Thursday, July 29, 2010

Up To Speed- Buffalo Bills


At the dawn of the 2009 season, there was an alarming surge of non-boringness tainting the most boring franchise in the NFL. Canada's Team made a big off-season signing, bringing in VH1 star Terrell Owens, and had the Patriots taking a standing 8 count in the Monday Night opener before a late game fold job let that one slip away. They followed that up by fulfilling the obligation of slapping the Bucs silly.

Then it dawned on opposing offensive coordinators that the against the run, the Bills defense looked like a semi-comatose water buffalo that was finally succumbing to the venom of a kimono dragon a week after being bit. The Bills in consecutive weeks then gave up 222 rushing yards against the Saints, 250 against the Dolphins, 171 against the Browns?!?, 318 against the Jets, and well, it goes on like this. Dick Jauron was canned, former Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Fewell took over, and things didn't get any better. Add to this that the Bills had Ryan Fitzpatrick playing QB, and TO auditioning for a spinoff series, a remake of "The Invisible Man", and you had a really, really shitty season in Buffalo/Toronto.

The Bills have placed the franchise in the hands of 70 year old whiz kid Buddy Nix and his fresh ideas. Nix is the new GM, with his main resume builder being he was assistant to AJ Smith in San Diego for much of the last decade. In Buffalo this qualifies as a youth movement, compared to when they made 80 year old Marv Levy the GM a couple of years ago.

Nix will oversee a new coaching staff, led by Chan Gailey. Out of all the coaches the Dallas Cowboys have had in their illustrious history, Gailey is one of them, ranking somwhere adjacent to Dave Campo. Gailey will handle the offense, and is faced with the twin challenges of making sure the Bills top pick CJ Spiller does not become a Darren McFadden/Reggie Bush style pro flameout, and the more insurmountable task of being a viable NFL offense with Fitzpatrick as quarterback. With TO gone, James Hardy, who has 10 catches in his 2 year NFL career, is listed as the #2 wideout. My God.

New defensive coordinator George Edwards is bringing the 3-4 defense with him from Miami. This defense, is of course, all wrong for the personnel the Bills have, but what the hell, as long as it gives up less than 250 rushing yards a game it can be considered an improvement.

With a team like this, you have to look at their schedule and see if there are any games they can possibly win. I do see a few. Home games against Jacksonville, Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland, are all, in theory, winnable. Let's go ahead and say the Bills win half of those, and finish 2-14.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Up To Speed- Baltimore Ravens


There was no sophomore jinx for Ravens coach John "Jim" Harbaugh or his young QB, Joe Flacco. Baltimore picked up right where they left off the year before, making their second straight playoff appearance after the end of the era of one of the great geniuses of our Times, Brian Billick. Not only did the Ravens make the playoffs, they had the distinction of handing Bill Belichick and Tom Brady a taste of playoff humiliation, completely dominating in Foxboro 33-14. The Ravens were unable to sustain that momentum though, bowing out the next week in an uninspiring 20-3 loss in Indy.

The Ravens defense is still dominant, even without Rex Ryan and his giant teeth. Anchored by an impermeable middle 3 of tackles Haloti Ngata, Kelly Gregg, and Ray Lewis, the Ravens ranked 1st in the league in Y/A against the run. That's something we're used to seeing out of the Ravens.

What we're not used to seeing is a potent offense, but the Ravens brought that to the game last year too. 2nd year RB Ray Rice exploded onto the scene with a tremendous season that saw him gain over 2000 yards from scrimmage, and when the Ravens got near the goal line, Willis McGahee made the Ravens a lethal red zone team with 14 TDs. Flacco did not take a Rice-like leap forward in his second season, but he did improve over a strong rookie campaign, raising both is passer rating and his Y/A.


The Ravens had an embarrassment of weapons at running back last season, and a top 5 offensive line, and do again this year. One thing they didn't have though, is a wide receiver that scares anybody. I mean, Derrick Mason may crank out 1000 yard seasons (8 out of the last 9 seasons) in his sleep, not to mention continuing to be the lone standard bearer for the Tennessee Oilers, but he doesn't keep opposing DC's up at night. The Ravens addressed that hole with the acquisition of Anquan Boldin. Boldin's numbers, oddly enough, look a lot like Mason's over the last few years. A lot of catches, and hovering around the 1000 yard mark. He's a guy that is a more valuable player than what his statistics show though, and will help the offense.

On defense, you'll see pretty much the same group as last year, which is a good thing. The Ravens added more depth to an already outstanding unit by using their top draft pick on Texas pass rusher Sergio Kindle, and their second pick on 360 pound Alabama DT Terence Cody. The only area of this defense that looks at all permeable is the secondary, where future HOF safety Ed Reed is coming off of hip surgery, and corners Dominique Foxworth and Chris Carr are merely adequate.

It bears mentioning that the kicking game was a circus for the Ravens last year, and may be again this year, with veterans Billy Cundiff and former Bengal Shayne Graham competing for the job.


Expectations could not be higher for the Ravens. They are definitely in the discussion as far as who will win the Super Bowl in February. Their early schedule is a bitch though, with trips to the Jets, Bengals, and Steelers in their first 4 games. They benefit from playing in a division that I think is going to be down this year though, and should win at least 5 out of their 6 division games. Plus, of course, this is a very good team. I say 11-5 and an AFC North title.

Monday, July 26, 2010

MLS Power Rankings Week 18

Before the All Star Game against just-lost-to-Kansas-Shitty Manchester United, let's see how the MLS teams rank with some new DP signings and Omar Salgado thankfully becoming an American so he doesn't play for Chivas.

1: LA Galaxy - Corner kicks a problem lately, Buddle and Donovan best forward combo in the league

2: Columbus Crew - Emilio Renteria covers for the injured Steven Lenhart and scores 4 goals in 4 starts

3: Real Salt Lake - Defending champions dropping points from bad defensive lapses

4: New York Red Bulls - Henry makes the much better, but they need more nerve in the midfield

5: FC Dallas - Hot right now, may cool off later, so I'll keep them here until their record improves

6: Seattle Sounders - Playing better without their DP just like Galaxy plays better without Beckham

7: San Jose - I saw their game against the Galaxy and they were lucky to tie needing more offensive talent

8: Toronto FC - Better team that last year, but they should fall later in the season without any DP help

9: Kansas City - Beat Man U with 10 men showing the MLS's 9th best team can beat Man U youth squad, calm down

10: Chicago Fire - Just picked up Nery Castillo; I'm super high on him, but he hasn't been the same since getting hurt at Manchester City; he takes Cua Blanco's spot which is fitting because he was Blanco's understudy on the Mexican National Team; if he's healthy, don't expect him to be at the Fire for long because he's awesome

11: Houston Dynamo - Another team with a shitty goalie

12: Philadelphia Union - Should do well near the end of the season, but should pick up some veteran leadership

13: Chivas USA - Looked good against RSL, but they need to work on their short passing

14: Colorado - Lost to the Sounders because they like to play catch up

15: New England Revolution - Might be getting better, but they might have beaten the Galaxy because they knew they were playing #1

16: DC United - Fell so far behind because their talent thought they were better then they really are

Friday, July 23, 2010

Up To Speed- Atlanta Falcons


A lot of things went right for the Falcons in 2008, as they climbed out of the wreckage left by the Bobby Petrino/Michael Vick disasters. It looked like the Falcons would be primed for an impressive encore in 2009, with the addition of Future HOF TE Tony Gonzalez, and a year of experience under the belt of wonder boy QB Matt Ryan. However, as often happens in the NFL, injuries and an unsympathetic schedule did them in.

Fat bottomed RB Michael Turner was in and out of the lineup all year after racking up heavy mileage in 2008, and when his presumed replacement Jerrious Norwood also went down, the run-heavy Falcons were left depending on 3rd string runner Jason Snelling for a good chunk of their offense. As for Ryan, his Y/A dropped by 18% vs. his rookie year, despite having Gonzalez added to his arsenal, and battled a turf toe injury that saw him miss 3 games during a miserable 2-6 midseason stretch that knocked the Falcons out of playoff contention after a 4-1 start.

While an offense that was supposed to be improved had injury issues, the defense made backwards strides as well, particulary against the pass. John Abraham went from 16 1/2 sacks in 08 to just 5 1/2 in 09, and a clown car of subpar defensive backs drove the Falcons to a 25th rank in the league in Y/A against the pass.


Not a whole lot. The Falcons offseason plan seems to be to get everybody healthy and back up to 2008 levels of production. The one big addition to the starting lineup is on the defensive side, where CB Dunta Robinson was brought in to help strengthen the struggling secondary. Robinson was the 10th pick in the 2004 draft by the Texans, had 6 picks in his rookie year, and looked like an elite corner in the making. Since then he's been OK, but for the most part disappointing. On the defensive line, the Falcons hope last year's 1st round pick, DT Peria Jerry, will be healthy this year after missing all of last year with a knee injury. Rumblings out of Falcons camp are that his recovery is iffy at best though. An added burden to that D line because its run defense anchor, Jonathan Babineux, is going to miss some time at the start of the season for a reefer suspension. This year's 19th overall pick, LB Sean Weatherspoon (Missouri), is probably going to start as an outside linebacker and should bring some playmaking ability and a second level pass rushing threat that the Falcons didn't have last year.

On offense, the Falcons are making a big bet that Michael Turner will be back in form after a year of recovering from his 370+ carry opus in 2008. He'll have the benefit of running behind a a good offensive line which remains intact from last year. If healthy, he should be a very effective piece to an offense that again features Ryan, Roddy White (85 catches, 1153 yards), and Tony Gonzalez (83 catches, 867 yards), while at the same time not taking the obscene amount of abuse he did to carry the Falcons to the postseason in 08.


The Falcons obviously have faith in their roster, as it is virtually unchanged from last year. The skill position guys on offense can hang with anyone else's, and the offensive line is intact. If they can dodge the injury curse they had last year, the Falcons offense should put up a lot of points this year. However, the defense doesn't scare me or probably anybody else. Abraham is another year older and will have to bounce back after a big dropoff last year as the pass rushing threat, and their best defensive player, Jonathan Babineux, is going to miss time with the drug suspension. Add to that a still unimpressive secondary, and a pretty tough schedule outside the division (Arizona, San Fran, Cincinnati, and Baltimore all come to the Dome), and I think you're looking at a 9-7 type team. Mike Smith is a good enough coach though to get one more win out of them, so I say 10-6.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Up To Speed- Arizona Cardinals

There's Your New QB

The Cardinals proved last year that their 2008 NFC Championship was not a fluke. They didn't make a return trip to the Super Bowl, but they did win a 2nd straight NFC West title, and continued to be one of the more explosive offensive teams in the league. Kurt Warner ended what should be a Hall of Fame career with an excellent season, posting a 93.2 passer rating, distributing the ball evenly to his twin stud receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. The defense was for the most part adequate in the regular season. Not so adequate in the playoffs though, as the Cards gave up 90 points total in their 2 game playoff run, which ended with a 45-14 drubbing at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

I have an inkling that Ken Whisenhunt may be a very, very good coach. This will be his year to prove it. The Cardinals as we've known them during their resurgence (re-surgence? Hmmm..better change that to "surgence") the last 2 years are no longer. Kurt Warner is retired, replaced by the redoubtable Matt Leinart. Making things worse, not only is Warner gone, but so is Anquan Boldin. These 2 losses mean that you are going to see a very different Cardinals offense this year. Remember, Whisenhunt came to the desert from Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh RUNS the football.

To that end, the Cardinals have brought in former Steelers and Jets guard Alan Faneca. He's not the player he used to be, but the fact that he's in Arizona shows the Cardinals are serious about putting more of the offense in the hands of the running game, led by sophomore back Beanie Wells and goal line savant Tim Hightower. The man who protected Warner's blind side, LT Mike Gandy, is also gone. Leinart is a lefty (although apparently he holds his beer bongs with his right hand), so that makes the RT position the important one in the Cards passing game, and it's a concern. The favorite to man that position is Brandon Keith, a 3rd year player who was a 7th round pick in 2008. He's suspect, and another reason why the Cards are going to run the ball a lot more this year.

The Cardinals have also taken some hits on the defensive side of the ball. LB Karlos Dansby, the broom of the Cards' system, left via free agency for Miami. His presence inside will be missed, and his replacement, journeyman Paris Lenon, is nowhere near the player Dansby is. The Cards did improve their pass rush though, by signing stalwart rushman Joey Porter, who has had 26 1/2 sacks in the last 2 seasons with the Dolphins. Having such a presence at edge rusher can only make dangerous 3-4 end Darnell Dockett even more effective.

The secondary is in a little bit of flux. The Cards have a legitimate freak at one corner with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but a big question mark at the other after the departure of Bryant McFadden. McFadden's spot will be auditioned for by a group of novices led by Greg Toler, a 4th round pick in 2009. Safety Antrell Rolle and his buttery tackles have been swapped out for former Jet Kerry Rhodes, a slight upgrade.

Like I said, this is Ken Whisenhunt's litmus test as to whether he's a great coach or just a very good one. This will be a completely different Cardinals offense than what you've seen the last 2 years. Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower are up to the challenge of what will be a greatly increased workload, but whether an offensive line who never was known for its run blocking is up for it is debatable. The defense looks a little weaker than last year as well. I've got the Cards at 9-7 this year, and whether that's good enough for a 3rd straight division title depends a lot on the strides the #1 contenders to the division title, the San Francisco 49ers, make this year.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

World Cup Final

First off...thanks to Patrick N. for updating the sites layout...loooking goood!

Secondly, we've been driving this home over the last week or so, but now that the World Cup is over we are phasing back into the NFL coverage. Don't worry, you'll still be getting soccer, just not quite as much of it over the next month or so. What you will be getting is some sit down interviews with the world renowned Mr. Football as we run down his picks for the 8 NFL Divisions this year, in what is probably the Last NFL Season Ever Or At Least Until 2012.

With the administrative items out of the way...


I'm not going to sit here and wring the hands over how this fugly match was a giant blow towards making soccer a mainstream sport in the States. The ratings say otherwise. Ratings in the US for the World Cup Final were up an unbelievable 41 percent over the 2006 final, and that without any other obvious reason other than the increased popularity of the game stateside. It wasn't like the US team was in the Final, it wasn't like Mexico was in the Final, or even England, all things that could have seriously skewed the ratings. Nope, the ratings were up 41% just because the popularity of the sport has exploded that much.

That's obviously something I'm thrilled with, as Patrick and I have been doing a soccer/NFL blog for 4 years now, and hey, if soccer gets anywhere near the NFL's level of popularity, what that means is that we will take our act to ESPN sometime before 2012, and that means no more spreadsheet making for me. This is something I would enjoy.

So anyway, the match. The person on the pitch I was most impressed with in this match was referee Howard Webb. Seriously. He did an awesome job keeping control of this match where the Netherlands came out with the sole strategy of playing prison ball knowing that no ref is going to hand out a red card in a World Cup Final for anything short of a Zidane-esque headbutt to the groin. To Webb's credit, he didn't hand out any red cards. The one ejection came as the result of a second yellow and it wasn't until well into extra time. He liberally handed out the yellow cards, mostly to Holland, letting them slowly paint themselves into a corner with those until eventually someone got a second one, which led to the only goal of the match being scored.

I was also very impressed with Webb because while the Netherlands was playing Rollerball, Spain's strategy was to dive all over the place and keep bitching to the referee looking for either a red card or a penalty kick, refusing to get thru their heads that they would get neither. The worst offender here was the guy that ended up scoring the winning goal, Andres Iniesta, to the point that he became the one guy I didn't want to see score (and of course, he did).

Overall, this match kind of was a fitting capstone to this World Cup. It wasn't a classic match, and it wasn't a classic tournament. That said, it still did the job as far as providing memories, and being a worldwide spectacle that lived up to the anticipation and hype. South Africa was a successful host, proving many doubters wrong, and the tournament shone a light on a lot of great players who don't get the publicity during the club season (Sniejder, Robben, Forlan, Suarez, Schweinsteiger, Muller), and exposed a lot of players who do as being maybe just a wee bit overhyped (Rooney, Ronaldo, Kaka). I enjoyed the hell out of this last month and hoped you all did too and followed the action here. Feel free to go through the archive and relive.

Random Sports Thoughts

This site focuses mainly on soccer and football, but lots of stuff in the sports world going on where I wanted to say what's up.

The Decision

Lebron joined forces with Wade and Bosh to try to win rings together. Leaving for rings is alright, but Lebron is now Scottie Pippen and Pao Gasol. These guys are hall of fame players, but you can never say they were in Jordan's league of greatness. Kobe and Lebron were seen as equals, but this comparison can't be made anymore.

The way he broke off Cleveland was pretty fucked up too. Anyone who doesn't get why Cleveland is burning jerseys, Akron taking down "Lebron was born and raised here" signs, and an owner going unprofessional probably has never gotten dumped. Getting dumped for a hotter or better person sucks enough, but imagine getting dumped by waiting for your other of seven years to ask to marry you on the jumbotron at the Superbowl and them posting him or her doing reverse cowgirl and announcing, "Oh, I'm not marrying you; I'm with this other person who's better and hotter than you." Cleveland deserved better, and I don't even like Cleveland.

And Jesse Jackson should probably find a better cause to speak up about than Dan Gilbert's reaction that was the same as everyone in Cleveland.

Arizona MLB All Star Game

There were reports that Latino players were going to boycott the All Star Game next year because it was being held in Arizona, where they passed some shit about you can be asked for your legalization papers at any time, branding every Mexican-looking guy as fucked. One side is crying that everyone should boycott and the other side is crying that it's stupid to make a sport situation political and that baseball should be above politics.

I think that unless you're Latino or Mexican-American, you probably should shut the fuck up about this issue and let those people do whatever they want. You or I are probably not affected by the law in Arizona, so our opinion on it would come off as insensitive. Furthermore, asking a non-Latino or non-Mexican-American to boycott is pretty retarded too. Why? They're not affected. Ultimately, if you have vested interest in what's going on in Arizona, do whatever, but get off the backs of people who aren't affected by it. Also, while boycotting would be a statement, those affected by the law would probably be better served actually going to the event and talking to the locals and the media about it where they'll be heard rather than sit at home.

World Cup Finals

People were giving British ref Howard Webb a lot of shit for the record 11 yellow cards. It was annoying, but Netherlands obviously thought Spain was soft (and they usually are) and decided to play rough. I never seen a team throw out so many studs up tackles and NOT get red carded. Webb basically gave yellows to studs up tackles instead of reds because he didn't want to be involved in deciding the game. Netherlands took a chance with tough tackles, Webb gave a bunch of yellows, they didn't adjust and were forced to go down to 10 men by using a professional foul from a carded player to prevent a breakaway. You lost legit. Deal with it. Both teams had many chances, and it was a great game. If Netherlands should be mad at anyone, it should be Arjen Robben for missing like 2 or 3 1v1 on the goalie. Iker Casillas was the man and the reason they won. I hate Howard Webb because he sucks in EPL, but I actually thought he did as best he could.


Thierry Henry signed with the Red Bulls. Good for him and for MLS. It was time. He's still good enough to be fun to watch, just not on the highest level anymore.

Nicky P is coming with his NFL special he does every preseason. I can't wait to read it, which means you should be on your knees ready for his NFL money shot.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

World Cup Semifinal Recap

One thing we've seen in this tournament, especially in the later rounds, is a huuuuge amount of goals being scored from long distance, outside the penalty box, 3 pointers if you will. I don't know if it's the Jabulani or the high level of skill you see at these late rounds of the tournament, but it's really been cool to watch and provides an anything can happen at any moment feel to these matches. In this one, you first had Giovanni Van Bronckhorst hitting paydirt from long distance to put the Dutch up 1-0, then Diego Forlan, who had as good a tournament as anybody, answered with a similar goal in the 41st minute.

The Dutch were able to break open this hotly contested match once it hit the seventy minute mark. First Wesley Sneijder snaked a shot thru a veritable obstacle course of Uruguayan defenders, his teammate Robin Van Persie, and Uruguay's keeper, somehow finding the net and making it 2-1 Holland. Minutes later Dirk Kuyt (who Dook!e and I argued for some time over whether he looks more like Tommy from Trainspotting or Sick Boy from Trainspotting, I say Tommy, who of course died of toxoplasmosis, that shit is everywhere, you probably have it and don't even know it), crossed one to Arjen Robben to make it 3-1 and ice it for the Oranje.

Uruguay got a late goal but it was too little too late. The Netherlands has a chance to win its first World Cup, and Uruguay will not win its 3rd sixty years after it won its second and eighty years after its first.

What was I saying earlier this week about this German team maybe being the Best Team Ever? Sheesh. That looks pretty dumb now. But then again they didn't look anything like the team that completely tore apart England and then Argentina in this tournament, I mean nothing like that. They beat those teams 8-1 combined and those are very good teams. So, then, that must really say something about the Spanish. The 2008 Euro Champs are doing the same thing they did in that tournament, which is to play keepaway most of the game, dominate the scoring chances, and advance thru with 1-0 wins that are not really that close.

This match followed that exact script, with Barca defender Carles Puyol heading in a corner in the 73rd minute for the biggest goal in the history of Spanish football. Spain advances to the Final for the first time in its history, its long and disappointing legacy of being chokers (which seemed to be in good standing when it dropped its opening match 1-0 to Switzerland), is now behind it.

Germany v. Uruguay-
Third Place? I don't know about the rest of the World, but in America, we don't care who finishes second, much less who finishes third. I guess the result of this match all depends on how much it means to Germany, if they feel like playing hard, they should easily handle Uruguay, but that's not a guarantee. I think though, that they will want to put up a good showing, because their archrival Holland is in the Championship game and that might motivate them. I say 3-1 Germany.

Spain v. Netherlands-
I surrender. Spain is just too damn good. They'll win this one the same way they win most of their matches, 1-0 and holding the ball 60% of the match, and not giving up hardly any real scoring chances.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

World Cup 3rd place and Finals

When did I ever become right? My curse didn't work as the Netherlands and Spain advance to the finals.

3rd place match

Uruguay has depended on their D and Germany depended on countering. This game could get boring or exciting depending on who scores first. If Germany scores first, they'll win. If Uruguay scores first, they may win, but Germany has better talent and team play offensively. First to score wins, and I see no one scoring. I feel the more likely scenario is Uruguay winning on PKs. Did I just curse this match into a high scoring one?


We will have a first time World Cup champ no matter what. Netherlands offense has been their story while Spain has had to rely on Defense because their forwards are ballhogs or just suck (*cough* Torres). Spain had the best odds to win the cup, and I feel Netherlands won't be able to get enough free kicks to give Sneijder the chance to bust a free kick in. I'm going to stay with Vegas odds and pick Spain to win their first World Cup.

This website will return to its NFL and soccer hybrid roots after this weekend. I couldn't do this event without the energy of this website's owner, Nicky P, who busted out awesome reviews and previews like he always does. I have twins the suck up my time and probably would have bailed on my duties to entertain the 50 of you during this important event for this website if it weren't for Nicky P's support and positive energy. That makes you lucky. A nice 4th year anniversary present from us.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

World Cup Quarterfinal Roundup

I think I'm coming down with a cough. Better call this guy:

Okay then, it was quite an exciting quarterfinal round in the World Cup over our Independence Day Weekend. Let's run it down!

Everything seemed to be going according to plan early. Just 10 minutes in, Robinho broke past the defense, fielding a long thru ball from Felipe Melo, and putting it home to give Brazil a 1-0 lead. Brazil took that lead into the locker room at halftime, and they had never, EVER lost in World Cup play when leading at halftime. Game over of course, right? NOOOOO.

The horror started for the tournament favorites when Wesley Sneijder chipped a rainbow from outside the box that not only made it over everyone's heads, but over the outstretched Hamburger Helper fingers of Brazil keeper Julio Cesar. A stunning goal to tie the match at 1. The game winning goal was even crazier. Arjen Robben's corner kick was headed first by Dirk Kuyt, giving the ball a little extra lift, which allowed it to be headed in by Sneijder for his second goal of the match, putting Holland up 2-1.

Melo received a red card in the 73rd minute to put Brazil down a mane, and from then on it was clear that the upset was going to happen. Brazil is out! Although, really, this was not one of the better Brazil teams. Robinho was arguably their biggest scoring threat, and well, let us say he is well known to be flawed. Kaka assisted on 3 goals but didn't score any, and Daniel Alves was held without a goal or an assist. So the loss is kind of surprising, but not earth shattering. And besides, the day of the match, before it had been played, a Brazilian newspaper accidentally ran an ad consoling the Brazilian team on its loss that hadn't happened yet. See, this whole thing IS fixed.

You see a lot of things over the course of an entire World Cup tournament. But do you expect to see the playing out of a real moral dilemma? Is it OK to blatantly cheat to win? I ask because of the way Uruguay won this match. In the waning seconds of extra time, Uruguay forward Luis Suarez was left alone defending an otherwise open net. Ghana's Dominic Adiyiah's header was going to go into the net, giving Ghana a 1-0 win and ending Uruguay's dream World Cup run.

Suarez did the only thing he could do, which was say "ahhh fuck it" to rule #1 of FOOTball, which is, you don't use your hands. He swatted the shot away with his arm, and duly got red carded for it. Ghana would have to convert the ensuing penalty kick to get their goal now, and, of course, they missed it. Asamoah Gyan got nothing but crossbar, and the match went into a penalty kick shootout which Uruguay won to advance to the semis. So, in this instance, yes, it was totally OK to cheat to win. I guess Suarez really had no other choice.

Netherlands v. Uruguay-
As I pointed out last week, Uruguay won the very first World Cup, and it's totally crazy that they have come this close to winning again 80 years later. Suarez and Diego Forlan have been superstars in this tournament, and Netherlands is nothing if not inconsistent. They've been known to play a great match, like they did against Brazil, then bumble thru the next one. No result here would surprise me, but since I do smell upset, I will jump at the chance to look like a genius here. Uruguay wins 1-0.

Beating England and Argentina by a combined score of 8-1. Absurd. I'm not a soccer expert, but I have a hard time imagining that any team has put on a more impressive World Cup run than this German team has, and since theoretically World Cup football is the highest level of play there is (although I would really debate that), what you may be seeing here is the greatest team ever to take the pitch. Certainly not in terms of talent, any Champions League finalist probably is more talented than this team, but the way they work together is just magical. It's so cool to see guys like Miroslav Klose, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski, Mesut Ozil, guys who are not (at least not up to this point) in the conversation for best player in the World, just play on a completely different level as part of this team. Meanwhile, exit Maradona and a super talented Argentina team, completely marginalized by this juggernaut. Said Maradona after the match,
"This is a country where you live and breathe football. I don't think that any will be happy when the team loses 4-0."

Hey guess who predicted the score of this one exactly right. If you guessed Nicky P, you are right. Nobody could have predicted the level of wackiness that ensued in this one though, in such a short period of time. The wackiness started when Paraguay was awarded a PK when (Gerard) Pique pulled down Paraguay's Oscar Cardozo on a corner kick. Iker Casillas made the save though, to avert disaster. Then just seconds later, Spain was awarded a penalty kick when David Villa was hauled down. Xabi Alonzo knocked it in, but it was ruled that there were Spanish players in the penalty box when he kicked it, so they re-kicked, and of course this time it was unsuccessful. Eventually, Spain finally broke thru, with David Villa not only winning the match but getting an extra ball when his shot somehow hit one post, then flew across the goal and hit the other, then in the net. Spain manages to get thru the tournament without choking, nobody can call it a "choke" if they lose to Germany.

Germany v. Spain-
In actuality, this is the Championship Match. Germany will be looking for revenge for the Finals loss in Euro 08. Normally, when Germany looks for revenge, it doesn't end very well for them (see World War II). Things will be different this time though. Germany wins 2-1, setting up a David v. Goliath with Uruguay in the final.

Hey remember a couple of weeks ago when everyone was like, ohhhh South America is doing so great in this tournament what's wrong with Europe the balance of power has shifted dur dee dur dee dur? Now there's 3 European teams in the semifinals. Bunch of know-nothing know-it-alls.

-Meanwhile, once the World Cup is over, we go NFL intensive. Nicky P's award winning interview series with Mr. Football starts next week!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

World Cup Semi Final

I have the touch of death. After pretty much every team I picked died, I decided to test it today on Argentina and Spain. It REALLY worked on Argentina, and it almost worked on Spain except that I can't take the PK for them too. So I give my picks with the hilarious expectation that I may be screwing them over.

Uruguay vs. Netherlands

Uruguay got lucky winning a PK battle against Japan. If Japan won, I would have had a chance to get money in my betting pool. Uruguay has been riding great d and dumping the ball to Forlan. My Fool's Gold pick Netherlands rides a Brazil breakdown into the semis. I still think Netherlands is Fool's Gold, but the United States could beat Uruguay. So to curse the Netherlands, they should win this easily by three goals.

Germany vs. Spain

I argued that Spain was loaded and should make the finals and that Germany was better without Ballack, but was also Fool's Gold. I still stand by both claims. Germany is a great team on the counter. If Spain falls behind, the game is over. Spain will need to play a high possession game in order to pull through. DO NOT LET GERMANY SCORE FIRST.