Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Feel the Burn

Once again, it's time to cue up our groovy Olivia Newton-John soundtrack and get physical about a few confusing tidbits from recent times in sports. V for Vendetta baby, it's the Vick, Vickers, and Vikings blog.

Mike Vick joined the Philadelphia Eagles and vowed he's a changed man. Here's a newsflash, a dude in prison found Jesus! Well, that's gotta be a first. Mike faced the punishment that was handed out for operating an illegal (and immoral) dogfighting outfit and served his time, and now he's preparing to make a splashy return to the NFL. Except for the fact that people seem to forget Vick wasn't all that great as a QB before his troubles with the law. He's extremely athletic, no doubts there, but he relies on that athleticism too much - and that's probably hurt his development as a pro quarterback. In my humble opinion all the Eagles accomplished was to disrupt their training camp and disturb their calm for a back-up QB who doesn't bring alot of positives to the team. Not exactly a blockbuster deal.

Speaking of newsflashes, here's another shocker. The Sprint Cup race at MIS was a fuel mileage race! Can you believe it?! Once upon a time I tried to come up with a nickname for Brian Vickers, but I'm still not completely sold on one in particular. Some of the options were Darth Vickers, the Red Brian (or maybe the Red Baron Brian), Vicks Racing Rub, and Brian Whiskers. If you've got any good ideas for nicknames, drop 'em on me. When the exciting factor of a particular race is wondering if/when the cars will run out of fuel, then it's possible the race needs some tweaking to make it just a wee bit more entertaining for the fans. Shorten the race distance. Or lengthen the race distance. Or scatter clowns around the track, and hitting a clown earns 50 bonus points. I don't know, but waiting for cars to run out of fuel is about as fun as watching the grass grow or listening to Rusty Wallace talk race strategy.

And finally, the Minnesota Vikings have added Brett "Firing Blanks" Favre. I guess old QB's never really retire they just keep holding press conferences. Doesn't anyone remember the disaster the NY Jets went through with Favre Beans last year? Just to recap ... the team missed the playoffs and Favre bailed on them, saying he'd never play again (again), and then the entire coaching staff got fired. That doesn't sound like a banner year to me. And yet here are the Vikings who actually have a good team, ready willing and able to venture down that road with Grecian Formula Man #4 steering the big purple bus. Oh boy, nothing spells reality tv show quite like an old drama queen QB ruining a team's chemistry.

Well, there is the ongoing Mayfield saga too. That could be a pretty wild reality show too I suppose.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Crunching the Chase

I’m definitely not a fan of The Chase, mainly because the dude that works hard all season to earn a points lead basically gets shafted when the final ten races arrive. Last year it was Kyle Busch, and this year Tony Stewart will probably relinquish his respectable points lead to Mark Martin (or Jimmie Johnson?) once the Chase begins because the 5 car has taken the checkers the most (so far). Every other series uses a season long points system, and it seems to provide for some fairly exciting finishes.

But in the interest of positive discussion, I won’t whine about all of that, but instead look at which teams have the best chance to (1) actually get in The Chase and (2) ultimately challenge for the Sprint Cup title.

Of course, that crucial first step is to get into The Chase. The top drivers have maneuvered themselves into solid positions, and it’s safe to say that we’ll see the 14, 48, 24, and 2 cars ready to rumble for the title. The 11 and the 99 also look to be relatively comfortable. Then it gets interesting. I’m going to throw out the prediction that the 42, 9, and 39 survive. Along with the 16 and the 5.

That leaves us with the battle between the 17 and the 18 cars for that last spot. To me, the 18 car has the ability to challenge for a race win on any given day, and I’m not sure that the 17 car can match that right now. The downside is that the 18 car has also shown the ability to crash and burn and finish last on any given day, but I believe that the 17 car drops out of 12th place and gets replaced by the 18. The 83, 33, and others join the 17 in the void reserved for non-Chasers who don't pack the gear to run for the Sprint cup title.

With my predicted Chasers lined up at the start line, who takes home the big prize? Well, my front runners become the 14 and the 48 followed by the 5 and 18 cars. Beyond that, the 2 car and the 11 car have both looked like they’re peaking at the right time, and a case might also be made for the 42. Those that like darkhorse picks might go with the Blue Deuce just for kicks.

That 14 car has been tough all season, and certainly hasn’t looked like a newly formed team. Which always makes me suspicious that a big fallout is waiting right around the corner (just like the 18 team last season). That's the curse of The Chase.

The 48 team has this whole Chase nonsense all figured out, and certainly they’ve got to be considered the favorite. Look for them to gather win number four fairly soon and have the Nascar world predicting title number four in a row. (yawn).

The 5 team is the sentimental favorite, but can they stop the 48 juggernaut? That would be fun to watch, but might be a long shot.

Then there’s the wildcard 18 car. If Kyle Busch claws his way into the Chase, look out. I’m of the opinion that if he’s alive for the title during those final ten races then he’ll be the car to watch. He’d be my pick to shock everyone and steal the title from the 48 team. Or blow up trying.

Safe bet would be the 48 team, but hell, that ain’t no fun!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Ready for some Football

Ah yes, the college and NFL teams are reporting for training camps and the football season has officially begun. This Sunday night kicks everything off with the annual Hall of Fame Game from Canton, marking the beginning of the NFL pre-season. It's a time of optimism and excitement. Sure, some teams have higher expectations than others, but last season the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins proved that a poor team can become a very good team over the course of one off-season. Make the right moves and suddenly the playoffs become very achievable.

Heck, if the Arizona Cardinals can make it to the Super Bowl then I'm pretty sure just about anything's possible.

I'm still smiling that my Bears stole QB Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos during the off-season, and I'm bigtime jazzed to see how the Bears do with an actual NFL-caliber QB running the offense. Yeah, the Chicago Bears will always be known for defense and running the ball, but having a quarterback that can threaten the opponent's defense will really open things up. Even just the threat of Cutler throwing deep to Hester should create opportunities for guys like RB Matt Forte and TE Greg Olsen.

Every year I mean to drive over to Bourbannais and see the Bears pre-season training camp, and every year I never actually get it done. I've always wanted to see how a pro team runs their practices, so maybe with the excitement surrounding this year's team I'll finally get motivated and hop in the truck to go check things out at the Bears camp. (Probably not though, and I'll just wind up writing this very same paragraph for next season.)

Looking around the NFC North, I have to say that the Bears should be favored to win the division.

The Detroit Lions are, well, still the Detroit Lions. Keep top draft pick QB Matt Stafford in your prayers. He'll need them to survive if the Lions decide to play him right away.

The Green Bay Packers have had troubles on defense, and to combat those they've decided to switch from a 4-3 alignment to a 3-4. Uh, maybe it's not about how they line up, but actually about players making plays? Anyways, the Packers still look to be vulnerable on D.

The Minnesota Vikings missed out on a helping of Favre Beans as the Holy Brett will actually stay retired and throw passes to high school kids in Mississippi. Shortly after that little bit of news, possible starting QB Tav Jackson came up lame in an early practice with a sprained knee ligament. Talk about adding insult to injury . .. or is it injury to insult? Either way, the Vikings have serious quarterback issues.

Never thought I'd be writing that about a team other than the Bears!