Matty Ice has led the Falcons to a 4-1 start, but no one seems to be noticing. Maybe this week will help.

"Matty Ice" has led the Falcons to a 4-1 start, but no one seems to be noticing. Maybe this week will help.

I’m not going to preface this with anything other than oops.  Last week was just atrocious and hopefully no one that reads this bet using my picks after going 5-9.  If you did, and if I wasn’t a poor college student, I would pay you your losses, but alas I can’t.  Last week dropped the overall record to 47-41 (.534) for the season.  This is a big week for yours truly, so let’s take a look at the Week 7 picks.

49ers at Texans (-3): San Fran gets Frank Gore back, which is definitely good news for a team that was crippled offensively without him.  However, we shouldn’t forget what the Falcons passing offense did to these guys two weeks ago and the Texans are even better at throwing the ball around.  Houston seems like they’re on the verge of turning the corner after their typical slow start, and grabbing their first home win of the year this week would go a long way in helping them get into a muddled playoff picture.

Packers (-7) at Browns: One of the easiest picks of the week, considering the state of about half of the Cleveland players, who will be unavailable with the flu.  That, and Cleveland stunk with all of their regular players as it was.  The Pack in a yawner.

Chargers (-6) at Chiefs: After the loss to Denver at home on Monday Night, San Diego is at a crossroads in its season.  A loss to Kansas City might be a deadly blow to a team that has underachieved so far this year, especially defensively where Shawne Merriman has only 13 tackles in 5 games.  A win gets them back to 3-3 and keeps them in the playoff conversation in a congested AFC.

Colts (-14) at Rams: Unless Peyton Manning suffers a catastrophic injury during the course of this game, there is absolutely no way that the Colts are not going to blow the Rams away.  The Colts have beaten several good teams by convincing margins.  I wonder if Peyton will try and outscore Tom Brady and the Patriots from last week?

Vikings (+5) at Steelers: I think that everyone is kind of overstating how the Vikings’ D looked at the end of their game last week.  It was a complete blowout, and the D just packed it in early, nothing else.  Also, Pittsburgh almost never covers the spread and likes playing in ugly, close games.  This game will come down to a late field goal, and that will be the final margin.

Patriots (-16) vs. Buccaneers (in London, England): I don’t see how a game this lopsided is going to make the Brits like our version of football.  They send teams like Manchester United and Chelsea to the U.S. every summer.  We’re sending them the Tampa Bay Bucs.  The only thing that will even be entertaining about this game is to see how much New England can win by this week.

Jets at Raiders (+7): The Jets are beginning to play like the Jets again, which means that they’re due to throw up another stinker this week in Oakland.  Not to mention, the Jets’ run defense just took a big hit with the loss of Kris Jenkins, and Mark Sanchez will have to beat a tough Raiders secondary, which might be the only part of Oakland’s team that’s competent this year.  I wouldn’t be shocked to see Oakland pull the upset.

Bills at Panthers (-7): This game is definitely more of a pillow fight than a football game, but I think the Panthers are going to come out with a fire under their feet and play a very good game to get back to .500 for the year, if only by the grace of God, himself.  I expect to see two very good things from the Carolina offense. First, they’re starting to run the ball again, which is absolutely necessary for them to do considering the QB play of Jake Delhomme.  Second, the disgruntled Steve Smith will be a factor as a result of the success on the ground.  That’s bad news for the Bills.

Bears (+1) at Bengals:  The Bears are far more battle-tested than Cincy is and Jay Cutler is playing pretty well right now.  The Bengals defense is a complete mess with injuries and they looked very vulnerable last week at home against Houston.  In a game that’s basically a pick ’em, I think the Bears will take it 27-24.

Falcons (+4) at Cowboys: I don’t know if anyone’s been paying attention to this team, but Atlanta is pretty good this year.  Matt Ryan is showing that last year wasn’t a fluke and the Falcons could, very quietly, join the conversation for NFC’s best team if they go into Dallas and knock off the Cowboys, who it’s impossible to tell what you’ll get from them.

Saints (-7) at Dolphins: Until a team actually gives me a reason to not have 100% confidence in taking the Saints, I am picking them for the rest of the season.  The Dolphins and the wildcat can’t keep up with Drew Brees & Co. on offense.

Cardinals at Giants (-7): The G-Men are coming into this one after being humbled a week ago in New Orleans, and they are not happy about that loss.  The Cardinals have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the NFL so far this year, and after a couple of good games in a row, head into New York, where they were beaten 56-35 by the Jets last year in a sequence of 3 blowout losses in the Northeast.  I struggle to see ‘Zona play well in New York this time around, either.

Eagles (-7) at Redskins: Washington is a complete mess right now and couldn’t score on bad defenses before the most recent events surrounding Jim Zorn.  The Eagles are embarrassed after losing in Oakland and I fully expect them to show up in a big way for this one.  Philly should (note: SHOULD) win by a solid margin.

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With so much going on in the sports world, welcome to my weekly summary of the most important events of the week in everything that is sports…

As the baseball season reaches the 50 game mark, I have a few observations:

1. Johan Santana is not the pitcher he was made out to be. For someone who is pegged as the greatest pitcher in baseball, he has been awfully hittable the past season and a half. Over his past 43 starts, he has given up 44 homeruns. That is over one per game, way too many for an ace to give up. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a great pitcher, but there has to be a reason why the Yankees would not include both Philip Hughes and Ian Kennedy in a deal, why the Red Sox refused to part with both Ellsbury and Lester, and why the eventual deal was such a steal for the Mets. I think we’re about to see a massive decline over the next two years from Santana.

2. Josh Hamilton and Lance Berkman both have legitimate shots at winning the famous “Triple Crown”. Hamilton leads the AL in batting average, RBI’s, and Homeruns, while Berkman leads the NL in HR’s and RBI’s and is only second to Chipper Jone’s incredible impersonation of Ted Williams’ batting average (he’s currently hitting .412). While neither will win it, its fun to see the feel good stories from of these Texas Terrors.

3. Will there be playoff baseball in New York? As of right now, not a chance in hell. The Yankees have no pitching beyond Chien-Ming Wang and Mariano Rivera. The bullpen is a mess and the rotation is full of has beens and rookies who are not quite ready for prime time. I’d look for them to rebound but not as much as they did last year. The Mets on the other hand should be dominating the NL East. On paper they are the second best team in the National League (second only to the Chicago Cubs) and should be blowing away the competition in a division in which every contending team has its flaws. I don’t expect Willie Randolph to last the season and the Mets to not make the playoffs again this year. At least there will be no collapse.

For those who love and follow sports closely like myself, there is nothing better than witnessing an instant classic and watching one player to see what he or she will do next. This past week saw three such instances: The reemergence of hockey as an entertaining sport due to Sid “the kid” Crosby, a classic game seven in the NBA, and an even better game played for the UEFA Cup Championship. Hockey has needed a marketable star for quite awhile to build a new fan base. Sidney Crosby is just that person. As the heir apparent to “Super Mario” in Pittsburgh, the NHL should be marketing this guy like Lebron James, David Ortiz, and Dwayne Wade are marketed. Get this guy on TV pronto! Also, the match-up between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL Finals is a dream match-up for those who love hockey. Both of these teams have the talent, tradition, and fan base to reinvigorate hockey to upgrade it from a “C” level sport to a “B” level sport.

For those lucky enough to watch game 7 of the Cavs/Celtics series, you witnessed two players who absolutely willed their team to victory, with only one winning out. I remember watching the game with my friends trying to predict how many points Lebron James and Paul Pierce would each have at the end of the game. I boldly stated each would finish with over 50, no problem. The battle between these two players was something I have never witnessed as an NBA fan. I am not old enough to even try and discuss the Bird/Magic rivalry and Michael Jordan never truly had someone he could call his equal, it makes me smile being able to watch two players at the top of their game pushing so hard to win that nothing can stop them. I love that vibe and can’t wait for more of it if any combination of Boston and SA/LA make the finals. Could you imagine KG vs Timmy D in the post? Or Kobe and Pierce going at it all night? Bring it on!

However, the only thing that topped that performance was the UEFA Cup Championship between Chelsea and Manchester United. This was one hell of a soccer game, that had fantastic finishes, gut-wrenching saves, and skill that makes you wonder how the players control a soccer ball the way they do. But, as I watching the game, I couldn’t take my eyes off of one player: Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s greatest flopper and owner of a mullet. I believe he is the greatest athlete in the world and was playing with the soccer ball like it was a yo-yo attached to his big toes. As a soccer player myself, I couldn’t even fathom attempting half of the moves he performed with such precision that it made me giddy like a little school child. The game is on ESPN360.com and i recommend you spending some quality time with the world’s most popular game.

Before I leave, three things I am looking forward to this weekend:

1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones and Cate Blanchett as the villain. Thats all I need to be motivated to see this.

2. Game 2 of Lakers and Spurs. Game One was awesome and I believe every game in this series will be played with as much intensity and fire as game one. Welcome to SEVEN GAME SEVENS!

3. Memorial Day bbq’s and beach days. The first true of summer is here and I plan on honoring my troops the same way they would most likely enjoy a summer afternoon if they were home: drink some beer, grill some dogs, and chill out in the sun all day long. I can’t wait.

Happy Memorial Day!

BEARD

Rain Assists Manchester United in Winning the UEFA Champions League

By: Sean Speirs

 

     It is 1:30 A.M. and rain is flooding into the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.  Jeers and roars are coming from the crowd.  Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo has just missed an easy go-ahead penalty shot. The taste of victory is in reach.  You are Chelsea center back John Terry, and all you need to do is make one more goal in order to win the European Champion Clubs’ Cup.

 

     Unfortunately, for Americans, this scenario does not sound exciting.  For those unfamiliar with the sport, it most likely sounds confusing.  Questions might arise, such as:

 “Who is Cristiano Ronaldo?” and “What is a penalty shot?”

 

     While most Americans were preparing for the American Idol finale on TV last night, they missed an exciting European soccer event…the UEFA Champions League Final (Union of European Football Association), which is equivalent to America’s NFL Superbowl in Europe.

 

     The UEFA Champions League is a tournament style match-up that pits the best of Europe’s soccer clubs (a.k.a. teams) against one another.  The last club standing is awarded the European Champion Clubs’ Cup, the most prominent trophy a club team could receive in the sport. 

 

     This year marked the first in UEFA’s 52-year existence that had two English clubs in the Champions League Final game.  The two clubs were Manchester United F.C. (Football Club) versus Chelsea F.C.

 

     Both clubs are fleshed out with great soccer players, but the most notable ones include Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Chelsea’s Didier Drogba.  Ronaldo’s accolades include receiving the 2007 English Player of the Year Award and Young Player of the Year Award, while Drogba was the top scorer in the 2007 English Premier League with a total of 20 goals.

 

     Before this final match, predicting the outcome was up in the air.  No one had a clue to who would come out on top.  Both teams had advantages and disadvantages that were matched by one another.

 

     And that leaves us to yesterday’s UEFA battle, where the pouring rain in Moscow created a dangerous/slick soccer field that created problems for both teams to control the flow of their offensive attack.

 

     The match was quiet until the 26th minute, where Ronaldo scored his career 42nd goal as a header off of a pass from teammate right back Wes Brown. 

 

     However, Chelsea answered back with a goal of their own in the 45th minute that was created by an attempted shot from midfielder Michael Essien, but due to the sleek and wet field, was reflected by a Manchester United defender to an unmarked teammate midfielder Frank Lampard who finished the shot.

 

     By the end of the game, which went into extra overtime, the score was tied 1-1, with a total of 8 yellow-cards and an ejected Drogba who was given a red-card during the 116th minute.

 

     Since the match continued to be a tie game after regulation and overtime play, both teams had to go into a penalty shootout.  This is where 8 players from each club individually go up against the opposing goal-keeper in a standalone one-on-one shootout.

 

     As the event started, each club scored their respected penalty shots without trouble; until it was Ronaldo’s turn.  As stated before, Ronaldo is known for having an amazing and impressive soccer season this year…but he is also known for being a tricky player and pulling off impressive dribbling and acrobatic shooting moves when they matter the most.

 

     In this situation, in order to throw off Chelsea goal-keeper Petr Cech, Ronaldo stopped his approach in mid-motion, delaying his shot before following through with his kick.  Unfortunately, such a trick was no use, as Petr Cech successfully blocked Ronaldo’s shot.

 

     Advantage was officially for Chelsea.  Manchester United fans were one step away from calling it quits.  Rain continued to fall.  Chelsea kept making their shots, while Manchester was trying to catch up. 

 

     Then it was Chelsea defender John Terry’s turn.

 

     As the chances of a Chelsea win was seen from the horizon, one would think that making the game winning penalty shot would be easy.  That is, however, if you do not consider the other factor that has been lurking throughout this whole game…rain.

 

     As John Terry approached his shot, he slipped due to the wet field and miss-hit his shot, which ended up ricocheting off the right goal post.

 

     There was new hope for Manchester United, and a chance for a win that they rightfully took due to a diving save by Manchester United goal-keeper Edwin Van der Sar, who blocked the shot Chelsea’s next penalty shooter Nicolas Anelka took. 

 

     With a total of 14 penalty shots taken and Van der Sar’s save, Manchester United gained advantage and the win; crowning themselves UEFA Champion League Champs.

 

     After an exciting match-up and outcome from one of the greatest sports events ever played, it is sad to think that only a handful of Americans know the whole story of and behind the meaning of this one game.

 

     If only American Idol had pushed back their finale an extra day…

Sean Speirs

 

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