Sunday, January 12, 2014

NFL Playoffs - Division Round Sunday

Saturday, I went 1-2 in my picks, with Seattle taking care of business at home vs. New Orleans, and Bill Belichick reminding everyone why the Patriots are still the team no one wants to face in the playoffs. Last Sunday, I went a perfect 2-2, so does history repeat itself today for me?

Sunday's games:

San Franscico 49ers vs. Carolina Panthers (10:05 am PT/12:05 pm CT, FOX) - If last night was a great defensive schowcase for the Seahawks, then this grudge match between San Fran and Carolina will be a showcase between two of the best, most physical defenses playing. Carolina's top linebacker Luke Kuechly has been terrific in his 2nd year in the pros, and the Panthers boast the second best defense in the NFL (301.2 yards/game). San Fran is no pushover, boasting a shutdown front seven, ranging from Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks to Justin Smith and Patrick Willis. The two QB's are a part of the new school-style of playmakers who have a good arm, a great run game, and can keep plays alive with their legs - Colin Kapernick and Cam Newton. The last time these two played, it was Week 10, and the game was a low-scoring affair and the Panthers won 10-9.

My pick: 49ers - This team is getting better and healthier at the right time. Michael Crabtree is back from injury, and the offense is probably one of the best on the postseason with Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis in the air and Frank Gore on the ground. And in a game of physical D, I trust Kap to make the big plays to get the victory.

San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos (1:40 pm PT/3:40 pm CT, CBS) - Everthing on paper screams Denver should take care of the surging Bolts today: Wes Welker, who's been out with a concussion for the last 6-7 weeks with a concussion is at full strength, as well as cornerback Defensive Backs Champ Bailey and Dominic Rodgers-Cromarte. Our go-to power back Ryan Mathews is a game-time decision with an aggrivated knee injury. Denver boasts the best offense in the history of the NFL with a total of 600+ total points scored. Manning has 5477 yards passing, breaking Drew Brees's single-season record two years ago, and has thrown for 55 touchdowns, also a new single-season record. And he has limitless weapons at his disposal - Eric Decker, Julis Thomas, Knowshown Moreno, Demaryus Thomas and Welker. Add to the fact that Manning wants to atone for last year's AFC Divisonal game debacle where Baltimore tied the game and played two overtime matches for them to get the victory and eventually win Super Bowl XLVII. There should be no chance in Hell that San Diego pulls off, what would be, the biggest upset in recent postseason memory, right?

My pick: Chargers (UPSET) - ....And yet, that's exactly what I think they could do. Why???? Because San Diego has Peyton's number. They're 2-0 vs. Manning in the playoffs, including one in the Divisonal round in 2008, back when he was with Indy and boasted superior firepower as well. Phillip Rivers is 6-2 all time as a starter when playing at Invesco Field and the defense is playing great football with the return of pass rusher Melvin Ingram. There's something about this team that knows what they're up against and know full well that they don't stand a chance, and yet, they don't care. They're playing with house money and have nothing to lose. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round Saturday

Now, we've widdled the teams down to 8: Denver, New England, Indianapolis and San Diego from the AFC, and Seattle, Carolina, San Francisco and New Orleans from the NFC. Last week, I went three for four in my picks and I went with a system of splitting up the games that between the two days given, and I'm going to do that again today. Onto the picks!

Saturday's games:

New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks (1:35 pm PT/3:35 pm CT, Fox) - Last week, Drew Brees finally won a road game, beating the Eagles 26-23. This week, he and his high-powered offense have a much bigger task: playing in the nosiest, most hostile environment in football that is CenturyLink Field, and playing perhaps the toughest defense in the NFC. Seattle's coming off a bye-week, and now face the task of figuring out how to better protect their QB, Russell Wilson from the Saint's very tough front seven. 

My pick: Seahawks - To me, this team has just too good a running game (Marshawn Lynch is a beast) and too deep on defense to let Brees pick them apart. He has the weapons on offense, but I'm not sure how he - or players like Jimmy Graham and Marques Coleston will fare against the league's best passing defense (just 172 passing yards given up per game). 

Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots (5:15 pm PT/7:15 pm CT, CBS) - Like most of us, I was surprised how Andrew Luck led his Colts from a 20+ deficit and beat the Chiefs 45-44 last Saturday. This week, he'll be squaring off against Tom Brady and a Patriots team that's quite simply not the same, frightening team we've seen in year's past: Wes Welker left to play with Denver, Rob Gronkowski is out with a torn ACL, and Aaron Hernandez is standing trial for murder. The good news is that Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton will be out for tonight's game; not because he's injured, but because Bill Belichick will make sure he's as much of a non-factor as possible.  

My pick: Colts - Like I said, New England doesn't scare me like they have everyone. Brady doesn't have the same offensive firepower, and although their defense is decent, I believe in the abilities of Andrew Luck and that Trent Richardson will come alive - or, at least, give Indy some resemblance of a running game.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Remembering James Bond. James Bond Omnibus Volume 5.

James Bond Omnibus Volume 5. *** 1/2 /*****

There's no question that the 9 strips written in the mid 70's that make up Volume 5 are not the high point of the James Bond comic strip. Bond battles a giant ape, coincidentally in a strip that came out in 1976 the same year as the big budget King Kong remake, mechanical birds and sea dragons. The shortest strip in the entire series,  The Wizard Awakes makes no sense and some of the characters seem to completely change appearance. Also in the strip "Hot Spot" Bond saves the life of the US Secretary of State. Though unnamed it doesn't take a genius to figure out from the SOS's appearance it's Henry Kissenger. Coincidentally James Bond is such a "secret" agent that when ol' Henry is told his plane is safe to take off he surmises it was Bond who stopped the plan to blow the plane up.

However it must be said Volume 5 closes on a high note. The last 3 strips The aforementioned Sea Dragon, Death Wing and The Xandu Connection are all strong strips. The Xandu Connection in particular is a favorite of mine amongst the later strips. The 70's saw the growth of feminism and it's handled here in a way you'd expect a James Bond comic strip written and drawn by 2 men to be handled. In Sea Dragon a militant feminist group, really an all female criminal group using feminism as a guise, creates a giant sea dragon to try and kill all of the partners of an Oil consortium so they can take it over. It's actually a decent comic strip and like all of the strips contained here, and from here on out, and really since the strips contained early in volume 3 uses the "feminist" group as just a reason to draw lots of bare breasted "birds". In fact it must be said the plots of the Bond comic strips in the Express from 1970 until they ended in 1983 seem to revolve around ways to show naked breasts. Again it shows the difference in culture between America and Europe. Honestly I am not exactly sure how the drawings of topless women could traumatize our youth. Just as these stories make it plain that just coming up with reasons to draw topless women in and of itself won't make for a great story.

James Bond Omnibus Volume 5 *** 1/2 out of ***** There is one more Omnibus left Volume 6 do out later this year.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

NFL Playoffs - Wild Card Weekend Part II

Well, thanks to the Chiefs defense not even showing up in the 2nd half, I'm 1-2 so far in my Wildcard picks. On to tomorrow's slate of games!

Sunday games

San Diego Chargers vs. Cincinnati Bengals (10:05 am PT/12:05 pm CT, CBS) - This match up honestly has all the makings of a blowout waiting to happen: On paper, Cincy's stacked with talent, on both sides of the ball. Just the names A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and BenJarvis Green-Ellis scare the crap out of me, going up against what has to be the worst San Diego Secondary I've ever seen plus a mediocre front seven that should be better than how they've played (especially how Defensive Linemen like Corey Liuget & Kendall Reyes had breakout seasons last year, and not lived up to expectations this season). And defensively, Linebacker Vontaze Burfict and Defensive End Michael Jordan are excellent pass rushers. Also, add how the Bengals are a perfect 8-0 at home, how my Chargers basically lucked into the postseason, thanks in part to terrible officiating during the waning seconds of the Kansas City home game, the fact that this team is ranked 3rd in total defense this year, and how the home team hasn't won a postseason game since 1991 & would love to get that monkey off their back, and it should add up to a swift exit for San Diego.

My pick: Chargers (UPSET) - Yes, I'm basing this in blind faith because I am a Charger fan, but also because this Bengals team relies on whether or not QB Andy Dalton will be terrific and throw for 300+ yards, or be the guy who throws interception after interception. He has thrown 33 TD's and over 4200 yards, but he's also thrown 22 interceptions, and can be erratic. Plus, for some reason, the Bolts have played their best when the odds are increasingly against their favor this year. Also: I love the play by Phillip Rivers this season - quick passes, fresh wide outs like rookie Keenan Allen, RB Danny Woodhead and two terrific TE's: the legendary Antonio Gates, and his protege, Ladarius Green. Lastly, RB Ryan Mathews has finally come into his own as a power back, giving this Charger offense more balance. Again, this is just blind faith because it's my team, but I really do feel that San Diego's going to surprise on Sunday.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers (1:40 pm PT/3:40 pm CT, FOX) - Aaron Rodgers came back at the right time for Green Bay. Thanks to some last second heroics in Chicago, the Packers won the NFC North crown at 8-7-1 and are now poised to do damage. Rookie RB Eddie Lacy has been a beast, with over 1100 yards rushing and 10 TD's and WR Jordy Nelson has been terrific as well, with 1300+ receiving yards and 8 TD's. Meanwhile, San Fran's been on a hot streak coming in, winning 6 straight to capture the third playoff berth under Jim Harbaugh. Colin Kapernick, who didn't have quite the season many expected after his breakout year which ended with a trip to last year's Super Bowl game, but nevertheless had a solid sophomore season with 3100+ passing yards and 21 touchdowns, coupled with finally having an elite no.1 wide receiver in in Anquan Boldin, stellar playing by tight end Vernon Davis and running back Frank Gore, and great guys on defense - nose tackle Justin Smith, and pass rushers Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith, and we have a team that's going to be difficult to beat, regardless of venue and weather conditions.

My pick: Niners - This one's almost a no-brainer for me. Rodgers maybe back from injury, but I doubt they'll be able to cool off this team, which really shows little to no signs of slowing down one inch.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

NFL Playoffs - Wild Card Weekend

For the first time in the playoffs that I can remember, each team comes into the postseason with some sort of baggage - none more so, than on Wild Card weekend. As I go through this weekend's match-ups, these picks feel like crap shoots due to the fact how these games can go either way, and it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest.

Saturday's games:

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Indianapolis Colts (1:35 PM/3:35 CT, NBC) - In one corner - the Colts have won four of the last five games to close out the regular season and have won their first AFC South crown under head coach Chuck Pagano and QB Andrew Luck, and their second trip to the postseaon in two years. Despite losing their best WR in Reggie Wayne for the year and not having much of a run game (Indy's pickup of RB Trent Richardson from the Browns hasn't paid dividends), Luck has still found ways to win ballgames with the lackluster talent he has at his disposal. Also, the Colts' D under defensive coordinator Grey Manunsky has performed exceptionally well, especially the prodution from veteran OLB Robert Mathis leading with 19.5 sacks this season. In the other corner - the Chiefs, under Andy Reid, have experienced a major turnaround from last year's dismal 2-14 season. First, they've finally found much needed stability at the QB position with Alex Smith. He doesn't have the completion percentage or QB ratings like with a Peyton Manning or Phillip Rivers, but he doesn't make too many mistakes with the ball (only 7 picks this year) and he has a great supporting cast of talent at his disposal, from wideouts Dwayne Bowe and Dexter McCluster to a potent run game with Jamaal Charles. Unfortunately, Kansas City's really cooled off, from being unbeaten at the break, to going 2-5 since. Add in injuries to core defensive plays Linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, and their defense went from being the best and most feared in the AFC, to banged up and losing that fear factor.

My pick: Chiefs - I like what Luck has done this season, but there's just not enough offensively for me to back them. KC's going to have fresh starters (Reid rested his key starters last week vs. San Diego) and they're getting back at least Houston as their pass rusher. I see Smith continuing to play solidly and a big game by Charles against an average rushing Indy D.

New Orleans Saints vs. Philadelphia Eagles (5:10 PT/7:10 CT, NBC) - Amazing the difference one year can do for a team that was trending downward. Owner Jeffrey Lurie fired Reid after 14 seasons with the Eagles and coming off his worst season as a HC, going 4-12 in 2012, and facing uncertainty with Michael Vick as their starter. In comes former Oregon Ducks coach Chip Kelly with his spread offense and a promising QB in Nick Foles who took the reins when Vick wend down with another injury, and the Eagles end up winning 10 games and clinch the NFC East on the last week of the season at Dallas. Even more impressive than the first-year head coach winning a division crown and Foles' being a surprising success is the fact that the Eagles (with WR's Riley Cooper and DeSean Jackson, TE Brent Celek, RB LeSean McCoy) have an offense that rivals Drew Brees's and Manning's. Speaking of New Orleans, the Saints took a tumble the last five games of the season, losing the lead on the NFC South and a potential bye week as the no.2 seed in the NFC playoff seeding (that went to Carolina). Adding insult to injury, the Saints have historically had problems winning away from the Superdome (they're 3-5 on the road in the postseason). Still, Brees and his arsenal (WR's Marques Coulston and Kenney Stills; TE Jimmy Graham; and RB's Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles) can still do serious damage. I'm expecting a shootout, even in the cold weather at Philly.

My pick: Saints - Philly's had an amazing run, but Foles is an unproven QB playing in his first postseason game, and Kelly's defense is going up against one of the elite passing attacks in football. Did I forget to mention that the Eagles on defense are dead last in opposing passing yards (289.8/game) and 29th in yards allowed (394/game)?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Final Score
          24                             19

Nebraska finishes the 2013 season filled with injuries, controversies and strife with a 9-4 record and a win over the unbeatable SEC. But of course since about 2:30 Central time Georgia wasn't any good to begin with right? Nice way to end the season and it will make for a much nicer off season no doubt.

Gameday #13 Gator Bowl Edition. VS

Happy New Years! Well for Nebraska fan it's not been the happiest...on the field anyway. Still for all of the lows, injuries and controversy there's Nebraska playing in a New Years day bowl. A particularly good one? maybe not and yes so is North Texas and UNLV. Still there have been some fine moments. The hail mary the wins over Michigan and Penn State that only became average wins after Nebraska won them...before that they were games Nebraska had no hope of wining.

Look on paper Georgia is the better, more talented team. But these games aren't played on paper. Human action involves human emotion. And emotions are hard to read in a bowl game. Georgia has a QB playing his second game ever. Nebraska has a QB with little more experience. Will either team be excited to play this game? Especially Georgia who has sent players home and has been hit by the flu. In other words there is a shot for Nebraska to end the 2013-2014 with a 9-4 record and a nice memory. Last year Georgia was much better than Nebraska and didn't put them away until late in the game and this year in the rematch nobody wants the difference isn't as stark.

This is the last chance to root for Nebraska football until the summer, well not counting the spring game in April so even though I know it goes counter against everything Nebraska fan believes in they might as well get behind the team and believe.

Count's Krystal Bawl
Nebraska 31
Georgia 24

Total Pageviews