Saturday, May 2, 2009

Eastern Conferance Semifinals Preview: Penguins vs. Capitals

Pittsburgh Penguins:
Season record: 45-28-9, 2nd in the Atlantic 
Season series: lost 1-3
First round: Won 4-2 over the Philadelphia Flyers
Top scorers: Evengi Malkin 35-G, 78-A, 113-P, Sidney Crosby 33-G, 70-A, 103-P
Goalie: Marc-Andre Fluery Record: 35-18-7, GAA: 2.67, Sav%: .912

Washington Capitals:
Season record: 50-24-8, 1st in the South East
Season series: won 3-1
First round: Won 4-3 over the New York Rangers
Top scorers: Alexander Ovechkin 56-G, 54-A, 110-P, Nichlas Backstrom 22-G, 66-A, 88-P
Goalie: Jose Theodore Record: 32-17-5, GAA: 2.87, Sav%: .900

Outlook: There were three players that amassed a hundred or more points during the regular season this year and all three are playing in this series. Offense will be a premium as both teams feature a number of offensive threats. Even though the Capitals won the season series and are the higher seed, the Penguins should be considered the favorite in this battle. Pittsburgh was the Eastern Conference winner last season and has a bit more playoff experience than Washington. Also, Pittsburgh wins the battle of the goalies which is what this series could come down too. As Washington fans know anything is possible. The Capitals were down 3-1 to the Rangers, but came back to win  the last three games. While the Caps don't have a 2nd superstar to pair with Ovechkin like the Pens do, they have an extremely talented and deep line-up. The Caps will need their back-up goalie Simeon Varlamov to step up and give them a boost like he did against the Rangers.

Prediction: Pittsburgh in 7

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Western Conference Semifinals Preview: Blackhawks vs. Canucks

Chicago Blackhawks:
Season record: 46-24-12, 2nd in the Central
Season series: tied 2-2
First round: Won 4-2 over the Calgary Flames
Top scorers: Martin Havlat 29-G: 48-A: 77-P, Patrick Kane 25-G: 45-A: 70-P
Goalie: Nikolai Khabibulin Record: 25-8-7, GAA: 2.33, Sav%: .919

Vancouver Canucks:
Season record: 45-27-10, 1st in the North West
Season series: tied 2-2
First round: Won 4-0 over the St. Louis Blues
Top scorers: Daniel Sedin 31-G: 51-A: 82-P, Henrik Sedin 22-G: 60-A: 82-P
Goalie: Roberto Luongo Record: 33-13-7, GAA: 2.34, Sav%: .920

Outlook: Even though the Canucks actually had a worse record than the Blackhawks they get home ice in the series since they won the North West division. Given the home ice advantage and the Canucks veteran depth they should be the favorite to win the series. The Sedin brothers lead an impressive of skaters. Luongo is among the best goalies in the game and should be a difference maker in this series. The Blackhawks aren't without hope in the series as they have one of the NHL's emerging young stars in Patrick Kane. Kane and Havlat can put the puck in the net with the best of them and will give the Canucks plenty of trouble. The Canucks are also at a disadvantage since they've been off for so long. Vancouver hasn't played a game in over a week and the long layoff could negatively affect them in the first couple of games. If the Blackhawks can steal the first two games or at least split them then they have a chance when they bring the series back to Chicago.

Prediction: Vancouver in 6

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

AFC Draft Grades


Buffalo Bills:
Best Pick: Eric Wood C-1st round
Worst Pick: Jarius Byrd DB-2nd round
One to watch: Shawn Nelson TE-4th round
Grade: B-

Miami Dolphins:
Best Pick: Sean Smith DB-2nd round
Worst Pick: Patrick Turner WR-3rd round
One to watch: Pat White WR/QB-2nd round
Grade: C+

New England Patriots:
Best Pick: Darius Butler CB-2nd round
Worst Pick: George Bussey G-5th round
One to watch: Brandon Tate WR-3rd round
Grade: A

New York Jets:
Best Pick: Shonn Greene RB-3rd round
Worst Pick: N/A (Jets only had 3 picks)
One to watch: Mark Sanchez QB-1st round
Grade: C+


Baltimore Ravens:
Best Pick: Michael Oher OT-1st round
Worst Pick: Lardarius Webb CB-3rd round
One to watch: Jason Phillips LB-5th round
Grade: B-

Cincinnati Bengals:
Best Pick: Michael Johnson DE-3rd round
Worst Pick: Freddie Brown WR-7th round
One to watch: Chase Coffman TE-3rd round
Grade: A

Cleveland Browns:
Best Pick: Alex Mack C-1st round
Worst Pick: Mohamed Massaquoi WR-2nd round
One to watch: Brian Robiskie WR-2nd round
Grade: B-

Pittsburgh Steelers:
Best Pick: Kraig Urbik G-3rd round
Worst Pick: Evander Hood DL-1st round
One to watch: Mike Wallace WR-3rd round
Grade: B-


Houston Texans:
Best Pick: Connor Barwin DE-2nd round
Worst Pick: Glover Quin DB-4th round
One to watch: James Casey TE-5th round
Grade: B

Indianapolis Colts:
Best Pick: Donald Brown RB-1st round
Worst Pick: Jerraud Powers CB-3rd round
One to watch: Austin Collie WR-4th round
Grade: B+

Jacksonville Jaguars:
Best Pick: Eugene Monroe OT-1st round
Worst Pick: Derek Cox CB-3rd round
One to watch: Rashard Jennings-7th round
Grade: B+

Tennessee Titans:
Best Pick: Jared Cook TE-3rd round
Worst Pick: Ryan Mouton CB-3rd round
One to watch: Kenny Britt WR-1st round
Grade: B-


Denver Broncos:
Best Pick: Knowshon Moreno RB-1st round
Worst Pick: Richard Quinn TE-2nd round
One to watch: Robert Ayers DE-1st round
Grade: D+

Kansas City Chiefs:
Best Pick: Tyson Jackson DE-1st round
Worst Pick: Colin Brown OT-5th round
One to watch: Alex McGee DL-3rd round
Grade: D

Oakland Raiders:
Best Pick: Louis Murphy WR-4th round
Worst Pick: Michael Mitchell S-2nd round
One to watch: Darrius Heyward-Bey WR-1st round
Grade: F

San Diego Chargers:
Best Pick: Larry English DE/LB-1st round
Worst Pick: Gartrell Johnson RB-4th round
One to watch: Louis Vasquez G-3rd round
Grade: C+

Monday, April 27, 2009

NFC Draft Grades


Dallas Cowboys:
Best Pick: Brandon Williams DE/LB-4th round
Worst Pick: Stephen McGee QB-4th round
One to watch: Mike Mickens CB-7th round
Grade: C-

New York Giants:
Best Pick: Hakeem Nicks WR-1st round
Worst Pick: Stoney Woodson CB-7th round
One to watch: Clint Sintim LB-2nd round
Grade: A+

Philadelphia Eagles:
Best Pick: LeSean McCoy RB-2nd round
Worst Pick: Paul Fanaika G-7th round
One to watch: Victor Harris CB-5th round
Grade: A-

Washington Redskins:
Best Pick: Brian Orakpo DE-1st round
Worst Pick: Cody Glenn LB-5th round
One to watch: Kevin Barnes CB-3rd round
Grade: C+


Chicago Bears:
Best Pick: Jarron Gilbert DL-3rd round
Worst Pick: Henry Melton DE-4th round
One to watch: D.J. Moore CB-4th round
Grade: B

Detroit Lions:
Best Pick: Matt Stafford QB-1st round
Worst Pick: Deandre Levy LB-3rd round
One to watch: Derrick Williams WR-3rd round
Grade: C+

Greenbay Packers:
Best Pick: B.J. Raji DT-1st round
Worst Pick: Jarrius Wynn DE-6th round
One to watch: Clay Matthews LB-1st round
Grade: B+

Minnesota Vikings:
Best Pick: Phil Loadholt OT-2nd round
Worst Pick: Percy Harvin WR-1st round
One to watch: Jasper Brinkley LB-5th round
Grade: C


Atlanta Falcons:
Best Pick: Peria Jerry DT-1st round
Worst Pick: William Middleton CB-5th round
One to watch: Lawrence Sidbury DE-4th round
Grade: A-

Carolina Panthers:
Best Pick: Everette Brown DE-2nd round
Worst Pick: Tony Fiammetta FB-4th round
One to watch: Duke Robinson G-5th round
Grade: C

New Orleans Saints:
Best Pick: Malcom Jenkins DB-1st round
Worst Pick: Thomas Morestead P-5th round
One to watch: Chip Vaughn S-4th round
Grade: C+

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Best Pick: Kyle Moore DE-4th round
Worst Pick: E. J. Biggers CB-7th round
One to watch: Josh Freeman QB-1st round
Grade: D


Arizona Cardinals:
Best Pick: Chris Wells RB-1st round
Worst Pick: Will Davis DE-6 round
One to watch: Rashard Johnson S- 3rd round
Grade: A-

San Francisco 49ers:
Best Pick: Michael Crabtree WR-1st round
Worst Pick: Curtis Taylor S-6th round
One to watch: Scott McKillop LB-5th round

Seattle Seahawks:
Best Pick: Aaron Curry LB-1st round
Worst Pick: Deon Butler WR-3rd round
One to watch: Max Unger OL-2nd round
Grade: B

St. Louis Rams:
Best Pick: Jason Smith OT-1st round
Worst Pick: Keith Null QB-6th round
One to watch: James Laurinaitis LB-2nd round
Grade: B

NFL Draft: Winners and Losers

3 Winners:

New York Giants: New York did a great job filling their needs and getting quality talent. Hakeem Nicks is a great value at 29 and should help replace the loss of Palxico Burress. Both of the Giants two second round picks could have easily gone in the first round. Clint Sintim should become an instant starter and will be a nice addition to the Giants fearsome pass rush. The Giants also did well in the mid rounds by adding WR Ramses Barden, TE Travis Beckum, RB Andre Brown, and QB Rhett Bomar. All four of these players should contribute to the Giants long term future. Overall the Giants added a number of guys with big upside potential and filled all their needs.

New England Patriots: New England did what they do best, stock pile picks in this years draft and next year. When the dust settled the Patriots ended up with 6 picks in the first 100 and added two second round picks in 2010. New England used their extra picks to bolster their secondary and offensive line. Patrick Chung and Darius Butler are great additions to the Patriots secondary. WR Brandon Tate could be a great steal for the Patriots in the third round. He was once thought to be a first round talent but fell due to injury and poor decision making. If he stays healthy and out of trouble he will be a good third option for Tom Brady. Overall the Patriots got plenty of value and players that will fit into their system.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals had a high risk/high reward draft. Its high risk because a number of the players they picked have concerns involving either their character or work ethic. Its high reward because if all the players they drafted can get their careers on track then the Bengals may come away with 4-6 starters from this class. Andre Smith and Jonathan Luigs will instantly upgrade a weak offensive line unit. While I'm not a big fan of Rey Maualuga and think he's much better suited for a 3-4 alignment, he will be an upgrade for the Bengals at MLB. Michael Johnson is another interesting prospect. He has the upside to be the best defensive end in this draft he just needs to stay focused. TE Chase Coffman was a great pick for the Bengals. He catches anything thrown his way and will be a favorite target of Carson Palmer.

3 Losers:

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders shook up the first round by taking Darrius Heyward-Bey with the 7th overall pick. While there were plenty who considered Heyward-Bey a quality receiver, its doubtful any other team would have taken him in the top 20. Heyward-Bey isn't a number one receiver in the NFL and will make the Raiders regret not taking Michael Crabtree in the first round. Throughout the draft the Raiders consistently took players who they could have taken in later rounds. There's not alot of upside or potential in this class, and it won't help the Raiders find their way out of the top 10.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tampa Bay was already missing its 2nd round pick after giving it up for Kellan Winslow, the Buccaneers gave up another pick to move up two spots in the 1st round. Tampa Bay moved up so they could select QB Josh Freeman. While the 6th round pick they gave up was a small price to pay, it was completely unnecessary. Tampa only had to wait out the the Browns and Broncos and neither one was likely to take Freeman. Freeman is a nice QB prospect but he's hardly a sure thing. He will need a couple of years of development time before he can be an effective starter in the NFL. Other than Freeman Tampa didn't draft many other players with a high upside. The Buccaneers failed to address a number of their needs on draft day, and could very well pay for it in the win column this season.

Kansas City Chiefs: Even though they had the 3rd pick in the draft the Chiefs had a very unimaginative draft. Kansas City took DE Tyson Jackson with the 3rd pick. Jackson is a very good player, but probably not the third best player in the draft. Kansas City would have been better served taking anyone of B.J. Raji, Eugene Monroe, Michael Crabtree or Aaron Curry. Anyone of them would have filled a bigger need than defensive end. Also any of those players would have had a greater value at the number three spot than Jackson did. If you are going to guarantee that much money to a player it should be for a sure thing. In the mid and late rounds the Chiefs reached for a couple of players and ignored needs at linebacker and safety. Kansas City should have picked players that could have filled some immediate needs, and drafted a higher rated player at number three.