Len Cosell’s NFL Preview…(Horribly Late Unfortunately)

For the sake of arguing and such, I know it’s Week 2. I wrote this just before Week 1, but never got around to posting it.

Len Cosell’s back…not that I really went anywhere. So the lockout’s over (in the NFL) and we’ve got football. A few Week 1 thoughts before I get to the brass tacks which all of you are reading for…my predictions. (Smile.)

A) I remain baffled at how Tony Sparano not only kept his job, but earned a two year extension he might not be around for after the scrimmage that was their Monday Night opener. Oh and cutting the guy who couldn’t keep Wes Welker from going the length of the field…really not doing much when there’s still 10 other guys from that All-Swiss Cheese Defense still around. (Swiss Cheese = Full of Holes)
B) Tom Brady’s sick of hearing about Aaron Rodgers being the best in the league, when he’s still packing more rings than Aaron. (One wedding band to Gisele, three Super Bowl rings.)
C) After Sunday night, I’m moderately more jacked about the Jets.
C2) I’m full blown set on the notion that until the Giants shitcan Coughlin, I’m through with em’. No way should they have let W-rex A Million kill their obsolete secondary with guys who other than perhaps Santana Moss, haven’t been relevant since COLLEGE!!!
D) In spite of what Oakland did to Denver and have continued to do since last year against the AFC West…oh, let me hold this thought.
E) If you’re a Colts fan, PANIC. PANIC NOW. Because short of that defense going absolutely LIGHTS OUT in a biblical sense, the Colts are finished. They will go from double digit wins to double digit LOSSES in a season and honestly, if they’re out of it by the end of next month and Peyton’s ready to come back…he cannot come back. Seriously. Indy’s paying for not taking Peyton’s heir in April’s draft (honestly, they could’ve snatched Mallett and been SET…but New England aka ‘What San Fran Should’ve Been Well Into The 90s But Weren’t’ did) and now, they’re stuck.

So…let’s get on with it shall we? This year, I’m doing a little something different. I’m going with division winners in the order by which I’m certain to that which I’m absolutely uncertain of or just am outright indifferent/apathetic about. AFC West – San Diego SuperChargers. SD will not sputter out of the gates as they have in prior years and be forced to have a ‘SuperCharged’ finish. With virtually nobody looking their way, I really think they’re gonna shock folks. (Pardon the pun.) While I’m still ??? on their RB from Fresno State, Rivers is still Rivers. On top of that, it’d be remiss of me if I didn’t state that if the Bolts DON’T return to the playoffs and make a deep run…Norv’s probably gonna need to turn in that playbook.
NFC North – (Chris Berman tone) The Green Bay PACKERS. They’re the best team in this division and it’s really not even close. Seriously. If you put everyone on an even keel, healthwise and all, they’re the most talented team in the division. There will not be a Super Bowl hangover with this team and unlike the last QB who took the reigns from a Hall of Famer, he’s not gonna be a one and doner. With Grant and Finley back, this offense will be absolutely hellacious. Their defense remains intact for the most part and just looking at this division as a whole (Chicago’s gonna take a huge step back, Minnesota’s gonna go as Donovan does and too many folks are high on Detroit for me to say they’ll live up to it), I just cannot see them falling off that steep. They want it. Aaron wants it to put the naysayers to bed and live up to the hype he’s been getting since last February.
NFC East – Dallas. My disdain and hatred of Philly aside, this isn’t as close as most think. Names aside because Philly’s got a lot of em’, Dallas has the better team. In December when seasons are ended and extended, I trust Dallas a helluva lot more than I do Philly for this reason. Dallas has the better offense and on defense as they displayed on Sunday before Romo’s implosions, their defense under Rob Ryan will be hellacious. Vick’s got his $$$, but that offense is a bit overrated in my opinion. I don’t see Desean Jackson as anything more than a slightly more talented version of Devin Hester (as in he’s not a guy I’m throwing to with the game on the line saying ‘take us home’ the way you would an Andre Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald) and Andy Reid tends to faze out his running game when its needed the most.
AFC North – Blitzburgh. In spite of what Baltimore did to them on Sunday, I like Tomlin as a coach. Ben’s probably the quietest multiple time Super Bowl winner I’ve seen in my lifetime and even though there’s a serious flaw that will probably cost them a 7th title this season, I’m not really banking on Baltimore taking the necessary 2nd game from them in order to take this division from them. On top of that, my Sleeper Team from within this division is going to be a serious monkey wrench for the Baltimore Birdies and Blitzburgh will hold on to their division crown…just not much more beyond that.
NFC South – New Orleans. The Saints are one of a handful of teams that wasted a high draft pick on someone and haven’t been totally burned as a result of it. Reggie Bush, as talented as he is, should be so much more than he is right now. But the fact remains, Mark Ingram is the man that will help that offense become more balanced and take a ton of pressure off of Sir Brees and that passing game. Still, I’m rolling with the Nolia because Drew’s legit and I think their Stumble In Starbucks Country a year ago will motivate them in a serious way to get back. (Yes, I think the game 6 nights ago in Lambeau WILL go down one more time in the postseason for the NFC Championship.)
AFC East – New England. I should be taking the Jets, because they’ve been one of the only teams to really stub them during their regular season romps. But in order for the Jets to WIN this division, two things have to happen. They have to not falter to Miami and Buffalo for starters. Then, they have to SWEEP Thomas F. Brady and that, as hardcore a Jet fan as I am…I can say with a fair amount of certainty isn’t happening. Brady’s in the mode I believe Joe Cool was in when he was shipped off to Kansas City and proceeded to nearly carry them and Martyball to the Super Bowl during his lone two seasons with the Chiefs in the mid 90s (yes, I remember this vividly. I became a hardcore, diehard Montana fan once he stopped wearing SF colors). The Pats will probably win between 12-14 games AGAIN and the Jets will catch em’ slipping ONCE. Sadly for Rex, not many others are going to. But hey Rex, you’ve been Road Warriors for the most part during these playoff runs haven’t yet? Besides, homefield’s way overrated…just ask the Bears last year.
AFC South – I’m not going with Houston here for a few reasons…

A) I don’t think much of Matt Schaub. Good backup plan, not a great primary plan. Not by any stretch of the imagination. With the weapons he has around him, for this team to STILL not be over .500…it’s ridiculous. With Wade running the defense, they’ll be better, but I’m just not buying them this year.
B) Everyone’s picking them. I’ve learned that anytime something seems TOO obvious, it’s most likely NOT going to happen. (See San Fran winning the West last season and being a “sleeper” Super Bowl pick. Yes, even I bit on this.)

So, eliminating them, this comes down to essentially a coin toss between two rather crap teams. One’s got a crap defense and is probably a few games away from starting a rookie at QB. The other, just let its franchise QB walk after “losing” a war with his coach (who ended up being sent packing shortly after) and isn’t overly sexy as a team you’d think will win a division.

That said, I’m going with the Titans. Their offense with C-Ya Later aka Chris Johnson spearheading it is vastly better than Jacksonville’s. I like their defense better than the Jags and honestly, I think too many folks are too quick to write off Hasselbeck. He’s got more weapons at his disposal than he had in Seattle and I think he’ll have a better year this season than last year. Oh and the TItans are ONE of my AFC Sleeper Squads. (The other will SHOCK ya. Or not if ya read my status messages on Facebook.)
NFC West – If there’s been a worst division in football history, I’ve never seen it. EVER. I can recall a time when the NFC West was ferocious with the Saints, Niners, Falcons & Rams going at each other at odd times during the 80s and 90s. Now…it’s the epitomy of mediocrity. Its best team coming in took a few steps back losing its starting QB and replacing him with a guy who couldn’t convince his old one that he was the guy. (Now you know why college coaches aren’t exactly as hot a commodity as you’d think within the NFL.) Even with Sidney Rice…I’m not buying the Seahawks. Arizona’s reeling ever since it couldn’t hold off the Steelers in the Super Bowl and to this day, I remain baffled why they not only haven’t addressed their defense, but weakened it even further by giving away their best corner (D-Cro) to Philly for yet another QB that couldn’t convince his former team that he was the guy even after they sent their franchise guy to a division rival and signed some guy fresh out of prison to be the backup. Even with Fitzy to throw to, they can’t run and as $cam Newton illustrated a few days ago…they can’t stop ANYONE. The Lambs are everyone’s chalk pick, but now you’ve got guys getting dinged and nicked up beyond all recognition, including Sam Bradford.

All that said, I look at this division and I see nothing. A LOT of nothing. I attribute Seattle beating the Saints last year more to Madden Mojo (Brees was the cover guy) than anything else. League rules dicates however that one of these four atrocious teams will get a playoff bid. So to put me up against it…I’m going with…San Fran. Harbaugh revives Alex’s career in a way in which he’s set Andrew Luck up to get a MAJOR payday next April.

L’s AFC Wild Card Teams & Sleeper Teams- Jets & Browns.
The Jets go without saying, aside from having the talent and drive to take that “next step”. Cleveland, well…it’s interesting. For one, nobody’s really expecting them to be anything more than the best team in Ohio. (Which they are, Sunday’s result against the Bengals aside.) But their schedule is probably the most favorable in the NFL and if they can lose no more than TWICE going forward until December…they’re gonna make the playoffs. They’ll feasibly split with the Ravens and Steelers respectively, but so long as they have 3 losses at the end of December, they’ll be in great shape. Colt’s their guy and so long as Peyton doesn’t fall victim to Madden Mojo…their offense should be good. Defensively, I believe their early part of their schedule will build up the swagger needed to make a playoff push and yeah, Len Cosell thinks they’re gonna do it. 10 wins. First Wild Card game in 9 years. (See, Len does NOT hate all Cleveland teams.)

AFC Championship – Jets & Bolts. (Consider this the ‘It’s High Time We Get Two Teams In Here Besides The Colts, Pats & Steelers…Not To Mention The Ravens’ title pick.)

L’s NFC Wild Card Teams & Sleeper Teams – Eagles & Vikings.
Philly’s not beating out Dallas for the NFC East. Not so sad to say. However, the Vikes are my sleeper team because everyone’s looking at Detroit and well, that kinda takes the luster off of being a “sleeper” if everyone’s “awake” on your prospects to do good. The Vikes are a bit of a perfect storm to a point, because their QB’s looking to redeem himself and the head coach has to prove that he is indeed the right guy for the job. I’ve been something of a Donovan sympathizer over the years and Scrapahan royally screwed him over last year. Donovan’s got A-Pete, easily the best RB he’s worked with in his career and a bonafide burner in Percy Harvin at his disposal. I believe his desire to stick it to not only Washington, but Philly who thought he had nothing left will fuel him to have a bounce back season.

NFC Championship – Saints/Pack Redux (Simply put, these are the two best teams in the conference.)

L’s Super Bowl Picks – Even though my good friend’s a Bolts fan, I’m not going against my squad twice in one column. Sowwies. The Jets will take that next step. They’ll end Ben’s season in Blitzburgh and then head on over to California to short circuit Phillip’s season. (Something they’ve done quite a bit since Rivers took over as their QB in the postseason.) On the NFC side, I believe this is going to be a new age Cowboys/Niners thing with the Pack and Saints going forward. I’m gonna say it before the talking heads do so. Rodgers/Brees will be what Aikman/Montana SHOULD HAVE BEEN…but never was. I believe that the second time around, it will be on the Frozen Tundra and the next time around…it’ll be the Saints. Mark Ingram will validate and justify why NO took him late in the 1st round this April. Ingram runs them back to the Super Bowl and now…

It gets interesting. I’ll rationalize this one by thinking back to Giants/Bills in Super Bowl XXV. High octane offense against a bonecrushing defense. Rex on Media Day will be outrageous, Bart Scott’s gonna make us laugh. The Jets will be outlandish and outrageous, the Saints will be humble and businesslike. Saints will be favored, Jets will be motivated. Jets will use their running game and short passing game to control the game, but most of all, to keep Drew a spectator. With Revis Island being a No Pass Zone, Drew’s forced to look the other way and well long story short…the Jets erase the memory of Super Bowl III with a win in Indianapolis. Mark Sanchez sparks the ‘which NY QB is better, Eli or Mark?’ debate and Rex becomes the first Ryan in his family tree to win a title as a Head Coach. (Buddy got his as a coordinator, Rex and Rob both have won em’ as coordinators.)

The Dirk Grande Finale? Or A Super-Finish? (Finals Overview)

I like to think of this as the “Len just eats his crow now and gets it over with” edition of my Finals preview. Normally, I wouldn’t be writing this so soon. But between the boredom I’m presently faced with just before I head out the door for work and the fact that both of these Conference Final series have been absolute mismatches (it’s a wonder they both weren’t sweeps) made this easy on me. We’ve learned quite a lot during the postseason thus far have we not? For starters…

No Country For Old Champs
– The three teams which accounted for more than 75% of the titles won over the last decade (Spurs, Lakers, Celtics) were all gone before the Conference Finals. The Spurs were the only team that didn’t get out of the first round, while the Celts and Lakers were exposed as too old and possibly in the case of the Lakers, not quite as intimidating as previously thought. Memphis more than made its case for a permanent seat at the table out West, while we’re wondering if Westbrook and Durant are either The Next Great Thing together or if it’s a “this team isn’t big enough for the both of us” type of deal.

The Regular Season MVP Award Is Just That…A Regular Season Award.
– While this hasn’t been a situation akin to 1995 where Olajuwon seemingly went out of his way to embarass, humiliate and eviscerate David Robinson…facts are facts. Derrick Rose got more out of his team than he was really meant to. Thibodeau to his credit, got more out of them than he was supposed to in his first year. But now it seems like against a Two Man Band from South Beach, they seem all kinds of out of sorts. They can’t close games the way they did in the previous two rounds and Miami’s closing out with frightening efficiency. If there’s any disappointment on either Wade or LeBron for netting any legitimate MVP consideration, they seem to be taking it out on Chicago in this series. In any event, since I don’t forsee a three game losing streak in Miami’s immediate future, looks like D-Rose gets to join a very long list of MVPs that won’t add NBA Champion to his resume in the same year.

The Rise of Dirkzilla
– Anyone who has read my stuff for a while, knows I haven’t held Dirk Nowitzki in the highest regard. I believed that he wasn’t a guy you could build a franchise around, definitely not a guy you could win a championship with. I reamed him when he won MVP in 2007 over Nash, even went as far as to say Nash was de facto MVP which was augmented by Dirk’s egg that was laid against Nellie and his Warriors. (Ironic how the last two #1 seeds to lose in the first round are out of Texas.) I initially didn’t have Dallas beating the Lake Show. But then Dirkzilla appeared, eviscerated the Lake Show’s vaunted frontline and now he’s making OKC look too young and too green to run with the former Western Conference Champions.

Dirkzilla is finally showing signs that he is without question, the toughest one on one matchup in the Association. Whenever he wants his shot, he’ll get it. However he wants to do it, he’ll get it done. He and Jason Terry are the only holdovers from 2006 & 2007 respectively. Which leads me to my final point…or more like equation so to speak…
Dirkzilla > South Beach Superfriends
– Yes, it’s just that simple. The NBA Finals is not going to be the forgone conclusion that most believe with the Superfriends putting Dirkzilla down and claiming the first of their many titles. Oh no. Dirkzilla is far superior than Bosh Spice or any other big dummy that’s sent his way to be cut down like a piece of grass. Marion should do a reasonably good job of running with LeBron and I’m just guessing that they’ll throw a plethora of bodies at Wade. Okay, let me put it another way…

If any of the Big Two Plus An Occasional One are off, who’s coming off the bench to lift them? Or even better still, who has in this postseason? Flip that around to Dallas and there’s quite a few candidates. There’s the aforementioned Jason Terry, best Sixth Man left in this postseason. There’s Jose Juan Barea, or as I’m calling him, Homeless Man’s Tony Parker mixed with Ginobili. Oh and y’all remember Peja Stojakovic? Sharpshooter that was a key cog in Sacto’s runs 9, 10 years ago? He’s coming off the bench now, just ask Los Angeles about him. And what’s nuts is, there are probably a couple of names I’m forgetting. Dallas has a bench full of capable bodies, while Miami’s got a bunch of dead weight that to this point, haven’t been able to really be properly exposed as it were. Thanks due in part to all the heavy lifting that LeBron, Wade & Bosh have done.

In about two weeks, that ENDS. Dallas is the overall, complete unit that can and will expose the flaws in Miami’s half-ass plan. “If it’s so half-ass, how come they’re 4 wins away from the Championship?” I’ll tell ya how…

A) AAU Philly wasn’t much of a threat.
B) (Probably biggest of them all…) Boston gave away its hold on the conference when it sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson away for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. And if anyone needs any more evidence of how important he was, just ask Boston’s G-4 unit how their time off has been. When all were healthy in the postseason, they NEVER LOST A SERIES.
C) Chicago took over for Cleveland as the “not quite ready for prime time players”. Which is a shame really, because I seriously thought they’d be the team to put Miami down. But once Miami locked in on Rose and forced others to do something, others did little to nothing. Or when they did, as Boozer and Deng have the last two games…they couldn’t stop shooting themselves in the foot and costing themselves games late that they normally win going away.

Miami to this point, has gotten by on a young practice squad, a team that was exposed as being too old for the yard anymore and now the conference’s “best” that came up lame when it needed to man up the most. Bosh is still at best, the most overpaid cat in the Association not named Joe Johnson aka Allan Houston 2.0 (yeah, I went there). As insanely talented as LeBron is, I respect him to the sum of ZERO for taking the easy way out. For all of the “mental notes” he has taken, guess what Bron Bron? You’re coming up on a big seven footer that’s about to have your boy Bosh for breakfast with a little Haslem Ham on the side. You’re coming up on a big German who has suddenly developed a nasty streak that not even I, who has been a huge Dirk basher since 2006, could see coming. And what’s more, his unit’s more motivated by past failures than your crew is. Kidd’s haunted by two failures in the Finals in 2002 and 2003 respectively, not to mention the subsequent meltdown in 2004 that cost them another trip back. Peja’s exorcised his Laker demons, now seeks his first ring EVER. The Matrix looks to get a ring on his finger to make up for all the years in Phoenix in which he fell oh so short. Oh and the two most important Mavs of them all? The only two holdovers from their last trip here are just motivated by two simple numbers.

2006. 4 straight losses after having a 2-0 series lead.

Dirk is so focused, if he could’ve cut out on Doris Burke earlier than he did, I believe he would have. And ya know what? Len Cosell LOVES IT. Hence why Len Cosell has dubbed Nowitski, previously No-win-ski, Dirkzilla. Just like Godzilla, Dirk’s taking no prisoners. And that’s why in a postseason where very little has gone as Len’s predicted, I’m placing it all on Blue. Mav Blue. Cubes over Riles. Carlisle over Spo. Dirkzilla & The Blue Wrecking Crew over The South Beach Superfriends. Come on, we gotta have the good guys win out in the end. Right? RIGHT?!

Len’s 2 Games In Playoff Primer (NBA Playoff Dealie)

I figured the song “No Country For Young Men” was the perfect track to base my “late as usual” Playoff Primer on. So far, there are at least four teams in 0-2 holes. Two of which are probably waiting on their last rites to be read, the other two could get new life going home. I’ll let you figure out who’s who. Now for some quick hits on the rest of these first round series and who will be in the Finals.

San Antonio/AAU Memphis
– Memphis figured out a way to eek out Game 1 after RJ bricked a wide open 3 to tie it. We’ll see if AAU Memphis is high off its own supply when they tip for Game 2. AAU Memphis showed some serious backbone by losing their last game to ensure they got the Spurs and honestly…they’re fucking with the principal that don’t like students.

Spurs in 5.

Thundercats/Rich & Creamys
– The Thundercats are really, really good. They’re the team I look at and see running the West for a long time to come, especially once the Spurs & Lakers go by the wayside. I’d even wager to say they can make a powerful statement that the future is now if they can send both of those bluebloods home for an earlier than expected Spring Break. Sadly for Denver, you gotta have an Alpha Dog at this time of the year to survive. The “All For One, One For All” thing doesn’t work out so well and Denver simply cannot run with OKC in this series.

Thunder in 6, feasibly 7.

LA/NO
– So the Hornets stung Kobe in Game 1. I’m frightened for them in Game 2. Either Kobe wakes up and puts the Bee Boys at the bottom of his sneaker on his way to New Orleans or they’re gonna have to really do a spin job as we wait for Game 3. I’m not seeing the Lake Show getting victimized by CP3 again, so let’s keep it simple here.

Lake Show in 5. Lakers be Redd Foxx, Hornets are that Big Dummy.

Team Dirk/Rip City
– So far, Dallas has held serve at home. Portland’s a seriously tough place to play a playoff game if you’re not in Rip City colors. I like Portland getting back in this series at home, but this is where homecourt comes into play. Unless you can get a game on your opponent’s home floor and you don’t have homecourt advantage, get where I’m going here? This could feasibly end in a sweep if McMillan can’t get the right buttons pressed to stem this Blue Mav Rush or it could go the distance.

I’ll bank on it going the distance and here’s a shocker…

Dallas in 7.

East…oy.

NoHeatos/AAU Philly
– Usually I don’t like 3 on 5 odds, but when it’s Miami’s Two & A Half Men against Philly’s Ph-ive…Miami’s got the edge. If Miami doesn’t sweep this squad…you fill in the rest.

Chicago/AAU Indiana
– If Derrick Rose isn’t your undisputed MVP…you’re either LeBron’s mom or you haven’t watched a lick of basketball.

Chicago in 5, I see the Pacers getting one at home. (If Rose goes in here and shuts it down…whoa.)

Orlando/Atlanta
– I’ll attribute Game 1 to the car needing to be warmed up and Atlanta pounced. Game 2 seems about right for what I believe this series to be. Atlanta has no one to stop Dwight Howard and is it just me, or is it with each passing game his offensive repetoire seems more “Dream-ish”? Working with Olajuwon has helped him, Orlando’s probably the only team that’s feasibly stopping Chicago from reaching the Finals again. Seriously.

Orlando in 6.

Boston/New York
– Same Script, Different Cast definitely sums up the first two in Boston, cause the result was the same. Boston pulls victory from the jaws of defeat, New York…wow. Game 1, Carmelo takes a three from the Turnpike…then in Game 2 Jared Jeffries gives up the winning bucket then gives away the turnover that seals it. My Boy Melo, was lights out. But if Amare’s health isn’t up to snuff and they can’t get Billups back, this ends in NY over the weekend in a sweep. Which most likely means the end of Basketball’s Mad Scientist, because New Yorkers aren’t paying to see the Knicks be a first round out in the Spring.

Going home could swing this back to Boston, but I remain set on the notion that the C’s gave up the piece that would’ve gotten them back to the Finals. They can get by New York and Miami without Perk in the middle. Orlando or Chicago…not so much. Rare you see a team shut the window on itself the way Boston has.

Celts in 5.

The Melo Halfway Column (NBA All-Star/Trade/2nd Half Outlook)

“There are two tragedies in the world. Not getting what you want…and getting it.”

It’s funny that Carmelo Anthony sparks my fire to start writing my first NBA column since the Preview and I give ye my word, this probably won’t be very long. Three things to cover, Melo, The East & The West. First, Carmelo. Let’s not get it twisted, Carmelo’s a Top 5 talent. He has not missed the playoffs in his career, he has 13 game winning shots with under 10 seconds left to play in his career. He has averaged at LEAST 20 a game in every season since 2003. He was all the Nuggets have and now, Denver joins Toronto and Cleveland as franchises that have been decimated by departures of their franchise player. For Denver, you get younger (Galinari and Felton figure to start right away, but they’re all but done for as a playoff threat out West) and not much better. (In their defense, they got a lot more for Melo than either city got for LBJ & Bosh combined.) New York gets another star, but essentially turns into a clone of the Heat, only with a slightly more formidable starting lineup (cause the Knicks actually had pieces around Amare that were starting to emerge, but most of those were sent to Nuggetland.). When a trade like this gets made, you have to ask the following questions…

1) Are you any better now than you were before? In short, does this propel you from a 1st round TKO to a team that can seriously disrupt things in the playoffs?
– The answer here, is no. The Knicks with just Amare and Company were a 1st round TKO this year. Now, with Melo and Mare, there’s only one team I see them even giving a serious problem to at least this year and that’s Miami. Remember what I said about PGs? Chauncey Billups, 2004 NBA Finals MVP. The man knows how to get it done when it counts simply put. Still, much like Orlando did earlier in the year with their trades, the Knicks just got a LOT smaller. Against teams like Boston and Chicago who are incredibly tough down low and able to Windex the glass like nobody’s business, this will hurt the Knicks going forward. (Even with Boston dealing away Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson, I’m not QUITE ready to say it’s a lock. But the series gets more interesting when you consider NY can run like the wind and Boston’s aging bodies cannot. Amended as of 2/27/11)

2) Who profits?
– It’s not the Nuggets, at least not for a very, VERY long time. The Knicks, believe it or not, do not profit from this. While you’re getting a Top 5 talent and easily a Top 10 scorer, you’re giving up your team’s 2nd, 3rd & 4th leading scorers to do so. The Knicks benefit over the long haul because once this team gets a solid core around it…they’re SCARY. Consider this as we go forward…

Boston’s getting older, figure to have at least two years left in them. Miami, still a work in progress and I’ll be blunt. I’ve always believed Carmelo had more clutch in him than LeBron. Now, playoff time, we’re gonna see who’s who. Orlando, has a two year window before Dwight Howard declares his free agency. Chicago, yeah, they’re set. D-Rose, Noah, Booze…they’re all in. Miami, will eventually get it in gear. So short term/rest of this year, nobody really benefits. Knicks get older and smaller, but still have a better supporting cast around its two than Miami has around its three. Who knew?

3) Now what?
– For Denver, losing. Lots of it. Short of Mozgov turning into the first legitimate Russkie powerhouse pulling down 20 & 10, it’s a bust and most likely, George Karl is probably heading for the hills eventually. For the Knicks, while you’re not back yet, congratulations are in order. You’ve finally got a team that’s worth your cash. Now, the only hope is Dolan doesn’t screw things up by bringing back Isiah Thomas from FIU and running Donnie Walsh out of town. Melo & Mare are scary. It’s scarier if Mare stays healthy and Melo’s pilot light gets reignited by playing in The Garden. Now, you’re looking at a place that is now moreso than before, an attractive spot for future free agents. Oh, Blake’s gotta be thrilled that his favorite Russkie can be dunked upon four times a year now going forward.

Alright, time to break down the East.

Top Dogs
– Boston and it’s really not even as close as the standings lead you to believe. The Celts are what I thought the Lakers would be and that’s thoroughly motivated to get back to the Finals. The Celts have put down the pretenders in South Beach thrice this year and for all intents and purposes, will face their staunchest challenges from either Orlando or Chicago. They’ll see one of them in the second round at the very least.

After Boston, I give Chicago the next spot in the pecking order. The acquisition of Boozer has paid off well and Derrick Rose is playing like an MVP. Hell, I’ll even go as far to say that he’s my MVP. Still, this team boasts the kind of depth up front that only Boston has and out West, the Spurs and Lakers. If you doubt them, do so at your own peril. Trust me when I tell ya, Boston wants no part of this team. Just reference the 2009 First Round series and you’ll get my meaning. Miami, is 0-3 against Boston this year. They haven’t done well against the teams they’re gonna have to run through in order to win the conference and take home title #2 this June. If you put your money on them going beyond the second round, just give it to me and save yourself the trouble. Orlando is still that ‘you’re certain they aren’t quite Top Line, but they’re capable of getting there’ squad and they THRIVE on being doubted and underestimated.

(I wrote the above before the trade deadline and didn’t go back to it. Today, the gap’s a lot closer than most think because of the Perkins trade. It’s underrated what having a legitimate big man can do for your team. Mostly every major contender you can think of either has a big man or have big men who are capable of cleaning the glass down low. Those that don’t, well, you saw what happened to the Thundercats in Game 6 last year didn’t ya? Chicago proved on Thursday night that overlooking them is perilous at your own expense. They proved that Miami doesn’t have enough horses to run with them and short of Miami getting a remotely decent PG, this team will find itself being crushed by those that do.)

The Wild, Wild West
– There’s the Spurs, the Mavs and then who knows? The Thundercats are young and talented, but we already knew that. The truest X factor out there, are the Lakers. I’m sorry, losing to Orlando and Charlotte is one thing. Losing to a team you blew out by 55 points though…no. Unacceptable. If the Lakers do indeed flip that switch, they’re going to give us one more really great Spurs/Lakers Western Conference Finals showdown. Dallas, remains shady in my book and incapable of being trusted. I believe they haven’t fully shaken off the 2006 NBA Finals meltdown or the subsequent implosion that came in the 1st round thanks to Nellieball and Golden State circa 2007. The Spurs, if they remain healthy, will be a huge force for the Lake Show or whomever to overcome.

(Today, I’m definitely inclined to amend my previous statement. The Spurs, remain a legitimate threat because of their pedigree and the fact that the Alamo will be rocking late in the Spring. The Mavs are formidable, but I don’t see them having the backbone necessary to make a seriously sustained run that gets them another date with their in-state rivals or even by OKC or Los Angeles. The Lake Show are kinda simple in this regard. If what they’ve done to this point really is them just being bored and that switch gets flipped, it’s bad. If their bench starts performing up to snuff, cancel Memorial Day. They’re winning the West and foreseeably, Phil makes it 3 for 3 in terms of threepeats in the last three decades solidifying his status as the greatest coach of all time. Kobe will draw even with Jordan and even though they’ll still be even in the ring count, Kobe will solidify his spot as the second best ever behind MJ in my book. Note, he overtakes him if he gets #7 and STAYS retired. Jordan really killed himself in my book by coming back with the Wizards.)

The Thundercats and Blazers…are easily the most intriguing teams for me to watch this Spring. Portland continues to have a surplus of youth and with the emergence of LaMarcus Aldridge as Brandon Roy shockingly and unspeakably declines…this team becomes seriously scary for some team that sleeps on them. The Thundercats though from OKC, this be in my mind, your heir apparent to the Lakers & Spurs. Getting Kendrick Perkins along with Nazr Mohammed gives them the low post presence they sorely missed last Spring against the Lake Show. Nate Robinson gives them another gun off the bench alongside the likes of James Harden and company. I really like the prospects of a OKC/LA rematch or even an OKC/SA battle for the first time since the franchise was in Seattle.

I’m not as strong about a C’s/Lake Show rematch as I was at the start of the year. That, I will admit. I didn’t expect the Lake Show to just throw it in cruise control like that, especially considering how John Blaze they were at the start of the year. That, combined with the fact that the Spurs don’t appear to be finished by a longshot and OKC’s hungrier than I thought to avenge last year’s loss…that third straight title doesn’t appear certain and an appearance in the Finals is even more uncertain. I’ll get back with my Finals prediction, there’s one other thing I need to rant on that I won’t do here. (Mainly because it doesn’t pertain to any playoff teams and it’s quasi-personal of sorts.)

LeBron Takes On Cleveland…Again?!

“Merry New Year!!!” – Eddie Murphy, Trading Places

Yeah, I’m back. New Year, same ole Len…sorta. I’m back to rant on a few things, first of which…

LeBron. Look, for anyone who really believs LeBron didn’t deserve his two MVP trophies, look at the Cleveland Cavaliers now. They BLOW. No…that was my thought after LeBron walked in there and straight up eviscerated them 2010 Freddy style. They SUCK. No, I think that’s been the Cavs since that game in which for the first time ever, the crowd had more balls to them than the players they were rooting for. Still, last night against the Lakers…I’m not sure if there’s such a thing after the two things I mentioned to aptly describe what the Cavs really are. Swallow, almost seems like an insult to that particular word at this point. I have coined the “AAU” label for teams in the Association that have a fairly decent, young 25 and under core to them. Cleveland’s a team I label as nothing more than a Practice Squad. Simply put. Other than maybe Jamison and Mo Williams, who in this team could you point to and say, “Yeah, they could be a legitimate starter for some team in the Association” about? Boobie Gibson? Varejao? I think those guys are pretty much reserves AT BEST. Sorry folks, but your team’s done. Byron, sometimes waiting on a great job is better than taking a shit one. I give you three years max before you’re shitcanned or just flat out QUIT.

Then…there’s LeBron. LBJ, let’s keep it basic shall we? I think it was The Undertaker who once said AND I QUOTE…”I’m not awestruck by your presence and I’m certainly not impressed with you.” You guided the Cavs to two straight 60 win seasons on will alone. Yet somehow when it counted, you couldn’t string together the 12 wins necessary to get your team to the NBA Finals, or 16 that were necessary to win it all. No, wait. You got them 12 wins in 2007, then ran out of gas against the Spurs. Since then, 7 postseason wins in 2008, 10 wins in 2009 and last season. ZERO wins in the Finals. If George Steinbrenner were your boss, he’d have slapped the Mr. April tag on you. Because you clearly do your best work when it’s not really that important. You QUIT on the Cavs in Games 5 & 6, something which only Gilbert, myself and maybe a handful of folks caught last Spring. Still, it wasn’t enough to keep Riles, Wade & Bosh from getting you down to South Beach.

So rather than handle your departure with some level of grace, show some humility towards the team that has been rattled by far too much in their sports lives. You take up an hour of television time (two if you count the post talk crap), then wait 28 minutes to announce you’re taking your talents to South Beach. You had to know even if you ran your annual Bike-a-thon through the heart of Cleveland, you wouldn’t be welcome back. EVER. Even after you eviscerated the Cavs in Cleveland, Craig Sager gave you the opportunity to make amends and you regretted NOTHING. I think you would’ve just been better off saying “Fuck Cleveland, I’m glad I left this dump” and called it a day. Or maybe go Samuel L. Jackson ala Time To Kill in saying “YES THEY DESERVE TO BLOW & I HOPE THEY BURN IN HELL!!!”. But alas, you didn’t…least not that vulgar anyway. So let’s speed it forward to last night, shall we? Cleveland plays the Lakers and well, good grief it escalated QUICKLY. 57 points by the Cavs, every Laker starter in double figures. Look, maybe now folks are starting to see what I was talking about with the Cavs all those years when LeBronmania was running wild. Sadly, Clevelanders are coming to the realization that LeBronmania was well due in part to…LEBRON and very little else. The Cavs might be the only team that LeBron could go 1 on 5 with and still WIN. Seriously, they’re that fucking bad. I believed going into the year that the Cavs sans LeBron would probably win 30 games, max. Now I’m thinking even that might be pushing it. I know the Cleveland M.O. from a sports standpoint is “pull em’ in and suck em’ dry”. Tantalize the fans with tons of “maybe, possibly” only to hit them with the “hardly”.

But LeBron all of a sudden, is a “bad guy”? Really? Not in my book. Look, anybody can kick the low man on the totem pole. It really doesn’t take much to tweet laughing against a Cavs team that just got their house, err, rubbles run over by the reigning champs two times over by 54 points. Anybody can get their boy to cut a damn freestyle rap on the fucking WIZARDS who may as well have been Team Ja Rule a few years ago. But where were your clever tweets when Boston came to town and put you in your lane? Twitter must’ve been down then. Or what about when Orlando spanked ya in the 2009 East Finals and you just stormed out of the building like a petulant brat? Nothing to say, huh, Prince? Look, a large part of the reason why i can’t stand rap is because there are too many like you out there. Want a lot while doing very little and get recognized for it. As Jay-Z said in 30 Something, “y’all respect the one who got shot, I respect the shooter”. You’ve been shot repeatedly every year since 2007 and yet, the accolades are nonstop. You’re the King who hasn’t won a single war worth mentioning. You’re winless against the East’s Elite when it counts, namely Orlando and Boston. While you may have shook the Cleveland “aura” or whatever, you’re not winning in the postseason on just namepower alone. If anything, I’d have thought you would’ve figured that much out when you were in Cleveland racking up 60 plus wins the last two seasons and getting ousted before the Finals.

But yeah, heavy is the head of he who wears the crown…or the shoulders of he who carries much HYPE.

SB Fantasy Football Results

Another fantasy football season has concluded here at SB, and here are the results:

Congratulations (and curses) go out to SB’s own Ron, whose Mariotti’s Pimp Hand snatched victory from the grasp of yours truly’s Team Jademyst, who had dominated the season for the most part. My best FF season ever, I went into the playoffs with a 10-4 record. Unfortunately, my team chose the championship game of all games to sink into mediocrity.

I do take comfort in the fact that I completely surpassed my 19-year-old son, though; he had such a rough time that he changed his team name to The Losing Team, and with a 4-10 season, that pretty much summed it up.

Final Results:
1. Mariotti’s Pimp Hand
2. Team Jademyst
3. DaNiners
4. Solidarity Failure
5. 15 Seconds of Shame
6. The Losing Team

The Later Than LeBron Wants To Be Playing NBA Preview Edition

Well, as it turns out, I actually had this written two weeks ago. No, really, I did. Then work got to me and for whatever the reason, I didn’t get around to finishing it. Sometimes, stuff just works out for the best. I’ll hit on a few things I feel worth noting and well, I guess we’ll go from there. Oh and starting this year, Len Cosell’s gonna start dedicating his columns to various women within the sports world. This year’s NBA column goes out to my favorite ESPN female not named Beadle, namely Erin Andrews. 😛 (Hey, I’m single. I’m allotted the leeway to do this sort of thing until some woman snatches me up and domesticates me. Then I’ll have to get creative on how I do it. :P)

First, keep in mind that the last unbeaten team has made it to the NBA Finals the last three years. (This is not an excuse for anyone in New Orleans or Atlanta to go out making any plans for the Finals…unless you’re going to see the Lakers.)

Second, don’t believe the hype with Miami. Or do so. I need people to point at and laugh hysterically when they burn out in May. (I’ll give you the single biggest reason why you’re going to lose if you have any money placed on Miami winning it all.)

Third, Cleveland, I wish I could tell you there’s some positive to pull out of LeBron being gone. But reality is, you should be furious that in 7 years, management’s best efforts to get your beleaguered city a title resulted in Delonte West, Mo Williams and Old Man Shaq. Oh, can’t forget about Grandfather Clock Wallace. Silly me.

Fourth, Denver. You’d best pray the Rich & Creamys go on a MAJOR run before February. By MAJOR, I’m talking the kind of run that has Melo thinking “ya know what? I’m staying put. I can help this team exorcise one of two demons that stand between me and a title” rather than “I really can’t wait to get the fuck out of here at the end of the year.

Fifth, David Stern. I know you’re like months away from once again, beating that nice piece of trim you call the Players’ Association into submission. But seriously, you’re killing your product by giving the zebras too much power to throw out T’s. The Rasheed Wallace Rule as I’m calling it, is utterly ironic in that the year you institute it, the guy you institute it for is no longer ballin’. HA. Still, I say at least THREE playoff series will be altered for the worst because of this rule. And you’ll still have to answer questions about whether or not your zebras have snakelike tendencies post-Donaghy.

Sixth, Isiah Thomas. I don’t know of many Knicks fans, but let me tell ya something. They’re willing to post people at the airport if you so much as THINK about heading towards NYC or even around NYC. Nobody outside of Jimmy Dummy, err, Dolan wants you back with the Knicks. Nobody other than you believes you could’ve gotten LeBron to New York this past Summer nor does anyone believe it’ll happen in 2014. (And if Dolan really does believe this, if I hit the Mega Millions or Powerball, I’ll buy the fucking Knicks just to ensure this doesn’t happen. Or talk Magic into going in with me. Either way.) Stay at FIU, coach the youngins and maybe, just MAYBE I can watch you on Selection Sunday as your team appears on that 15 or 16 line opposite a Duke, UNC or Butler. :)

Seventh, of all the new coaches taking the reins of teams this year…I pity Byron Scott (for obvious reasons, beyond having a disillusioned owner and the most depressing fan base this side of the Clips). I give him three seasons before he’s fired or just quits outright. Keith Smart…eh. Sucks having to follow Nellie. Sucks even more being stuck in the Lakers’ division. But the talent’s there with Ellis, Curry & Lee to shock some folks. Larry Drew in Atlanta will probably make the playoffs, but won’t do much else beyond that. I think Tom Thibodeau will be fine. Has a great cast to coach, much like another first timer did once upon a time, some guy named Phil Jackson. Things worked out alright for that guy.

And to complete The Grimey Eight…

Seperating What Is From What Isn’t. It’s important to maintain a sense of well, common sense when looking at things in the early going. Those that come roaring out the gate like New Orleans and Atlanta, will inevitably sputter out because their track meet mentality will tire them out over the marathon they must run.

Or when looking at rookies. People need to remember, John Wall’s the guy who couldn’t run a Kentucky squad ripe with FOUR FIRST ROUNDERS excluding himself beyond the Elite Eight. He’s stuck on a crap Washington team and simply put, they suck. He will give them some nice highlights, but not much more beyond that. Simply put, Wall is FLASH, not SUBSTANCE. Double R (Rondo), Fish (Fisher, quietly underrated), CP3, Dee-Dub (DeRon Williams), Big Shot Billups (CHAUNCEY!!! :P) are all about SUBSTANCE. The great teams that win championships have PGs who are all about substance, not flash. Flash gets you highlights by the dozen, it’s substance that wins you championships. Get my drift?

Blake Griffin appears to be the absolute truth in the early going. Now it’s time for the first ever Grimey Greatness Rankings. Yeah, I know, “Power Rankings” are usually flawed beyond all recognition. My rankings well as implied in the title, ranks GREATNESS. So we’ll look at 8, maybe 10 teams that exude that or have shades of it. If you’re in the top four or five, you’re great. No question about it. So without any further adue…

Grimey’s Great Eight =

1) The Lake Show
– Hangover? Maybe it’s in their DVD collection or something, because anyone thinking they’d be hung over after their second straight title, was wrong. DEAD WRONG. All the attention that Miami got this offseason, me thinks pissed off the champs. Righteously. Because they’re playing with a newfound Eff You edge that I haven’t seen from a defending champion since the Bulls in the 90s. So when they say “72 in jeopardy?”, I don’t laugh it off. They have a LOT of talent and simply put, if we hit April and they’re in the 65+ win range…they’re winning the West. Cancel Memorial Day, OKC, love ya…but don’t bother showing up. You won’t like the end result.

They will run through the West and await the East kingpin. Oh and if they win 72, just hand Kobe and Derek their 6th ring, hand Phil his and let the discussion begin about which group’s more dominant? The 90s Bulls with MJ or the Millenieum Lakers?

2) Double R & Da C’s (Boston, 6-2)
– They were the first to put Miami in their place. They’ll engage in Round 2 with the pretenders to the throne tomorrow night in South Beach. They won’t have Kendrick Perkins until possibly at the end of this month, but I think he’ll be held out possibly until the end of this calendar year. If I were Doc Rivers, I’d tell Kendrick this…

“Look. We’re loaded enough to where we can run through this season and lock down at least a Top 3 seed. We need you healthy for the playoffs and as such, will sit you for at least the first half of this season.”

Double R is clearly on another level and appears to have taken that snub (perceived or not) over the Summer with Team USA personally. He’s the proverbial “Straw That Stirs The Drink” and there’s more than enough cubes in this drink to keep them cool. Don’t believe the hype, they’re the best team in the Eastern Conference until further notice.

3) Orlando (5-1)
– The Magic are Team Dangerfield of the Association. No matter what they do, they can’t get no respect. Get to the Conference Finals a year ago, won the Conference the year before that and with just two “marquee” additions in the offseason by Miami, they’re immediately tossed aside and disregarded as legitimate title contenders. Even though they’re hurting to a point, they remain deeper than just about every other team worth a damn aside from Boston in the East.

4) San Antonio (5-1)
– If this team had a theme, it would be “Forgot About Dre”, because they’re clearly the forgotten squad in the Association. Maybe not so much “forgotten” as it’s more of a “will you all just go away forever, now?”. Parker’s been resigned and is going nowhere. We’re just over two weeks into the season and they’re sitting on just one loss on the year. Pops remains the second best coach in the game behind the Lord Of The Rings and as long as their Big Three remains intact…how do you write them off?

5) Oklahoma City (3-3)
– Yes, I’m a believer in the Thundercats. These young whippersnappers are being built the old fashioned way and Kevin Durant is legtimate. The mere fact that he wouldn’t do the cover of SI’s preview edition without his teammates tells you all you need to know about this guy. Yes, they’re average right now recordwise. But to dismiss them over the long haul would be foolish on a HeatSPN level. They’re the youngest team to appear here, at least alongside the likes of Chicago. But there’s a reason they’re being touted as the most likely to threaten LA’s reign. If you didn’t see last year’s 1st round series, they were a box out away from forcing a Game 7. Aside from Boston, they’re the only team that has legitimately threatened the Lakers over the last TWO YEARS.

They’ll be fine. Trust me.

6) Miami (5-4)
– (Note, this is slightly updated, but the rant you’re reading is my abbreviated one from a few days ago…but it still holds true.) Yeah, the Heat is on. But as I have openly wondered aloud…

When your two biggest acquisitions have been labeled quitters by their former employers, can you really chalk those up as wins? (Even if they are LeBron and Bosh?)

Jay-Z said it best when he said, “Y’all respect the one who got shot, I respect the shooter”. ESPN OBSESSES over the one who got shot, I respect the shooter. Yeah, they’ve got star power. Dallas had star power, ask Jerry Jones how that’s going for them. Star power gets you a lot of attention through the year, but won’t win you a title. The 2004 Lakers had TONS of star power, didn’t win shit. Miami this year has been exploited by teams with exceptional PG play and there’s a reason for that.

PGs are commonly referred to as floor generals. What do field generals do in football? They see the field, identify weaknesses and attack them. Double R, CP3 and Dee-Dub all saw the glaring weaknesses Miami had and attacked it. The end result were career nights for Emeka Okafor and Paul Millsap, while the C’s basically enjoyed putting the upstarts in their lane. Let me tell ya something, great teams don’t blow 22 point leads. Great teams don’t give up 11 points in a 30 second span to no-name 4s named Millsap.

Oh and Miami, all the suckage from HeatSPN will not get you your first trip to the Finals since 2006. It will get you the same result as the Cavs from 2007-2009…just ask LeBron. 😉 Oh and just a Cleveland related FYI…

If you guys are making excuses against the likes of Boston and Ooo-tah, can you imagine how motivated the Cavs will be to show you guys up in just a few weeks in Cleveland?

7) Utah (6-3)
– I put them this high for a few reasons. Firstly, the spirit of John Stockton is alive and well in DeRon Williams. Second, Jerry Sloan still coaches them. Thirdly, the spirit of Karl Malone may very well be alive and well in the bodies of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. They’re deep enough to where they’ll be around and well, that’s about as far as I’m willing to go with it.

8) Chicago (4-3)
– Yeah, I know. They’re looking up at Cleveland early here. They’re still the best team in that division and will win it going away. They will emerge as probably the 3rd seed in the East and depending on how well Boozie asserts himself as Chicago’s top big alongside Noah and Deng…I think they can seriously push Orlando in the 2nd round. They have one of the game’s great young floor generals spearheading them and I think they’re going to come back to win the Central. However…they’re going to need one of the other two (most likely Orlando) to falter if they hope to creep past #3.

Ultimately, I see things coming down to another Boston/Los Angeles series. (Also note, things are updated as of last night’s action. Damn procrastination. :P)

Busting The BCS In One Simple Blog…

Alright, I guess if Bill Simmons can slack off on his favorite column, I can mine, right? Don’t worry, I’m going to make it well worth your wait, trust me. :) I find it’s kinda funny that we are just weeks away from Thanksgiving and we’re looking at just four unbeaten teams. Two from the “Traditional Power” part of the country, two from the “Affirmative Action” part of the country. Alright, yours truly is going to go through this one time for the great time. Give you each team, why they should be playing for the National Title and why they inevitably will or won’t be. Fun, right? Oh, I feel the need to offer a solution to the present BCS quandry and it doesn’t involve a “playoff” for this reason…

It doesn’t need one. The regular season is playoff enough for teams. Why do you think teams like Ohio State are so petrified of scheduling the Broncos From The Blue Lagoon or Horny Toads From Texas Christian? Because they can’t handle a possible loss from one of those teams, then have to deal with possibly running the table within their own conference. (Multiply this next year with newly rejuvenated Nebraska coming into the mix next season.) So…let’s make with the solution, shall we? Top 10 teams, get BCS consideration. By that I’m talking from the Orange to the Rose, Sugar to Los Fiestas. Top two teams (in this instance, Oregon and Auburn), play for the title. Now if we factor in the “Plus One”, the Boise State/TCU rematch would be for the right to play the winner of Oregon/Auburn. Just to put a UFC touch on it, the Boise/TCU winner would be deemed the “Interim National Champion” who would face Oregon/Auburn winner for the right to be crowned the BCS Naitonal Champion.

So, let’s get to it.

Oregon
– They get there if they…run the table. Simple. Them being in the Pac-10 affords them the luxury of just worrying about doing nothing more than as Al Davis used to say, just win, baby.

Reason Len Doesn’t Buy Them As Legit…
– Same reason I’m going to get to with Auburn…defense. While I admire their D’s ability to shut you down in the 2nd half, uhm…there are two halves. What if they run into a team that unloads on them in the first half? Then what?

Remember, DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS!!!

Auburn
They Justify The Chizik Hire If…
– They win out. Beating Georgia punches their ticket to Atlanta and as such, only a meltdown against Bama in the Iron Bowl will derail them. Which brings me to…

The Reason Len’s Seriously Not Buying Them As Legitimate…
– In Len’s “Unwritten BCS Bi-Laws”, any team that gives up more than 2 scores to an FCS team is hereby eliminated from the conversation of National Champion. I mean, if you’re going to schedule a cupcake, for God’s sake…SHUT THEM OUT!!! Consider this…

They gave up 26 to Arkansas State. 34 to Kentucky. 43 to Arkansas. 31 to Ole Miss. TWENTY FOUR TO CHATTANOOGA!!! You can’t hold a fucking FCS school to under three touchdowns and a field goal?! Really?! But the BCS will hold you above a TCU team that absolutely OWNED a Top 5 team in its own house? No. I don’t buy you as the 2nd best team in the country, nor are you the second best in the Jersey based BCS. I believe we’re just one great defensive game away from seeing them exposed and Cam Newton exposed as just another in a long line of “he can run, he can throw, but can he do one when it really counts…” QBs that set highlight reels on fire…but become Troy Smith and Brad Smith in the NFL.

Boise State
Why Does The BCS Fear This Team So Much???
– Because all they do is WIN against the big boys. That’s why Chris Petersen won’t utter a syllable against the computers, because he knows what they know. You put Boise State out there against any of those “Automatic Qualifiers” and some big school’s going home with their feelings hurt. Ask Oregon State. Ask Virginia Tech. Ask Oklahoma, who will probably still cringe at the sound of “Statue Of Liberty”. They have won and won consistently against the nation’s best which is why Boise State’s making like John Cena telling the WORLD…

You can’t, no, DON’T want to see us. We’re hazardous to your school and its hopes of being national champion. See what they did to Va. Tech, right? They were so shellshocked, James Madison embarassed them. Oh, by the way, Boise State’s one of the few teams who rank in the Top 5 in both offense and defense.

Why Can’t They Win A Ticket To Glendale For The Grand Finale?
– Because the BCS is drinking straight Haterade, that’s why. I’m not seeing them losing, but wouldn’t be shocked if either Fresno State or Nevada manned up to KO them. Still, there’s a reason their last loss came to TCU in a Poinsettia Bowl a few years ago. There’s a reason I can’t even remember exactly when that was without looking it up. It’s because they win and win repeatedly. They’re essentially Miami Lite, minus the swagger and national attention.

TCU
They Make The Leap IF…
– Either Oregon or Auburn lose. At this point, their thrashing of Utah all but punched their ticket to Glendale. Problem is, they’re waiting on a table that’s got two seats all but taken. They’re sitting essentially waiting on either Oregon or Auburn to excuse themselves due to indigestion of the “Game Bigger Than Your Institution” variety. It exists and is very legit as we head towards Thanksgiving and the regular season finale for all these teams. Oregon’s finale will be the Civil War against Oregon State, Auburn’s will come against what figures to be a very ornery Alabama squad that will have been embarassed not once, but twice in one year by two rather “humble” coaches in the Ole Ball Coach and Mad Hatter.

Len Doesn’t Really Buy Them Because…
– I still maintain that other than their D, I don’t know if their offense can score with the likes of Oregon or Boise State. Don’t get me wrong, I like em’. I do. But I’m not entirely certain if they’re put opposite of Oregon or even Boise State for the third time in four years, they will win. (Ironically, against Auburn, I see them eating Cam’s lunch, dinner and whatever seconds he might think of having.)

So we’ve got four teams. TCU’s cruising to the finish, but probably won’t get any real headway until either Oregon or Auburn lose. For Boise, they need both of the “bluebloods” to lose. One, will not do. Oh, Oregon State blowing up Oregon would really help Boise State in their cause. Okay, that’s done. So now, it’s time for the column/blog you all set your calendars to. L’s NBA Preview!!!

The Sissified Rant

I know…I know…Len’s never EARLY with any column. But this year, I am. I’m going to write the column which I hold above all others I write, but before I go there, I need to speak on something.
(Trust me, it’ll segue rather nicely to the column at hand.)

Saturday afternoon in a game that very few, if any cared about, Rutgers beat Army in OT. The top story in that game however, was Rutgers DT Erick LeGrand being paralyzed from the neck down. Okay, no big deal, freak occurence. Turn the clock forward a little over 24 hours later to the game of football where its competitors are handsomely paid to do it before packed houses and such.
Body after body it seemed was getting carried off, due to some Super High Impact Football style “Somebody get a BODY BAG!!!” hits. At the center of this storm in terms of hits were Dunta Robinson of the Falcons (his hit took out his intended target and himself to boot), Brandon Meriweather (can’t say this guy wasn’t watching classic NFL shit, he was headhunting Todd Heap in a way that would’ve made Jack Tatum smile) and most notably of the bunch, former Defensive Player Of The Year James Harrison. Ask Mossaquoi and Cribbs how interacting with him went this past Sunday, if they can recollect it. Both left the game with concussions. In light of all this, the NFL decided enough’s enough. Well, enough’s enough if we intend on these guys living through an 18 game stretch plus playoffs starting next year.

Because if you’re thinking there’s anything beyond that motive behind this sudden “enforcement” of rules that I wonder if they were even on the books from the get-go…you’re either delusional, stupid or working for the league offices. Not to get all John Witherspoon here, but the whole damn world’s gone sissified on me.

WWE’s taking a hard stance on chair shots to the noggin and blood in its matches. (Nothing to do with Linda McMahon running for Christopher Dodd’s Senate seat, by the way. Wink wink.) Vince is even doing his best to help, asking folks to “Take A Stand For WWE”. Really Vince? You expect us all to just MIB clear of you having your son-in-law feign screwing a corpse? (It’s late and I’m too lazy to look up the technical term for such a grotesque act. :P) You expect us to forget that you actually booked an I Quit match where it was you against your daughter Stephanie, a match that ended with you choking her out with a lead pipe causing your wife to throw in the towel? Yeah, I wouldn’t stand for that shit if I had stacks of hundred dollar bills under me. Your wife deserves to lose, if for no other reason, subjecting us to that Billy and Chuck bullshit.

NBA’s getting even more sissified, even though their measures are probably more Draconian than the NFL. Starting this year in what can only be deemed “The Rasheed Wallace Rule”, any NBA player that so much as bad eyes a referee is getting T’d up. I’m going over 4 playoff series that end up getting tilted the wrong way because of this rule and I’m probably going to be wrong there. “So Dave, your refs may be crooked and have their own agendas. What are you going to do to crack down on this?” “Well, I’m going to give them the power to turn games to their own personal agendas by calling technicals on any player that gets a little too demonstrative after a foul call.”

Brilliant! Well done, Commish. Bud Selig thinks that’s fucking moronic and he’s the guy who thought the best way to get folks watching the All-Star game, was to put homefield in the World Series on the line. Basically rendering the 2nd half null and void for reasons other than to decipher homefield within each league. Equally as brilliant, Commissioner Goodell taxing men for giving the fans what they pay to see (as barbaric as it might be) MONTHS before a possible lockout. Yet, we want MORE GAMES going into the next CBA. Look, I’ll cover each of these potential Billionaires vs. Millionaires deals as such… NFL
– I just want a rookie cap. I’m sick of seeing these clowns come out, hold out and then do next to jackshit when they get on the field. Earn your pay. The NBA has it right in this regard, 1st rounders get a set amount depending on where you get picked. 2nd rounders? Play your way to a pay day.
– NO NO NO NO NO to 18 games. Roger, you say you want late season games to matter, right? Fine. Keep it as is, schedule more divisional contests. Say you’ve got a deal where one team’s more or less in a weak division and has it wrapped before Thanksgiving. Think they’re going to go all out for games 15, 16, 17 & 18? Especially if they’ve assured themselves of homefield in the playoffs and a bye week? FUCK NO. Oh by the by, if just one week of hellacious hits is giving you the willies, imagine EIGHTEEN GAMES of this shit plus playoffs. (Never mind the preseason being short two games and the opportunities those no-names are going to miss out on to make an impact or impression for some potential employer.) All about the Benjys, right Roge?

NBA
– Eliminate the Rasheed Wallace Rule. I’m telling you Davey, it’s going to really compound a problem you haven’t fully addressed and it’s not going to make it go away. You’ve got a Zebra Issue and giving them more power (think Donaghy’s not wishing he weren’t still in the league for this upcoming season?) to send stars to the showers before halftime, isn’t what your product needs. ESPECIALLY a year before you potentially have a work stoppage. You’ve basically sissified the game to the point where teams like Dallas and Phoenix can average a little over 120 a game in their sleep. (Yet and still with these rule changes, defense is still the prevailing order of the day come playoff time, so what does that tell ya?)

Alright enough on that. Time to get serious. I will do this upcoming preview in two parts. First one covers virtually every move that has or will be made over the upcoming year and its potential impact (positive and negative) on the franchises involved. Second one will cover the Lakers and every direct threat I perceive to their title (trust me, it won’t take long). This 2nd edition comes complete with playoff predicts and of course, my pick for the 2010-11 title and I can assure you…Miami won’t factor into it. First part will tell you why that is, aside from LeBron. :)

The Grandiose NFL Preview

Alright, I’ve been quiet long enough, hmm? Yeah, I’m going to get to the basketball side of things in due time. But first, it’s time for the NFL. In years past I’ve gone rather deep into it, but this year…I dunno. The looming spectre of a work stoppage just leaves a very sour taste in my mouth. Sad, but true. Certain things, just jump out at me. The West divisions in both have a chance to be mildly surprising…or over before your kids head out for Halloween. If the Niners can’t win the NFC West this season, Singletary should update his resume and quit. SERIOUSLY. The Eagles are essentially New England Lite when it comes to running a franchise. All the arrogance, none of the results. Trading McNabb within the division to a heated rival, makes as much sense as letting your best bud get a night with your wife. Or letting him in on a threesome with your loved one. Someone’s gonna end up getting fucked and it won’t be pretty at the end of the day. Bet your Philly Cheese Steak that McNabb’s gonna be motivated to stick it to Philly twice a year, for the rest of his career.

Then of course, there’s Da Jets. The Jets are essentially the offseason villains of the NFL. They made moves, they stole a month’s worth of TV time on HBO via Hard Knocks and if it is at all possible…they upstaged the VH1 tandem of Ochocinco and T.O. in Cincy. So much ado about them, even I find myself worried they might not live up to the billing. Alright, I’m gonna keep this short and to the point. Or at least attempt to anyhow.

Wild Cards: Jets, Bengals, Giants & Falcons

Playoff Team From A Year Ago Most Likely To Slip (whether in wins or out of it entirely): Chargers & Vikings

Non-Playoff Team From Last Season Most Likely To Return This Year That I Didn’t Name Above:
Steelers & 49ers
Team Which Should Have No Excuse For Winning Its Division:
San Francisco. Like, seriously. This division blows.

Team Which Might Have Every Excuse In The Book For Not Winning Its Division:
Buffalo. Seriously, who’s running their draft room?

Player Most Likely To Be Moved That Nobody’s Talking About Not Named Haynesworth:
Marshawn Lynch. You’ve got three RBs, two of which are first round picks. I think Spiller’s going to be a burner…not so sure how Marshawn stays getting paid first round money to be a ‘timeshare back’. You don’t waste 1st rounders on that kind of player.

Coach In Dire Need Of A Title This Season:
Wade Phillips. Quick, somebody tell me where this year’s Super Bowl is. Thanks. :)

Coach I Couldn’t Be Paid To Switch Places With For This Season:
Pete Carroll. On the upside…only team with lower expectations than his are the Rams. Yeah, that’s what I call an Ike Turner Backhanded Compliment.

Why Should Saints Fans Be Incredibly Worried About This Season?
First, there hasn’t been a repeat champion since the Pats. Second, bad things seem to happen when Super Bowl winning players grace the cover of Madden. Just ask Polamalu. Third, it’s the SAINTS lest we forget. When’s the last time great things happened for this franchise in successive years? Exactly.

All that out of the way, let’s get with some division winners.

East: Patriots & Giants
– Yeah, I know. I’m a homer for picking the Giants, but I’m highly optimistic that they’re going to win the division. No way, no how do they get folded on D two years in a row. Just know if it does, Tom Coughlin will be wished well in his future endeavors. As for New England, well, I as a Jet fan give props to The Hoodie and Brady. They are who they are. They win. They’re the football equivalent to the Spurs in that it’s not pretty, but it’s consistently all but guaranteed to happen. I think the Pats will figure a way around the Jets, but just barely to win the AFC East.

North: Ravens & Pack
– When Baltimore got Boldin, I really liked their odds. Then getting Houshyamama when Seattle inexplicably cut him…yeah, that put em’ over the top for me. Make no mistake about it, the AFC North runs about 3 deep. Well, two and a question mark with Pittsburgh that we’ll know for sure by the end of the month. Anything short of 2-2 and they’re done. As for Green Bay, I guess the hype has gotten to me too. I think Rodgers is going to be good enough to get them by Minnesota, but I don’t believe they have enough to win when it counts.

South: Colts & Saints
– As hard as I tried, I’m just not seeing either of these teams dropping off the throne YET. The Titans and Texans still have to prove they can SWEEP (splits don’t work) the Colts and I don’t see either doing that just yet. As for the Saints, the Falcons are the only real challenge they have within that division. Sadly, I don’t see them as much of one even with all that looms on NO’s horizon this year. Still if I had to pick two teams that could win it in their respective places, I’d go Titans and Falcons.

West: 49ers & Chargers
– These two division should be finished by the middle of November, if all breaks as we believe it will. Going under the assumption that Derek Anderson can’t pick up where Kurt left off and San Diego won’t go under without Vincent Jackson…San Fran even with Alex Smith is the best team in that division. San Diego should face minimal resistance in the AFC West, as I don’t think Denver’s going to be much without Brandon Marshall and the other two teams aren’t quite there yet. I will say, Oakland with Jason Campbell can do something. I think Campbell wants to prove that the dysfunction in Washington was the only thing that kept him back. Props to Uncle Al for fleecing him from Washington.

AFC Championship: Jets over Ravens
NFC Championship: 49ers over Saints
– Blame Greenburg for me going with San Fran here, but very little else makes sense in the NFC. It’s more of a “which team’s flaws can be outweighed by a potential X factor nobody sees coming” deal than anything else. Dallas’s flaw is heart, which honestly, can’t be trumped by anything else. Either you got it or you don’t. The added pressure of having the last game of the year in their backyard, will crush them this year. Minnesota…eh. Not sure lightning strikes twice and Brett gets them back again. New Orleans looks like the safest bet in the NFC, but then you factor in the “as the year goes on, how will they handle the heat?” thing and then we’ll have something. Anybody can win it, a true champ can repeat.

Which brings me to San Fran. Their D is headlined by Patrick ‘Who You Sackin’ On?’ Willis and quite honestly, I think their D can carry them to two wins in the playoffs. The X factor that I’m thinking gets them over the top is Alex Smith. The weapons are around him in Gore, Davis, Crabtree and company. All he has to do is put it all together and if he does that, San Fran is your NFC Champion. (Note, these two meet next week in San Fran.)

As for the AFC…really, I could’ve gone a number of different ways with this. I didn’t go Indy, because last year just gave me way too many red flags with Caldwell and Peyton as a whole. That Super Bowl was nothing short of gift wrapped for them and they not only looked the gift horse in the mouth, they gave it a root canal. They gave that Saints D too much credit by going so conservative and in doing so, gave away that game off an onsides kickoff to open the 2nd half and an ill advised pass that made Tracy Porter look like a poor man’s Deion Sanders. They’re out. Cincy? While I’m not predicting T.O. causes an implosion, I just don’t like what I see outside of Palmer and the VH1ers at WR. Plus, I think they’re gonna take a pounding within their own division, so they’re out too. I think New England’s given up more than they’ll ever care to admit. I don’t look at this team and say the same things I said four to five years ago when they were running shit in the NFL.

So that leaves the Jets and Ravens. The Ravens want to prove their D has one last run in it and that their offense is no longer a liability in their quest to do this. Better not be with all the guys they’ve got on that side of the football. The Jets want to prove that last year was no fluke and it was the start of something much greater. I think the running game took a hit with the loss of Jones, but they gained Santonio Holmes on the cheap and added Cromartie to put opposite of Revis Island. Everything’s in place, all they have to do is justify it all as being legit ink instead of all time hype that rivals the Miami Heat. (Yeah, I’ve got a nice juicy one saved for them in about a month or so.)

Super Bowl: 49ers versus Jets
– The Niners haven’t been to the Super Bowl since Steve Young ran them by a woefully overmatch San Diego team in 1994. The Jets haven’t seen one since Joe Namath gave that guarantee in Super Bowl III. Niners haven’t won a playoff game since 2002. Jets were a half away from the Super Bowl in last year’s AFC Championship game. In each of the last three years we’ve had a team make it that defied logical explanation and two of them (The Giants and Saints) won it. The Jets are your logical team here, for reasons I’m sure you’ve seen on Hard Knocks and heard or will hear ad nauseum until February. The 49ers (who I’ve loathed and despised for as long as I’ve been watching football) are going to continue that trend this year.

Funny story on how I came to this conclusion. Thursday morning, I was in Buffalo watching Mike & Mike In The Morning as they made their Super Bowl picks. I was thinking a few things, such as “gee, I really need to get back on the SB horse” and “is it wrong of me to wish a month to go by so I can start hammering the Heat and every slack jawed yokel slurping their shit?” when Mike Greenburg makes his SF pick as NFC Champions. At first, I kinda laughed hard. But then I thought about it and when I did so, along with thinking outside the box…it made sense. They can air it out or pound it out as the weather and situation necessitate.

Oh and by the by, consider this my “Tuesday Thought For The Day”. If you’re trying to draw conclusions on the events of the last 4 days or so…DO NOT DO IT. It’s Week 1 which means…

A) Every team that will pretty much be an afterthought by this time next month, will get a win or two.
B) Every team expected to make a serious run, will stumble out of the gate. NFL’s not a track meet, it’s a marathon.
C) Every talking head will get you to read more into what I consider “the only preseason game that actually counts, well four if you count Weeks 2, 3 & 4″, than you really need to. Do so at your own risk.