Super predictions

Faithful readers … now’s the time to flaunt your skills as a sports prognosticator. Super Sunday is 5-6 days away. The big game is almost here. Peyton has a chance to propel himself within talking distance of the Top 4 QBs of all-time with a win. Bears have yet another chance of leveraging that big chip on their shoulder to claim another huge victory that nobody expects. Urlacher has an opportunity to establish himself as one of the best LBs of his era. These coaches “lovie” eachother so much that it’s starting to make me puke. OK … first one to use a little profanity wins!!!

So here’s the deal. Tell us who wins on Sunday, the final score, the MVP, and a major sub-headline from the game. I’ll go first:

Bears win 24-23; Devin Hester, Bears KR, is MVP with a return TD and lots of return yards; and the headline is “Bears separate Colts from Ball and Title”.

I see 2 fumbles and 2 INTs by the Colts making a huge difference in the outcome. Manning doesn’t quite get it done. Vinatieri misses a key FG for once, due to no longer being with “the world’s luckiest team”. Am I dreaming?? What’s your prediction???

Wally

Super Result!

First, Da BEARS. They gotta be feeling super today. After several weeks of naysayers telling them they aren’t good enough and won’t get it done (including yours truly), the Bears played probably one of their most complete games of the year. Although it wasn’t pretty by conventional standards, it sure was beautiful in the eyes of Bears fans. Definitely “Bear football”. Sure, Grossman isn’t gonna make people forget about Montana or Elway, but he connected on some nice passes when the pressure was most extreme, leading a drive for what turned out to be the game-clinching TD. Great catch by Berrian! And although Rex missed some open passes in the 1st half, he didn’t have any critical turnovers or negative plays, and that’s one of the reasons the Bears are going to Miami. It was a complete team victory, though, as the running game was clutch, the defense played like they did early in the season for ¾ of the game, and special teams were quite effective, especially on kick coverage. Robbie was again Gould in the first half. The complete team effort and contributions from all positions represented the victory formula Chicago has sought since mid-season.

Make no mistake, home field advantage was also quite valuable to the Bears. The Saints looked out of sorts on occasion, often wondering what real grass is and why it was so slick out there. Clearly, the lack of sure footing and the noise level disrupted the Saints enough to make some bad plays, like the intentional grounding call from the endzone (safety). The Bear D was clearly swarming around and hitting hard, thereby claiming some fumbles and INTs that had eluded them for a few weeks. But because they’re representing the NFC, the 15-3 Bears will still likely be a decided 7 point underdog vs the Colts in the Super Bowl. With the continued lack of respect and people spending the next 2 weeks describing how the Colts will win decisively, the Bears should feel right at home!

Meanwhile, the AFC championship game turned out to be the gun-slinging, epic showdown between Manning and Brady that everyone expected. The Colts were clearly outplayed, out-toughed and out-coached in the first half. But they came out fighting in the second half, eventually to tie the score at 28 with most of the 4th quarter remaining. The Colts had the ball at about their own 20 with about 12 minutes left. It seemed like the stage was set for Peyton & Co to finally get this done. They had momentum, they were at home, they had the ball, AND THEY HAD A LOT TO PROVE. So, as most of us expected in this Greek tragedy known as the Indy Colts, misfortune struck in the form of a sprained thumb on Manning’s throwing hand. No, not now!!!!

Anyway, the teams traded FGs for a 31-31 tie with 6+ minutes left. Why did the Colts hand off on 3rd and 5 from the NE 30 ? Why not go for the 1st down and pass the ball???? Why play for a FG??? Why did they turn into wimps??

2:17 to go, Colts have the ball on their own 20, down 34-31. This is it: Peyton’s chance for his personal version of “The Drive”. Long pass down the sideline. 15 yard pass up the middle. Roughing the QB! Colts are clickin’! Run up the middle. TOUCHDOWN!!!! TOUCHDOWN!!!! Now, can the Colts D hold ‘em??? YES!!! YES!!! INTERCEPTION!!!! The wicked witch is dead!!!! Pick your witch: Brady, Belicheck, the curse on Manning, Dungy and the Colts. Whatever. Manning wins a clutch come-from-behind playoff game and the Colts are finally going to the Super Bowl!!!

Ya gotta love this result: Bears vs Colts in the Super Bowl. Well, at least I do. It’s long overdue and both teams are extremely happy to be there. A dream match-up from my perspective. I’ve loved the Bears since Butkus, Buffone and Sayers played games at Wrigley. I’ve rooted for the Colts ever since they moved from Baltimore to my Aunt’s home town only 3 hours from Chicago. And it seems like everyone roots for Peyton Manning. This seems weird, but for once, I can’t lose!!! To me, this is like the Sox playing the Cubs in the World Series. Okay, since the Cubs are cursed, maybe this Colts/Bears matchup is not as far-fetched as that one! Anyway, I’ll be rooting for the Bears, but if the Colts happen to win, I can live with that. Party at my place on Super Sunday Feb 4!!! You’re all invited.

Wally

Bears getting no respect

The “expert” NFL prognosticators are overwhelmingly dissing the Bears and predicting a Saints win Sunday in Soldier Field. Certainly not to be confused with an expert, although I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, I’ve also predicted a Saints win. But what confounds me is the contradiction with the Vegas betting lines, who have installed the Bears as 2 to 3 point favorites. Now we all know that home teams are given the 2-3 points just for that reason … playing in the friendly confines, etc, so Vegas must feel that this game is essentially a toss-up on a neutral field. Now, these people haven’t built huge hotels and casinos by being idiots, so how is it that all 8 of the ESPN “experts” who weekly predict the outcome of NFL games are picking the Saints when the Bears are favored by Vegas????

Well … don’t look to me for the answer. The “experts” must not have confidence in the Bears defense, just like me, but they must also feel that the streaky Sexy Rexy is due to crash and burn since he played a very good game last week. On the contrary, I think Rex will play another decent game. It’s just that the Saints will outscore ’em … and win 27-20.

Will Manning & company finally pull through and exorcise the Patriot ghosts of playoffs past? I think so. I hope so … cuz this is probably their last dance if they don’t get it done Sunday. GO PEYTON!!!

Wally

Shark is a Cub …

… and that’s it. Today, Jeff Samardzija (aka “the Shark”), the outstanding WR and pitcher for the Fighting Irish, signed a 5 year $8 million deal to pitch for the Cubs … and has agreed not to play in the NFL. On the surface, it appears to be a smart financial move given he could enjoy a 15+ year career in baseball and end up making five times that amount. However, he would have been a 1st round draft choice by an NFL team, according to Mel Kiper, and I’m surmising he may have received a similar deal in the NFL with most of it coming in the signing bonus. But, football players tend to have much shorter careers and higher risk of serious injury. Plus, once you get past the signing bonus and first year, football contracts are not guaranteed.

So financially, a smart move in my opinion. Hopefully, baseball is the sport Jeff prefers, or else he may have regrets long term. But only he can say. As a Chicago baseball fan, I AM DELIGHTED, because God knows they need pitching!!! (And other things 🙂 Hopefully, the Shark can stay healthy and fulfill his considerable potential … unlike Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, who have been very disappointing mainly due to constant injuries.

So … good luck to the Shark and the Cubs!! Hopefully, he can play his final baseball season for ND before reporting to the Cubs, but he may have already eliminated his eligibility by signing this deal.

Wally

Chargers gagged!

Ol’ Wally correctly picked 3 of the 4 games this weekend, with only the Chargers’ total gagfest the only culprit in the loss column. San Diego committed INCREDIBLY STUPID mistakes at the most inopportune times (fumbled punt, personal foul penalty after making a huge stop, fumbled INT return, waste of time-outs) … and of course the “world’s luckiest team”, the Patriots, were right there to take advantage. Is Marty Shottenheimer’s mere presence on any team’s sideline simply a huge curse in playoff games? What was I thinking in picking them to go to the Super Bowl?!?!? Duh!!

So the Final 4 next Sunday poses some great match-ups. In the NFC, the Bears are just waiting to get beat. Somehow, they snuck by Seattle although they seemed to play “not to lose” in the 4th quarter and got real conservative on offense. I think it’s now quite obvious to everyone that Chicago’s defense is nothing close to great … if anything, it’s merely average. What worries Bear fans is that Sexy Rexy played well Sunday, so now he’s probably due for a downer given his streakiness. I expect the Saints to win a close one, but it will be interesting to see how a southern-based dome team handles potentially nasty conditions in the Windy City. If the weather is decent, the Saints may win by 10. Hope I’m wrong on this prediction, given my Chicago roots.

In the AFC, the Colts are at home and the stage is perfectly set for Peyton Manning to change his legacy and finally get that team to the Super Bowl. But will he? Pats have been a huge Colts nemesis over the last 5-6 years. I think the realization among Colts players and fans that it’s now or never will lead to a higher level of intensity in this game than ever before in Indy. Expect the Hoosier Dome (or is it RCA Dome?) to be rockin’. It should be enough to spur the Colts to victory over the “world’s luckiest team”. (Aaron, don’t even start a rebuttal … they don’t call him Tom “Tuck Rule” Brady for nothin’.)

So here’s my revised Super Bowl prediction: Saints over the Colts in Miami, 27-24. I’ll be rooting for Peyton if he gets there, but I gotta stick with my initial overall pick to win it all.

Have a great week!

Wally

Wally’s NFL predictions (Conference Semifinals)

One of the great football weekends of the year is here in another day. Here is Wally’s prediction of how the Elite 8 will turn into the Super Bowl Champion of 2007:
AFC: Indy beats Baltimore, San Diego beats New England. then, San Diego beats Indy. Peyton just can’t get the post-season monkey off his back.

NFC: New Orleans beats Philly, Chicago beats Seattle. Then, New Orleans beats my Bears!!! Papa Bear Halas churns in his grave.

Super Bowl: And the Saints go marching in!!! They beat the Chargers 24-21. Game is called “Drew’s Revenge“.

So … all you smarties out there in NY and the East coast … tell me how I have it wrong. Enjoy the weekend of football … I will be disappointed if at least 3 of these games aren’t real close.

Wally

Embarrassed Once Again

We shouldn’t be surprised if the NCAA and BCS collectively pass legislation prohibiting Notre Dame from appearing in a high profile bowl game until they actually beat a Top 10 opponent … in any game. And it could take awhile. The Irish were again completely undressed in front of a national audience … once again displaying one of the most incompetent defenses ever assembled. And a sputtering offense that always seems to screw up enough plays to lose against tough competition.

If I’m Charlie Weis, I’m totally embarrassed right now. Heck … I’m sitting here in Alaska and can’t walk out my front door for fear of being heckled. Of course, I can always hide behind or dive into one of these 6 foot snow banks, but that’s another story. Let’s start with the “defense” because that’s the real source of ND’s crappy performance. Let’s count the ways they failed: 1) Allowed 2 TDs in the first quarter … another real bad start. 2) Allowed a third TD in a total of 1 min 15 seconds right before halftime … and immediately after ND had tied the game and seized the momentum. 3) failed to even show up in the second half and seemed to allow something like 700 yards of offense. No pass rush. No coverage. No tackling. No clue. We were blown off the line of scrimmage the entire 2nd half and it seemed like we gave up. LSU averaged over 8 yards per play and gained 32 first downs for the game!!!! Incredibly pathetic!!! And just downright embarrassing for ND and its fans … AGAIN.

Now, the offense. Where was it to start the game? Although ND displayed some offensive life and pretty good numbers in the first half while temporarily tying the score 2 minutes before halftime, we did not show up for the entire 2nd half. We needed to answer immediately when LSU put up a FG early in the 3rd. Nope … three and out. They got another FG and we had another 3 and out. By then it was too late as our leaky defense was about to burst open. Whether it’s dropped passes, slightly misfired passes, crappy play-calling, a false start, missed FGs, etc, the Irish seem to screw up just enough on offense to come up empty in big games. How could we look pretty good on offense in the first half, yet look so terrible in the second? Is it possible that our resident genius was out-coached? Is it because our offensive line just isn’t very good and is very inconsistent to begin with? Is it because Rhema McKnight can’t catch a cold, let alone the ball? Is Brady Quinn possibly overrated as a passer? Do we totally lack break-away speed at RB and WR? YES!!!!!

So, aside from wearing the fake glasses and nose with mustache during the next two weeks, where do we go from here??? Well … I say we recruit like hell and try to get some blue-chip players … especially on defense!!!! And we should consider firing the entire defensive coaching staff and find some coaches who’ve demonstrated a track record and know what the hell they’re doing. It’s not like ND is an awful football team or program. We’re on the right path to improvement and God knows we’re better off now than during the Davie-ham era. But the pundits are right … ND is a pretender at the moment … have been all year … not a legit Top 10 team … and we won’t be next year. We’re only “Top 15-25” right now … obviously not capable of competing ON THE FIELD with the current football powers. So we better get more top players coming in and beat the other squads in the recruiting wars off the field.

What I can’t figure out is why ND is worse now versus last season. In ’05, we almost beat USC (shoulda, coulda won) and lost to Ohio St in a game that was at least competitive into the 4th quarter in last year’s Fiesta Bowl. This season, we had a real nice nucleus of players coming back, yet we lost 3 games by 26, 20 and 27 points. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s like we didn’t improve at all … I know the defense somehow was better statistically (how can that be?), but the offense was not nearly as prolific as expected and quite disappointing in the key games. Maybe we just played way over our heads last season?

Don’t really know the answer. I just know that I’m embarrassed for the Irish football program … again. Not because we stink, but because we alway seem to play like crap on the big stage. We can beat most of the teams on our schedule, but we’re just awful against the big guys. I do have good news though. Aside from saving money on my car insurance, the ND basketball team is something like 14-1 with their only loss coming to a pretty good team. They are just starting the rigorous Big East conference schedule, so don’t get too excited yet. But it’s been a loooooong time since they started a season like this. And has anyone outside of Alaska noticed that the Irish hockey team is #2 in the country???? You can look it up. GO IRISH !!!

See … ya just gotta move on … I have … I think. Time for a beer …

Wally