Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jimmer Fredette the next Adam Morrisson?

When one sees, hears, or watches BYU sharp shooter Jimmer Fredette play, the comparison to former Gonzaga star and current NBA journeyman Adam Morrisson are inevitable. Fredette is a fantastic shooter, who plays for a mid-major, and is now leading the NCAA in scoring. Sound familiar? Oh, and he is white too.

The latest episode of what I like to refer to as "The Jimmer Show", came at the expense of San Diego State. Fredette dropped 43 points on 14-24 from the field. It's his third 40 point game this season, and it came against a fourth ranked conference foe. Fredette is taking the nation by storm, but so did Morrisson. So, what separates Fredette from Morrisson?

1. Fredette is much quicker than Morrisson - BYU's scoring machine has the ability to create for himself. Fredette's quick first step and ability to explode and finish at the hoop are two qualities that Morrisson didn't have.

2. Fredette has a much better overall offensive game - At Gonzaga, you saw Morrisson come off a lot of screens and hit mostly mid range jumper's and college three's. Rarely did you ever see Morrisson take someone off the dribble and hit a step-back jumper, or finish at the rim, something you will see at ease from Fredette. Fredette can come off screens, spot up, hit a step-back, and take both bigger and smaller players to the rack using his quickness and strength.

3. Fredette is a flat out better athlete - Fredette possesses the rare combination of speed and strength, neither of which Morrisson could attest to. Athleticism is a must in the NBA, and Fredette will have some problems defending at the next level, but nothing close to the problems that Morrisson has faced.

4. Fredette has a much higher basketball IQ - Morrisson knew one thing at Gonzaga: come off the screen, and shoot. When watching Fredette play, you can see that he is always making the right decision. He knows when to make the extra pass, or take the shot, and he understands the conceptual part of the game, a la Steph Curry, which is hard to come by.

5. Fredette is a leader - He is a guy who knows when to take over the game, and how to do it. His teammates look to him for guidance on the court like a second coach. Unlike Morrisson, you won't see Jimmer crying at half court after a loss (hopefully), because he knows there's always another game to be played.

Morrisson may have been the victim of too much hype. Being the number three overall pick to a horrendous Bobcats franchise, with an owner who has a bigger ego than all the NBA players put together may have caused his demise. Morrisson was expected to be a savior, but he didn't possess the tools that would allow him to do so.

Fredette has sprung onto the national scene toward the end of last year, and all of this year with his amazing scoring exploits in the faces of helpless defenders. A lot of NBA teams are going to want to take him early in the first round, but many of them will think back to the Morrisson experiment, and draw comparison's to that. Fredette is climbing the draft boards, and rightfully so. He has an all-around game that is fit for the NBA.

Fredette may remind you of Morrisson, but he is much, much better.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

NFC Divisional Playoff Preview and Prediction

Green Bay Packers (10-6) @Atlanta Falcons (13-3)

The Packers are coming off a big win over the Eagles in the Wild Card round, which saw them get a boost from an unexpected player. James Starks provided a much needed spark in the running game for the Pack. Starks ended up setting a franchise rookie record for rushing yards in a playoff game with 123.

Green Bay will need Starks to have another big game in order to get by the Falcons. Aaron Rodgers has been playing like a man possessed, and he is clicking will all of his receivers. Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, and Jordy Nelson all had good games last week, and they are going to need to be running sharp routes to get open against Atlanta's athletic secondary. I see a big day out of Green Bay's Tight End's and maybe we'll be lucky enough to get a John Kuhn sighting.

The Packers D is going to have a long day ahead of them. The Falcons offense is one of the best in the league with Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, and Roddy White. Ryan is one of the best in the NFL at reading and reacting to the blitz, so the Packers must disguise and switch up their packages in order to be successful. Also, they're going to have trouble deciding whether to key on Turner, and load the box, or focus on Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez in the passing game.

Keys to Packers victory: Starks and Jackson must combine for 140 rushing yards and a TD, Packers D need to limit Turner, make Matt Ryan beat you.

The Falcons finished the season with a 13-3 record, and a lot of momentum, winning 9 out of their last 10 games. The offense has been clicking on all cylinders, and the bye only gives them time to refuel.

In their lone regular season meeting against the Packers, Atlanta won a low-scoring battle 20-17. The difference in that game was RB Michael Turner, he had 110 rushing yards and a TD. I think Turner is the key to this game as well. He needs to be able to establish the run against Green Bay's phenomenal defense, so he can open the pass game.

The Falcons have a middle of the road defense that will struggle against teams with a good QB, and Green Bay has one. Atlanta is 22nd against the pass, allowing more than 220 passing yards per game. If they allow the Packers weak rushing attack to have success, I don't see any chance of the Falcons winning.

Keys to Falcons victory: Establish the run early, don't let Starks, Jackson, or Kuhn to get off.

Prediction: I have liked the Packers to the Superbowl all season, and I'm sticking with it - Packers 27-21

Seattle Seahawks (7-9) @ Chicago Bears (11-5)

Seattle must like the Pete Carrol Rah-Rah college boy act, because they were fired up enough to beat the defending Superbowl champs. QB Matt Hasselbeck has a lot of playoff experience, and it showed. He threw for 272 yards and 4 TD's which helped the Seahakws to a 41-36 win. The highly touted Marshawn Lynch "Beast Mode" run truly demoralized the Saints.

Hasselbeck needs to have another big day against a defense that is much better than what he faced last week. Lynch and Forsett also need to be on top of their games, because the Bears secondary should have a good game against Seattle's receivers. WR Mike Williams will be the guy that needs to break through. If he can have a big game, I see Seattle having a serious shot at winning this game (or covering the spread).

The Seahawks actually beat the Bears in Chicago, 23-20. That victory was in large part due to their defense. Seattle got to Cutler, sacking him six times. The Seahawks were coming off of a bye week, and Cutler missed the previous game with a concussion, but, a big win like that can give an underdog team a lot of confidence. Lawyer Milloy will key the Seahawks defense, and try and make Jay Cutler into the mistake-prone QB that he can sometimes be.

Keys to Seahawks victory: Get to Jay Cutler, force at least two turnovers, and Hasselbeck needs to have another good game.

The Bears are the oddest team in this years playoffs. At times they look like a team who could easily challenge for a Superbowl, and other times, not so much. It all depends on which Jay Cutler shows up to play. There's the Cutler who uses his canon for an arm to shred defenses, then there is the pseudo Brett Favre version of Cutler, who makes tons of terrible decisions that leave even the opposing defenses confused about his decision making.

If the good Cutler shows up, he should have a career day against Seattle's weak secondary. WR's Johnny Knox, Devin Hester, and TE Greg Olsen should see a lot of open looks if Cutler is on his game, as Seattle's secondary will struggle to keep up with the speed and athleticism that the Bears receivers possess. Matt Forte is also in line for a big day, his versatility will be a tough cover for the Seahawks D.

Chicago's second ranked defense against the run will be key in this matchup. If they can stuff Lynch and Forsett at the line, Hasselbeck will have trouble finding receivers.

Keys to Bears victory: Good Jay Cutler

Prediction: Bears 28-13

Friday, January 14, 2011

AFC Divisional Preview and Predictions

Baltimore Ravens (12-4) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

Baltimore is coming off of a dominating performance in last week's Wild Card game against the Chiefs. Joe Flacco had a very nice game, he threw for 265 yards and two TD's, connecting with seven different receivers. The Ravens D caused a lot of problems for the Chiefs on offense, they picked off three Matt Cassel passes, and held him to just 70 passing yards. KC had some success with the run game, their backs combined for 108 yards and a TD. The Ravens didn't show much weakness against an undermanned Chiefs team, but if you can take one thing away from that game, Baltimore is some what susceptible to the run.

The Steelers are not the Chiefs. In fact, they are much, much better. Not only does Pittsburgh have a fantastic running game with Rashard Mendenhall, but they have a Superbowl winning QB, three fantastic receivers (Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, and Heath Miller), and a stout defense both against the pass and run. The Ravens are going to have a very tough time on offense this weekend, Ray Rice is going to have to break some big runs to open up Pittsburgh's defensive front.

Joe Flacco is not going to have as much time in the pocket as he did against the Chiefs. His looks won't be as clean with James Harrison, James Farrior, and LaMar Woodley in his grill. The Ravens offensive line is gonna be in for a huge test against the Steelers great defensive packages.

The Ravens defense must keep Mendenhall, and big play receiver Mike Wallace under control. The Steelers do a great job at mixing in the run with the pass, and it helps to create opportunities for Wallace to get behind the defense.

Keys to Ravens victory: Protect Flacco, have some big plays in the run game, no big plays for Mike Wallace.

The Steelers are coming off of a much needed bye week, which allowed All-World Safety Troy Polamalu to rest his injured Achilles. Pittsburgh brings in the league's 11th ranked rushing attack, and the 14th ranked passing game. They're gonna find it difficult to get offense going against a very good Ravens D, which is coming off of a strong performance against the Chiefs.

For the Steelers to get their offense going, they must try and pound the run with Mendenhall. If Mendenhall can have any success with the run, it will open up the passing game for Roethlisberger. Big Ben has got to be ready to be pressured early and often. He is not known as a very mobile QB, but he is going to need to use his feet to keep plays alive.

Pittsburgh's D is going to have to limit Rice's production, and pressure Flacco into making bad decisions. It's not often that Flacco makes a bad throw, but, if he gets pressured, it's more likely for him to make a mistake.

Keys to Steelers victory: Pressure Flacco, Limit Rice, create win turnover battle.

Prediction: Steelers win defensive battle 17-13

New York Jets (11-5) @ New England Patriots (14-2)

The Jets come into the Divisional game after defeating the Colts 17-16 in the Wild Card round. The Jets received a lot of gifts from the Colts in order to win that game. The Colts made numerous mistakes on defense and special teams, and Jim Caldwell's controversial timeout, that even drew the ire of Peyton Manning, all made for a Jets victory.

The storyline's all week have been the Jets using their mouth's to try and get into the head's of their opponents, which is nothing new. What they don't know, and should know, is nothing phases the Patriots; it only adds fuel to the fire.

Mark Sanchez is nursing an injury to his throwing shoulder, and it showed in the first half against the Colts. Sanchez struggled mightily in that game, and luckily, they were playing a very bad defensive unit. Sanchez will not have that luxury this week against New England. It looks like the Jets are going to rely heavily on LT and Shonn Greene to create the majority of the offense. The injury to OT Damien Woody will have a big impact on the Jets run game.

The Jets D is going to have to step up big in light of their offensive struggles. They cannot let Brady sit in the pocket and pick apart their defense with short passes to Welker and Woodhead. They have to mix up blitz packages to try and confuse Brady, they must also make sure they tackle properly. Benjarvus Green-Ellis has a physical running style and he relies on getting yards after contact.

Keys to Jets victory: 160 total rush yards with a TD, no turnovers, hit Brady.

Like Manning, Brady is doing a whole lot with a little. We all know the impact that Welker can have on a football game, but Danny Woodhead? The Pats traded Randy Moss, brought back Deion Branch, and inserted Woodhead into a much bigger role, and it has paid dividends. It seems like New England finds guys who check their ego at the door and just do whatever it takes to win.

Brady is having one of the best seasons of his career, and Benjarvus Green-Ellis is also having a career season (not to mention the best nickname in the NFL, "The Lawfirm"). The Pats offense relies heavily on Green-Ellis' physical running, and slot passes to Welker and Woodhead which opens up the deep threat in Deion Branch.

New England's defense is young, but very athletic. That was the biggest question mark looming for the Pats before the regular season, but they seem to get better and better each week. They do struggle against the pass, allowing nearly 260 pass yards per game, but with Sanchez's shoulder injury, they may have dodged a bullet.

Keys to Patriots victory: Limit Jets run game, play smart on defense.

Prediction: Patriots win 27-17

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

NFC WIld Card Preview and Predictions

No. 5 New Orleans Saints (11-5) @ No. 4 Seattle Seahawks (7-9)

The Saints may have the most unlucky draw of these playoffs. Yes, they get to play the worst team to make it, but, the Seahawks do have one of the most raucous crowds in the NFL. Even though the Saints have a better record, they have to travel to Seattle because Seattle won their division.

All that aside, New Orleans comes into this post season reeling, losing two of their last three games; looking especially bad in week 17 against the Bucs. These are the defending champs, however, and they're still one of the most dangerous offensive units in the league. QB Drew Brees had another solid season, despite multiple injuries in his back field. RB's Reggie Bush, Chris Ivory, and Pierre Thomas missed a total of 22 games, and it shows in their 28th ranked rushing attack. Drew Brees always has plenty of receivers to throw to, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem, Jeremy Shockey, and Jimmy Graham (if he is able to go) will all make for a difficult game for the Seahawks secondary.

Because of all the attention paid to the Saints offense, their defense doesn't get as much credit as they deserve. New Orleans D ranks 4th in opponent passing yards per game, and 16th in opponent rushing yards per game. Last years' Superbowl hero Tracy Porter has big play capabilities in the secondary, along with Roman Harper and Jabari Greer. LB Johnathon Vilma is one of the best in the league, so look for him to have a big impact against the lackluster Seahawks running game.

Key to Saints victory: Just play your game.

The Seahawks are the first team in NFL history to win their division with a sub .500 record, and they get a first round home game in the playoffs; but hey, rules are rules.

Seattle comes into the post season with a little bit of a QB controversy. Pete Carroll gave the nod to Charlie Whitehurst in the must win Sunday night game against the Rams, but is now undecided as to who will start against the Saints on Saturday. Personally, I don't think it matters either way, but I feel that Carroll is doing this to try to confuse New Orleans game plan. Seattle's passing game is ranked 19th in the league, and their rushing game is the worst in the NFL. Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett will split touches out of the back field, and the Saints secondary will focus their efforts on WR Mike Williams, who leads the team in receptions, and receiving yards.

The Seahawks bring a lackluster defense to the table. They gave up 27 or more points eight times this season, and New Orleans should have a field day. Seattle's D is ranked 27th in passing yards allowed, and 21st in rushing yards allowed, which doesn't bode well for them against New Orleans pass heavy offensive attack. The one bright spot for this defense is rookie DB Earl Thomas, who has five interceptions this season.

Key for Seahawks victory: Do everything right.

Prediction: Saints 31-13

No. 6 Green Bay Packers (10-6) @ No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)

The Packers were in danger of missing the playoffs after being given such high expectations. They gutted out a 10-3 victory against the Bears at Lambeau to make the post season, and they are, in my opinion, the most dangerous team in the playoffs.

QB Aaron Rodgers has had a great season, despite multiple concussions, and an injury to his top back, Ryan Grant, in the first game of the season. The Pack bring the 5th ranked passing attack into this game, and one of the best WR's in the NFL in Greg Jennings. Jennings had a huge season recording 1265 yards and 12 TD's. The Eagles D will pay a lot of attention to Jennings, so look for Rodgers to target James Jones much more. The injury to Ryan Grant caused Green Bay's rushing attack to greatly suffer. RB Brandon Jackson didn't have the production the team wanted, and it shows in a 24th ranked rushing attack. Another staggering stat is QB Aaron Rodgers is the teams second leading rusher.

The Packers defense is scary, and it is led by soon to be defensive player of the year Clay Matthews. Matthews has been absolutely ridiculous this season with 13.5 sacks and an interception. Not to be out done, fellow LB A.J. Hawk has 111 tackles and 3 interceptions. The Packers secondary is one of the best in the league, they rank 5th in passing yards allowed per game, and they have combined for 14 interceptions. Look for them to blitz Mike Vick early and often.

Key to Packers Victory: contain Mike Vick, and cause two turnovers. The offense will come.

QB Mike Vick has had an amazing season thus far, and this stage is where he performs at his best. Vick has thrown for over 3,000 yards and rushed for over 600 while amassing 30 total TD's. RB LeSean McCoy, combined with Vick lead the Eagles 5th ranked rushing attack, gaining 145.4 yards per game. WR DeSean Jackson is the biggest deep threat receiver in the NFL, averaging 22.5 yards per catch. Look for Vick to go deep to Jackson very, very early. If Jackson can't get open deep, look for Jeremy Maclin to have a huge day underneath. The Eagles O-Line need to be ready for multiple blitz packages that the Packers D will show them.

The Eagles defense is mediocre, ranking 15th in both passing yards allowed, and rushing yards allowed. It looks like Stewart Bradley will be out for this game, which puts more pressure on Ernie Sims and the LB core. DE Trent Cole must come off the edge hard, and get to Rodgers in order to disrupt any rhythm. Look for DB's Asante Samuel and Quintin Mikell to make some big plays, they have combined for 10 interceptions this season.

Key to Eagles victory: Vick and McCoy must combine for 110 rushing yards and two TD's. Also, they must sack Rodgers at least three times.

Prediction: Green Bay 27-24

Monday, January 3, 2011

AFC Wild Card Predictions

Wild Card: No. 6 New York Jets (11-5) @ No. 3 Indianapolis Colts (10-6)

The Jets come into the post season losing three of there last five games. A big win on Sunday against the Bills, while resting many of there offensive and defensive starters, should give them a boost of confidence. The Jets strong points this season have been there defense and run game, both of those being key in deep playoff runs. They ranked fourth in the league in rush yards per game, at 148.4 per contest. The Jets D ranks third in rushing yards allowed to opponents, at 90.9 per contest, and sixth in passing yards allowed to opponents, at 200.6 per contest.

The problem that the Jets face with the matchup with the Colts is there passing game. Mark Sanchez has been very inconsistent this season, and despite Indy's struggles on defense, if Sanchez makes too many mistakes, he will pay. The Jets average 202.6 pass yards per game, which is good for 22nd in the NFL. Sanchez will feel the pressure of Freeny and Mathis coming off the edge all game long, and I think the Colts D will have a field day on Sanchez.

Key to Jets victory: Tomlinson and Greene must combine for at least 160 rushing yards and two TD's. The Jets D must also create at least two turnovers.

The Colts defensive struggles have been closely documented all season long, Bob Sanders got hurt once again, and the rest of the unit is very susceptible against the run game and big pass plays. Indy's run D is 25th in the league, allowing 127 yards per game, and there pass D is a mediocre 13th in the NFL, allowing 214.6 yards per game.

One advantage the Colts do have is Peyton Manning. When Manning is on the field there is always hope for an Indy victory. Although we have seen more bad games from Peyton than we are accustomed to, it can be partially blamed on him having to play with a different cast of characters nearly every game. Wide Receiver's Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon have been in and out of the lineup all season, and Tight End Dallas Clark has missed nearly the entire season. The Colts are first in passing yards, but rank 29th in rushing yards at 92.7 per game.

Indy's running game is never one of the best, but in order to beat the Jets, they must establish the run to open the pass game. With Addai back healthy, he provides much needed help in that area.

Key to Colts victory: Addai and Donald Brown must rush for 120 yards combined and a TD. Manning must also throw for at least 280 yards and two TD's

Prediction: Colts over Jets - 27-21

No. 5 Baltimore Ravens (12-4) @ No. 4 Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)

Baltimore enters the playoffs on a four game win streak, and everyone knows that momentum going into the post season usually translates to success. QB Joe Flacco has played solid football this season, and RB Ray Rice is a big play threat both running and catching the ball. The Ravens receiver's, however, have been very inconsistent. Anquan Boldin has had a couple huge games this season, but, it has been more likely for him to not show up. Derrick Mason has been the most consistent Wide Out for Baltimore, but at 36 years of age, there is fear of a breakdown.

The Ravens D has not been as dominant this year as it has been in the past, but they do have great players on that defensive unit, that can create major problems for the Chiefs. Guys like Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Dawan Landry have big play capabilities that can change the complexion of a game. They're gonna need to be on their game too, because Jamaal Charles is no joke.

Key to Ravens victory: Limit Jamaal Charles production and it should be a cake walk.

The Chiefs limp into the playoffs on the heels of a 31-10 blasting at the hands of the Raiders. Matt Cassel has had a great season, and Jamaal Charles has exploded as one of the best rushers in the NFL. Kansas City comes brings the top ranked rushing attack at 164.2 yards per game, and it will be put to the test against the Ravens fifth ranked rush defense. Dwayne Bowe has emerged as a good receiver, and Matt Cassel's favorite target. Bowe will need to have a huge game to take pressure off of Charles. Look for TE Tony Moeaki to get a lot of targets, as most of the attention will be payed to Bowe.

The Chiefs D is young, but they have some very good pieces in place, especially the coordinator, Romeo Crennel. Fifth year LB Tamba Hali has 14.5 sacks this season, rookie DB Eric Berry has had a great season, and LB Derrick Johnson has 121 tackles on the season. KC's D will have to have a huge game to help this team to victory.

Key to Chiefs victory: Charles needs to reach pay dirt two times, Cassel cannot turn the ball over, and there can be no big plays given to Ray Rice, make the Ravens receivers beat you.

Prediction: Ravens over Chiefs - 24-17