1. Bulls (50-32) - No drastic changes here, but one key addition. Joe Smith is going to give them a toughness and scoring presence they didn't have at PF last season. Noah is basically a less-athletic version of Tyrus Thomas, and a wasted pick, in my opinion. This team didn't need to do much to pass the Pistons, another year of seasoning on their part and another year older for Detroit gets the job done this year.
2. Pistons (48-34) - They'll cruise through the regular season before their age shows in the playoffs, again. Rodney Stuckey's broken wrist will hinder his development, and his impact on the team this year. It's a shame, they could've used the infusion of youth. Hopefully Tayshaun Prince will catch legionnaire's disease, I hate that guy.
3. Toronto (47-35) - Bosh and Garbajosa stay healthy, Kapono lights it up from the outside. The best team in the Atlantic last year got better and stay on top.
4. Cleveland (47-35) - Give or take 3 wins, depending on how many games LeBron decides to show up for.
5. Miami (43-39) - Dwyane Wade is this entire team at this point. You can't count on Shaq for more than 40 games (20 dominant games). Kapono's gone. Ricky Davis is garbage. J-Wil is a complete joke. Wade is the best player in the division, and he's motivated, so I think they edge out the Wiz for the Southeast title.
6. Boston (43-39) - Obviously, I'm not as impressed with the new-look Celtics as everyone else is. All I see is a team with three "Superstars" who have never made it to the finals. Kevin Garnett tore apart Minnesota by demanding inferior players remain on the roster (Hassell and Hudson), Paul Pierce plays at the speed of a Walrus and Ray Allen can't guard Willie Green. All three are an injury risk, and I'd put money on at least one of them missing significant time. Beyond the big three, they have a young point guard who can't shoot to save his life, a talent-less big man and James Posey, not to mention a horrible, horrible coach. This team has no depth and three empty uniforms as its centerpiece. They make the playoffs, barely, that's it.
7. Wizard (42-40) - This team is neither here nor there. It's a contract year for Arenas, so he'll be lighting it up all year. Butler and Jameson will score a ton as well, but this team just can't defend. Weak conference helps. 8. Nets (42-40) - Kidd is a stud, but this team is old, and injury-prone. Nenad's return helps them, but not as much as Vince Carter's apathy hurts them. He was lazy last year, in a contract year, just imagine the effort they're going to get out of him this year with a fat contract in his back pocket. 9. Orlando (41-41) - Dwight Howard continues to mature into the best big man in the East. Rashard Lewis turns out to be a bust, scoring about 18 per game and contributing absolutely nothing else. Terrible signing Orlando will regret for years to come.
10. Philadelphia (40-42) - Check back later for my full Sixers preview.
11. Atlanta (38-44) - Al Horford is the first smart pick the Hawks have made in the last five seasons. He and Josh Smith make this team go, but I still worry about the point guard situation. Acie Law IV isn't going to distribute enough, but I see them taking a step forward this year.
12. Charlotte (38-44) - Jason Richardson was a nice addition, Adam Morrison was a tough loss. I think this team's season comes down to Emeka Okafor's ability to stay on the floor. He missed 15 games last year, 57 the year before. If he can stay healthy, they could be a playoff team, but I'm skeptical.
13. New York (35-47) - Last season, the Knicks won 32 games with horrible perimeter play, pitiful interior defense, great rebounding and good inside scoring. In the off season they traded for Zach Randolph, meaning this year they're going to have horrible perimeter play, pitiful interior defense, great rebounding and good inside scoring. Sound familiar? I'm giving them 3 extra wins over last season because they shouldn't be as ravaged by injuries, they could be much worse if fat Eddy and Randolph keep fighting over dessert.
14. Milwaukee (34-48) - I'm not sold on anyone on this team. When your "star" is a shooting guard who can't do anything but shoot, you have problems. I think Yi is going to be a bust, and Bogut doesn't impress me all that much.
15. Indiana (20-62) - By far, the worst team in the league. Not to mention the fact their best player is begging to leave.
Now the Eastern Conference is a little harder to predict, believe it or not. See, the Eastern Conference is significantly better - Kevin Garnett, Jason Richardson, Ray Allen, Ricky Davis, Zach Randolph have all joined. But keep in mind that it mostly effects the middle and bottom parts of the Eastern Conference. The top three teams, for example - the Bulls, Cavs and Pistons, in terms of record - have all stayed relatively stable. For better or worse.
So the Eastern Conference is one big messy clusterf*ck that needs to be sorted. Let's give it a shot:
Not Making the Playoffs: 15. Indiana Pacers 25-57: Let's see... their second half last season, after the trade was made, was atrocious. Jermaine O'Neal remains the most likely player to be traded this season, if anyone is willing to pick up his salary. This team has no real backcourt, and only Danny Granger seems to hold any real potential. Yeah, it'll be at least two more seasons before Larry Bird can dig his way out of this mess. On the plus side: Good character people! Let's bring in more untalented white players! Can we get Keith Van Horn to unretire?
14. Milwaukee Bucks 33-49: The Bucks will improve a bit. Charlie Villanueva and Yi Jianlin will help solidify the team. In fact, when you add in Mo Williams, Michael Redd, and Andrew Bogut... it's actually a really talented starting five. I guess it's just the downside of being in a division with the top three teams in the East.
May Surprise Me/You: 13. Philadelphia 76ers 35-47: They had a monster second half (20-19) after trading Iverson. But still, this is a young team, and there will be hard times ahead for them.
12. Atlanta Hawks 38-44: The stylish pick to be most improved this season. Hey, I believe in Acie Law IV. Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford... there is a lot of talent on this team. Talent takes time to mesh, though. I think this team will just fall a little short of the sleeper expectations people are placing on them.
11. Orlando Magic 39-43: Speaking of falling short of expectations... yes, the Magic made the playoffs last season. Barely. They only won 40 games. Adding Rashard Lewis is good, but losing Darko and Grant Hill isn't that easy of a write-off. Nope. This team is going to just fail to repeat last season's 40-win year. Unless, of course, Dwight Howard blows up. Then I might be a moron.
10. Charlotte Bobcats 39-43: Speaking of blowing up... Okafor. The time is now. He's going to have a monster year. Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace will do work. If Raymond Felton can progress well (and I think he will), this is your sleeper team. If only their depth wasn't being absolutely crushed by injuries right now.
Competing for the playoffs: 9. Washington 39-43: Yes, they'll have the same record as division rivals the Magic and Bobcats. But more people expect them to make the playoffs, after last season's 41 win (would have been much higher if not for injuries) season. The thing is this team is built on three players, and you saw how quickly things fell apart when injuries knocked out one (or two) of the Big Three. Oh wait... this isn't the Boston preview. Oops. Anyway, yeah... by the end of the season Gilbert is going for self, and dropping 35 a night while the season falls apart.
The Atlantic Division: 4 out of the five teams in the division are making the playoffs. They aren't winning less than 45, or more than 47/48 games. This is going to be tight, people!
8. NY Knicks 45-37: All preseason they have shown they can beat bad teams, and even hang with good teams on occasion (the Celtic game they won). They have shown heart and hustle and focus... on occasion. They have also shown they are prone to playing poorly (see the 40 point loss to the Celtics), then rebounding. The Curry-Randolph tandem still has a bit to go until they get it together. The Knicks will start the year hovering around .500 for most of the 1st half, maybe going 21-20 over the first 41 games. Then they will start to mesh a little more, with Isiah finally figuring out his optimal rotation. Expect a strong finish (24-17), and a playoff spot. Injuries are less likely to deflate the Knicks than any other team in the Atlantic, thanks to their bench depth.
7. Toronto Raptors 45-37: Chris Bosh just seems likely to get injured this year.
6. Boston Celtics 46-36: Most people think I am crazy for not pen-ning in the Celts for 50 wins and the title. Um, yeah... first guarantee me that the Big Three won't get injured this season. See, I think a serious injury will derail their season, especially since they don't exactly have much depth there. This is going to go south faster than Washington did last year. Best bet: Ray Allen misses a bit of time this year.
5. New Jersey Nets 48-34: The Nets just handled their business this preseason, without much fanfare. They looked good. Kidd showed at the Olympics what he can do with talent. Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, Jamaal Magliore and Nenad Krstic are the most balanced starting five in the division. And Boki, Sean Williams, and Marcus Williams gives the Nets good depth. One last run is in store for the Kidd Nets, before he gets traded in the offseason. Your Atlantic Division champion New Jersey Nets.
The Winner of the Southeast: 4. Miami Heat 48-34: I want to write them off, too. Believe me, I do. But they won 44 games last season, despite Shaq missing like 20 plus games, and Wade dislocating his shoulder. And Ricki Davis will improve this team more than you might think. They'll win the division by default, but should still net around 48 wins.
The Big Three (for real): 3. Chicago Bulls 47-35: Not much as changed since last season. Still looking for a starting PF. I can't say Joe Smith (or Tyrus Thomas, or Joe Kim Noah) are much of an upgrade over PJ Brown. I can't say Ben Wallace is going to do better, or Hinrich. So it comes down to Ben Gordon and Luol Deng making a huge improvement. I can't say that I see that happening, either. Even though I put them down as one of the big three, note that the Heat and Nets both will finish with better records, and don't rule out the possibility of another Atlantic team (the Celtics?) also finishing ahead of them, too. In other words: a fifth or sixth seed.
2. Cleveland Cavs 48-34: Almost the same scenario as the Bulls. They are less talented this year, and still have some personnel issues. Of course, the big difference is that LeBron might play even better this year. Still, same deal - anywhere from a #2 to a #5 seed.
The Favorite: 1. Detroit Pistons 52-30: They may have looked old getting spanked by the Cavs in the 2nd round, but they still managed 53 wins last season. They did that without any contributions from their youth. This year Amir Johnson, Jason Maxiell, and Rodney Stuckey (when healthy) are going to help the Pistons with their youth and energy. Add to it a new focus on proving they are the best, and the Pistons are my bet to finish the season with the best record in the East.
Let's start in the Western Conference, from least to beast:
Not a chance: 15. Seattle Sonic: 20-62. I love how, after Greg Oden went down in Portland, some people in the media tried to spin it as if Portland was smart. They were trying to "win" the lottery two years in a row, right? Well, guess what: That's actually the plan in Seattle. They won Kevin Durant (some would argue he's the better pick, though I am admittedly not one of those people), and Jeff Green. And probably OJ Mayo next season (or whoever is #1). Seriously, this team only won 31 games with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis' career season; how are they going to top even 20 wins without them, and when their replacements have a total of 0 games of profession experience? With Earl Watson now taking the starting PG job from Luke Ridnour? This team is tanking their season.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves: 22-60. If you can only muster 32 wins with Kevin Garnett, and in his place take back most of a team that won only 24 games last year... hmm. 22 wins sounds about right. How about them Vikings Twins.
13. Portland Blazers 30-52: Mustered 32 wins last season with Zach Randolph. They lost Greg Oden for the year. This will be another down year.
12. LA Clippers 31-51: Sam Cassell will probably get traded at some point, leaving the team talentless, except for maybe Corey Maggette. Actually, Corey Maggette will also probably get traded at some point, too. And Elton Brand is probably not playing this season. 31 wins might be too optimistic.
11. Sacramento Kings 32-50: A one-game downgrade seems right. This team isn't playoff contender worthy yet, and the lose of Mike Bibby (plus Ron Artest's suspension) all but guarantees a slow start to the season. It'll be hard for them to get any momentum after that, and Bibby is probably getting traded (Cleveland?). Artest is a possibility, too (NYK?). By the end of the season this team will be Kevin Martin getting triple-teamed.
Fighting to make the playoffs: 10. Memphis Grizzlies 38-44: Yeah, they are everyone's sleeper team. I can dig it. They can win 16 more games than last season, and they still won't make the playoffs. In fact, they would have to double their win total from last year (22) to make the playoffs. Would you bet on that? Especially with this team unsure about their PG... is it Conley Jr? Damon Stoudemire? Kyle Lowry?
9. LA Lakers 39-43: It's hard to bet against Kobe - if he wants to make the playoffs, he will. But my best guess is this: he'll either get traded at the deadline (and the Lakers collapse like Indy last season), or he'll bail with an "injury" for the second half. The team will do okay without him for a bit, but they won't make the playoffs.
Just barely making it in: 8. Golden State Warriors 42-40: Yeah, I know. Everyone loves the Warriors, especially after their impressive run to end the season and then "upset" the Dallas Mavericks. But you know what? They'll miss Jason Richardson more than you think. They are still too inconsistent. And, oh yeah... Baron Davis is a lock to miss 15 games a year. That'll hurt this team a bit. On the plus side... skinny Rocky looks like a nice addition.
7. New Orleans Hornets 45-37: They won 39 games last year, without Chris Paul, David West and Peja for most of the season. With guys like Rasual Butler getting big minutes. I think the Hornets are a bit underrated.
The Contenders: 6. Utah Jazz 49-33: The Jazz did well last season. But they have to hope to get another full season out of Karl Boozer, and that he continues to play at an MVP-level. I think the latter is likely, but the former might not be as likely. They'll still win a lot of games. The real question: What will they get out of (or for) Andrei Kirilenko this year? And is Paul Millsap going to make the jump?
5. Denver Nuggets 52-30: Injuries are the only thing that can slow down this train. The Nuggets are the darkhorse contender in the West. Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony will blend together well. Marcus Camby, plus Nene and hopefully Kenyon Martin, give the Nuggets some depth in the front court. Can J.R. Smith stretch the offense with his long-range shooting abilities?
4. Phoenix Suns 54-28: Shawn Marion plays the "injury" card for a few games this year, slowing the Suns down a bit. Still, this might Nash's year. Nah, check that... Amare's year.
3. Houston Rockets 58-24: The SML favorite to win the title this year. If they can make it through the first round. Home court advantage will help. Adding Luis Scola to Yao Ming (our MVP favorite) and Tracy McGrady was a great move. They will try out different PGs - Steve Francis, Mike James, Rafer Alston - until they work it out. Or they'll trade for Sam Cassell. This is the season the Rockets make a huge leap forward, making it to the Western Conference Finals at the very least.
2. San Antonio Spurs 58-24: Tim Duncan never fails to wins at least 58 games. Why not bet on him again?
1. Dallas Mavericks 62-20: Some people might think Dirk Nowitzki is damaged after last year's upset loss in the first round to the Warriors. Don't think so. He and the Mavs won't focus so much on the regular season, but they will lock up the top spot again in the West. Be weary of Josh Howard's wrist injury, it could be more damaging to the Mavs than you think - he really makes that offense work. But assuming he's okay by the second half, the Mavs get it together, and guess what? They have a rematch with the Warriors in the 1st round again.
The Knicks beat Philly 103-90 yesterday in their second to last preseason game. They are now 4-2 in preseason, and handling Philly despite not having Quentin Richardson available (mild sprain ankle). Jared Jeffries started at SF, and played his usual 20 minutes. He had 4 points and, surprisingly, 4 assists. Fred Jones came off the bench, and once again played alot in the 3-guard rotation Isiah loves... he had 16 points (5/6 shooting) and 5 rebounds, in 20 minutes. Also playing 20 minutes and lighting it up? None other than Nate Robinson (again): 20 points (8/10 shooting). Zach Randolph looked good, with 16 pts and 10 rebound (7/11 shooting) in 26 minutes.
Eddy Curry struggled, getting into foul trouble again (3 early offensive fouls). He had 6 pts, 6 fouls and only 17 minutes. A lot of the talk around the Knicks by the media has centered on how the Curry-Randolph tandem isn't working. Keep in mind that they've played maybe four games together so far, and Curry has been in foul trouble in at least half of them.
Last season, after the Iverson trade went down, Carmelo was still on suspension for like 10 games. By the time they actually started playing together, it was after the All-Star break. They didn't mesh too well at first - stats wise they did fine actually, but it wasn't showing up in the win column. Until the end of the season, when they went on a late season tear. When April came around, the Nuggets won 10 of their last 11 games. They then got spanked by the eventual champions, the Spurs, but the greater point is this: Even now, we still haven't seen the best of the Iverson-Anthony duo. They needed at least a half season to mesh. So, too, do Curry and Randolph. There is no reason to write them off before the season has started, and before the All-Star break. There will probably be more nights they two of them look a little uneasy than they look great. No worries.
They might not work out, but reserve judgment until they have had a half-season or so of playing together. In the meanwhile, enjoy the new Knicks. Despite lingering injuries in the preseason - Balkman, Quentin Richardson, Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry's shoulder - and despite Curry's foul problems, the Knicks have beaten the teams they should (like yesterday's victory over the 76ers, a weaker team that caused many problems for the Knicks last season), and they beat their strongest opponent of the preseason, the Celtics. There is reason to be optimistic, as the Knicks have depth, energy, youth and savvy. I would guess 45 wins and a playoff spot is not out of the questions. ******** Some of Las Vegas' lines on wins per team for this upcoming season:
Atlanta - 39.0 Washington 39.5 Charlotte 35.5 Orlando 46.5 Miami 45.0
Apparently the Magic and Heat are the big favorites in the Southeast division. Gotta say, the trade yesterday between the Heat and the T-Wolves (essential Ricky Davis for Antoine Walker, cap relief, and a future first-rounder) does benefit the Heat this year. With the SE division as poor as it's ever been, the Heat added a third scorer to complement Shaq and Wade. Of course, they also have Smush Parker at point guard.
I'm not big on Orlando. I like the Dwight Howard-Rashard Lewis tandem, but... I think 42 wins is more likely. The best bet in this division is to take the Bobcats, who might get to 38-39 wins. Bottom line: which tandem is better: Jason Richardson-Okafor, or Howard-Lewis? Okay, even if you call that a draw, which point guard do you like better: Raymond Felton or Jameer Nelson? Gerald Wallace, or Turko? Walter Herrmann vs. Trevor Ariza? The starting lineups are pretty evenly matched.
The Bobcats lost a lot of depth with the injuries to Sean May, Othella Harrington, and Adam Morrison, or else this wouldn't even be close. Conclusion: The Magic are either too high, or the Bobcats are too low. Take the Bobcats.
Chicago 50.5 Cleveland 48.5 Detroit 50.5 Indiana 30.5 Milwaukee 36.5
The big three teams are all expected to repeat their success from last season. Hard to argue, especially with the Southeast being as weak as it looks. Still, one of these three teams is not going to do as well as they did last season. I'm just not sure which one of the three!
New Jersey 43.5 Toronto 42.5 Boston 50.5 Philly 31.5 New York 36.5
Do I really need to tell you that taking the over on the NYK is the best bet? Last season I made three bets - one was that the Knicks would top their expected wins (31); the other two were that the Grizzlies (38.5) and Indiana (43) would go under. This season, I'm making only two bets. One is the Knicks again to top 36.5 wins... the negative press is good for one thing, and that's to artificially deflate expectations. The Knicks, especially after their summer league and preseason success, and the fact that they could be a player in the trade market come February (Ron Artest, AK47, Shawn Marion, even Kobe are all possible Knick targets) should be enough to expect the Knicks to net at least 41 wins.
Toronto also seems a bit low. Didn't they win the division last year? I wouldn't bet on them, but it seems like just because all the press has gone to the Celtics, the Nets and Raptors are underestimated.
Take the under for Boston if you feel like betting - the Big Three is really the Big Two, with Ray Allen looking more and more done. Remember Bill Simmons article on draft day, where he blasted the Ray Allen trade? He was right... Ray Allen can't guard anyone, and he can't take anyone, other than Jamal Crawford, off the dribble. He can't get open off the screens quickly anymore, either. He'll be a three-point shooter, a rich man's Jason Kapono. And the Celtics have no bench, no depth, no experience at point guard. They could conceivable trade for Sam Cassell, if only they had something, anything, to offer. They don't, though.
Finally, Western Conference teams of note:
Phoenix 56.5 Dallas 56.5 Denver 49.5 Houston 53.5 LAL 42.5 Minnesota 20.5 Memphis 33.5 San Antonio 54.5
No point to betting on Dallas, Phoenix, San Antonio, or even the Rockets. All are too close to being on target to make it worth a bet. Even the Nuggets, at 49.5, seem to expected to do well. It's interesting to see that while the East has gotten better, no one is predicting the West to lose anything, either. I would guess that the Suns and Mavs aren't as likely to win 60 games again, but Vegas is thinking that, too. Shoot.
The Warriors are at 43 wins, which seems right. If you really believe in them, go ahead and bet on them to go over. I'll avoid betting on them, though, as they are unpredictable.
Memphis, on the other hand... that's my second bet. The Knicks to go over is Bet 1; the Grizzlies to go over is Bet 2. Can I win two years in a row betting on the Knicks and Grizzlies? We'll find out in April.
Also worth a bet: Houston at 10-1 to win the NBA title. Put money on it before the odds drop to 4-1, which is what they will be come April.
SML and Depressed Fan have shown you how their baseball predictions worked out this year, so now it's my turn. I'm not going to grade myself on these comments from March 29, though, because it would be too sad to see that many bad grades in a row. Instead, I'll just show you what I did, show you what actually happened, and then make some bad playoff predictions, too.
We'll start with the N.L. Predictions can be found here.
N.L. East Predicted - Mets, Phillies, Marlins, Braves, Nationals Actual - Phillies, Mets, Braves, Nationals, Marlins
One thing I said back then: "I guess I just don't see any reason why the Mets can't win it again this year. The Phillies could make a strong case, but in the end, I think the Mets pull away."
N.L. Central Predicted - Cubs, Cardinals, Astros, Brewers, Reds, Pirates Actual - Cubs, Brewers, Cards, Astros, Reds, Pirates
One thing I said back then: "I think I might be picking the Cubs here out of my hopes more than anything else. I always think it would be nice to see the Cubs do something one year, especially given their collapse in 2003. Maybe Soriano is enough to push them over the edge, maybe not."
N.L. West Predicted - Dodgers, Padres (wild card), D-Backs, Giants, Rockies Actual - Diamondbacks, Rockies, Padres, Dodgers, Giants
One thing I said back then: "The Padres will squeak in with the wild card, though I think the Diamondbacks have a shot of pulling the upset there."
I had the Dodgers going to the World Series, so obviously I'm going to have to come up with a new prediction. I'll tell you at the bottom of this post.
And now for the A.L. Predictions can be found here.
A.L. East Predicted - Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays, Devil Rays, Orioles Actual - Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles, Devil Rays
One thing I said back then: "Of course I'm going out on a limb here by picking the Yankees to miss the playoffs entirely. But, whatever."
A.L. Central Predicted - Twins, Indians (wild card), Tigers, White Sox, Royals Actual - Indians, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Royals
One thing I said back then: "The Indians are young and fun, and I think this is finally the year they squeak into the Wild Card slot. I like the Tiger pitching staff, but I don't think they're heading back to the World Series this year."
A.L. West Predicted - Angels, Athletics, Rangers, Mariners Actual - Angels, Mariners, Athletics, Rangers
One thing I said back then: "The Angels will win the division, again. The Athletics will seem like they'll be a playoff team, and then falter, and miss October altogether, thus ensuring that this year they will not lose another first round playoff series. The Rangers and Mariners will continue to make this division really only about the two teams at the top."
Playoffs Okay, back in March I had the Padres beating the Mets, the Dodgers beating the Cubs, then the Dodgers beating the Padres in the NLCS to go to the World Series. On the A.L. side, I had the Sox beating the Indians, the Angels beating the Twins, then the Sox beating the Angels to go to the World Series. So, what do I think will happen now?
In the National League, I'll take the Cubs over the Diamondbacks (I can't predict number of games, but it won't be a sweep), and I'll go out on a limb and pick the Rockies over the Phillies. Cubs beat the Rockies in the NLCS and go to the World Series.
In the American League, the Indians and Yankees will probably go five games, and it could be anyone's series. But, I hate the Yankees, and I've liked the Indians' pitching all year. So, I'll go with the Indians. I'll always be afraid of the Angels, though every time I watch them play, I never know why. Does anyone else get the feeling that they're way better than they should be? Anyway, I think the Sox squeak by them in five, then get past the Indians somehow (if the Yankees beat the Indians, I think the Sox definitely beat the Yanks in the ALCS). I think home field advantage throughout will really help Boston this year. Then we get a Sox/Cubs World Series, and the Sox win.
Hey, I'm not saying I'd go to Vegas with these bets, but I would certainly love to see it all happen. And if it does, then I can say I was right. If it doesn't, which is pretty likely, then the worst that happens is I'll be wrong. I can handle being wrong.
SML was the first to pull his preseason baseball predictions out and see how he did. Now, it's my turn.
We'll go over the NL First. You can find my original predictions here.
N.L. East Predicted - Padres, Giants, Dodgers, D-Backs, Rockies Actual - D-Backs, Padres/Rockies, Dodgers, Giants
Hmmn. I had the Padres winning the division and the Giants taking the Wild Card out of this division. Let's just say I was horribly mistaken and leave it at that. The Giants were possibly the worst team in the league, and the Bonds' HR chase only made for a less competitive team on the field. Ownership seemed content to milk that circus for all it was worth, let him fill the seats by himself, and do a half-assed rebuild on the fly.
I didn't think the D-Backs were legit, and I still don't. A team that gets outscored by 20 runs on the season is not good. They just aren't. Yes, Brandon Webb can shut down any team, on any given night. With their anemic offense, that probably won't be enough come playoff time.
N.L. Central Predicted - Cubs, Astros, Cards, Brewers, Reds, Pirates Actual - Cubs, Brewers, Cards, Astros, Reds, Pirates
Much better here. I flip-flopped the Astros and Brewers, but predicted the fall-off for the Cards. The Cubbies came on strong in "the division no one wanted to win," and put away a Brewers team that peaked in April and somehow managed to cling to life for the next 5 months.
The Cubs are one of the two teams I see as having a legit shot at making the series, and it's not because I think they're good. It's because all but one team is really, really bad.
N.L. East Predicted - Phillies, Mets, Braves, Marlins, Nationals Actual - Phillies, Mets, Braves, Marlins, Nationals
I had this one 100% dead on. I didn't exactly predict it would end with all the drama, but all's well that ends well from where I sit. My fantasy sleeper of the year, Shane Victorino, lived up to the hype as well. Here's my quote: "He (Victorino) could swipe 40 bases and score 100 runs sandwiched between Rollins and Utley in this lineup." He fell short of those numbers, due to a late-season injury, but still put up a respectable 37 SBs, 12 HRs, and 78 runs scored. Not bad for a 23rd round pick.
Before the season I picked the Padres to represent the N.L. in the series. Now, I'm taking the Phils. They're the hottest team in the league, the only team with a legitimate lineup. They have the two hottest hitters in the league, and Hamels is right up there with Peavy and Zambrano. I think they win the N.L.D.S. in 4, then the N.L.C.S. over the Cubs in 6. Hamels is the key, and MVP of the N.L.C.S.
My American League predictions can be found here. Let's jump right in.
A.L. West Predicted - Oakland A's, LAAofA, Rangers, Mariners Actual - LAAofA, Seattle, Oakland, Texas
OK, I am not good at predicting what happens on the left coast. I had the Angles making the playoffs, but as the Wild Card, and I didn't think this would finally be the year that Moneyball fell flat on its face for the A's. Alas, the A's finished below .500, and Seattle challenged for the division into early September.
A.L. Central Predicted - Indians, Twins, Tigers, White Sox, Royals Actual - Indians, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Royals
I swapped the Twins and the Tigers, but otherwise nailed this division. The Tigers completely faded from the picture down the stretch, the same way they did last year. I expected more out of the Twins, but their ace just wasn't his usual dominant self, and the rest of the pitching staff was too young, and too bad.
My one specific prediction, "The Chisox will implode, and Guillen will get fired." was 100% accurate. Guillen absolutely should've been fired, but for some reason he wasn't.
A.L. East Predicted - Yanks, Jays, Sox, Orioles, D-Rays Actual - Sox, Yanks, Jays, Orioles, D-Rays
Yes, I picked the Yanks. I know, it was a shocking pick. The Sox held on and predictions like, "Josh Beckett can't handle the A.L." don't quite seem prescient at this point. The Yankee-specific predictions I made, however, stand the test of time.
The Yanks have the young talent waiting in the wings, and their
regulars are old enough to dictate a couple timely call ups. The hunger
they bring to the lineup will energize the well-fed veterans.
Before the season, I took the Angles over the Yanks in the A.L.D.S. Luckily, they won't be facing their nemesis in a short series. I hate to make post-season predictions on the Yanks, but here goes.
Yankees over Cleveland in 4. Angels over Boston in 5 (Escobar > Dice-K/Schilling twice). Yanks over Rally Monkeys in 6. Yanks over Phillies in the series.
NFC East: 1. Philadelphia 12-4 Team to beat in NFC. 2. Dallas 9-7 By default they'll get 9 wins. PS: Romo is good. Not great, but very good. 3. Washington 7-9 Sounds right. 4. NYG 7-9 Bounce-down year.
NFC North: 1. Chicago 11-5 The second best team in the NFC. Benson is key. If he doesn't produce, Rex is in trouble. 2. Detroit 9-7 Calvin Johnson = Kitna looks good. But really a last place schedule + weak division = 9. 3. Minnesota 7-9 Two easy victories over the Packers + 5-9 against rest of league = 7-9 season. 4. Green Bay 5-11 Sorry ass team.
NFC South: 1. New Orleans 9-7 Feel good story gets old quickly. Reggie Bush's TDs do not equal "rebuilt community". 2. Carolina 8-8 By default. Will exceed my expectations - would not be surprised if they won 12. 3. Tampa Bay 6-10 Suck. 4. Atlanta 5-11 Really suck.
NFC West: 1. St. Louis 11-5 Bulger + Steven Jackson + decent defense = 11 wins. Will compete with Bears for bye. 2. Seattle 9-7 Will do okay, but health is key. If Shaun Alexander is healthy... 12 wins is possible. 3. Arizona 7-9 Okay. 4. San Fran 6-10 Slightly worse than okay.
AFC East: 1. New England 10-6 Good team, but will suffer at beginning due to suspension 2. NY Jets 9-7 Good team, but tougher schedule this year. Mangini will have to earn "genius" this year. 3. Buffalo 7-9 Improving team - better O-line makes me think they might be tough - but need more skill. 4. Miami 6-10 Still the suck.
AFC North: 1. Baltimore 12-4 The team to beat in the AFC. 2. Cincinnati 8-8 Fallen on hard times. 3. Pittsburgh 7-9 Rookie coach make big difference. 4. Cleveland 6-10 Rookie quarterback goes through growing pains.
AFC South: 1. Indianapolis 11-5 The competition - Ravens, Pats - is catching up. Window of dominance is closing. 2. Tennessee 8-8 Vince Young wins games! 3. Jacksonville 8-8 Could do better, but I'm not betting on it. 4. Houston 6-10 Matt Schaub will be good, but they need an O-line first.
AFC West: 1. San Diego 10-6 Great team, bad coach. 2. Denver 9-7 Same old Broncos. Actually, I think 6-10 is likely, but the Broncos alway win 9-10 games. 3. Kansas City 6-10 I've got nothing - Bill Simmons says they'll suck. I agree, I guess. 4. Oakland 5-11 They still suck + Rookie QB - really bad coach + semi-okay coach = 5 wins.
Other predictions, for Week #1: Best Bets: 1. St.Louis [-1] vs. Carolina. 2. Philly [-3] at Green Bay. 3. Minnesota [-3] vs. Atlanta. 4. Detroit [+2] at Oakland.
Solid Bets: 1. Tennessee [+6.5] at Jacksonville 2. Buffalo [+3] vs. Denver. 3. NYJ [+6.5] vs. New England. 4. Baltimore [+2.5] at Cincy.
The NFL season has officially snuck up on me. The day job's been killing me, baseball season is in full swing, and I have a baby on the way. I'm going to spend the next three days doing my best cramming for the NFL season, and I plan to be up to speed for the Eagles opener on Sunday (The video above sure helps). Tonight, I'll take a broad view of the upcoming season. At the bottom of this post you'll find my full predictions, it should be obvious who I'm picking to win it all.
I won't waste your time with long-winded explanations for all of my picks, instead, I'll concentrate on what I know, and that's the NFC East.
The Eagles are going to win this division in a walk. There's only one thing that can sidetrack this team from dominating the East, and that's an injury to one player. I know who you're thinking, but it's not Donovan McNabb, it's Brian Westbrook. Losing McNabb would hurt, but the team could go on and win in this division. Without Westbrook, this team is in serious trouble. In a nutshell, with a healthy McNabb and Westbrook, the defense does enough (ergo, the secondary causes enough turnovers), to win 13 games. Don't kid yourselves, there are no challengers in the East.
Dallas is a complete joke. As the Iggles Blog put so eloquently, Tony Romo is garbage. Their malignant wide receiver is now ruling the roost, and they have possibly the worst head coach in the league at the helm. (If you don't believe me, ask anyone who placed a bet on the Bills while Phillips was coaching there). This team is all hype, and they won't make the playoffs.
The Giants are led by a gutless wonder living off his nepotism-fueled endorsement deals. Their best player will be in the broadcast booth or elsewhere whoring himself out for the highest dollar. Strahan is officially over the hill, and came to camp late, which is always a good combo. This team has none of the components needed to be a playoff team, oh and they hate their coach too.
The Skins are the most intriguing team in the East, and I have them finishing third. Their QB is garbage, and Gibbs is still living in the 80's with his play calling, but their defense should be stout, especially at the safety position. I think they're a year (and a QB) away from playoff contention.
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