Saturday, February 4, 2012

Don't Believe the Hype

After two weeks of all the hype, of all the talk, and of all the concern and worry of one man's ankle we have finally reached February 5th, 2012, the day of Super Bowl XLVI. Four years ago we were entertained by the same two teams in Super Bowl XLII where the New York Giants handed the then 18-0 New England Patriots an improbable defeat. With the help of the Giant front four putting constant pressure on Tom Brady and an amazing catch by unsung hero David Tyree, Big Blue pulled off the unprecedented upset that shocked the world.

 The Giants, led by quarterback Eli Manning, enter with several explosive offensive weapons at their disposal including Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, and Mario Manningham. On the defensive side the G-Men are led by defensive linemen Osi Umenyora, Justin Tuck, and freak athlete Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants are proving that it is not about how you perform in the regular season, but how you perform down the stretch. The Giants were a .500 team before rattling off two strong victories over the Jets and Cowboys. Facing the Falcons at home in the Wild-Card Round of the Playoffs, Big Blue held Atlanta to two points and comfortably won 24-2. Next for New York was a trip to the frozen tundra to take on the 15-1 Green Bay Packers. Luckily for the Giants, the Pack had not played in two weeks and their MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers had not played in three weeks after sitting out their season finale against the Lions. Green Bay was rusty throughout the entire game and Rodgers' timing was off significantly.The Giants took advantage of this and outlasted Green Bay 37-20. This took New York to San Francisco to take on the number two seed 49ers in a rematch of week 10's 27-20 Niners victory. In a thrilling game the G Men held on to win on a Lawrence Tynes field goal in overtime, set up by a fumbled punt return by replacement kick returner Kyle Williams.

New England finished the regular season strong as well, on an 8 game winning streak with there last defeat coincidentally coming to the Giants at home in week 9. Tom Brady had a banner season which included him throwing 39 touchdowns and 5235 yards. New England has their own set of offensive weapons that are headlined by wide receiver Wes Welker and their two headed tight end tandem in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Gronkowski was a freak to say the least this year and may have redefined the tight end position all by himself. Gronkowski caught 90 balls for 1327 yards and found the end zone for a record 17 times. The Patriots faced the "heavenly assisted" Broncos in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs and jumped out to an early lead. Tim Tebow and the Broncos just could not match score for score with the Patriots and fell 45-10. The only team standing in their path of Super Bowl XLVI was the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens, two years ago, embarrassed New England in the opening round of the 2010 playoffs beating them at home 33-14. Baltimore, this year, played the Pats tough until the end where the Ravens were in position to send the game in over time. Billy Cundiff went on to shank a 32 yard field goal and send Brady to Indianapolis where he will try to win his fourth championship of his historic career. During the game though, star tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a high ankle sprain which has put him in a walking boot for majority of the last two weeks. Rob's ankle was one of the most talked about topics in anticipation of the big game, but the Boston Globe reported on February 4th that Gronkowski was spotted walking without a limp and will absolutely play.

This year's game has a completely different feel to it rather than four years ago because of the confidence the Giants possess. Even though Vegas has the Patriots as 2.5 point favorites, the media seems to have given the G-Men the edge. Many sports bettors have the Giants over the Patriots, and most don't see the game being close at all. In my opinion I think this is best case scenario for the Patriots, as for the first time in a while they have slid under the radar and are the underdogs. Gronkowski will be limited, there is no doubt, but I feel he will be healthy enough to make an impact in the game. If Brady is given some time in the pocket and if the Patriots defense is able to contain Victor Cruz from breaking off one of his signature catch and runs I believe    New England will come home with the trophy and Brady with ring number four.

New England Patriots(-2.5) 24
New York Giants                20

Friday, January 27, 2012

State of the Knicks

This year's NBA Season brought a ton of hope to New York with their acquisition of highly talented center Tyson Chandler to help bring an interior defensive presence the Knicks have longed to have. What fans overlooked in this signing was that they had to amnesty their starting point guard Chauncey Billups, which means he is released from the team, but his salary is completely removed from the Knicks salary cap. This helped free up enough money for the Knicks to venture out and sign a big-player like Tyson. Last year Billups guided the Knicks to the playoffs where they were swept by the Boston Celtics. The Knicks competed for the first two games of the series until Billups and Amare Stoudemire suffered injuries that forced them to sit out or play at way less than 100%. Billups rehabbed over the off season and was determined to get the Knicks back to the playoffs, but the Knicks front office had other ideas. New York went out and drafted Georgia Tech Guard Iman Shumpert with the 17th overall pick in the NBA Draft. Many fans were stunned by this pick as the majority of Knick fans had thought they would draft power forward Kenneth Faried from Morehead State. Faried was pictured as that front line man that could contribute mightily to the defensive end, but the Knicks had other ideas and later signed Chandler.

Entering the season the Knick's starting lineup shaped up to be Toney Douglas, Landry Fields, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler. They faced the Celtics to open the year and were carried by the clutch made baskets by Carmelo as he ended up as the leading scorer with 37 points. Most were pleased with the victory although some saw this win as a sign of bad things to come. Towards the end of the game Mike Dantoni's high tempo offense was slowed by the Celtic's signature defense and forced isolation plays almost every play down the stretch, thus allowing the Celtics to creep back into the game. As the season progressed the disadvantage of no true point guard on the roster hurt the offense immensly. Neither Toney Douglas, Iman Shumpert, or Mike Bibby were capable of running the offense to its true potential which has resulted in their 7-12 record and 3rd place in the Atlantic Division behind the surprising 76ers and veteran Celtics.

With many calling for the front office to trade for Phoenix Suns assist machine Steve Nash, there is hope on the rise in the form of Baron Davis. Davis signed over the offseason after being amnestied by the Cleveland Cavaliers, but a herniate disk sidelined him for 10 weeks and he has yet to contribute at all to the team. The high tempo Dantoni offense runs to its strengths only when there is a point guard suitable to run those types of plays. Baron Davis ran that type of offense on the Golden State Warriors, under head coach Don Nelson, perfectly which helped them upset the number one seed Dallas Mavericks in the 2007 playoffs. Davis averaged 25.3 points, 6.5 assists, 2.9 steals, and 4.5 rebounds per game in those playoffs. If Davis could produce half of those stats for the Knicks they would be more than grateful and there record would rebound from where it currently is now. He has begun to participate in full practices this week and will most likely make his debut in a Knickerbocker uniform sometime next week.

Stephan A. Smith, an ESPN analyst for the NBA, reported this past week that the Orlando Magic had inquired about possibly trading highly touted center Dwight Howard for the Knicks starting big men Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. The deal would also send small forwards Hedo Turkoglu and Ryan Anderson to New York in order to even out the salaries being exchanged. If the Baron Davis experiment fails then the Knicks talks with Orlando will heat up intensely. Tyson Chandler cannot be traded until March 1st due to free agent signing rules and Dwight must be traded before the March 15th trading deadline so those two weeks should be very interesting. Adding Dwight Howard will also increase the Knicks chances of signing current New Jersey Net and future free agent Deron Williams to handle the point guard position next year as Deron has stated that Howard's signing will affect his decision on where to go next season. The next month will be must-watch as the state of the Knicks depends on it. Stay tuned until next time...