A trainer works on the hands of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Kyle Orton (8) after he was injured during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 4, 2011 in Chicago. Orton only played one snap before being injured. UPI/Brian Kersey
This is it: Week 17. This is for all the marbles. Everything is on the line. My back is against the wall. Time to put up or shut up. It’s now or never. One last time for glory.
Have I hit on most of the clichéd sports phrases yet? No? Well post your favorite phrase in the comments section and have it mentioned the next time I do my predictions!
After my 3-1 effort in Week 16 (the Panthers, Vikings and Eagles all covered while the Chargers laid an egg in Detroit), my record this season is now 30-31-2 against the spread. As I noted last Sunday, my goal is to finish above .500 and save what’s left of my dignity, which means I need to go 4-0 or 3-1 this week in order to accomplish the feat. That’s no hill for a climber…
Jets @ Dolphins, 1:00PM ET
Stick a fork in the Jets – they’re done. Their defense and running game hasn’t been as good this season as they’ve been the previous two years under Rex Ryan, which means Mark Sanchez’s awfulness isn’t been covered up. The Dolphins proved last week in New England that they still have plenty of fight left in them, even though they’re head coach-less and are looking at a major offseason overhaul. With their season slipping away in the fourth quarter, Sanchez puts a bow on things by throwing one last pick-six as Ryan looks dumbfounded at the scoreboard. THE PICK: DOLPHINS –3
Chiefs @ Broncos, 4:15PM ET
I have a hunch that things will end very poorly for the Denver Broncos this season. It’s almost like they’ve spent all of their Tebow bucks just getting to this point (i.e. knocking on the door of a division title and a playoff berth) and now that they’re out of loot, they have no money to pay back the creditors. Romeo Crennel is auditioning for another NFL head coaching job, so you know Kansas City’s underrated defense will be prepared to play tomorrow. And would you look at who the Chiefs quarterback is this week, why it’s none other than Kyle Orton! The man who was benched for Tebow and then jettisoned out of town when the youngster started winning. I envision Orton running off the field at Sports Authority Dick’s Sporting Goods UnderArmor Field at Mile High tomorrow with a big, goofy grin on his face as the Denver crowd weeps in the background. THE PICK: CHIEFS +3.5
Lions @ Packers, 1:00PM ET
This one is tricky because Green Bay essentially has nothing to play for after already wrapping up the No. 1 seed in the NFC last week. Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Packers’ starters will only see a few series, if they even play at all. That means Matt Flynn will have a turn to drive the Cadillac for a week, and there’s no telling how Mike McCarthy will call this game. Will he keep things basic and vanilla or will he toss in a couple of trick plays for craps and grins? Either way, the Lions haven’t won at Lambeau since 1991 so I look at that line and something just doesn’t sit right with me. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Detroit will win easily and head to either New York or Dallas next week, but I just can’t pull the trigger on Lions –3.5. (Even with Flynn and the boys playing the majority of the game for Green Bay.) THE PICK: PACKERS +3.5
Bucs @ Falcons, 4:15PM ET
If the Lions beat the Packers at 1:00PM ET then the Falcons essentially can rest their starters in preparation for next week because they’d be guaranteed the sixth seed in the NFC. But if Detroit loses than Atlanta can improve its playoff positioning and avoid possibly going to New Orleans again next weekend. But even if the Lions win, the Falcons still have something to prove to themselves following their horrendous effort last Monday night versus the Saints. If you read the local papers, the Atlanta players have said to a man that they want a rematch with New Orleans but the seed of doubt has been planted following their 45-16 loss. They need a strong showing this weekend against a hapless Buccaneers team that quit weeks ago before they head into the playoffs. Thus, whether Matt Ryan and the rest of the Falcons starters play a half or the full game, they need a strong effort tomorrow. THE PICK: FALCONS –11
Alistair Overeem proved he was more than just hype on Friday night by retiring Brock Lesnar from the UFC.
In his octagon debut, the former Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion made quick work of Lesnar, beating him by TKO at 2:26 of the first round following a body kick.
Overeem was able to stuff the few takedown attempts from Lesnar and land some powerful knees to the body that softened Lesnar up for the finish. Overeem will now face Junior dos Santos for the UFC heavyweight title in the near future.
Following the loss, his second in as many fights, Lesnar retired from competition. With a pair of bad knockout losses, his aura has faded. With a title shot not likely to come any time soon, it made sense for Lesnar to call it quits. It hurts the UFC as he was their top draw, but I am sure they can market Overeem.
In the co-main event, Nate Diaz had an impressive decision win over Donald Cerrone. Diaz used his boxing to pick apart Cerrone. The Cowboy took a number of unanswered punches throughout the 15 minutes.
In a big upset, Johny Hendricks knocked out Jon Fitch in just 12 seconds. Fitch, who had just one loss in the octagon to Georges St. Pierre, had been off for nearly a year due to shoulder surgery.
Fitch threw a couple of punches in the opening seconds but then walked in to a big left from Hendricks that put him out cold for a moment.
The loss for Fitch is devastating, as he was close to earning a title shot, and now will fall well back into the contender list. Due to a lack of exciting fights, Fitch can’t expect to headline an event any time too soon.
For complete results from UFC 141, check out the jump.
San Francisco Giants Tim Lincecum throws to the Philadelphia Phillies in the third inning at AT&T Park in San Francisco on August 7, 2011. The Giants defeated the Phillies 3-1. UPI/Terry Schmitt
The San Francisco Giants have had a rather quiet winter. Sure they made two trades in efforts to improve their weak offense, but acquiring outfielder Melky Cabrera for starter Jonathan Sanchez, and Angel Pagan for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez was hardly the moves fans were expecting. The Giants essentially said that they would be frugal this offseason and thus far, they’ve kept their word.
But nobody expected the club to struggle re-signing one of its coveted pitchers, especially the ace of the staff.
According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, there is still a “sizable gap” in long-term contract talks between the Giants and Tim Lincecum. The club is believed to have improved upon its initial four-year offer from this summer, but Lincecum is thought to be seeking an eight-year deal.
Those close to the negotiations tell Heyman that both sides are weighing one-and-two-year contracts in case a long-term deal cannot be reached. Considering Lincecum already owns two Cy Young awards, helped the Giants win their first World Series title in San Francisco, and is coming off a season in which he posted a 2.74 ERA with 220 strikeouts, one would think San Francisco would jump at the chance to re-sign one of its prized pitching possessions. But apparently frugal is winning out at the moment.
The Giants also have a decision to make about No. 2 starter Matt Cain, who becomes a free agent at the end of the season. Cain posted career-highs in ERA (2.88) and WHIP (1.083), even though he only won 12 games last season. He’s been repeatedly burned by lack of run support over the years and if the Giants don’t want to pony up to keep him happy, maybe he’ll think about moving on after the 2012 season. He could potentially win 20 games with a team like the Yankees or Red Sox, who are constantly looking for good pitching.
If Buster Posey (leg) makes a full recovery, Pablo Sandoval keeps up on his offseason conditioning, and youngster Brandon Belt takes a major step in his development, the Giants’ offense won’t be as bad as it was in 2011. (Then again, how could be any worse?) But this club is built on its pitching so GM Brian Sabean has a lot of work to do in order to keep guys like Lincecum and Cain around long enough for the offense to finally blossom.
Baltimore Ravens’ Terrell Suggs has his helmet taken off by Cincinnati Bengals’ Andrew Whitworth during the fourth quarter at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on January 2, 2011. UPI/Kevin Dietsch
MARQUE MATCHUP: It’s the final week – pick one.
Some will argue that the Cowboys-Giants Sunday night matchup is the biggest game of the week, but it’s no bigger than Ravens-Bengals. While Dallas-New York will finally settle the NFC East race, Baltimore needs a victory to win the AFC North and secure the No. 2 seed in the AFC, while Cincinnati needs to beat the Ravens just to clinch a playoff berth. There is no shortage of important games on the schedule this week, including Kansas City-Denver and San Diego-Oakland. (If the Broncos beat the Chiefs they’ll win the AFC West, or if they lose and the Raiders beat the Chargers, then Oakland will win the division.) In fact, out of the 16 games on the Week 17 schedule, only five contests have absolutely no barring on the playoff races in either conference. It figures to be a wild Sunday in the NFL, with postseason implications galore.
THE POTENTIAL (NOTEWORTHY) UPSET: Packers over Lions
Some of you may be thinking, “This wouldn’t be an upset, you clown.” But the Packers have nothing to play for and thus, will likely rest their starters this weekend. Considering they’re a 3.5-point home underdog, technically this would be considered an upset, so shove it. Wait…what?…You’d have to go back to December 15, 1991, for the last time the Lions won at Lambeau Field. That’s a massive drought; an even bigger drought than the Lions’ 11-year span of not making the postseason. Granted, the rest of Green Bay’s starters played that night but Matt Flynn nearly willed the Packers to a victory last season at New England when Aaron Rodgers was sidelined with a concussion. With nothing to play for, Mike McCarthy may let it all hang loose against a Detroit team that must win in order to secure the fifth seed in the NFC (and therefore avoid playing at New Orleans in the first round of the playoffs). It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Detroit will win this Sunday versus Green Bay’s backups, but in case you haven’t been paying attention: Green Bay’s backups are pretty freaking good, too. We’ll see if the ghosts of Lambeau Field haunt the Lions one more time this Sunday.
THE GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY: DENVER BRONCOS
The Broncos have one mission and one mission only: Beat Kansas City at home on Sunday and win the AFC West. That’s it. That’s all they have to do. They don’t have to win and then hope for another team to lose like the Raiders, Titans and Jets do. All they have to do is take care of their own business at home against a 6-9 Chiefs team and they’ll be headed to the playoffs. That said, this is the same Chiefs that knocked off the defending (and undefeated) Packers a few weeks ago in Kansas City. Romeo Crennel is likely auditioning for a head-coaching job so he’ll have his defense ready to shut down Tim Tebow on Sunday, and let’s not forget that the discarded Kyle Orton is now Kansas City’s starting quarterback. This game is a writer’s dream because there are plenty of storylines to choose from. Still, Denver is the better overall team and has a chance to wrap up the division while clinching what was an improbable playoff berth at the start of the season. All those goofy horse heads have to do is win.
PUT UP OR SHUT UP: CINCINNATI BENGALS
The Broncos, Cowboys and Giants are all candidates for the “Put up or shut up” section this week, but if I’m only choosing one team then it’s the Cincinnati Bengals. Look, the Bengals have had a tremendous season. Nobody expected them to win more than five games this year, let alone nine and have a chance to clinch a playoff berth with a win in the final game of the season. Thus, this year is already a success in most people’s eyes. But they’re here, so they might as well finish the job and storm into the playoffs with a head full of steam instead of backing in because other teams (i.e. the Raiders, Titans and Jets) lost. Cincinnati obviously still has a lot to prove but if it can beat Baltimore at home this Sunday, it’ll give the Bengals confidence that they can win next week in Houston. If they get drubbed, then their season is likely over or they’ll back into the playoffs having lost to Pittsburgh (twice), Baltimore (twice) and Houston during the regular season. So strap ‘em up Bengals, and prove to the NFL that you’re one of the six best teams in the AFC.