Tuesday, December 16, 2014

In need of a change-winter transfer market

Manchester City's, Matija Nastasic
Matija Nastasic, Manchester City-the 21 year old Serb has yet to feature in a match this season (not counting the Community Shield) and Manchester City manager, Pellegrini has said that he is looking to sell the Serb.  Nastasic is still very young and could most definitely benefit from being out there on the pitch.  It is pretty fascinating that even with the injuries that City has had in that backline, that Nastasic does not get any time on the pitch.  He could be a big boost for a team looking for a defender who is quite good in aerial duels.  The only real knock on Nastasic is that he commits quite a few fouls and has been yellow card prone.  Do not rule out Nastasic getting loaned out until the end of the season either.
Possible suitors: Roma, Juventus, Inter Milan and Arsenal
Possible outsider:  Liverpool

Sebastian Giovinco, Juventus-has been rumoured to be leaving Juve for a couple of years now and this could possibly be the final straw.  Similar to Nastasic, Giovinco has not gotten the playing time that he desires, so naturally a transfer could be eminent.  Giovinco is quite gifted at set-pieces and he is a very good dribbler of the ball.  Giovinco also does not mind getting back and defending for his team, which every manager appreciates.
Possible suitors: Arsenal, Fiorentina and Liverpool
Possible outsider: Sampdoria

Adel Taarabt, Queens Park Rangers-he has been a problem child in his time with QPR (ask Harry Redknapp about that), but Adel is still a very skilled player, who can make a difference on the pitch.  Adel was loaned out to AC Milan last season and he actually played very well for the Italian side, scoring some goals and setting up teammates.  Adel is a fantastic dribbler who can really pass the ball (underrated aspect of his game), and his free kicks are also a thing of beauty, when given the chance.
Possible suitors: AC Milan, Swansea
Possible outsider: Southampton

Mats Hummels, Borussia Dortmund-has been hampered by injuries in the last little while, but it has not stopped clubs from acquiring about his services.  Hummels is one of the best defenders in the world and if Dortmund continues to fall in the standings, he could very well be gone in January.  Hummels’ ball interception and tackling are his key attributes and the two things that make him a great defender.  He also likes to dribble the ball, which can get him into trouble on occasion.  That being said, Hummels would be an outstanding acquisition for any club.
Possible suitors: Arsenal, Manchester United and Barcelona
Possible outsider: Manchester City and Real Madrid

Raphael Varane, Real Madrid-could be destined for a move this winter, even though he has received a fair amount of playing time this season (17 matches played in four different competitions).  Varane was supposed to be the next big centreback in football, but Real Madrid has stunted his growth by not giving him the necessary playing time that he needs.  A move to a new club would definitely be a fresh start for the 21 year old French man.
Possible suitors: Manchester United, Arsenal
Possible outsider: Juventus

Juan Cuadrado, Fiorentina-he was rumoured to be leaving this past summer after the World Cup, but he stayed at Fiorentina, which was a smart move.  Cuadrado is a special talent because he can play almost anywhere on the pitch, which makes his price rise a bit.  His dribbling and passing are probably his best attributes, and he gets fouled quite often due to his creativity and catching defenders off-balance. 
Possible suitors: Barcelona, Manchester United, Liverpool
Possible outsider: Atletico Madrid

Wilfried Bony, Swansea-he is certainly the best striker in the BPL that currently does not play for one of the big four teams.  Bony’s finishing ranks up there with the best of them and has been a very important part of this Swansea team for the last two years.  I can only imagine what Bony would be able to do, if he were to be given better and more quality players.  Personally, I do not think Bony will leave this winter, but the summer is a strong possibility.
Possible suitors: Arsenal, Manchester City
Possible outsider: Liverpool

Lukas Podolski, Arsenal-he has voiced his displeasure at not getting playing time and he will most likely get his Christmas wish this winter.  Podolski is a great finisher when in the right position; he also does a great job of getting teammates involved on the offensive end with his passing.  His experience and leadership will be welcome on any team he chooses to go to.
Possible suitors: Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, Borussia Monchengladbach, Napoli
Possible outsider: FC Cologne     

Ogi B

O Classico: Lima's brace enough for Benfica to take all three points

Lima, the man with the brace for Benfica
O Classico is the Portuguese derby that features powerhouse clubs, Porto and Benfica.  The first O Classico took place on April 28th 1912, where Benfica came out victors on that day, by a score of 8-2.  There have been 231 O Classico derbies; Porto has won 89, Benfica 86 and there has been 56 draws.  In total, Porto has scored 337 goals, while Benfica has 372 to their name.

Their last meeting  took place on May 10th 2014, where Porto won by a score of 2:1.  Goals for Porto were scored by Ricardo and Jackson Martinez, while Enzo Perez scored the only goal for Benfica.

Porto starting XI (4-3-3): Fabiano; Danilo, Martins Indi, Ivan Marcano, Alex Sandro; Casemiro, Hector Herrera; Brahimi, Jackson Martinez, Tello

Benfica starting XI (4-4-2): Julio Cesar; Luisao, Maxi Pereira, Jardel, Andre Almeida; Samaris, Gaitan, Salvio, Talisca; Enzo Perez, Lima

Porto was the team that showed the most promise in the early stages of the match, especially with Tello and Brahimi attacking the Benfica defence from both wing positions.  Early on, those two fast players created a few problems for the opposition.

This was only about the second or third time that I have seen Jackson Martinez play and I was very impressed with his work ethic.  For those who are not familiar with Jackson Martinez, he is a striker for Porto, but he does a lot of trekking back into the midfield to collect the ball and start new attacks for the Dragões.

In the first 15 minutes, or so, it was mostly Porto with the chances, but Julio Cesar made some stops to keep the game level at nil-nil.

One of the things I most impressed with, from both teams, was how fast they close down an opposing player once he receives the ball.  For example, if someone in the Benfica midfield got to the ball, there would be one or two Porto players on him ready to fight for the ball and start a counter attack.  I was fairly fascinated, since I do not watch much of the Portuguese league, but this is to be expected when these two rivals meet. 

In the 36th minute, we had our first breakthrough.  Enzo Perez got the throw-in for Benfica, the throw made it all the way into the Porto six yard box, where Lima was totally unmarked.  He headed the ball off his knee and into the net.  1-0, Benfica.

In the final 10 minutes of the half or so, Porto attempted too many long balls trying to target Jackson Martinez, but Benfica did an outstanding job of containing the Colombian striker and not allowing him to beat them with his speed.

Tello, as I mentioned earlier, was very active in the first 15-20 minutes, but he really tailed off in the last 20-25 minutes of the half.  He simply did not get the ball as much and thus he could not create opportunities for his teammates.

In the 55th minute, Lima struck again.  After a Benfica player took a shot from just outside the box, Lima ran onto the juicy rebound and put the visitors up by two goals to nil.  Very poor defending from the Porto backline. 

The second half mostly featured fouls, as Porto were very frustrated with the way that the match had unfolded.  It should also be mentioned that Porto continued their poor defensive play in the second half, looking very shaky.  The passing in the middle of the pitch was also dreadful with a ton of giveaways to the opposition.

From the 70th minute onwards, Porto started to attack Benfica because now they had nothing to lose, being down 2-0.  Quaresma, Quintero and Aboubakar were all brought on as subs for Porto, but they did not make a significant impact in the match.  I was actually quite astonished that Quaresma was not in the starting XI because he is a player who can use his speed and technical ability to get by defenders and create chances for the likes of Jackson Martinez and Tello.

In the 77th minute, Porto had a goal taken back due to the fact that Jackson Martinez handled the ball in the box, and few minutes after that, Porto hit the woodwork, which was the last chance of the match that either team had.

Final impressions
It was a very entertaining match to say the least.  This was one of the first times that I have watched the Portuguese league and I was very impressed with the speed of play that the match had.  I also think that Porto deserved at least a goal in this match.  They had multiple opportunities to score, but they just could not put the ball behind Julio Cesar.  Credit should be given to Benfica, though.  They had two chances, and scored two goals.

Player of the match: Lima

Match rating: 7/10

Ogi B

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Analysis Alan's Week Fifteen Picks

Away vs Home Pick
Cardinals vs Rams Cardinals
4 -4
Steelers vs Falcons Falcons
-2.5 2.5
Redskins vs Giants Redskins
7 -7
Dolphins vs Patriots Dolphins
8.5 -8.5
Raiders vs Chiefs Raiders
10 -10
Texans vs Colts Colts
7 -7
Bengals vs Browns Browns
1 -1
Jaguars vs Ravens Ravens
14 -14
Packers vs Bills Packers
-6 6
Bucs vs Panthers Panthers
3 -3
Jets vs Titans Jets
-3 3
Broncos vs Chargers Broncos
-4.5 4.5
Vikings vs Lions Lions
8 -8
49ers vs Seahawks 49ers
10 -10
Cowboys vs Eagles Eagles
3 -3
Saints vs Bears Saints
-3 3
Last week N/A
Overall 94-96
Alan M

Friday, December 12, 2014

Evaluating Summer 2014 transfers

Angel Di Maria, Manchester United-he was brought in to be a difference maker and a guy who can provide for Rooney and Van Persie, but injuries have kept Di Maria out of the line-up for a handful of games.  To be fair, United has had a ton of injuries this season, so I do not think it is fair to judge the play of Di Maria just yet because he has not had a full United squad to work with.  

Luis Suarez, Barcelona-he has not got it going in La Liga just yet, but he does have two goals in three matches in the Champion's League.  Similar to Di Maria, Suarez should be given some time to adjust to his new teammates, although the Uruguayan should have an easier time doing this, since he is playing with two world class players in Neymar and Messi who will make the transition much easier.  It is only a matter of time before Suarez starts scoring.

Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal-arguably the best signing this past summer, and I am not just saying that because I am an Arsenal supporter.  Sanchez has single-handedly kept the Gunners in the top half of the table with some wonderful goals.  Hopefully the signing of Sanchez will bring in more world class players to a struggling Arsenal side.

Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea-Costa is 2nd in scoring (11 goals) and Fabregas is 1st in assists (11) when it comes to the BPL, so it is safe to say that both players are doing what they were brought in to do.  In recent games, Diego Costa has been kept off the goal sheet, but I assure you it is nothing to worry about.

Dusan Tadic, Southampton-he was one of the less talked about signings this past summer, but Tadic is a very quality player, who has outstanding vision.  Tadic ranks 3rd in the BPL in terms of assists with six and at one point he was the player with the most chances created with 34.  Tadic's form has dipped recently, especially with Southampton having lost three in a row.

Alvaro Morata, Juventus-has had an awful time adjusting to the Serie A, but to be fair, he has struggled to get playing time behind Llorente and Tevez.  Morata showed glimpses of what he is capable of doing when he was at Real Madrid and he will need to recapture that form, if he wants to be effective for this Juventus team.

Alessio Cerci, Atletico Madrid-"the Thierry Henry of Valmontone" has been a disappointment in Madrid, to say the least.  I question Cerci signing with Atletico, especially after they went out and bought Griezmann, before him.  If I was Atletico Madrid, I would seriously think about loaning him out and allowing him to adjust to La Liga because he has spent his whole career playing in Italy.

Ciro Immobile, Borussia Dortmund-he has only started four matches for Dortmund, while coming on as a sub in six other matches.  The problem for Immobile is that there is a lot of competition for the starting XI on this team with the likes of: Aubameyang, Ramos, Mkhitaryan and Reus, all competing for playing time.  Immobile showed glimpses of what he is capable of doing in Dortmund's Champion's League tie vs Arsenal in Germany, where he was the best player on the pitch.  He will need to do a lot moe of that to convince Klopp.

Mario Balotelli, Liverpool-two goals in all competition and none in the BPL just will not cut it.  Liverpool did not pay a ton of money for Balotelli, but I am sure that Liverpool supporters thought he would have a much bigger impact.  Hopefully 2015 is much better for Mr. Balotelli.

Guillermo Ochoa, Malaga-he was one of the premier goalkeepers at the 2014 World Cup and the fact that he cannot get even one match in net for Malaga this season is quite mind boggling for me, even though Malaga has a pretty good goalkeeper in Kameni.

Mario Mandzukic, Atletico Madrid-if Cerci was a bad signing, Mandzukic has been far from that.  Mario has 12 goals in 20 games (all competition) and has been one of the main reasons why Atletico Madrid is third in La Liga.  Mandzukic is a tough player to defend because of his aerial attack.

Claudio Bravo and Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Barcelona-well, Bravo leads La Liga with nine clean sheets, while ter Stegen is yet to play in a league match.  All jokes aside though, ter Stegen is a guy for the future, while Bravo still has a year or two of good football to offer.  

James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos, Real Madrid-Rodriguez had a slow start to the season, but he has come into his own.  Real Madrid has realized that the two positions that best suit James are central midfield and right midfield, which could have something to do with him playing much better.  I was a huge fan of the Kroos signing this past summer because he is a very talented footballer, who just did not seem to get enough playing time at Bayern Munich.  Kroos has been one of the best players for Real Madrid and his ability to play either defensive midfield or central midfield is excellent because it gives manager, Ancelotti more options on where to use him.

Ogi B.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

NFL Week 15: Can the Saints make one final push?

Last week, in the 14th week of the 2014 NFL season, we were graced with the pleasure of great weekend of football action that was filled with close, exciting games and some serious upsets. The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to march into Cincinnati to do battle with their AFC North rivals, the Bengals and earn a massive 42-21 win, as they improved their record to 8-5 on the season. Sticking in the AFC, the Indianapolis Colts were able to put together a late charge as they marched back to beat the Cleveland Browns by a score of 25-24 earning a very tough road win. The Minnesota Vikings earned their sixth win of the season last Sunday in a 30-24 overtime thriller against the lonely New York Jets, as the Vikings continue to state their claim as one of the biggest surprise teams of the season. Also in week 14, the Carolina Panthers were able to earn their fourth win of the season after they went on the road and headed down into New Orleans to battle their NFC South rivals, the Saints where they stunned the home team on their way to a 41-10 win. The St. Louis Rams travelled to the Nation’s capital to do battle with the stumbling Redskins, in a game where RGIII was benched, and the Rams were able to completely dominate the home team on their way to earning a 24-0 win and improving their record to 6-7 on the season. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the week came in the Battle of the Bay area which saw the Oakland Raiders play host to the San Francisco 49ers in a game where the Raiders outlast the 49ers and earned the 24-13 upset win over their foes from across the bay. The Raiders earned only their second win of the season and have left the 49ers searching for answers with little time left in the season.

Week 15 of the season is a prime indicator that this fantastic season is winding down and that we are merely three weeks away from the final week of the season. It is sad to think that this season is almost over; however, in a few weeks we will be able to enjoy some classic NFL Playoff football. 

There are several great games this week, most of which hold serious post-season implications. That being said, here are some of this week’s best match-ups to look forward to.

Pittsburgh Steelers (8 – 5) vs. Atlanta Falcons (5 – 8)
Last week the Pittsburgh Steelers marched into Cincinnati to do battle with their arch rivals, the Bengals, in a game which saw the Steelers come out on top with a 42-21 win, as they improved their record to 8-5 on the season. None other than QB Ben Roethlisberger, who has thrown for over 4,000 yards, 29 touchdowns and only eight interceptions so far this season, leads the dynamic Steelers offensive attack. The Steelers have a plethora of talented offensive players, such as, RB Le’Veon Bell, WR’s Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant and TE Heath Miller who have helped the Steelers become the dynamic offense that they are today. The Steelers ranked 2nd in the league in terms of overall offensive production and they have had great success both running the ball and passing the ball. On the other side of the ball, the Pittsburgh defense ranks 16th in the league in terms of overall defense. They have shown signs of success when it comes to stopping the run, however, their secondary has struggled at times. Don’t let the numbers fool you though, they still have a very good defense. 

Last week the Atlanta Falcons travelled north to battle the Green bay Packers at historic Lambeau Field in what was a fantastic game; however, the Falcons fell to the Packers as they saw their record slip to 5-8 on the season. The Falcons are led by QB Matt Ryan, who has thrown for over 3,800 yards, 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions so far this season. Offensive threats such as RB Steven Jackson, WR’s Julio Jones, Roddy White and Devin Hester all have had some impact on the offensive attack; however, their record doesn’t illustrate that. The Falcons ranks 8th in the league in terms of overall offensive production and that’s due in large part to their passing attack and not their rushing attack. On the other side of the ball, the Falcons defense ranks 31st in the league in terms of overall defense. They have struggled mightily in pass defense and have looked average at best when it comes to stopping the run. 

If the Steelers want to have success in this game, they will need QB Big Ben Roethlisberger to have an accurate day passing the ball in hopes of gashing the Falcons secondary. If Big Ben can spread the ball to his speedy slot receivers like Markus Wheaton, the Steelers will have plenty of chances at hitting the deep pass and blowing the Falcons defense wide open. However, the Steelers defense, in particular their secondary, must show up and have a great game in terms of coverage. If the Steelers DB’s can safely cover up the big-play wide receivers of the Falcons, they have a great shot at winning this game. If the Falcons want to be successful in this game and have a chance to win, they will need their defense to step up big time. It’s likely that Big Ben will attack the Falcon’s DB’s however; the real important thing to watch is how well the Falcons defensive front seven can contain RB Le’Veon Bell of the Steelers. Not only is he a running threat, he is also dangerous in the passing game. The Falcons will need their passing offense to click on all cylinders in this game because they cannot afford to make mistake. The Falcons desperately want and need to win this game in order to control their fate in the wild NFC South division.
Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, December 14th at 1:00pm from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.

Denver Broncos (10 – 3) vs. San Diego Chargers (8 – 5)
Last week the Denver Broncos played host to the Buffalo Bills in an all AFC matchup which saw the Broncos prevail and win the game by a score of 24-17. QB Peyton Manning, who had thrown for nearly 4,000 yard, 36 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this season, leads the Broncos high-powered offensive attack. The Broncos have a stable full of fantastic offensive players such as RB’s C.J. Anderson, Ronnie Hillman, WR’s Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Wes Welker and TE Julius Thomas, all of whom have help Denver become the league 4th ranked overall offense. On the other side of the ball, the Broncos defense also ranked 4th in the league in terms of overall defensive production. Their defense has had great success stopping the run this season and their secondary has looked solid as well. 

Last week the San Diego Chargers played host to the New England Patriots in what was a very close game that saw the Patriots pull away late in the game to earn the 24-14 win on their way to handing the Chargers their fifth loss of the season. The Chargers are offense is led by QB Philip Rivers who has thrown for over 3,400 yards, 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions so far this season. The Chargers offense has several offensive studs, especially at the receiver position. RB Ryan Mathews, WR’s Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd, Eddie Royal and TE Antonio Gates are all dangerous threats on the San Diego offensive side of the ball. Though they have the big-play threats on offense, the Chargers still rank 20th in the league in overall offensive production, largely because they have one of league’s worst rushing attacks, mostly due to the fact that star RB Ryan Mathews was out of action. On the other side of the ball, the Chargers offense currently ranks 9th in the league in terms of overall defense. They have showed that their secondary can match up against some of the league's best; however, they have looked average in the run defense so far this season. 

If the Broncos want to be successful in this game they will need Peyton Manning to have a better game this week than he did last week. He will need to be on his game, especially when throwing the ball deep and trying to get past a solid San Diego secondary. Another key to victory for the Broncos is their rushing attack. If they can get their rushing game going early and often against an average Chargers defensive line, it will open up the passing attack for Manning and Company to expose. However, it’s important that the Denver defense steps up and limits the amount of big plays they give up to QB Philip Rivers. If the Chargers want to be successful in this game, they must rely on their passing game first and foremost. It’s tough to run against the Broncos defense, but, their secondary can be beat. It will ultimately come down to the Chargers defense and how well they execute and stop Peyton Manning. If the Chargers defense can keep Manning and CO. off the field, they have a shot at winning this game and closing the game in the AFC West. These divisional matchups always make for a fantastic game.
Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, December 14th from Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.

New Orleans Saints (5 – 8) vs. Chicago Bears (5 – 8)
One might ask why I have chosen to cover this game, a game featuring two heavily under-performing teams with sub-par records. Why? It’s because both teams have a hell of a lot on the line this week and are in dire need of a win and still have something to prove. 

Last week the New Orleans Saints played host to their bitter NFC South Rivals, the Carolina Panthers, in what was a physical, hard-hitting, chippy game that saw the Panthers completely dominate they Saints, in the Superdome no less, as they earned the 41-10 win. The Saints offensive attack is led by QB Drew Brees, who has thrown for nearly 4,000 yards, 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions so far this season. The Saints have no shortage of offensive talent, players such as RB Mark Ingram, WR’s Kenny Stills, Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks and TE Jimmy Graham are all threats and they have helped out a Saints offense that is currently ranked 3rd in the league in terms of overall offensive production. On the other side of the ball, the Saints defense ranks 30th in the league in terms of overall production and they have looked equally bad at stopping the run and defending against the pass. This is a Saints defense that was one of the top defenses in the league last season. 

Last week the Chicago Bears played host to the Dallas Cowboys in a Thursday Night showdown of two of the NFL’s most storied franchises. The Bears were able to stick around for a little while, however, the Cowboys were able to pull away and earn the 41-28 win over their NFC foes. QB Jay Cutler, who has thrown for over 3,400 yards, 26 touchdowns and staggering 15 interceptions so far this season, leads the Bears offensive attack. RB Matt Forte, WR Alshon Jeffery and TE Martellus Bennett are all standouts for the Bears, who have made a positive impact for their team so far this season. The Bears offense ranks 18th in the league in terms of overall offensive production due in large part to the fact that they haven’t been fully healthy this season nor executed to the level they should be executing at. On the other side of the ball, the Bears defense ranks 28th in the league in terms of overall production and they have struggled mightily this season when it comes to their pass defense. 

If the Saints want to be successful in this game they will need their offense firing at all cylinders in hopes of trying to take advantage of a weak Bears defense. If Brees can spread the ball evenly amongst his receivers to find success with different players, it would be great for them. The biggest thing the Saints must do it contain Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte who is a rushing threat and a passing threat. If the Bears want to be successful in this game they will need QB Jay Cutler to step up in a big way. Cutler is known for his poor attitude and lack of drive, however, if he can have himself a good game while limiting the turnovers, the Bears can win this game. Both teams need this win very badly. The Saints want to leap frog the Falcons in the NFC South and the Bears want to crash the party and steal a wildcard spot away from a more deserving team. This matchup should make for a good game. Look for the team that makes the least defensive mistakes to win.
Game details: Kickoff on Monday, December 15th at 8:30pm from Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois.

Matt Kassabian

Friday, December 5, 2014

NFL Week 14: Can the Legion of Boom contain the Eagles?

Legion of Boom has been on a roll
Last week, the 13th week of the season, we were in for a treat, it was Thanksgiving weekend and our neighbours to the south allowed us to enjoy three fantastic football games, to help us kickoff a weekend full of great games. 

Last week the Detroit Lions played host to their NFC North Division rivals, the Chicago Bears, and were able to earn a 34-17 win as they snapped their two-game losing streaking and improved their record to 8-4 on the season. That afternoon, the Philadelphia Eagles marched into Dallas to do battle with their NFC East Division rivals, the Cowboys, and they were able to dominate the Cowboys the whole game and earn their ninth win of the season, as they beat the boys by a score of 33-10. Sticking to Thanksgiving, on the final game of the day, the San Francisco 49ers played host to their very bitter rivals and divisional foes, the Seattle Seahawks, in the Thursday Night game which saw the Seahawks completely dominate the game and earn a 19-3 statement win which helped Seattle prove that they are still the same team that won it all last year. Also in week 13, the Jacksonville Jaguars earned only their second win of the season, as they fought back to win their game against the New York Giants by a score of 25-24. The Atlanta Falcons were able to complete the upset last week, when they beat up on the NFC West division-leading Arizona Cardinals at home by a score of 29-18.

Week 14 of the 2014 has some very intriguing matchups which should all make for great games. As we get deeper and deeper into the season, wins and losses become more and important and key divisional matchups hold major playoff implications. 

Here are a few of this week’s biggest games to watch out for.

Indianapolis Colts (8 – 4) vs. Cleveland Browns (7 – 5)
Last week the Indianapolis Colts played host to the Washington Redskins and were able to outplay their opponents from the NFC East and earn their eighth win of the season by routing the Redskins by a score of 49-27. QB Andrew Luck, who has thrown for over 4,000 yards, 34 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this season, lead the Colts offensive attack. RB Trent Richardson, WR T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, TE’s Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen are all serious play makers that have helped make the Colts’ offense the number one overall offense in the league in terms of overall production. On the other side of the ball, the Colts defense ranks 23rd in the league in terms of overall production. The Colts have a defense that has been significantly better at stopping the run rather than stopping the pass, which is a cause for concern if the Colts want to make another deep playoff run. 

Last week the Cleveland Browns marched into Buffalo to battle the AFC foes, the Bills, in a game which they lost by a score of 26-10 and saw their record fall to 7-5. The Browns are led by QB Brian Hoyer, who has thrown for over 3,000 yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. RB’s Terrence Wets, Isaiah Crowell, WR’s Josh Gordon, Miles Austin and Taylor Gabriel help out the Browns’ 12th ranked overall offense. On the defensive side of the ball, the Browns rank 18th in overall defense, however, we shouldn’t get too mixed up in the numbers when it comes to this Browns team because they can bring it and their secondary is one of the best in the NFL. 

If the Colts want to be successful in this game, they will need to implement a very stout rushing attack because the Browns defense that they will be going up against has struggled, at times, with their run defense and if the Colts try and get greedy and pick on the Browns secondary, they could get burned. The Colts defense must play a very sound game as well because the Browns can move the ball on the ground and in the air, so the Colts defense must be prepared to handle even doses of both attacks. If the Brown wants to win, they must play much better offensively than they played last weekend against the Bills. Their passing game suffered big time in their loss and they cannot afford to play catch-up with a team like the Colts and their high-powered offense. Look for the Colts offense and Andrew Luck to play with a lot of tempo and try to throw the Browns defense off of its game plan.
Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, December 7th at 1:00pm from FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio.

Seattle Seahawks (8 – 4) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (9 – 3)
Last week the Seattle Seahawks marched down into the Bay Area to do battle with their arch-rivals, the San Francisco 49ers in a game where they laid a smack down on their divisional opponents and won the game by a score of 19-3. The Seahawks are led by dual-threat QB Russell Wilson, who has thrown for over 2,400 yards, 15 touchdowns and only five interceptions so far this season. RB Marshawn Lynch, WR Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse help round out the offensive leaders for the Seahawks offense, an offense that ranks 13th in the league in terms of overall production, but, they are tops in the league when it comes to running the ball. However, the Seattle passing attack has looked fairly lacklustre this season and ranks in the bottom half of the league, they will need to improve on that if they want to make another run to the Super Bowl this season. On the other side of the ball we have the infamous Seattle defense, a unit that is physical, skilled, athletic and punishing and it shows. The Seattle defense ranks tops in the NFL in terms of overall defense and they look better and better each week. 

Last week, on Thanksgiving Thursday, the Philadelphia Eagles marched into Dallas to battle their NFC East Division foes, the Cowboys, in a game where the dominated from start to finish on their way to earning their ninth win of the season by beating up on the Cowboys by a score of 33-10. The Eagles offense is led by non-other than QB Mark Sanchez, who has thrown for over 1,400 yards (in only 5 games), eight touchdowns and six interceptions. Mark Sanchez is filling in for injured QB Nick Foles and has look comfortable in this offense. RB’s LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, WR’s Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews are all fantastic players that help makesthis Eagles offense the 4th ranked offense in the league. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles defense ranks 24th in the league, mostly due to the fact that their secondary has looked a tad inconsistent at times throughout the season. However, the Eagles have proven that they can stop the run, though they will be in tough this weekend against the league’s best rushing attack. 

If the Seahawks want to be successful in this game, they will need to establish more of a passing game in hopes of trying to take advantage of an inconsistent Eagles secondary. The Seahawks defense will need to be in tip top shape, if they want to earn this win. It could be very tough for them to play against the Eagles and their high-tempo offense, especially because they’re a defense that likes to substitute often. If the Eagles want to be successful in this very tough NFC match-up, they will need to play their best game of the season on both sides of the ball. QB Mark Sanchez must make smart decisions when throwing the ball this week, he must take what the defense gives him and try not to force passes against the ball-hawking Seattle secondary that has been playing lights out. The defense must almost hold up, though they have showed signs of being able to stop the run, they must be on high alert and watch the QB run because Russell Wilson will take off for long runs. This is going to be a very interesting game to say the least, one that you wouldn’t want to miss
Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, December 7th at 4:25pm from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

New England Patriots (9 – 3) vs. San Diego Chargers (8 – 4)
Last week the New England Patriots travelled into the state of Wisconsin to do battle with the Green Bay Packers in a showdown at Lambeau Field, which saw the home-team, Packers edge out the Patriots by a score of 26-21. Non-other than QB Tom Brady, who has thrown for over 3,200 yards, 28 touchdowns and only six interceptions this season, leads the high-powered Patriots offence. RB’s Shane Vereen, LaGarrette Blount, WR’s Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell and TE Rob Gronkowski help make the Patriots offense what it is, the league’s 6th ranked overall offense. On the other side of the ball, the Patriots defense ranks 19th in the league in terms of overall defense, however, don’t let that number fool you, they’re still a very talented defense that can make you pay if you choose to test them, especially their secondary. 

Last week the San Diego Chargers travelled cross-country to do battle with their AFC foes, the Baltimore Ravens, in a game which saw them edge out the home team on a late game-winning drive by a score of 34-33 as they improved their record to 8-4 on the season. Fiery QB Philip Rivers, who has thrown for over 3,200 yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions so far this season, leads this Chargers offense. RB’s Ryan Matthew, Branden Oliver, WR’s Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd and TE Antonio Gates help the 16th ranked Chargers on the offensive side of the ball. The Chargers rank amongst the league’s best when it comes to their passing attack; however, their rushing attack hasn’t been that effective this season, especially during that period where they were missing Danny Woodhead and Ryan Mathews. On the other side of the ball, the Chargers defense ranks 8th in the league and they have been very effective at defending against both, the pass and the run. 

If the Patriots want to be successful in this game, they will need to manage a very balanced offensive attack in order to keep this Chargers defense guessing because if they rely heavily on the pass, which they tend to do, it will turn out poorly for them. The Patriots secondary will need to have a stellar game as well because Philip Rivers is one of the most accurate passers in the game and he has the ability to simply torch opposing defenses, especially when he’s on his game and distributing the ball evenly. If Chargers want to be successful in this game, they will need be patient on offense and have a balanced attack. They may have some trouble running the ball against a very big Patriots defensive line, so they will need their passing game to be clicking on all cylinders. The Patriots have travelled a lot in the past couple of weeks, so if the Chargers can control the tempo on both sides of the ball and run the Patriots ragged, they have a great shot at winning this game. We know for sure is that this is a classic match-up of two AFC powerhouses and it should make for a fantastic game.

Game details: Kickoff on Sunday, December 7th at 8:30pm from Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.

Matt Kassabian

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

NCAA Basketball: Okafor vs Kaminsky

Last night, we saw Syracuse and Michigan go down to the wire with the Wolverines pulling out the three point win.  Syracuse had plenty of chances, but turnovers consistently hurt them.  The Canes beat up on the Illini by nine with Rayvonte Rice putting up a cool 22 points and 12 rebounds.  And finally, Louisville beat a pesky Ohio State team by nine, as well.

Here are three match-ups to watch tonight!
(7) Virginia Cavaliers (7-0) vs (21) Maryland Terrapins (7-0)
Virginia, like many other teams, comes into this game with a perfect 7-0 record.  In their last game, the Cavaliers were able to defeat La Salle by a score of 64-56.  It is important to note that those 56 points were the most that Virginia has given up this year, and it explains why they rank 1st in the nation in points allowed and 2nd in opponents field goal percentage, however, it should also be noted that Virginia has had a fairly easy schedule, thus far.  Justin Anderson is the man to watch for the Cavaliers in this game.  He leads Virginia on the offensive side of the ball with 15 points a game and he is shooting a stellar 59% from behind the arc and 54% overall.  Virginia ranks 23rd in the nation when it comes to blocks per game, so it is safe to say that Maryland probably will not have too much going on in the interior.  Malcolm Brogdon, is one of the focal points on this Virginia offense, but his three point shooting has dipped a significant amount since last season; however, Brogdon is still very capable of having a big game.  Similar to Virginia, Maryland comes into this game with an identical 7-0 record, but Maryland has defeated the likes of Arizona State and Iowa State already.  Melo Trimble, the sensational freshman guard, leads Maryland on offense with 16 points a game to go along with three rebounds and close to 30 minutes a game.  Add Dez Wells and Jake Layman to the mix, and Virginia will really have to get after it on the defensive end, as all three of these players are capable of hitting jump shots.  Maryland can put up points, which explains why their field goal percentage is in the top 35 in the nation.  Inside, Virginia should be aware of Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky.  Both of these players have the ability to alter and block shots.  At the end of the day, this will be a very close game, but I will give the edge to Virginia because of their stellar defending.
Canadian Content:
Marial Shayok, Freshman, Guard, Ottawa ON-14.7 MPG, 4.1/PPG, 2.0 RPG
Prediction: Maryland Terrapins +4.5

Game details: Tipoff on Wednesday, December 3rd at 9:15 PM EST from Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts

(4) Duke Blue Devils (7-0) vs (2) Wisconsin Badgers (7-0)
Being the 4th ranked scoring offense in the country, you can count on Duke to put up points with the best of them.  Freshman sensation, Jahlil Okafor is living up to the hype by showing that he is the real deal early on.  To be fair, Okafor has solid back-up from the likes of: Quinn Cook, Justise Winslow and Amile Jefferson, just to name a few.  Duke does a good job of limiting their opponents in points; however, they do let opponents shot 40% from the field, which is a fairly high number.  The Blue Devils will need to limit Kaminsky in terms of touches and make others try to beat them.  Wisconsin is one of the better defensive minded teams in the country, allowing only 50 points per game and letting opponents shot only 37% from the field.  Frank Kaminsky is the leader of this Badgers team and Naismith Trophy candidate (awarded to the Player of the Year).  Duke Dukan has been a surprise in the early going, averaging six more points than last year, and you bet that Wisconsin will need him to show up tonight, if they have any chance at beating a very good Duke side.  Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker have also done a nice job, chipping in and helping Kaminsky with the work load on both sides of the court.  I am curious to see how Okafor will handle this very tough defense tonight because it will be his toughest task so far.  You can expect Kaminsky to guard Okafor at times, but I think the Badgers will throw a few different faces at Jahlil.  If this is a high scoring game, I do not see a way Wisconsin can keep up, even with three or four guys who can put up points.  On the other hand, if it is a defensive match-up, the edge goes to Wisconsin, especially with so many inexperienced players on this Duke team.
Prediction: Duke Blue Devils +4

Game details: Tipoff on Wednesday, December 3rd at 9:30 PM EST from Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin

(8) Wichita State Shockers (4-0) vs (25) Utah Utes (5-1)
We saw what the Shockers can do last year and frankly, they are back at it this year.  Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet make this team run and they have not really suffered since the departure of Cleanthony Early (NBA).  Wichita State can score, they love sharing the ball and they can get out and defend, which is a receipt for success.  Utah comes into this game with their only blemish being a four point loss to a very good defensively minded San Diego State.  Utah comes in averaging 82.5 points per game, which is good for 20th in the country, and it is a fairly balanced attack with four players averaging 10 or more points a game.  The Utes are 7th in three point shooting, which means that the Shockers better be ready to defend, especially the likes of Kenneth Ogbe and Jordan Loveridge who can really get it going.  Unlike the Shockers, the Utes have an inside presence in Jakob Poeltl, who is blocking three shots a game, which ranks him in the top 20.  Wichita State has a good blend of both young and veteran players, to lead this team forward.  It is crucial for them to not give up easy shots and to guard the three point line, where Utah can be fatal from.  On the other hand, Utah must control Baker, VanVleet and Carter on the offensive side of the ball.  I give the upper hand to Utah in this one. 
Prediction: Utah Utes -3.5
Canadian Content:
Dallin Bachynski, Senior, Centre, Calgary, AB-10.8 MPG, 3.3 PPG, 1.8 RPG

Game details: Tipoff on Wednesday, December 3rd at 11:00 PM EST from Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah

Season record: 3-5

Ogi B