However, Darrelle Revis was lost to injury and there’s a good chance he could be lost for the rest of the season. That’s a horrific blow to the defense.

Nonetheless, MetLife Stadium was mighty kind to New York in Week 1 as they tore up the Buffalo Bills 48-28. There’s zero chance of that happening against the 49ers, who will be out for blood after getting upset by the Minnesota Vikings last weekend.

Before making your NFL picks for the game, make sure to find the best value out there. Right now the Jets are classified as three-point underdogs, but you can also lock down three-and-a-half if you shop around.

It’s interesting to see New York as the underdog here, considering they’re at home and coming of a win, while San Francisco is on the road and reeling after a shock defeat.

That goes to show you that oddsmakers are really liking the 49ers to bounce back in this spot, but can the Jets spoil the party?

For years, New Yorkers have heard the hype surrounding the Yankees’ Killer Bs. The Yankee version of the Killer Bs consisted of Andrew Brackman, Manny Banuelos, and Dellin Betances. This group of Killer Bs has failed to live up to the hype, so New Yorkers have turned their attention elsewhere. After last night’s thrashing of the Panthers, New Yorkers have a new cast of Killer Bs–and they suit up for the Giants. Running back, Andre Brown, tight end, Martellus Bennett, and wide receiver, Ramses Barden were responsible for 341 yards of offense and scored all three Giant touchdowns.

Brown, who started for the an injured Ahmad Bradshaw, averaged 5.7 yards per carry and scored twice.  Brown demonstrated patience, following his blocks, and ripping off three plays of 20+ yards. Going forward, Brown should continue to start. It’ll be interesting to see what the Giants do when Bradshaw returns. Barden, who started for an injured Hakeem Nicks, grabbed nine balls for 138 yards. While Barden looked fluid and ran crisp routes, the Panthers constantly let him match-up against their undersized rookie corner. Barden, who is 6’4″, looked pretty good, but don’t pull a Kevin Ogletree and expect him to be the next big thing. Finally, Bennett has scored three touchdowns in three games. While many Giant fans made a big deal about losing Jake Ballard to New England, Bennett is making fans forget about him.

Elsewhere, the Giants defense made Cam Newton look oridinary, intercepting three passes and decking him for two sacks. Carolina’s option attack didn’t work and the Giants bottled up the Panthers, yielding just 60 rushing yards. Coming off a short week, the Giant defense knew it had to play with emotion to stop Newton’s offense–and they didn’t disappoint. On special teams, the Giants created two big turnovers that resulted in ten points. Safety Antrel Rolle left the game late with an ankle laceration, but isn’t expected to miss time. Corner Corey Webster also briefly left, but returned to the game.

It’s no secret that the Giants are dealing with their share of injuries. However, the Giants are showing their depth and prowess by inserting playmakers on both sides on the ball. Currently sitting on 2-1, the Giants have eleven days to get ready for the Philadelphia Eagles in Philly on Sunday Night Football.

The New York Giants had some question marks surrounding their team heading into their Thursday night contest with the Carolina Panthers. They had lost their regular season opener to the Dallas Cowboys, needed a wild comeback at home to survive the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then traveled to Carolina on a short week. Throw in the fact that they were without starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw, starting left tackle David Diehl and starting wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, and the Giants could have easily dropped to 1-2 against the Panthers.

Instead, the Giants showed up in a big way, pieced together their most complete effort of the season and easily dismantled the Panthers 36-7. Not only did their passing game look great with Eli Manning completing 27-of-35 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown, running back Andre Brown stepped in and ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

The Giants also won the turnover battle 5-0 and saw their defense show up big time, which will be crucial as they now prepare for the Philadelphia Eagles. Facing Cam Newton might actually give the Giants some extra preparation into handling Michael Vick, who is similarly a duel threat. The Giants held Newton to just 16-of-30, 242 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. They’ll need to similarly keep Vick in the pocket and force him to be a passer where he’s thrown six interceptions already this season.

The NFL odds makers have the Giants and Eagles as the current favorites in the NFC East so this matchup will be important. The Giants have already dropped one divisional game so they can’t afford to lose another. The good news is they’re heading into this all-important contest with momentum, extra time to prepare and rest, which should help them get the win.

Many people forget that during the New Jersey Devils run to the Stanley Cup finals last season, they did it without one of their key contributors: Travis Zajac. In order to accomplish that, a number of other parts had to step up and contribute. One such player who exceeded expectations and helped the Devils win the East was Stephen Gionta.

Gionta was an integral member in the Devils depth last season and was in turn rewarded with his first one-way contract in the NHL. Prior to last season breakout performance in the playoffs, Gionta had played just 13 NHL games and spend most of his time in the minors. He didn’t even play for the Devils until the final day of the regular season last year.

But one of the reasons the Devils were so pesky in the postseason was their fourth line, spearheaded by Gionta, Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter. Just ask the New York Rangers, who saw the Devils fourth line score key goals throughout the Eastern Conference final, including the pivotal Game 5.

And while Gionta was surely looking forward to his first one-way contract, meaning that he wouldn’t have to worry about the minors, he’ll unfortunately have to wait a bit longer. The NHL is currently in a labor dispute with their players and has since locked them out. The September preseason games have been canceled and the next key date everyone is eyeing is the start of the regular season.

Unfortunately, Gionta is in the same boat as fans, pundits and everyone else who makes a living off the game: we’re all victims. He’d love to go through the rigors of training camp and preseason knowing that he’s got a spot on the team but unfortunately he won’t get to taste that.

Nonetheless, Gionta will still be a key member of the Devils when the season does start – whenever that may be – and that’s all that matters in the end.

The Devils aren’t currently among many people’s NHL picks to win the Stanley Cup this season – or even make it back to the final – but maybe they’ve got some more surprises in store. After all, nobody believed they’d go so far last season.

The New York Rangers have had a banner offseason thanks to the acquisition of All-Star Rick Nash but they haven’t stopped just yet. On Friday, the team signed prospect Michael St. Croix to a three-year entry level contract.

St. Croix is a fourth-round pick for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft but he’s developed into quite the scorer. He tallied 45 goals and 60 assists in just 72 games last season with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League. He also chipped in 19 points in 20 playoff games as well.

Although many pundits still feel St. Croix is a ways away from competing for a roster spot with the Rangers, don’t underestimate the situation. It’s well-documented that the Rangers were short on scoring last season and while Nash will provide a big boost at the top end, secondary scoring could still be a concern.

The team is counting on continued growth from Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider, which would alleviate the problem, but nothing is for sure yet. The Rangers also thought Brandon Dubinsky would be a consistent scoring contributor and that never came to fruition.

St. Croix faces an uphill battle because the Rangers are stocked at the center position. Brad Richards, Stepan and Brian Boyle will man the top three spots while Jeff Halpern was signed to center the fourth line. Look for him to spend a couple more seasons in the juniors but if he continues to dominate the WHL – or does even better than he did last season – it wouldn’t be a shock if he got an audition.

With or without St. Croix, people making their NHL picks are taking the Rangers far more seriously this season as far as a Stanley Cup run is concerned because they’ve finally addressed their last glaring weakness.