NFL14: Week 12 Matchup Predictions

D Gulley from The Shop Report with this week’s NFL Picks.

As the playoff picture really starts to take shape, there are some who are already in grave danger of missing out.  Let’s see how week 12 looks for the teams.

Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) @ Oakland Raiders (0-10)

  • Against better judgment, I picked against the Chiefs last week vs the defending champs.  The Chiefs league best pass defense and punishing running attack should make themselves at home in the Black Hole keep the Raiders winless this week.

Pick CHIEFS

Cleveland Browns (6-4) @ Atlanta Falcons (4-6)

  • Both of these teams are worse than they should be; the Browns had better exploit the league’s worst pass defense (especially with Josh Gordon’s return) because the running game may have a tough time against the top 10 run defense of the Falcons. I’m taking the Falcons.

Pick FALCONS

Tennessee Titans (2-8) @ Philadelphia Eagles (7-3)

  • Every game counts; and margin of error decreases at week 10.  Philadelphia and Chip Kelly know this – which is why they’ll win this one handily vs the Titans who had everything slip away (including their momentum) last Monday.

Pick EAGLES

Detroit Lions (7-3) @ New England Patriots (8-2)

  • The best overall defense in the league travels to Foxboro in what could quietly be a Super Bowl matchup.  I actually like the Lions to win this game in Foxboro.  Stranger things have happened (the tuck rule… oh wait…) Still, I’m going with the Detroit.

Pick LIONS  

Green Bay Packers (7-3) @ Minnesota Vikings (4-6)

  • The Vikings claimed Ben Tate off waivers from Cleveland this week and he plays running back; not corner back, or safety.  Aaron Rodgers is Green Bay’s quarterback.  See the problem that the Vikings haven’t solved?  Good for Tate to become a feature back, but wait until next week perhaps for it to spell a victory.

Pick PACKERS

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) @ Indianapolis Colts (6-4)

  • I have no idea what the Jaguars can do to mimic the Patriots who visited and thrashed the Colts last week in Lucas Oil Stadium.  Furthermore, I haven’t seen Luck and company ever play the same type of bad game two weeks in a row.

Pick  COLTS

Cincinnati Bengals (6-3-1) @ Houston Texans (5-5)

  • I’m struggling to figure out why the Bengals beat the Saints but won’t beat the Texans, I’d like to not make a gut feeling about this one.  Thank you Ryan Mallett, your running game and receiving core, and the front 4 on defense for bailing me out.

Pick TEXANS

New York Jets (2-8) @ Buffalo Bills (5-5)

  • This is going to be a bit of an emotional game for the city of Buffalo, where The Day After Tomorrow poured mountains of snow on the city and on a serious note, some people have died as a result.  This will be a rallying cry for the team to play Grade C football, which is all it takes to beat the Jets.

Pick BILLS

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8) @ Chicago Bears (4-6)

  • I’m going with the Bears and to continue to correct the ship, and win another one at home.

Pick BEARS

Arizona Cardinals (9-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (6-4)

  • I like the Seahawks to win this game at home, getting back to their old ways and figuring out how to win despite their lingering Lynch problem . Still, a loss this week doesn’t mean that the Cardinals aren’t still the best, it’s just that you can’t win them all.

Pick SEAHAWKS

St. Louis Rams (4-6) @ San Diego Chargers (6-4)

  • The Chargers need it more, and the playoff (and legacy) window is closing quicker by the week.  Expect the Chargers to defy the “Any Given Sunday” axiom and beat an inferior Rams team.

Pick CHARGERS

Miami Dolphins (6-4) @ Denver Broncos (7-3)

  • Since this is a home game for the Broncos, I expect that they’ll win this on that advantage alone.  Miami doesn’t turn the ball over a lot, but they don’t score a lot either.

Pick BRONCOS

Washington Redskins (3-7) @ San Franciso 49ers (6-4)

  • The only player more toxic on a team than Marshawn Lynch is for Seattle is RGIII for Washington. Compound that with a visit to San Francisco, with a league leading 16 interceptions and you have a victory for the Niners

Pick 49ERS

Dallas Cowboys (7-3) @ New York Giants (3-7)

  • Their team standings run parallel to each team’s progression.  The Cowboys are truly an elite team, and the Giants era of greatness is just about over.  The Giants do force a good deal of INTs but unfortunately, Eli Manning is giving them right back (if last week is any indication).

Pick COWBOYS

Baltimore Ravens (6-4) @ New Orleans Saints (4-6)

  • The Saints do not like the AFC North because they match up too well with them (reference losses to the Browns, and Bengals).  The Ravens are tougher than both of those teams, and I think Monday night will be another example, especially given the injury situation.

Pick RAVENS

BYE WEEK: Pittsburgh, Carolina

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Oklahoma City Thunder

I don’t usually deviate from my blog script, but last week’s blog about the L.A. Clippers instead of the Oklahoma City Thunder was, in my estimation, absolutely necessary given the fact both the Clippers’ and Lakers’ are the talk of the town despite OKC holding the best overall record in the NBA at 28-8. It’s not to say OKC is not worthy of conversation, it’s just not Hollywood;- and we all know Hollywood rules!! So they say.

As I just mentioned, the OKC Thunder are a league best 28-8, but I hate to have to be the one to tell you that an NBA Championship is not in the cards for the Thunder this year, and this time it won’t be because of David Stern. This OKC team reminds me-in many ways- like the 2006 Dallas Mavericks. A team that scores in bunches (105.7 per-leads the NBA), shoots well from the 3-pt line(39.6% also 1st-NBA), 1st in ft% at 84%- which is a crucial element come playoff time- and are 3rd overall from the field at 48.9%. These are the types of offensive numbers that can win you a regular season and maybe a playoff round or two, but is it enough to win it all? That’s the million dollar question. Let’s not forget: Live by the jumper, die by the jumper; anyone who watches the NBA knows Durant, Westbrook, and Kevin Martin are all volume shooters!!! No matter how much of an offensive threat a team is, establishing an inside presence and defense are key components to winning a title.

When it comes to rebounding the ball, the numbers are contradictory to say the least. They rank 24th overall in offensive rebounding with 379 (lg avg-417), and 7th in defensive rebounding with 1182. This contradiction gets lost in the fact that OKC is 10th in the league in pts allowed at 96.5. I’m not suggesting that defense is totally absent in OKC, i’m merely pointing out the fact that offensive rebounding deficiency has a funny way of rearing it’s ugly head the further you advance in the playoffs. The game is shortened and slowed down in the playoffs; long jumpshots lead to long run-outs for the other team.

Free-throws are not only playoff crucial, but it’s an area where the Thunder(84%-NBA best) don’t have any worries as long as they can maintain it during the pressure packed moments that each playoff round brings. Despite all the fancy, more games are won/lost at the free-throw line than they are by taking jumpshots. Look it up.

OKC on paper can run/outrun any team that’s put in front of them on any given day. The absence of Ibaka’s 14.3 per/g on the inside, Westbrook’s ability to make good decisions and control “game tempo”, and Durant posting up like Dirk in 2010, will not only have their fans’ “running for the exits”, but send OKC home with another silver medal.

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Los Angeles Clippers

If you’re a fan of basketball the way it was intended to be played, the L.A.Clippers’ are the team you must absolutely root for. Not because they just recently completed a league best 17-game win streak, or because they are affectionately referred to as “Lob City”, nor the fact that they are 4th in pts allowed (93.1) and 7th in pts scored (101.9); You must root for this team simply because of Chris Paul.

I have always said that no matter how much scoring is increased and dunks are lauded, in order to win an NBA Title a team must have a facilitator, and Paul fits the description to a tee. For all you stat geeks, Paul is 48%fg, 89%ft, 91stl(thru 35 gms), 104 d-reb — yeah, defensive reb!!–, 326ast, and 199 3-pt att; which tells me he’s selective and not just jackin’ em up.

The question remains, can the Clippers win come playoff time? Yes. As long as Paul stays healthy. More important to me than numbers is Paul’s ability to control tempo on both ends of the floor and keeping everyone else in their natural order. While most NBA fans were marveling at the 17- game win streak, I was more impressed with how Paul was determined to let the Warriors’ know that there would be no ” 3rd time’s a charm” after losing twice to Golden State this season before putting on a clinic in a 115-89 victory this past Saturday. Avenging the losses to the Warriors’ mattered more to Paul than the fantastic win streak; that’s the mindset mandatory for the playoffs.

The Clippers’ will go as far as Paul takes them; hopefully to a new building next year if nothing else. They’ve clearly outgrown the Staples Center.

Given not Earned

The foul on Kevin Durant in Game 2 of last year’s Finals that should’ve been called, coupled with the fact that Durant- supposedly one of the NBA’s biggest stars- stayed in foul trouble for the entire series, I didn’t think there was much more Stern and the league could do to make me feel like the game I grew to know and love was becoming highly suspect. After watching the Heat lose for the second time this season to the Knicks (both by 20 pts) who were without Carmelo this second go round, I’m now convinced more than ever before that last year’s title was in fact given and not earned.

The sports’ world says the Heat are the best because they have the most talented team in the league; I say they’re the best only in namesake. It’s the zone defenses teams play that allow for luxury spacing not afforded to guys like Jordan, Bird, or Magic when they played. Teams’ like the Spurs’, Knicks, Grizzlies, and Clippers have proven just what kind of squad Miami has because they’re not intimidated. For some strange reason, the Heat are suffering from ” Title-itis” and ” turn it on, turn it off.” Only the Lakers’ were successful at turn it on, turn it off; because Phil was masterful at coaching ego’s.

Growing up, sitting down to watch an NBA game between the Milwaukee Bucks with Terry Cummings, Jack Sikma, Paul Pressey, and Sidney Moncrief vs. the 76ers with Andrew Toney, Charles Barkley, Dr.J, and Mo’ Cheeks was the thing to do. Some might say it was mandatory. Now I watch the NBA cause there’s nothing else to do. It has become a league more concerned with instant gratification and how it looks instead of playing for the purpose of reaching the pinnacle. That’s bad news for the fans’, bad news for the NBA, and bad news for David Stern- all because it was given and not earned.

A Disserviceable Obligation

NBA commissioner David Stern has done to his league what Jim Buss has done to the Lakers- cut his nose off to spite his face, by straight-up power trippin’. How else do you explain Stern imposing sanctions on the Spurs for not playing their stars’ against the Miami Heat in a nationally televised T.N.T broadcast, when there is no said policy against such practices- used often by the Spurs in the past- prior to the Spurs/Heat matchup; which turned out to be quite the contest despite Manu, Duncan, and Parker being sent home. Where is the basis for such a horrendous “disservice” to the fans’ committed by Popovich? If what Popovich did was such a disservice, then please Mr.Stern, tell this fan how last year’s Finals couldn’t, and shouldn’t be also described as such? Two of the current NBA’s biggest stars ( Durant/LeBron) face off against each other in the pinnacle of NBA basketball, and ” the fans” in Oklahoma City were done a disservice when Durant basically stayed in foul trouble for the entire series. I don’t recall hearing Mr. Stern talk about obligation then.

It is the obligation of the person to understand that the word disservice is a two-way street; not a one-way, my-way or the high-way.Especially if the product in question is the NBA and it’s integrity. Not many folks would have been upset had you spoke as vehemently about why the Spurs had to play on the road at Miami with the Heat having rested for a week, and themselves having played 5 road games prior to the Nov. 29th contest.

Because today’s fan is over saturated with too many three’s, and players’ more concerned about making the ” top-ten”, Stern has to fabricate this new brand of basketball to try and make it appealling in a way that is reminiscent of the past. When the game had guys like Jordan, Bird, Magic, Kareem, Hakim, Dominique, and Reggie, substance was the style; now it’s all style and no substance. I know the dunk is a beautiful sight, but from a fundamental standpoint the WNBA is much better. The Indiana Fever shot 57 of 60 from the free throw line in this past season’s WNBA Finals against the Minnesota Lynx for the entire series; that’s unheard of. And if you’re thinking that’s because it’s women vs. men, i’ll tell you the free-throw line is not gender specific. My point is, Stern should be worried about the quality of play -or lack of- that is the current NBA. Jordan’s Bobcats not getting Anthony Davis, bad scheduling, and trying to force feed fabricated stars’ upon the intelligent fan is far more a bad thing, and not at all a good thing. Stern should be worried that as a fan, I come away from watching today’s NBA saying to my self, ” some things are never better than their predecessor.”

The Misery- Tality of Cleveland Sports’

I’ve been a Cleveland sports fan for practically my entire life. In all those years’ of fandom and blind loyalty I could never have forseen a time when I would be embarrassed to make such a claim.Not because our teams’ are, and have been abysmal, but because of the fickel (Cleveland) fan and the “Lovable Loser” mentality that -in my estimation- has more to do with the culture of losing than the mis-management from those who reside in the front office.

Do the Dolan’s, Shapiro, Shurmur,Holmgrem,Chris Grant, and Byron Scott deserve their fair share of blame from the Cleveland fan and media alike? Of course. But who’s to blame for the Browns’ being worth a billion-dollars after more than a decade of horrible football!?

For example, in the “tip off” section of the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s sports page (11/11/12), the columnist who writes the section is sounding off on the firing of former Lakers’ head coach Mike Brown. This columnist claims to understand that firing Brown was necessary due to the Lakers’ poor start to the 2012-2013 NBA season. 0-8 in the pre-season, 1-4 (at the time this blog was intially supposed to written) to start the regular season, yet the columnist felt that Brown deserved more time to see if his putrid Princeton offense was right for a Laker team that was missing two of it’s key off -season acquisitons in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash due to injuries. It doesn’t take a rocket scientst to realize that even with a healthy Nash and Howard, Mike Brown still needed to be fired. Only in Cleveland is it a question whether or not “Pat Brown”, or “Mike Shurmur” should be fired. The Princeton offense is designed for teams’ who don’t have the athleticism of a Howard, or the shooting ability of a Nash. Mike Brown got Mike Brown fired – not Nash and Howard’s nagging injuries.

Last but not least, the columnist finishes the short passage by saying, ” I wish Mike Brown were still here.” Why!? So the Cavs’ could try and surpass being one of only three teams in NBA history to win 66+ games (72-73 Celtics,06-07 Mavs) in a season and not win the title!!? I’m sorry, but that’s absurd. A friend once asked me, ” what do you do on Monday’s after a Browns’ loss? My reply was practical; ” When I was 10, crying was the order of the day; now that I’m in my forties, I get up and feed my kids!!!!!! It’s time for Cleveland to accept some accountability in this ongoing sports’ misery. Who do you think Browns’ owner Jimmy Haslam is going to listen to? A fan base that would gladly accept LeBron back, or the group of investors’ who helped pay for this mess? For the columnist to say, ” I wish Mike Brown were still here” tells me that mediocre is okay if you’re a nice, or locker-room guy. Games are not won in the locker-room. Mediocrity should be unacceptable regardless the size of the market your team plays in. Thus, the Misery-Tality of what is Cleveland Sports’ continues…

Browns’ Dysfunction

I turned on the t.v. yesterday to watch the Cleveland Browns’ take on the Buffalo Bills in what I thought would surely be a Browns’ victory based on the somewhat decent play in their first 2 games of this 2012 season; I was wrong.As usual. Words can’t describe how pitiful a job -yet again- this team does in representing a fan base that is world-wide.This team has no business being in the NFL. What concerns me more than the decade+ losses is the lack of direction in this organization from top to bottom.When you’re already in next year’s draft talk after only 3 games,and have been in that talk for 13 years,Why come back as a team? A friend of mine said to me,we should have got a new team with a new name and new colors in 99′. Now it’s startin’ to make sense.

The Browns’ have had more difficulty since their return in 99′ trying to establish an identity as an organization,than any other NFL team I can recall.What’s really scary is that the coaches,players’,and front-office people my change,but the results are the same.Here are a few examples of what I mean:

(1) Childress/Shurmur -not sure which- have no feel for “GAMEFLOW” play calling.Understanding when to call the play is essential to that play’s execution more often than not.

(2) Weeden’s passing attempts after 3 games (115) vs. Richardson’s rushing attempts (50) makes me wonder why so many “play-action” passes were called.Play fakes don’t work if you’re not producing in the run game;or at least attempting to.

(3)Greg Little’s U-Sain Bolt impersonation after making a scoreless catch tells me that a)he suffers from delusional grandeur-itis,and b)has a false sense of entitlement. In which case it speaks more to the ineptitude of the coaching staff than Little’s overcompensatory so called self confidence.

(4)Just because Trent Richardson has the ability to make people miss doesn’t mean he should have to so on every play.Kinda hard sometimes to tell how bright the student is,or can be, if the teacher has brain lock.

(5)All the mental miscues,and not being prepared is a direct reflectionof the coaches.It’s high time the Browns’ brought in a coach who understands that maybe,just maybe, adapting his system to the player(s) is more beneficial than the player(s)to the system.

All in all, if the Browns’ are to ever experience true success as a winning organization, owner Jimmy Haslam’s shoulders must be strong enough to bare the burden of making it so.

Ticket Request Denied

I am amazed that Browns’ fans’ haven’t realized by now that unlike the regimes’ in years past -since 99′ anyway- Holmgren&Heckert will not be bullied by them nor the media (especially Cleveland’s)into making the popular choice.Holmgren said give him three full drafts when he first walked through the doors out in Berea and I aim to do just that. As a matter of fact, Holmgren told the Cleveland media in a press conference after this past season not to ask for playoff tickets when(not if)they get this abysmal franchise turned around.

For the first time since 99′ the Browns’ have in Holmgren & Heckert a GM and President who truly understand that no matter how dynamic a player is, or his draft position, any player can be hit or miss.Therefore,minimizing that risk is the number one priority no matter what the people think. As much as I would have really enjoyed seeing RGIII in a Browns’ uniform,I’m okay with the Browns’ choosing not to give up “foundation blocks” in order to get him.

Former Browns’tightend and Ravens’ GM Ozzie Newsome is a perfect example of why success can still be attained without “mortgaging” for one guy.Haloti Ngata,Chris McAlister,Terelle Suggs,Ed Reed,Jamal Lewis,Todd Heap,Michael Oher,Ray Lewis,Ben Grubbs,Joe Flacco,and Jimmy Smith were all impact players’ who were drafted;Jamal was the only one of that group selected as high as fifth.And not in any case did Ozzie have to trade 3 or 4 for one!! Heckert got 5-for-1 in last year’s draft with Phil Taylor being the headliner.Would it have made any good Grandma’s worth of sense to turn around and give up 3-for-1 this year? Who’s doin the pickin’ and spendin’ is far more important than how many picks,or how much money there is to spend. Yes, McCoy’s arm is weak;So is his supporting cast relative to the other 31 q.b.’s who had at least one skill player that d-coord’s made sure they knew where that guy was at all times.Don’t expect a master carpenter to build you a mansion when all you gave him was a shovel….. Cleveland.Holmgren&Heckert are now doin’ the fleecin’,when for as far back as I can remember we were the one’s geting fleeced.

The same Cleveland fans’ who were in an uproar when the Browns’ didn’t give up what the Redskins did to get RGIII, are the same fans’ who complained when Mike Brown decided to sit LeBron the last few games of the 2010 NBA season after winning 61 games!! “Fence Straddling” can cause severe bodily harm.Ya’ll better not ask for playoff tickets!!!

Next Time: Only Phil Jackson can coach the Knicks