Sunday, December 22, 2013

NBA Trade Machine - Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2, I made some fantastic fake trades with Coach Hubie Brown's help. But what does the league look like now? Here, I'll break down each team's optimal starting 5 and top 3 bench players, their respective PERs, and my projected win total for that team. I'll sort these in order of projected finishing record.

How did I come up with the records? The Hollinger analysis on the ESPN Trade Machine uses a combination of PER and other factors. I thought it would be interesting to regress the total PER of a team's top 8 (by minutes played) against their regular season record for the last 3 years and see how strong of an indicator PER is. I thought about using a weighted-average PER as PER is a per-play effectiveness stat and for many players decrease as they play more minutes, but decided that this effect should be relatively uniform across the league (i.e. each team has players that play great for <= 20 minutes a game). Also, I ran out of time.

PER is the average of the team's top 8 players by minutes played. Color codes indicate ranking for that particular year.

Friday, December 20, 2013

NBA Trade Machine - Part 2

XING (@youmakethecalls): The first thing I need to do is correct a mistake I made in Part 1. Well, not really a mistake. You see, I don't have the heart to send Andrew Bogut to wither away in the Boston cold on a team that clearly doesn't want him. I needed him to make the salaries work, but isn't there another way? COACH HUBIE BROWN - how do you feel about the big Australian?

COACH HUBIE: You know, it's funny you should ask, because I never actually got coach against Andrew. He came into the league after my last year in Memphis. I have, however, had the chance to do his games, and let me tell you - he is one of the most underrated players of his generation. A former No. 1 pick that is a legitimate center, can play on the block both offensively and defensively, and is a great passer. Everyone I've talked to about him, whether it's coaches or players, have nothing but good things to say about him.

He came into the league at a time when the style of play was really changing - you know, Shaq was the last great true center. Anyway, I feel like he, and Yao Ming, too, were caught in an awkward situation where the league was transitioning to a more open, drive-and-kick style, and they were real throwback players. So I think history has not been kind to him in that regard.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

QB Corner - Nick Foles (WSH @ PHI)

The Philadelphia Eagles have been a markedly improved team in 2013. With the Cowboys, Giants, and Redskins spiraling downwards, the Eagles have seized command of the division (at least as much as losing by double digits to Minnesota qualifies as "seizing command"). With 2 games left, it is likely that they will challenge for the division crown when they visit Dallas in Week 17, if they haven't won it already.

Part of the Philly narrative is well known: Chip Kelly's explosive offense scheme extends defenses horizontally, vertically, and in terms of preparation and conditioning. However, the offense has taken its lumps, notably going two straight games without an offensive touchdown in October. Some context: Philly was using its 3rd string quarterback, Matt Barkley, who is wholly unqualified to play in the NFL (watch his USC tape - he is terribly inaccurate and relied on great receivers to make catches outside of their frames).

The man who put an end to that ignominious scoreless streak? Nick Foles has not only ascended as Philly's starting QB, but has set league records in the process. This is the same Nick Foles that was repeatedly passed for the Eagles' starting job, including for Week 1 of this season. So how good exactly is Nick Foles? Is he the QB that two separate coaching staffs benched for a washed-up Michael Vick? Is he the guy that tied an NFL record with 7 touchdown passes in 1 game? I think the real answer is somewhere in-between. First a look at the numbers through Week 14 (as always, from Pro-Football Reference):

Note - these stats change in each post b/c I use updated information from recent games (i.e. Brees is now on-pace to equal his own 5,476 season record for passing yards, or in other words, holy crap!)

Monday, December 16, 2013

NBA Trade Machine - Part 1

I have been waiting for December 16 for a long time. Why? Because on December 15th, NBA players signed during the summer became eligible for trades! Finally! After several months mired in QB analysis, I can look to basketball for a reprieve. As many of you saw, Bill Simmons has a new video on Grantland where he takes the ESPN Trade Machine for a spin with Coach Doug Collins. But he only spoke to a handful of teams. Not to be out-done, I invited the venerable Coach Hubie Brown to debate over trade scenarios involving all of the league’s 30 teams. Hallelujah!

XING: Coach, when the Houston Rockets signed Dwight Howard this summer, surely they did not imagine only a 16-9 record by the season’s first quarter mark. That record is good for…fifth place in the West! Their point differential of +4.8 is 1.3 better than last year but is far behind the 10.2 posted by San Antonio (holy crap!). Houston is also the reason I had to put this up quickly: their self-mandated deadline to trade Omer Asik is only 3 days away. Coach, what’s wrong with the Rockets?

COACH HUBIE: Well, Xing, when you put one defense-oriented player with four others that are uncommitted on that end, you’re going to struggle guarding the ball. They just don’t have any strong perimeter defenders on the roster.

XING: Let the dealing begin!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

QB Corner - Robert Griffin III (WSH @ PHI)

QB Corner travels to Philadelphia to look at another pair of young quarterbacks: Robert Griffin III and Nick Foles. First is RG3, starting with his stats compared to the others I've analyzed (all as of Week 13):

His rushing numbers are the best among this active group, but he's average as a passer. Other than throwing a lot (all numbers pro-rated to 16 games), he doesn't stand out in any category. It gets worse when you compare him to the 2012 version of himself:

Monday, December 2, 2013

QB Corner - Cam Newton (Carolina @ San Francisco)

Over a week ago, QB Corner examined the Week 10 Panthers @ 49ers game looking specifically at a young quarterback's development. That QB was the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick, but he was not the only nascent signal caller in the game. His opposition, Cam Newton, began his NFL career with much success and hoopla, but has since proven uneven as a passer and leader, only recently putting together an impressive series of wins. In this column, I will examine Cam's performance in the Panthers' win and see where his development stands in relation to Colin's.

First, statistics. This will look familiar (stats courtesy of Pro-Football Reference, all pro-rated for a 16-game season):

Friday, November 29, 2013

2013 MLB Review

This has been long time coming. I'm up to my neck in football footage but needed this off my chest. First, the embarrassing part: my picks with my wife, Ems.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

QB Corner - Colin Kaepernick (Carolina @ San Francisco)

I've had a ton of fun breaking down QB mechanics with Josh Freeman the last couple of weeks, but A) I needed a break from that cloud of negativity, B) if he is a healthy scratch, so am I, and C) I wanted to take a look what's happening in the rest of the league! I've created a new moniker for these posts: QB Corner.

One game in particular stood out: Week 10's Carolina at San Francisco match. As you can tell by the 10-7 final score, this one was dominated by defense - and rightfully so as these are two of the best defenses in the league. Not lost among the offensive ineptitude was dismal the performance of the two quarterbacks: Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick. This is especially interesting because Cam and Colin, like Josh, are young, athletic quarterbacks that have had various ups and downs during their brief careers. But both of these signal callers are entrenched in their starting roles, despite their struggles, while Josh is on his way to journeyman status. Why do they get a pass for sometimes uneven, sometimes outright debilitating performance?

First, the numbers - these are courtesy of Pro Football Reference and are pro-rated for a 16 game schedule. Let's see if you can guess which QB is which:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thoughts on the U.S.A. Gold Medal in the FIBA World Championships

I was cleaning up my old drafts and found this post about the 2010 World Basketball Championships that was never published. Enjoy my thoughts about the team and the players from three years ago. Goodness how some of these guys have grown - I will always remember watching them come together for this run and how fun this team was.

First of all, this was Kevin Durant's coming out party. I know he's good. He's been good for a while. But I don't think he's ever been this good. Sure, making the playoffs last year with the Thunder was huge. Getting in your reps with a defender like Artest against a championship-caliber team is something great youngsters have to go through. But this was something else. You could see it in his eyes during the gold medal game against Turkey. How he glared at the fans. How he celebrated after a long three. How he laughed off the pitiful Turkish defense after burying another, longer three. Not that the Turkish defense was bad. Their extended zone was a problem for teams all tournament, and this team played with intelligence and class (well, outside of maybe Turkoglu). But they could not match up with Durant, and Durant knew it. And he feasted. He looked a lot like Michael Jordan or Larry Bird, when they got that look in their eyes that said: "I got this. They can't guard me. Let me take us home." It's arrogance and leadership and confidence. I think this will be a real turning point for him, the point where he learns how to win.

Another thing that I loved seeing from Team USA: the ball movement. In early games (especially against Brazil), you would see the team swing the ball crisply around the perimeter, passing up long shots to probe the defense. Guys seemed to be driving the lane with purpose: even the younger guards (Westbrook, Rose) seemed to cut down on the senseless forays into the paint. A couple hard dribbles, kick out, rotate the ball, reverse, etc. Durant beating zone defenses by himself helped, but they always identified the hot hand. That can be a tough ask for a talented young guard, and it's what separates many from a Chris Paul or John Stockton or Magic Johnson. Those guys know how to manage a game, constantly have a mental ledger of who needs the ball, who can go a few more possessions without, and who gives the team the best chance to win.

Speaking of the young guards: they are fun to watch, aren't they? I forgive them for the hotheaded rim runs they do put on due to the sheer athleticism they exhibit through such displays. Yeah, Rose probably played with too big a chip on his shoulder, causing him to run through a few too many guys, but you know what? I like that he doesn't feel he belongs. He is a bona fide superstar in the league, was a superstar in college, and a superstar in high school, and yet he's here with something to prove. I think all this stems from the whole training camp competition between Rose, Westbrook, and Rondo. Rondo couldn't handle it. I hope he's back. But for Derrick and Russell, this is a valuable time to learn how to play in a system and how to not be the man all the time. But when they do have the ball in their hands? Look out, world.

The final thing that stood out to me about this USA team in particular was the coaching. Coach K pulled some rabbits out of his hat. Small-ball lineups, multiple guards, trusting Lamar Odom at center... he really tried something different, and I loved the way the team played. Each guy knew his role. Guys would come off the bench and fly on defense. I loved watching Iggy whenever he was in the game. He was so infectious. It seemed like these guys really bought into Coach K, bought into Team USA, and in London, that will matter when the All-Stars are there. Some of these guys will make it to London, and I'm so happy for them.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

NFL Midpoint Review: The Contenders

In Part 1, I broke down where each team was in relation to it's pre-season over/under. Here, I'll discuss what I believe to be the playoff contenders:


Kansas City Chiefs
Why They'll Win It All: A dominant defense anchored by a great DT in Dontari Poe is stout against the run. Edge rushers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali are menaces. Jamaal Charles can win games by himself on offense and Alex Smiths' sack (7.6%) and interception (1.3%) rates are near career-lows. They're staring at home-field advantage throughout the AFC. Andy Reid is an underrated coach, as is Dave Toub (formerly Chicago's special teams coach, and special teams matter in the playoffs).
Why They'll Fall Short: Charles' 2.3% rating is only 17th in Football Outsiders' DVOA chart despite ranking 12th in total yards above replacement (DYAR). That means he is producing via a huge number of carries but is not as explosive as some other backs. Dwayne Bowe (-1.7% DVOA, 50th among WRs) is nonexistent and there isn't a second receiving threat. They have played a soft schedule and need to prove themselves against playoff teams. They've allowed teams with backup QB's to make games close in recent weeks as they've been unable to put together long offensive drives. Andy Reid is weak at clock and situation management and can afford no mistakes in the playoffs (though he did well in tonight's loss to Denver, using his timeouts to stop the clock earlier rather than late).

NFL Midpoint Review: Overs and Unders

Catching time to blog has been a struggle lately. I'm knee-deep in some QB analysis projects (you've seen some, others to come) but needed to take a break and get a glimpse of what's going on in the NFL (and the final MLB post isn't up yet, either). I thought a mid-season review on my NFL picks and comments on probably playoff teams would be a fun diversion. And we're off:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Quarterbacking Sins: A Josh Freeman Confessional, Part 2

Josh Freeman is back discussing how he can improve his throwing mechanics and become a more accurate quarterback:


Josh Freeman: Ok, I get it now. My feet need to move with my eyes, my front hip needs to stay pointed at my target, and I can't let my waist get parallel to the line of scrimmage... but it's scary in there, man. You got these 300+ pound linemen bearing down, speedy linebackers coming around the edge, and my offensive line ain't world-beaters. There's just no time to sit there and get your feet right. Sometimes you just got to feel it.

The Good Father (TGF): I hear ya, Josh. Quarterbacking ain't easy. Never was meant to be. But the best quarterbacks in the league consistently get their feet under them to direct their throws...

Josh: But their playing with time to throw! Those pockets are clean, father.

TGF: What about, say, Peyton Manning? He is the best passer this year by far and his line is riddled with injuries.

Josh: Whoa, whoa, I'll just stop you there. I've seen that Peyton dude. Seems pretty chill but let's just say, between you and me, that fool ain't no young buck, ya know what I mean? No way he gets his feet around. He can barely get lined up without tripping!

TGF: Well let's take a look at how Peyton does it:

Following are from the Broncos' 2013 Week 5 win at the Cowboys

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Quarterbacking Sins: A Josh Freeman Confessional, Part 1

WARNING: This transcript is not for the faint of heart. It is a gruesome confessional given by Josh Freeman on his quarterbacking sins, which are many and varied, and may scar your football watching experience forever. They are a lesson to those who would embark on the strait and narrow path of quarterbacking discipleship. May you learn from Josh and be better prepared to throw frozen ropes in hail of Mary.


Josh: Oh Father, I have sinned.

The Good Father (TGF): It's okay, Josh. Tell me your heinous acts of callous quarterbacking and all will be forgiven.

Josh: I'm sailing throws. I'm sailing throws beyond, above, and wide of my receivers. I think I have a problem.

TGF: All is well. It sounds like you just have some issues with your throwing mechanics. Nothing The Good Father can't fix.

Images from this last week's game against the Giants, Freeman's first start as a Viking.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why I Hate the Red Sox: 2013 World Series Preview

What an exciting baseball postseason! Pitcher's duels and plethora of 1-0 games, extra innings finishes, and a couple game-changing grand slams have made this an October to remember, and we should only hope that the Fall Classic is just as exciting (if not more!).

Before the postseason, I wrote that the St. Louis Cardinals looked like the best team, and they have shown nothing to indicate otherwise. But my favorite in the AL? Part due to the aforementioned slams the Detroit Tigers are sitting at home as the Boston Red Sox get ready to host the Series. I'll admit: apart from my picking the Tampa Bay Rays and Tigers in my playoff picking competition with my colleague BPix, I had other reasons to root against Boston. In case you didn't catch the snarky tone evident in my tweets (@xingtheli) during Red Sox games this postseason: I hate the Red Sox.

Now hate is a strong word. We as a society probably use it too often; it is a nice one-syllable word that conveys a very specific emotion, but most situations might call for more nuance. Common usage of the word includes references to people, even athletes, and I am guilty in this context. I hate Manu Ginobili, I hate Ben Roethlisberger, I hate Bernard Pollard, etc. Really, we shouldn't hate people - hate is a root of many of the world's problems, and the word should be used only in extreme situations. So let me be clear: I really do hate the Boston Red Sox. And these are the reasons why:

Monday, September 16, 2013

2013 NFL Preview Pt. 2: NFC Overs and Unders

You know the drill: we're picking NFL season win overs and unders with a focus on the NFC. First, the picture:

I'm not nearly as bearish on the NFC as I was on the AFC. But there is one team that I intensely dislike: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers. First, let's start with this nugget: the 2012 draft. Greg Schiano arrived last year and selected: a safety, RB, LB, LB, CB, RB, TE. Look, Ma, no linemen! Granted: Doug Martin was a great find (one of my all-time favorite Broncos), but his rushing stats plummeted after his best linemen went down (he went from Adrian Peterson-wanabe to just a great back). But the Bucs had to trade up to get him. Hint: only loaded teams should trade up; everyone else needs as many lottery tickets as possible.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

2013 NFL Preview: AFC Overs and Unders

As is our custom for the start of football season, my colleague BPix and I switched from playoff-picking in the MLB to overs/unders for the NFL. I see playoff picking in the NFL as more of a toss-up due to the outsized impact that injury can have and the general parity across the NFL. You could argue that the Broncos (before the dismantling of Baltimore and NY) could drop a lot of the early games without Von and Champ, ultimately losing the division to the Chiefs (2-14 in 2012). I think the overs/unders set by Vegas give us a little more information, and by picking across the entire league, we reduce some of the random injury/TO luck effects. Also in MLB/NBA, we pick mid-season where we have some data; in the NFL, the season is so comparatively short that it doesn't make as much sense.

The way this works: BPix and I switch off picking teams, division by division until all 32 teams are taken. Each team has a season win total published by Vegas for betting purposes; when we pick, we are deciding whether the team will exceed that total (over) or fail expectations (under). The final picture:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

2013 MLB Playoff Preview Part 2 - AL versus NL

In my last post, I pointed out something quite interesting: of the teams in playoff contention (top 9 in each league), the NL teams dominate their AL counterparts from a statistics standpoint (a brief explanation of statistics at the bottom). This was also the case in 2012, where (adjusting for no Strasburg), the top 3 starters for each NL team (by innings) averaged a 3.64 FIP compared to 3.86 in the AL (5.7% advantage), and yet the NL sluggers averaged 107.84 OPS+ compared to 101.76 in the AL (6.0% variance). These are big differences between the leagues, and the Giants' World Series sweep was a partial validation that something is going on between the leagues.

In 2013, the NL advantage persists: team-wide for NL contenders is 3.76 compared to the AL's 3.92 (4.1% difference), but their OPS+ of 108.88 over the AL's 101.89 is a 6.9% increase. How is it that the NL teams can be better at pitching and hitting?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

2013 MLB Playoff Preview

To be honest: I haven't watched a ton of baseball. I've watched enough to know that Yu Darvish is a freak and that you don't want to mess with Clayton Kershaw (or the Dodgers in general since the break). I've seen pitching fall apart for the Giants and Nationals (sorry, Nats fans), and especially, the Giants' World Series order get real, old real fast. I have seen the mighty Red Sox bats, Miguel Cabrera turn nothing into a home run, and Mariano on his farewell tour.

But I haven't watched a whole lot of complete games as weeknights and weekends have been consumed by a new house. Good thing that with baseball, I strongly believe stats tell a big part of the story. You could say I bought Moneyball hook, line, and sinker.

So when my colleague BPix and I kicked off Season 2 of  our sports picking competition, I wasn't too worried. Sure, he had blown me out in baseball in 2012. But I reviewed some of my 2012 projections and believe with a few tweaks, I may have the advantage this time around. Here is the data I worked with last year:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

2013 NBA Draft: Lottery Picks

I had a few thoughts around the college draft, mostly based on the fact that Matt Barkley is NOT a starting NFL quarterback, but frankly, I hadn't seen enough of the other guys to tell either way (except that taking pass rushers in the first round is always a dicey proposition). I actually thought that Manuel may be the best signal caller, but other than seeing him in person once and on TV a few times (without coaches tape) who can really know?

For college basketball, even though I didn't watch every regular season game (ok you got me, I only watched a handful), I did watch at least a part of every tourney game, and tourney performance has proven to be a statistically significant indicator of NBA success. ESPN's Neil Paine has done research showing that All-Tourney selections don't necessarily fare better, but I saw another piece (will link to it when I find it) that indicates those players who improve their performance in the tournament do well in the Association. Based on that, here are my observations of the projected lottery picks, as found in Chad Ford's mock draft 6.0. For kicks, I'll throw in some player comparisons too:

Nerlens Noel
Of course the first guy didn't play in the tournament! Noel scares me, and apparently he scares the Cavs, too. I'm not too concerned about the knee: it seems like a freak injury followed by bad player management (can't blame a teenage AAU kid from wanting to play). The problem for Noel is that he has Tyrus Thomas written all over him. I was fooled by Thomas' performance as an athlete the year he was drafted, and with that big LSU front line, looked unstoppable. But NBA bigs are, well, bigger, and Tyrus never learned how to score over or around them. That does not bode well for the 206 pound Noel. Does he lose athleticism if be tries to gain weight? Can he get a jump shot? To me, his ceiling is Theo Ratliff - someone who was good, but may never be someone to build around. Maybe with Kyrie, that's enough. Maybe in this draft, that's enough. Still makes me nervous. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Miami Heat Fan Base

By now, you're familiar with the story. With 30 seconds left in regulation of their Game 6 home victory, the Heat were down by 5 after a Manu Ginobili free throw. I fully expected the Heat to lose, though I wondered if they could at least make it interesting, like a college game. But this is the NBA, not college, the Spurs can shoot and not turn it over. The league apparently thought the series was over too, what with the trophy being wheeled out, all sorts event staff ringing the sideline, and the yellow rope lining the court.

So it's fair that the Heat fans were resigned to defeat. In fact, it's normal. Expected as part of a true sport's fan's inner doubt that her team will actually make it. During Game 4 of their series, clinching win, I was nervous for the Giants, nervous because Scherzer had become a beast and because Verlander was lurking, and a 3-2 deficit doesn't se that bad for Detroit given games 1-3 were sunk costs. 

What is not fair was for what the Heat fans did. They left. In droves. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James did the "right" thing by extending the olive branch, but Chris Bosh is right too: these fans didn't deserve to see the Hear this year, and should stay home for Game 7. 

That's been a common refrain of mine these playoffs: Miami doesn't deserve their Heat. There's no sense of civic pride from that city that they have one of history's great teams. Or one of history's great players. Seriously, where are the "MVP! MVP!" chants? Other teams do it that don't have the 3-time MVP. The best they can do is "let's to Heat!"? They are so boring, so checked out, so not worthy of this team. They sit when Miami goes on a run, not realizing that their second unit is their best unit. They don't rise for end of quarters. They have gotten used to the amazing from LeBron. 

2013 NBA Finals: Game 6 Diary

Wow. WOW. In case you missed it... Actually, there is no in case you missed it! You can't possibly get that game back if you missed it! You can't have that awe-inspiring, gut-wrenching, legacy-defining game back from a tape or a highlight reel. You can't leave a game like that and expect to be let back in (more on this later). This game was history, and if you missed it, that's what you missed. These were my reactions to history as it happened:


The Heat have decided to shut the perimeter guys down by playing Duncan straight-no fronting, Bosh behind. Fronting necessitates the weak-side corner defender to shade the paint, which opens the floor for shooters. 

So much for playing Duncan straight. I thought Ray would have a classic game. Nope. Forgot about those Duncan close-out games. A near quadruple-double cannot be emphasized enough. Timmy is swallowing Bosh. It's not that he's not missed: it is the type of shot. Right next to the hoop, point blank, explosion, dunks. The first quarter was the Tim Duncan show. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

2013 NBA Finals: 5 Games In

I'm increasing my output to review each game given imminent the possibility of a series clinching win. Doing my best Manu impression! And boy was I glad to have called that. Check the time stamp: I called a classic Manu game before it happened (should have been published sooner, but was making last-minute updates and Blogger ate my post. Really). Anyway, I questioned moving Manu into the starting lineup but noted that they needed to get him going. Well, getting to play with Parker, Duncan, Green, and Leonard, matched against Mike Miller, lit Ginobili's fire. Having Ginobili as an effective ball handler and overall offensive threat eased the burden on Parker, who had another sublime game, but also sustained his performance in the second half.

The Spurs' pace also benefitted them. Miami likes to run, but they are sub-par at getting back on defense and it's difficult to run if the Spurs are making shots generated by pace. The Spurs' pace was effective in Game 1, but in the two losses, I didn't sense the same urgency. Miami's transition D can be horrid. Dwyane Wade gave up 2 uncontested 3s after complaining for calls, and I remember at least one LeBron instance where his complaining led to a cascade of switches, with Ray Allen eventually landing on Tim Duncan. I'll let you guess how that went. Point is, in a game that was ~10 point difference with a couple of minutes left after a Heat run, that's 8 points they gave up by being lazy. How big a difference would that have made? 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

2013 NBA Finals: 4 Games In

What a series. Indiana played Miami tough, but despite the blowouts, this has been a great series to watch from a coaching, strategy, and basketball IQ standpoint. The last two games have played dramatically different from the first two, with each team taking a mammoth shot. Let's take a look at what happened and try to determine who will recover for game 5.


The first two games saw some holes in the Heat's vaunted playoff defenses, which wasn't surprising given the way the Spurs play offense. The three point shooting was a known problem: the Heat were terrible at defending the 3 in the regular season, and that could have been a death knell for the hot-shooting Spurs. While I wrote after Game 2 that the Danny Green shooting wasn't sustainable (more on this later), they were getting good looks. Outside of that ridiculous Miami run which caused Popovich to give up on the 4th quarter, the Spurs had performed well.

Then Game 3 happened. You know that unsustainable Danny Green (and Gary Neal) shooting? Turns out it was sustainable - but don't tell me you knew it (unless you're a family member)!!! It was historically ridiculous, and shows something of the Spurs' thinking: they know that almost all 3-pointers are more efficient that 2s, and they have the shooters to do it. the two cooled a little in Game 4, but it was still ridiculous. The one concern I have for the Spurs: these two took it home for the Spurs in Game 3. In Games 5-7, they need to balance the shooting and scoring with the need to have the Big 3 decide the game (more on this later). Green and Neal aren't putting the Heat away. Eventually, they will have a 4th quarter where they need a Duncan post or a series of Parker picks.

I wrote about Miami's switching in Game 2. For the most part, it was crisp, but in Game 3, it was a disaster. Guys were getting WIDE open. And not just one. There were multiple possessions in which the ball was swung out of the primary action and 2 guys would come free. Miami would double the wrong guys, and rotations were not fast. It was perplexing to say the least. Add that to San Antonio's hot shooting, and game over.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

NBA 2013 Finals: 2 Games In

What a great two games. Both teams have competed like we thought: tough, skilled, well-coached, with amazing plays from the stars. Let's take a look at how we got here and try to forecast what will happen next.


This was all about Tony Parker. Sure the Heat held a lead for most of the game, but they could never get a stop because time after time, Tony would come up big. At the end of the game, it felt like he scored 30 because he scored precisely when the Spurs needed it. You can have quiet points (like Dwyane Wade), or big ones like Tony Parker, none bigger than that ridiculous shot at the end that you just knew had to be good. 

Popovich won round 1 of the coaching duel by using the Saints 2009 defense. Remember that Super Bowl against Manning's Colts? The Saints played a pretty vanilla defense for 3 quarters (helped by some big Colts drops), then right when Peyton started getting comfortable, they switched things up, blitzing hard and forcing that decoding pick-6. That's what Gregg did this game. He played fast for 3 quarters, hung in there, and then uglied the game in the 4th, posting Duncan and trashing Miami's pace. 

The last thing was the way the Spurs played LeBron. Here's a big secret of the small ball Heat: LeBron isn't good when playing with the starters. They still start games with Bosh and Haslem. With Dwyane Wade ailing, it's just not a potent lineup. Especially with the Spurs sending help as early as they do: it's almost comical the way Diaw or Green will ignore shooters on the week side to help on LeBron. Yeah, Kwawhi Leonard played him competently, but the defense was predicated on not letting LeBron score. Then, right when the Heat usually go on their run, that little spurt at the end of the 3rd/beginning of the 4th, when they really go small and surround LeBron with shooters, LeBron was out. It was weird watching Bosh playing with Cole, Allen, Miller, and Andersen. It looked like Erik Spoelstra was trying to survive, when this is usually the time for Miami to pull away. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

NBA 2013 Finals Pick

Here's the one all of you have been waiting for. In fact, I've been waiting for it too because as of this writing I have no idea who will win this. First, let's get some logistical stuff out of the way:

The Heat have had 3 days off, the Spurs a week. Strangely I think this benefits both teams. The Heat don't need a long layoff, they need a light at the end of the tunnel. Dwyane Wade's knee is not going to feel better with a few extra days may actually have felt worse. I wouldn't be surprised if he had an arthroscopic procedure after the season to clean up bone spurs or something. On the other hand, the Spurs are a veteran team; I don't think the layoff affects them but will give Parker, Ginobili, Duncan, and Splitter extra R&R. I just can't imagine the Spurs coming out flat in Game 1. 

I think the 2-3-2 format benefits the away team. In a standard 2-2-1-1-1 format, if the home team goes 2-2 in the first two games, that 5th game at home to get back to your routine, your fans, your family, just break things up, I think that matters. And it's easier to win home games: Wages of Wins calculated the advantage to 4.51 points. So you have the opportunity to go up 3-2, which is huge. I don't want to talk about momentum, but I really think it helps. Now, if San Antonio steals one in Miami (esp. Game 1), they only need to go 2-1 at home to be up 3-2. Plus Miami never gets to go home and recover. I think it's hard to beat someone really good two times in a row to close the series. 

2013 NBA Playoffs Review - East


The Bulls are a bad matchup for Miami. They are long, fast, and physical, unafraid of confrontation. Their defense is beautiful, especially how they move as a unit, credit to Coach Thibodeau. But they didn't have the horses. I'm glad Derrick Rose sat it out-they were never beating Miami this year. Which is sad given they were so close two years ago. But you don't lose by as much as the Bulls lost by in Game 2 and have a chance. It reminded me of the Bulls blowout of the Jazz during their second Finals-at that point, the series was over. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

2013 NBA Playoffs Review - West

With the Finals beginning tomorrow, I thought we'd take a look at how Miami and San Antonio got there and try to frame the matchup between the two teams based on the body of their postseason works. The actually pick and comparison will come in another post, but I think background is fascinating. Since the first round is mostly fodder, I will start with San Antonio's most interesting series so far, the second round match against Golden State.


Who knew going into these playoffs that of the three teams they played, Golden State won two more games than anyone else. Really? The Warriors were the Spurs' toughest test? I actually picked Golden State to lose the first round series to Denver in 6, thinking that Denver would defend home court easily and get one in Oakland. Ultimately, the David Lee injury defined that series and helped define the Warriors for their surprising reinvention against the Spurs. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Houston at OKC Thoughts

If anyone needed a reminder on how good Russell Westbrook is, just watch the tape of last night's Rockets-Thunder tilt again. It's not that the Thunder lost. It's how they lost. After Durant, they were outclassed by every Houston player 2-7. It's how when the offense grinds to a halt, there is no threat of Russell careening to the rim and making something good happen. It's how the team, including Durant, was left taking hurried, pull-up Js (the same ones we criticize Russell for). It's how the Houston defense didn't get more creative than: you stick to Kevin and we'll cover the rest of the court.

There are effects that an injury like Danilo Gallinari's had on the Nuggets depth (more on that later), then there are these injuries that change the entire complexion of a team. And lest anyone forget, though the Thunder did win 3 straight games to start the series (the last without Westbrook), two of those were very close. This wasn't an easy series even with all of there guys. Now it's a dogfight. I still think OKC wins because it's still hard to beat someone four straight times, but the whole complexion of the team changes, and it certainly won't be easy. They looked barely better than a .500 team last night, a 6th seed at best. Is that the Russell Westbrook difference? Is he the difference between 50-60 wins? He's a top 10 player, right? Top 7? Surely not top 5?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Popovich is a Genius, But the Spurs Aren't the Same

Everyone knows the Spurs are well coached and well managed. Coach Popovich is universally regarded as a coaching and player development genius, having shepherded his squad to four NBA titles and made dozens of bit players into productive guys with big contracts. Over the past two years, he has read the league's tea leaves and transformed the team from a grind-it-out defensive team into a high-octane, high-possession, offensive force. Check out their pace stats: from 92.3 (14th in the league) in 2010/2011 to 92.9 (7th) in 2011/2012 and 94.1 (6th) in 2012/2013.

The other way that Pop has changed the offense is through a creative offense that either places the ball at the rim (in Tony Parker's case, a floater within 10 feet is basically at the rim) or in the hands of a three point shooter. Players make hard cuts and quick, decisive moves with the ball to ensure A) players are never out of position for a pass, B) the ball never stops, and C) the defense doesn't have time to re-balance following a ball swing. The coach of the year section of this piece by Grantland's Zach Lowe highlights some of these things that Popovich has done. This new offensive strategy has produced via a huge boost in the Spurs' assist stats. This year, the Spurs have assisted on 63.65% of baskets, third in the league, while their offensive efficiency of 107.0 (points per 100 possessions) is seventh. Their assist % compares favorable to other offensive juggernauts, as seen in the following chart:

Monday, April 8, 2013

2013 March Madness National Title Pick

My winner for the 2013 NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball Tournament? Michigan. They have the best remaining player, and if he can do his thing, there is nothing Louisville can do. See you at the game (I wish)!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

2012 Baseball Review, Part 3: A Comparison of Leagues

Google ate my earlier post, but it was saved in Word. Saved by Microsoft? Scroogled?

In my previous two posts on the 2012 MLB season, I looked at the best teams in each league, what made them successful, and how their strengths/weaknesses compared to the other teams in the playoff picture. All assessments were made on July 11, the day after the All-Star game when I started paying attention to baseball again. In this post, I will examine some broader trends regarding both leagues and reflect on the playoff matchups. Click here for the earlier posts on the specific leagues: AL and NL.


As explained in earlier posts, I used playoff % and point differential to sort out what I believed to be the contending teams in either league, as looking at all the teams would have been exhausting. The notable absence? The 2012 Baltimore Orioles, who are covered in the AL Post.

2013 March Madness: Elite Eight Review and Final Four Picks

Louisville over Duke: First: let’s all hope that Kevin Ware’s recovery from one of the worst injuries I’ve seen is quick and effective, and hopefully he becomes a better player from this experience. Now to the game: I wrote in my preview that Seth Curry may struggle in this game after only getting one day to rest his sore shin, and that the Duke secondary stars and role players would have to play the game of their lives for the Blue Devils to have a chance. Turns out, Seth may have been hampered by the shin, but even at full strength, I don’t know that it would have mattered against this great Louisville defense.

A lot of people will tell you how strong Louisville’s press is, how it has helped them throughout the tournament, and how it will be key against the smaller Wichita State guards in the Final Four (more on this in a bit). Rubbish. Sure, the press has helped them, especially in the early rounds, but theirs is a disciplined press, much more so that the Havoc system that VCU uses. They cover guards full-court, but only send a trap in the backcourt when the opposing big isn’t in a position to help. Against Duke, they bothered Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton in the backcourt, but Duke didn’t have inordinate difficulty getting the ball into the frontcourt.

Monday, April 1, 2013

2013 MLB Opening Day!

I'll finish my review of 2012 soon, I promise! As well as get my Elite Eight review up. But to celebrate opening day and give you a teaser, my 2013 MLB WS picks are: Rays over Reds.

Nobody is ever right about these, and I don't care! Happy opening day!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Blast from the Past: Jazz add Al Jefferson in July 2010

This is an interesting draft post that never made publication. It contains my thoughts on the Jazz letting Carlos Boozer go and adding Al Jefferson in the summer of 2010. At the time, I thought it would be a three-year experiment, and though parts haven't gone at all like I thought (Sloan and Deron leaving), I think it is timely to revisit this given the Jazz are heading into a off-season of considerable uncertainty regarding their big man:

I think from the rumors I've heard that this trade is a done deal, so I'll go ahead an preemptively comment on it. Losing Carlos Boozer to add Al Jefferson? I like it.

Offensively, Jefferson was unstoppable in the post before his ACL injury. He had developed a nice series of offensive moves, both face-up and back-to-basket, though I'm not sure what his injury does to his athleticism and ability to overpower defenders. His offensive rating was 111 compared to Boozer's 112 (higher is better, score is points/100 possessions), and due to his youth, I think he has a lot of room to grow. Just take a look at his assist %: it looks the same as Boozer's did when Carlos was in Cleveland. Jerry Sloan took Boozer in and developed him into a post facilitator that could kick to shooters in the right places. Boozer's assist % jumped from 10.3% to 15.9% his first year in Utah, and his per-36 minute assist numbers increased almost 50% from ~2.0 to ~3.0. That may not be a big difference, but the threat of the pass keeps defenses more honest as well as generating good shots. Jefferson's assist % is currently 10.0%, and if he can make the same jump Boozer did, his lower turnover rate and similar true shooting % should make him a better offensive player than Boozer.

On defense, Jefferson is worse at 108 versus Boozer's 102. But I think Jefferson's ineffectiveness can be attributed somewhat to the system, or lack thereof, that Minnesota ran. In fact, his defensive rating was the best among any Timberwolf that played more than 5 minutes all season. I believe he was let down by his teammates in Minnesota and that Jerry Sloan can help me become a better defensive player.

Finally, you have to look at what the Jazz gave up. They fit Jefferson into the massive trade exception generated by the Boozer trade, meaning they got a starting-caliber big man for only two first round picks. I know picks are valuable assets, but are the Jazz really going to draft a starting center picking in the mid-first round as a lower-rung playoff team? His salary is also a bonus: expanding to ~$15mm over 3 years, that is a great level for a starting CENTER. He is younger and better, and gives the Jazz some flexibility to build around in the next three years.

2013 March Madness: Sweet 16 Review

I'm done posting screenshots of my bracket. You don't need to know much else other than: Duke is the only Elite 8 team I got right, and all of my Final Four is done already (I'm looking at you, Kansas, Indiana, Saint Louis, and New Mexico). According to Yahoo! Sports, where I submitted my "official" bracket, I'm in the 23rd percentile, which may indicate the quality of the analysis contained within this blog. My defense? March is Mad. Three years ago, during Duke's magical run to the title, I correctly picked them to win and also had Butler (!!!) and Syracuse in the Final Four (along with Kansas, which lost to Northern Iowa, so not perfect). After that ended up in the 99.9th percentile, my picks have gone sharply downhill, with percentages below 50 each of the last two years. March is Mad.

One thing I did learn: this year I really wanted to pick mid majors to go far. I was/am tired of feeling conflicted when a Big 6 school plays someone small (like Western Kentucky), and I root hard for the upset, but then take guilty pleasure in the end when my bracket survives along with the favorite. I wanted to have that feeling of picking a Cinderella again, like my Butler pick in 2010. Problem is: neither Saint Louis nor New Mexico can really be considered Cinderellas. They were both seeded too high. Ditto for VCU and Butler, each with obvious flaws. What I should have done was to pick Wichita State, a team I believed in (but not enough to beat Pitt, stupid, stupid) to come out of a weak region (or at least play OSU). If I'm going to pick true upsets, might as well go bolder.

I digress. How did the Sweet Sixteen play out? I watched at least half of every game. You know the drill:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

2013 March Madness: Round 2 Review

I know that we are 4 minutes into the second half in Miami-Marquette, but better late than never, right? My defense? I was trying to finish work for a long weekend, and then the weather got good and my buddies and I took it to the outdoor court near the office for some pickup and shooting. I just ran out of time, kind of like Iowa State in their loss against Ohio State. Speaking of which, let's look at the second round, starting with the West:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

March Madness: 1st Round Bracket Post-Mortem

What a great first round of games (it will always be the first round to me). Sure, there were blowouts, but I was impressed by how hard the teams competed, and believe the gap between the Big 6 conferences and the "Mid Majors" gets more narrow each year. For this year, that meant my picking more mid majors to go far than I have ever had. Sure, I like teams like Duke, Kansas, and Indiana. But some part of me said: this year, why not go outside of the box and mess with basketball hierarchy a little? Why not pick the Saint Louis Billikens to make it all the way to the title game? So that's the bias I filled my bracket out with, and after the First Round, here is the post-mortem on how it went.

I can't say my bracket is terrible. I went 24/32 in the first round, but went to two games at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City and managed to jinx both of the teams I saw. I had no business picking Belmont to beat Arizona, but I thought that New Mexico had a legitimate shot at the Final Four. Now my bracket has a legitimate hole in the Final Four spot from the West region. Any takers? I'm looking at you Ohio State. Then again, as long as that region is going down in flames, I might as well go big pick some Cinderella like Iowa or Wichita, right? So let's start in the West region, my worst, and see where it all went wrong.

Friday, March 22, 2013

2013 Men's Basketball Bracket Analysis

2012 March Madness Bracket Analysis
Here is my belated analysis of the brackets. I got caught yesterday watching (of course) I know we have seen a full day's worth of games already, but I will approach this analysis with virgin eyes. Later today, I will post my review of first day action, including some tidbits from watching Belmont-Arizona and Harvard-New Mexico live at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City.

2013 March Madness Live!

Some of you know this, but the reason I launched YouMakeTheCalls was March Madness. Several years ago, captivated by Jordan Crawford's ridiculous shooting performance for the Xavier Musketeers in the tourney, I put a live commentary of his showcase on Facebook. Needless to say, that exploded the home pages of several of my friends, causing me to start this blog. This year, you can follow me as I watch as many tournament games as possible by following my twitter account: @xingtheli. See you there!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Bracket

Here it is. Commentary to come tomorrow, just know that I agonized for hours over something that will inevitably turn out horribly, horribly wrong.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Utah Jazz and the Curse of the Small Market

The NBA trade deadline nears and buzz about trade candidates and teams with cap issues/room has surfaced as usual. Living in Utah has given me valuable insight to the special concerns that "small market" teams like the Utah Jazz have in these situations. The hubbub surrounding the Jazz centers around the front court and specifically two players: Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.

It has been accepted among fans, analysts, radio personnel, and the general media that the Jazz cannot afford to keep both. Al is a legitimate NBA center who can score in the low post and often serves as the primary offensive option. Paul is a combo forward who can play both spots and is a statistician's dream, seemingly doing everything at an above average level.

The problem is that Al does not play good defense in almost any situation and Paul isn't a good enough defender to protect the paint for Al. Paul, on the other hand, does not dominate the game in any one aspect and has not shown the ability to carry his team offensively. These problems are compounded by the fact that Al and Paul play in front of young, athletic, but raw talents in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, both who need significant playing time to develop. Finally, both Al and Paul are in contract years (and are expiring contracts), and will eventually be paid by the Jazz or someone else.

Convention and popular opinion currently suggest that the Jazz need to trade either Al or Paul in order to A) increase salary cap flexibility that signing both of them would preclude, B) get back some good assets instead of letting either walk in free agency, and C) clean up the frontcourt situation to allow playing time to Enes and Derrick. So if the Jazz are forced to choose between either one, which should they trade?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

2012 Baseball Review, Part 2: National League

After taking a look at the American League, I wanted to switch to the more interesting of the two leagues, the National. In fact, the National League was made interesting by the Nationals, who messed with their fans, their season, and perhaps baseball history with their handling of Stephen Strasburg's injury situation, summarized very comprehensively in Jonah Keri's post on Grantland.

What happened? The Nationals shut Strasburg down for the year in early September despite having a huge lead in the division and almost certain to make the playoffs. This went against opinions from numerous pundits who like I, felt they should have managed the situation from the beginning, giving him scheduled rest throughout the season, or even starting his season in June or July so as to have him available in October. The  move infuriated their fans, who were legitimately excited about a playoff contender. This is the fascinating part: how good were the Nationals with Strasburg? Did they really have a shot to win it all?

I pulled the same charts as I did from the AL to find out, and I think D.C. fans will be disappointed.


NFL Super Bowl Picks

Better late than never! Especially compared to my MLB season review, half of which is still in draft form 3 months after the end of the season. For those needing a framework to understand today's game to those needing a few tips on game/prop bets, you've probably already found a smorgasbord of information from all over the web. But from years of watching and re-watching the game, remember, there are a few constants that hold true:

1. Pace Matters, Kind Of.

The Super Bowl is played at a glacial pace, with the average game time going well over the regular season averages due to more stoppages for commercials. According to NFL Team Rankings, last season's Patriots ran 67.2 plays per game in the regular season (1st), while the Giants ran 65.7 (31st), for a total of 132.9 between the two teams. In the Super Bowl, the script flipped with the Giants running 71 plays and the Patriots 62. The sum is exactly 133, which is what the season stats would predict. Let's look at a few more season's worth of pace in terms of offensive plays/game:

These numbers show virtually no correlation between regular season plays and plays run during the Super Bowl. A lot of teams thought that the Giants had success against the Patriots by slowing the game down and keeping it close. Well, that may be true from a narrative point of view, but in actuality, the Patriots ran more plays against the Giants in the Super Bowl than both the average winning team as well as the 2005 Patriots team that beat the Eagles with only 63 offensive plays. So teams that run a lot of plays, like the Patrots, Seahawks, and Colts have had success running lots of plays in the Super Bowl, too.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2012 Baseball Review: Part 1, American League

So, the elephant in the room. It's January 19th. 2013. Almost three weeks into the new year and I begin to write about baseball? I believe in digesting information before looking at narratives and broader trends, but this seems a little extreme. While we are in the thick of the NFL playoffs and the college basketball season, I thought I should at least get some of my baseball findings on paper.

I am one of those baseball fans that only really pays attention to MLB after the All-Star break. It's a long season (too long), and it's too hard to follow so many games. But after the All-Star break, usually the chaff has been purged leaving a few teams in each division with a shot at the post-season. To me it is infinitely more fascinating to analyze these teams than focus on meaningless games in early July involving clubs like the Blue Jays, Twins, Mariners, etc. Only problem: watching after the Olympics made me wonder which teams I should be paying attention to, so I put together some research to inform my viewing/thinking. Some of this research proved to be quite fascinating:


Saturday, January 19, 2013

NFL Conference Championship Picks

Here we are! Tomorrow's games decide which teams will compete in the Super Bowl, and if they are anything like last weekend's matches, we are in for a good weekend of football. What the games may not decide, however, are which teams deserve to be in the Super Bowl. Luck is part of the playoff equation, and every year, there are teams that either fail to take advantage of it or fail to create it by not going for any plays that would require some luck. Sometimes, a team like the Denver Broncos will turn super conservative on offense and fail to create any plays where luck can manifest itself in the form of a pass interference call or a blown coverage in the secondary. On the other side, the Ravens went balls to the wall and caught some favorable luck to a shocking win.

When picking games, we, like the teams themselves, are at the mercy of a certain amount of luck. The Denver loss, along with some other picks (taking the Pack as an emotional hedge) led to a 1-3 record. After going 2-2 during the wildcard round, what makes me have any conviction in a 3-5 playoff picking record?

Friday, January 11, 2013

NFL Divisional Series Picks

I caught a cold on Thursday that is proving very stubborn, so this will be a short post. Without ado:

BRONCOS +9.0 over Ravens

Bill Barnwell at Grantland did a good job explaining why this game may not be very similar to the Broncos 34-13 thrashing of the Ravens a few weeks ago. While I agree that it shouldn't be this close, they key when watching the game was that Denver dominated in the trenches. I know Baltimore has some guys back, and their defensive line was living in the Colts' backfield, but I believe Denver is playing at a very high level and the rest will help. The week after the Ravens win, the Broncos were able to put up 34 on at decent Browns defense; no thinking they should score less than 30 this time. The Baltimore offense will likely be better (Flacco's pick-11 was one of the worst throws in the world), but not enough to catch up. The line actually moved from Denver +9.5, which I can see given the big spread, but I'd take it. One final note: the high for tomorrow in Denver is 17 degrees F, which makes me slightly nervous about Peyton, but the Ravens have to adjust to that and the altitude, and Denver showed no signs of stopping in their last few cold home games.

NCAAF Title Game Recap

That wasn't much of a game. Despite my sneaky suspicion that Alabama would win handily, I at least expected Notre Dame to keep it respectable through a quarter or two, before trading FGs for TDs led to too deep a whole to climb out of against a good Alabama defense. And while I was right on about several points (namely Eddie Lacy, the Tide offensive line), I didn't expect the dominant performance they achieved on the nation's biggest stage.

Monday, January 7, 2013

NCAAF 2013 National Title Game

NCAAF 2013 National Title Game Pick:
To be honest, I'm rooting for Notre Dame. I think the SEC is on a low year with some notable losses in the postseason, and while I'd love to witness a dynasty, I'm hoping for something new. And there is so much good karma about this Notre Dame Fighting Irish team. First, Manti Te'o and the amazing person he has shown us to be. I don't think he deserved the Heisman (see below), but he deserved all the hype. Second, this Notre Dame team was the first football team to be ranked No. 1 in the country in the BCS and polls, as well as academically by graduation rate. This deserves recognition as ND is a quality school. Of course the NCAA didn't publicize this, but the school did (I found this info courtesy of ESPN's TMQ).

But despite all the positives going for this team, including its dynamic receivers, improving quarterback, and great defense, I have a feeling ND is going to have trouble for the following reasons:

Saturday, January 5, 2013

YouMakeTheCalls is on Twitter!

Follow me @xingtheli for tweets throughout the NFL playoffs!

NFL Season Review

While the Cincy-Houston game is at half (no idea what the Texans are doing, showing no faith in Schaub, everything is conservative, though it helps my Bengals cover pick), I decided to update my regular season post-view. Yeah, a little late, but better than never! It certainly was a season to remember, with remarkable comebacks, incredibly blown leads, some truly memorable moments, new players that shone, and old players that took the league to another level. There were a lot of surprises this season, both positive (Denver, Minnesota), and negative (Philadelphia, New Orleans, both New York teams). Before we get too far into the playoffs, lets see how see got here.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

NFL Playoff Wild Card Picks

A great NFL season is wrapping up, and I will post more on the regular season later. First, I wanted to get my Wildcard picks in before the lines moved too much. Like Simmons, I'll be picking against the spread and home teams are in caps.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Goal-line rollout (Clemson def. LSU)

Watching the highly entertaining Clemson / LSU (go tigers?) match in the Chik-fil-A bowl on New Year's Eve, I pulled for Clemson to make it a game in the 4th quarter. And make it they did, with a sweet offensive series, including a nice hook and lateral. The LSU pass rush just wasn't enough at the end, though LSU fans should and have blamed the offense for a total lack of rhythm.

But there was one play near the end that made me cringe. After a nice hook and lateral got them into scoring range (a long aside: I thought this was called ~20 yards too early; I feel you need to score on these plays and with the difficulty of scoring in the red zone anyway, I think this is a play that should have been saved for the 25 yard line, but worked anyway), Tajh Boyd threw a bullet into the end zone to being Clemson within 2. Then the offense set for a conversion, and I knew something was amiss.