Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2012 NBA Thru The First 4 Weeks

By Keith Antigiovanni

There is a logjam in the highly competitive Western Conference four weeks into the 2011-2012 season.
The West has 10 teams over .500 and only eight will qualify for the playoffs in April.

 The perennial playoff contending San Antonio Spurs (12-7) are in first-place in the Southwest despite Manu Ginobli's absence due to injury the past three weeks. Ginobli will be back in three weeks while the Spurs try to stay in contention.The defending NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks (11-8) have gotten off to slow a start and are a game behind the Spurs. The Memphis Grizzlies (10-7) also trail San Antonio by a game. The Houston Rockets (10-8) are in fourth place.

The Oklahoma City Thunder lead the Northwest and West overall with a 15-3 record followed by the Denver Nuggets (12-5), Utah Jazz (10-5) and Portland Trail Blazers (11-7). Oklahoma City is coming off an appearance in the Western Finals last year.

The Los Angeles Clippers (9-5) lead the Pacific thanks to the Chris Paul trade followed by the Los Angeles Lakers (10-8) who are also off to a slow start. The Lakers are in their first year under former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown.

The Eastern Conference is not as competitive so far with the Miami Heat (13-5) leading the Southeast followed by the Orlando Magic (12-5) and Atlanta Hawks (12-6). Miami is trying to get back to the Finals after their falling to the Mavericks in six game the previous year.

The Chicago Bulls (16-4) lead the Central followed by the Indiana Pacers (12-5). Like the Thunder, Chicago is also trying to get back to the conference finals and is off to a fast start.

The Philadelphia 76ers (12-6) lead the Atlantic over the struggling Boston Celtics (7-9) and New York Knicks (7-11).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

BCS National Championship Game

By Keith Antigiovanni

Alabama's 21-0 rout of conference rival LSU was impressive as the Tide dominated in all three phases: offense, defense and the kicking game. Despite the fact that Alabama is probably the best team in the country but the fact that they made the BCS Title game creates more uncertainty.

I dont like the idea of two teams from the same conference in any sport, professional or amateur meeting in a championship game. The purpose of conference and a conference championship game is to decide a champion and I do not have a problem with an "At-Large" team qualifying for the post-season and getting its' way to a title game.

What I do not like is an "At-Large" team getting voted in or voted in to a championship game. This defeats the purpose of what competitive sports is all about. If you dont agree then look at the facts:

1) Alabama did not win its' division
2) Alabama did not win its' conference
3) Alabama did not win any playoff games to qualify for the National Title Game

What did Alabama have going in its' favor?
1) Alabama plays in the SEC
2) The voters believe Alabama was better than all other teams beside LSU

The #2 item Alabama has going for it demonstrates that the current system is not legitimate because there is no way objective way to "know" if Alabama was a better team than #3 Oklahoma State for example. The teams did not play, each played a conference schedule and each played an out of conference schedule.

In a way the Alabama-LSU game not only discredits the BCS but takes the luster off the SEC's incredible string of BCS Titles going back to 2006. At least in the five previous years the SEC Champ played a team from another conference. This years' game proved that Alabama was the best team in the SEC.

BCS Title games 2006-2010:
2006: Florida 41, Ohio State 14
2007: LSU  38, Ohio State 24
2008: Florida 24, Oklahoma 14
2009: Alabama 37, Texas 21
2010: Auburn 22, Oregon 19

One of the main arguments for an Alabama-LSU game is the BCS believes in putting the "best two teams" on the field but this has not been true in professional sports since there have been times when teams from the same conference or division have played and before the final and again there is no way to know who the top two teams are without a true playoff.

Final question is did Alabama-LSU make the title game because they are the two best teams or are they the two best teams because they made the title game? College football has become circular reasoning.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Denver Broncos Win AFC West title!

By Keith Antigiovanni

The Denver Broncos are 2011 AFC West champions and in the playoffs for the first time since 2005 when Mike Shannahan was the Head Coach and Jake Plummer was the quarterback. The thing football fans are asking about this is How did they do it?

Possible reasons are:
1) Tim Tebow
2) John Fox
3) Improved defense
4) Improved special teams
5) easy division

While many will claim that Tim Tebow is the main reason for the Broncos success this year there were many factors. First-year Head Coach John Fox is an underated coach who achieved maximum success in his 9 years at Carolina going 73-71, three playoff appearances, 2 NFC Title games and a Super Bowl appearance in 2003. The Bronco fans pressured John Elway and John Fox into starting Tebow.

Fox was able and willing to change his offense to suit Tebow after a 1-4 start with Kyle Orton. The fans were calling for a quarterback change and Tebow was able to energize the team. The new offense featured a conservative running game of Tebow and Willis McGahee to control the clock. The defense led by defensive end Elvis Dumervil, rookie linebacker Von Miller, veterans Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins knew they could not afford to give up many points and played well after the quarterback change.

Because of the end result Fox should be considered a Head Coach of the Year candidate when no expected Denver to be in the playoffs or much less challenge for the division title. The weakness of the division was also in the Broncos favor as the Kansas City Chiefs fired their Head Coach and suffered numerous injuries to key players. The overhyped, talented San Diego Chargers continued to underachieve under Norv Turner and the dysfunctional Oakland Raiders.

The big question regarding this season is if the 2011 campaign is the beginning of a resurgent Broncos team in the 2010's or is it an anamoly based on random factors? Another question is whether or not Elway and Fox want to keep Tebow as the starter or will they draft/sign another quarterback for the future.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

NFC/AFC South Final Regular Season Standings

By Keith Antigiovanni

NFC South
After 17 weeks the 2011 Regular Season came to an end this week for all eight of the Pro Football's eight divisions.

The New Orleans recaptured the NFC South title with a 13-3 record as quarterback Drew Brees broke Dan Marino's single season passing record (1984) this year. The Saints are also in the playoffs for the fourth time in six years since the franchise began its' resurgence in 2006 following the Hurricane Katrina disaster and an near move out of the city.

The Atlanta Falcons (10-6) are also returning to the postseason for the first time in their 46-year history. Atlanta has also posted four straight winning seasons for the first time in franchise history under Head Coach Mike Smith. Smith is now 43-21 in four years with an NFC South title (2010) but hopes to make progress in the postseason this year after early playoff exits in 2008 and 2010.

The Carolina Panthers (6-10) made tremendous strides this year with rookie quarterback Cam Newton. Newton broke the rookie single season passing record but the Panther defense will have to improve by next season if Carolina hopes to challenge either New Orleans or Atlanta next year.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers(4-12) began the year with promise starting 4-2 but the bottom fell out as the Bucs' dropped 10 straight games which lead to Head Coach Raheem Morris' dismissal last week. Morris had an up down three years in Tampa going 3-13 in 2009, then 10-6 in 2010 and 4-12 in 2011. It is unclear who will replace Morris and what the overall direction of the franchise will be.

AFC South
The Houston Texans (10-6) clinched their first division title in the 10-year history of the club. Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips helped the league's last-ranked defense in 2010 become one of the best defenses in 2011. Unfortunately for Houston, their top two quarterbacks and top pass rusher are out for the season. Houston also dropped its' final three games after the defense carried the team down the stretch. The Texans will play in their first playoff game with third-string quarterback TJ Yates with former Carolina Panther as the backup.

The Tennessee Titans (9-7) had a successful year with first-year Head Coach Mike Munchak. The Titans played well down the stretch winning three of their final four games but a loss to the Colts in Week 15 was enough to knock the team out of playoff contention. Quarterback Matt Hasselback did a fine job for the Titans and will be the starter until rookie Jake Locker is ready to play.

The Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11) were one of a few teams that had a turbulent 2011 season. They began the year by waiving longtime starter David Garrard and then starting rookie Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert predictably struggled as the offense ranked near the bottom of the league. The Jags original owner Wayne Weaver sold the team near the end of the year but not before he fired longtime Head Coach Jack Del Rio. The Jags won 2 of their 3 games after Del Rio and showed some promise under Interim Head Coach Mel Tucker.

The Indianapolis Colts (2-14) had their worst season since 1991 when the team went 1-15. Without Peyton Manning behind center this 2000's dynasty was woeful and inept. The Colts used three different starting quarterbacks :Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky. None of which came close to replacing P.M. and the Colts almost blew the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft with back-to-back wins over Tennessee and Houston. Manning's future with the club is uncertain now that General Manager Bill Polian was fired the day after the season.