Archive for February, 2012

Daytona 500 Preview

After the shortest offseason in sports, NASCAR is back. And unlike any sport, NASCAR starts its season off with its biggest event. NASCAR has made this years edition of the Great American Race more unpredictable than others by restricting the use of the two car tandem racing that we have seen over the past few years and created a hybrid of the two car tandem and traditional restrictor plate racing seen at Daytona and Talladega. As the Budweiser Shootout and the Gatorade Duels showed us, this race should be exciting.

Entering the 2012 season there are several big stories about several big names that have and will continue to dominate speedweeks. The obvious attention getter is the first Sprint Cup start for Danica Patrick. Bringing the attention and all of her fans to NASCAR from Indy Car, Danica has become the no. 1 sight for fans to see at Daytona this week. But she is not just here to be a side show. In her duel race on Thursday she showed she can hang with the big boys in Sprint Cup and had a good run going for her until Aric Almirola got into her after being forced down by Jamie McMurray and caused her to take a huge hit against the inside wall down the backstretch and will send her to a backup car for the 500. But in Nationwide qualifying Danica took the pole for the race so her week has had his ups and downs.

Danica’s car owner for the Daytona 500 and defending Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart comes into speedweeks as the hottest driver out there. Putting on a clinic in the 2011 Chase, winning half of the races after struggling to compete in the regular season, lead him to his third Championship in NASCAR’s highest series. But the one thing missing on Tony’s resume for the Hall of Fame is a Daytona 500 victory. Could this be his best chance to get it?

As with every year in NASCAR drivers switch teams and move to different cars for the next season, and they are a few this year. Kasey Kahne leaves Red Bull Racing after his one year contract is up and joins Hendrick Racing in the #5 car forming one of the best 4 car teams in NASCAR history with Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kahne replaces Mark Martin who moves to Michael Waltrip Racing and will run a limited Schedule in the #55 car. Clint Bowyer joins Mark at MWR and will drive the #15 5 Hour Energy car after leaving Richard Childress Racing. After his tirade towards ESPN pit road reporter Dr. Jerry Punch, Kurt Busch finds himself being let go from Penske Racing and joining Phoenix Racing driving the #51 car. Replacing Kurt will be AJ Allmendinger in the #22 car.

Trying to predict the winner of a race at Daytona is like trying to hit a three pointer with a blind fold on so rather than give you one pick for a winner, I will give you 5 drivers I expect to have a chance to win at the end and a few drivers who can surprise some people this Sunday.

Expect To Win

Kevin Harvick

Harvick has to be thought of every time there is a race he is in. Kevin just finds a way to be near the front at the end of any race. Just see the end of the Daytona 500 in 2007. Selling his truck team should help him focus just on the 500 more than other years. Harvick will start 13th in the Great American Race and he should stay up front and have a great chance to get his 2nd 500 victory.

Tony Stewart

The defending champion has won almost everything in NASCAR except this race and he knows it. He is coming off one of the greatest postseason runs in sports history and is looking to use the momentum of that run to get his first Daytona 500 victory. He has already visited victory lane once this week winning the first Gatorade Duel race and will start 4th for the 500. Look for Smoke to be in the front when the white flag waves.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Yes I know Dale hasn’t won a race in forever but he has made strides towards ending that streak. And what better place to do it than at the place his father owned for years. Dale has always ran great at Daytona including a victory in 2004 in the Daytona 500, and he has to always be a favorite to win every trip to the track. He will start 5th and will keep himself in the front of the pack all day possibly leading him to his 2nd 500 win and his first win in a long time.

Kyle Busch

Kyle showed how skilled he is behind the wheel of a race car durring his win in the Bud Shootout on Saturday, almost wrecking twice but somehow saving the car both times. Kyle has run good in the 500 but just could never get to the checkered flag first. This year could be the year he finally gets there first.

 

Greg Biffle

Roush has brought a lot of fast cars to Daytona but the one car who has been constantly fast all week has been the #16 car of Greg Biffle. Greg qualified on the front row for the 500, was competing for the win in his Duel race, and has been at the top of the charts for speed all week in practice. Him and his race team have got his car hooked up for the 500. They just have to put it all together in order to get his first Daytona 500 victory.

Surprise Drivers

Regan Smith

After getting his first career win at Darlington last year, Smith is looking to take the next step in his career. Regan raced well last year in the 500 especially in the Duel race pushing Kurt Busch to a win. Finishing 2nd in this years Duel race again, Smith looks to have a car that can compete this sunday and starting 6th will help him try to get his 2nd career win.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

This may only be a one race deal for the defending Nationwide Champion but this young driver has shown he can race with the best of them. Filling in for Trevor Bayne last year in the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte, Ricky finished 11th in his first career Sprint Cup Race. Now driving for Jack Roush in the #6 car Ricky has been running fast all week and looks to be just as fast in the 500.

Danica Patrick

Danica has shown that she can race with NASCAR’s top tier drivers and be competitive. Despite the rough wreck during the Duel race on thursday, Danica was competitive and stayed near the front all race. She will have to start in the back of the field because of going to a backup car so she will have her work cut out for her, but if she can keep her noes clean and stick around till the end, she could find herself in a history making position.

by: Andrew Isaac

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Predicting NASCAR Chase Drivers In 2012

Coming off one of the best years in NASCAR history, the 2012 season will have a lot to live up to. The historic chase run by Tony Stewart and fighting Carl Edwards for the Sprint Cup championship and Stewart winning his first championship as a owner. The drama and conflict between Kyle Busch vs Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch vs Ron Hornaday, Kyle Busch vs Richard Childress, Kurt Busch vs Dr. Jerry Punch. Seems to have a common theme there.

With the addition of the Chase to the Championship, it has made every year since much more exciting adding the additional pressure for every driver to make it to NASCAR’s version of the playoffs and then the usual struggle of winning a championship.

With all of the driver changes this year like Kurt Busch being replaced by AJ Allmendinger at Penske, Kasey Kahne joining Hendrick, and Clint Bowyer leaving Childress and joining Michael Waltrip Racing, this year will be another exciting year.

Just Missed The Chase- Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, AJ Allmendinger, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano.

12.- Greg Biffle, 16 3M Ford Roush Fenway Racing

With Roush now dropping to a three car team, there will be more pressure on each of the remaining cars. Coming off a disappointing 2011 campaign going winless and not making the Chase, Greg will change both of those problems by winning at least one race and just squeaking in to the playoffs. I expect him to struggle when the Chase begins and he will fade away rather quickly. Usually a couple drivers do each year.

11.- Matt Kenseth, 17 Valvoline/Best Buy Ford Roush Fenway Racing

Coming off his best statistical year since 2006 it will be tough for Kenseth to repeat the success.  Matt won three races and finished fourth in the Chase. Matt basically forced NASCAR into creating a playoff system after his 2003 title only winning one race in the process. 2012 could be Kenseth’s last year with Roush as his contract is up after the season. Just like his teammate Biffle, Kenseth will fade in the Chase and finish near the bottom of the standings.

10.- Dale Earnhardt Jr., 88 National Guard/ Diet Mountain Dew Chevy Hendrick Motorsports

After having absolutely embarrassing years in 2009 and in 2010, NASCAR’s most popular driver had a comeback year in 2011 nearly breaking his winless streak that now stretches over three years and making the Chase finishing 7th. With the addition of Kasey Kahne at Hendrick, Dale now becomes the 4th best driver in their stable and now even if it seemed impossible, there is more pressure on him. He will win at least one race this year im calling it. Being competetive in the Chase? Not just yet.

9.- Kasey Kahne, 5 Farmers Insurance Chevy Hendrick Motorsports

Kasey was put in a odd position last year. Driving for a dying race team with Red Bull Racing and only racing with a one year contract and signing up for this ride two years ago, Kasey knew what his future held so going into the 2011 year and with all of the awkwardness that existed, Kasey one a race and almost made the Chase. Imagine what he could do now with a great team and fantastic equipment. Give this group a year and Kasey will be competing for the championship, but this year making the Chase and winning a couple races will do just fine.

8.- Kyle Busch, 18 M&M’s Toyota Joe Gibbs Racing

After all of the drama last season, everyone hopes that Kyle has learned to grow up and actually control his temper. Obviously his race team and his sponsors are losing their patients with him and he needs to change for good. He has talent but that can only get you so far. I think he is learning to control his temper but still will continue his Chase struggles and finish in the middle of the pack.

7.- Tony Stewart, 14 Office Depot/ Mobil 1 Chevy Stewart Haas Racing

What a year Tony had last year. After barely making the Chase, Tony went on a crazy run leading to his 3rd Championship and winning his first as a owner/driver. He will have a lot to live up to. Adding defending his championship on top of owning his team and now managing Danica Patrick’s start in NASCAR, this will be a difficult year for Tony. But if anyone could do it Tony can. But he wont this year.

6.- Brad Keselowski, 2 Miller Light Dodge Penske Racing

What a year Brad had as well. Surprising everyone, Brad won 3 races last year and made the chase finishing 5th. Now he takes over as the no 1 driver at Penske as Kurt Busch was let go after his tirade about Dr. Jerry Punch after the season ending Homestead race. Some people think that Brad will regress after a breakout year but he will win races and compete in the chase.

5.- Jimmie Johnson, 48 Lowe’s Chevy Hendrick Racing

Well the run had to end at some point. 2011 just didn’t have the same feeling for Jimmie Johnson as the last five years did, those obviously ending in championships for the 48 team. Now Jimmie will have to do something he hasn’t had to do for years. Not defending the Sprint Cup Championship and having to take it from Tony Stewart. He will have the same group that he had last year and knowing that team they will finish near the top of the standings this year and win several races.

4.- Jeff Gordon, 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevy Hendrick Racing

Its surprising to think that it has been 11 years since Jeff last one a Spring Cup Championship but he has taken a back seat to his teammates dominance over the past 6 years now. But now with a chink in the armor of Jimmie Johnson shown last year, Jeff can use this year as a start to a late career run at another title. Jeff faded last year finishing ninth in the standings struggling in the Chase. He will stay competitive in this Chase and get close to his fifth title.

3.- Kevin Harvick, 29 Budweiser Chevy Richard Childress Racing

Harvick’s year is already off to a fantastic start with the announcement that he will be a father. It can become even greater if it ends with a championship. Happy Harvick has a habit of sticking around in a race quietly and showing up at the end finding ways to win races. Just see his Daytona 500 race win. Harvick is usually a lock for a few wins every year and after finishing third last year in the Chase, tying his previous best, Kevin should be motivated to make a strong run for his first Sprint Cup Championship in 2012.

2.- Denny Hamlin, 11 FedEx Toyota Joe Gibbs Racing

After having a championship slip through his fingers in 2010, Denny Hamlin faltered in 2011. Struggling all throughout the 2011 season managing only one win after winning a career high eight races in 2010, Denny finished ninth in the Chase. Now with Darian Grubb coming over from Stewart Haas after winning a title in 2011 with Tony Stewart to replace Mike Ford as Crew Chief, Denny has a championship winning leader who can push that team over the top. Denny will return to his winning ways and stay competitive all year, falling just short of a title.

1.- Carl Edwards, 99 Fastenal Ford Roush Fenway Racing

After losing to Tony Stewart via a tiebreaker in one of the greatest seasons and finishes in NASCAR history, Carl will have to avoid the second place curse that happens to the second place finishers the next season. Denny Hamlin suffered from it last year, just like Carl did in 2009. Carl put up consistant numbers all year and almost won the championship despite only winning one race in the beginning of the year at Las Vegas. If Carl can put up another consistant year and add a few more wins in during the season, Carl can obtain his first title. He has been a bridesmaid long enough. So my pick for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship is Carl Edwards. Expect a season ending flip.

by: Andrew Isaac

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Handicapping Peyton Manning’s Possible Destination

It looks as though Peyton Manning is heading out the door in Indianapolis in the near future with the next new young Quarterback coming down the pipe, *cough Andrew Luck cough*, and where he might land is up in the air. Just about every team in the NFL would have to look at their Quarterback situation if and when Peyton becomes available in the free agent market whether or not they already have a Quarterback in place. He is just that good when he is healthy. The problem is no one really knows if he is healthy enough to return to his MVP caliber play. Is he worth the risk? We will find out in the future but even if those doubts many teams will line up to talk to Peyton and possibly wear another uniform other than the Colts.

Miami Dolphins- 2/1

This matchup two times a year?

Miami has been searching for the player to fill the shoes that Dan Marino left behind and for more than 10 years now they havent come close. Falling behind the Patriots and the Jets in the AFC East the Dolphins need a leader of the offense that has at times been non existant. Miami has talent already in an effort to woo Manning with WR Brandon Marshall, RB Reggie Bush, and Lineman Jake Long which can make the difference for Peyton who wants another chance at a Super Bowl ring before hes done. The idea of playing rival Tom Brady and the New England Patriots two times a year may be intriguing for Manning as well.

Washington Redskins- 3/1

Being in the NFC East and playing against Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and Michael Vick, the Redskins know the importants of having a great Quarterback or in their case not having one. Obviously the combination of Rex Grossman and John Beck did not work at all last year and they need a change. With the 6th pick in the draft this year they have a chance of drafting a QB with Robert Griffin III as a possibility as the future. Washington has a habit of shelling out a lot of money for players whether they deserve it or not so Washington would not surprise me as a home for Peyton.

New York Jets- 4/1

Could you imagine the media explosion that would happen if both Eli and Peyton were both playing in New York? One of the major things holding the Jets back from taking the next step to the Super Bowl has been the play at Quarterback. Mark Sanchez has not grown and progressed as much as the Jets had hoped for and his time is running out. Watching the success of the Giants this year could push the Jets to make a drastic move to get the spotlight back on them. However if they make their aspiration of acquiring Manning public particularly to Sanchez and do not get him, they could ruin the psyche of the young, shaky QB for good.

Arizona Cardinals- 5/1

We saw this type of situation happen a few years back with the Cardinals and Kurt Warner. The success that they had together lead all the way to the Super Bowl which is where Peyton would kill to get back to. Playing in a dome similar to the domes he played in with Indy, the warm weather and airing deep balls out to Larry Fitzgerald would make Arizona a tempting destination for Peyton. But the Cardinals already have Kevin Kolb as their possible QB for the future and spending time behing one of the best all time wouldn’t be the worst thing for Kolb.

Seattle Seahawks- 5/1

Similar to the Cardinals, the Seahawks are looking for a QB who can bring the franchise back to the Super Bowl and Manning may be the guy. Seattle made a bit of a run towards the playoffs late last season and look to ride that momentum into the 2012 season and would like a QB to help out. Tarvaris Jackson did not have a bad year last year but he has never really been taken seriously as a franchise Quarterback here or in Minnesota. Seattle has a solid young team that could make a splash with a big offer to Manning and surprise everyone.

San Francisco 49ers- 8/1

Keeping up with the run of NFC West teams how about the defending division champs. Before last season the Niners would be one of the frontrunners for Peyton but after the success and turnaround of Alex Smith makes this decision a lot tougher. Smith earned his money last year putting up his best year as a professional leading the Niners one fumble away from the Super Bowl, earning the trust of the 49ers and their fans. But with Smith a free agent now the move could be made for Peyton. With Smith the team almost made the Super Bowl, imagine how far the team could go with Peyton at the helm.

Baltimore Ravens- 10/1

For some reason the trust in Joe Flacco has disappeared in Baltimore. Even though he has lead the Ravens deep in the playoffs every year he has been in the league, the Ravens and their fans are losing faith in the young QB. Flacco has almost lead the Ravens to the Super Bowl so bringing in Peyton could put them over the top just like the Niners. Knowing this I wouldn’t put it past them to make an offer to Peyton giving him probably his best chance at a Super Bowl he will have on this list.

Denver Broncos- 15/1

If anyone can silence Tebow Time, it is Peyton Manning. I am still not sold on Tebow at all and I am sure that John Elway and the Broncos organization are not either. Even though Tebow lead the Broncos to a 7-4 finish after a 1-4 start and winning the AFC West, he was just about useless throwing the ball for the first 3 and a half quarters relying on the defense to keep them in the game. You cant win in the NFL like that for long. Bringing Peyton in could open the Broncos playbook a lot more than Tebow can and expand the offense much more. The Broncos might take some heat from the fans for benching their boy, but getting Manning even for a few years could really make the Broncos a great team.

Other Longshot Teams- Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings, and Cleveland Browns.

Funny thing about all of this is that Manning and the Colts could resolve their problems and stay with each other. We will all have to wait and see what their decision about each of their futures will be, because their decision will impact the entire NFL for years to come.

by: Andrew Isaac

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Andrew’s Super Bowl XLVI Predictions

Were finally here.

After two long weeks of breaking down every angle of the game. Every strength and weakness about each team has been looked at over and over and over again. All of the players for both teams getting quizzed about every aspect of the game all week the entire time being reminded of the game that they are playing and the pressure that is packaged with it. And with the matchup we have for Super Bowl XLVI is almost guaranteed to be a great one.

We get the rematch of one of the greatest Super Bowls ever played with the New York Giants and the New England Patriots facing off in Indianapolis. The Giants try to win their 2nd Super Bowl in 4 years and second consecutive Super Bowl win over the Patriots. Eli Manning attempts to put his name in the elite category by winning his second Super Bowl and more importantly to the media passing his older brother, Peyton Manning, with more Super Bowl rings 2 to 1.

If the Patriots want to take this game they will have to improve on their 31st ranked pass defense as they have for the most part all through the playoffs. They will have to get in Eli Mannings face early and often and must not let him sit in the pocket untouched. As it has been all week Rob Gronkowski will be a big story on Sunday. The Pats will have to establish the threat of Gronkowski early so they keep him in the mind of the Giants early and free up other players against the stingy Giants pass defense.

On the Giants side they will have to keep Eli clean and off the turf as they struggled to do against the 49ers. Eli must continue his success on third down as he did in the NFC Championship against the Niners. The Giants have to spread the field on the relatively weak Patriots pass defense. The Giants defense must contain Tom Brady and the exciting Patriots offense and the Giants offense must also keep up with the Patriots. Simply put, the Giants must run the same gameplan that they set up when they beat the Patriots in Foxboro earlier this year.

The fact that the Giants are over confident for this game have me a bit nervous but if you make it this far you have to be a little confident  in your team. I have a feeling Tom Coughlin has got this team game ready and kept them away from the media jumping onto their bandwagon. Speaking of coaches one of the best all time will be on the other sideline in Bill Belichick and he just might have his team ready to play as well.

This game just like the Super Bowl matchup before this will be a extremely close game throughout with no one team pulling away. The strong Giants front defense will have to get pressure on Brady and control the rushing attach from the Patriots. If Eli can get time to throw the Giants can use their deadly staff of receivers to pick apart the Patriots defense. Victor Cruz will be used a lot and we will see some salsa dancing in the endzone at least once. Nicks will find the endzone as well. The Patriots will keep up through the air as well using Wes Welker a lot. The game will come down to the last final minutes as Eli will lead the Giants down the field just like he has done in the previous two meetings and score a late touchdown as the Giants will beat the Patriots again and win their 2nd Super Bowl in 4 years.

NY Giants 27 New England 24

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Drew’s Super Bowl XLVI Prediction

It’s finally here, Super Bowl Sunday. New England Patriots vs. New York Giants. The last time these two teams met in the Super Bowl, it was the undefeated Patriots going up against the underdog Giants. New York won that Super Bowl thanks to a couple miracle-like plays (Manning escaping a sack to Tyree’s helmet catch) that would eventually lead to a Burress touchdown that put the G-Men up for good. The Patriots were over confident, and a bit full of themselves throughout that entire season. Nobody wanted them to win, and they were greatly hated among other football fans. Meanwhile the Giants were on the road the entire postseason, and found themselves in the big game. The defense put pressure on Brady, and in the end New York proved to be too much for New England, winning the Super Bowl 17-14.

This time around, I see things differently. You could make the argument that the Giants are the one’s over confident, and a bit full of themselves the way they’ve acted since getting into this year’s Super Bowl, and that the Patriots could even be considered the underdog…The Patriots defense has been trouble-some most of the season, but since the Playoffs started they’ve played considerably better, and during the AFC Championship game Tom Brady struggled against Baltimore. None the less New England came out victorious. New York defeated the San Francisco 49ers in a very good NFC Championship matchup. The Giants have found a key player in Victor Cruz, while the Patriots have found a weapon of their own in “The Gronk”. I believe this game willl be a high scoring affair. Giants secondary is pretty weak, and we all know the Patriots defense is weak as well, meaning points will be put up on the board early, and often. Eli Manning has played very well this season, alot of comebacks in the 4th quarter’s of football games, and the defensive line for the G-Men have played great of late. But I really think that the Patriots defense will make enough stops, Wes Welker will have a big day, and Ocho Cinco might even snag a catch. I believe Tom Brady won’t forget the loss in the last Super Bowl to the Giants, and a motivated Tom Brady is a dangerous Tom Brady.

New England Patriots win Super Bowl XLVI by a final score of 30-24. Tom Brady gets redemption, and wins the Super Bowl MVP award.

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Andrew’s NFL Awards Picks

Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player- Aaron Rodgers, QB Green Bay Packers

This award was tough for me based on the fantastic seasons of both Rodgers and record setting Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Despite the better numbers from Brees, Rodgers set a new NFL record with a 122.46 quarterback rating and throwing 45 touchdown passes and only 6 interceptions, leading the Packers to a 15-1 record and the NFC North championship. However I could see a possible split of the award between Rodgers and Brees.

 

 

Coach of the Year- Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers

Jim Harbaugh did what many coaches couldn’t do over the past years by turning around the once feared and dangerous 49ers to their former glory. And he did it in less than a year. Leading the niners to a 13-3 record, the NFC West title and a appearance in the NFC Championship Game he brought the respect the 49ers franchise once had and deserves and intends to keep them there for years to come.

 

 

Defensive Player of the Year- Jared Allen, DE Minnesota Vikings

Jared Allen put up his best year in one of the Vikings worst years ever. Putting up 22 sacks and terrorizing quarterbacks like Rodgers, Stafford, Brees, and many other making their afternoons much longer. Acting as one of the only reason to watch Minnesota this year.

 

 

Offensive Rookie of the Year- Cam Newton, QB Carolina Panthers

Many experts questioned the Panthers selecting Cam with the number 1 overall pick in last years draft. Well Cam put those worries to bed by putting up one of the greatest rookie campaigns in NFL history. Becoming the first rookie to throw for over 4,000 yards, completing 60.0 percent of his 517 passes all leading to a pro bowl. But more importantly making the Panthers a fun team to watch.

 

 

Defensive Rookie of the Year- Von Miller, LB Denver Broncos

Yes their are other players on the Broncos not named Tim Tebow and they are quite good. Recording 11.5 sacks with 2 forced fumbles leading to a pro bowl birth and helping the Broncos win the AFC West. Making me wish he would have fallen one more pick in last years draft.

 

 

Comeback Player of the Year- Alex Smith, QB San Francisco 49ers

After struggling in his first 5 years in San Francisco, Alex’s future not just with the 49ers but in the NFL was in jeopardy. Gaining the trust of first year head coach Jim Harbaugh, Smith put up by far his best year as a pro. A career high 90.6 passer rating, throwing for over 3,000 yards for the first time in his career, 17 touchdown passes to only 5 interceptions. Making his first playoff appearance leading the Niners to a 13-3 record, winning the NFC West and beating the Saints in the postseason.

 

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