Friday, February 26, 2010

Brackets n'at

One of the great things about this time of year is College Basketball coming down the stretch run towards Selection Sunday. For us, Selection Sunday is usually one of the best half hours of television in the year. And once the brackets come out? Well, there's nothing better than looking over a freshly printed bracket, quickly scribbling down your predictions, then erasing them all and starting over because you realized you had 4 teams from the same conference in the final four.

Last night, we took a brief informal poll of our twitter followers and everyone who responded was really into the idea of us running some kind of bracket tournament. Since both of us are in grad school and therefore have no money, there won't be any prizes (at least from us).

After looking around at what different types of bracket games are available, we settled on two different games to set up groups for. Both are free to enter, and while there are no prizes, you'll get bragging rights, which on the internet is a pretty good prize.

The first game is a bit more challenging, but if you're up for it, it's a lot of fun.

The Selection Sunday Challenge is a game offered on This is a game for before the tournaments start. The point of the game is to correctly predict which teams will make the field of 65. and use the same password system, so if you are a member on one of the sites, you are automatically a member on the other. If you are not, it's free and easy to sign up.

The game gives you a blank 65-team bracket to fill in. All you have to do is drag-and-drop the teams from the list on the left into the place on the bracket (region & seed) where you believe they will be placed by the selection committee. You can make changes to your bracket up until 5 minutes before the Selection Show airs on March 14th.

Here's the scoring system:
1 point for correctly predicting a team makes the tournament.
1 point for correctly predicting the seed that a team gets in the tournament.
1 point for correctly prediction the region that a team is placed in.

Points are cumulative, meaning that each team can earn you up to 3 points. The person with the most points wins. If you put a team in the right region but predict the wrong seed, you still get 2 points. If you predict the right seed but wrong region, you get 2 points. If you have the wrong seed and wrong region, you only get 1 point.

Since you can make your selections up through 5 minutes before the selection show, make sure you keep a close eye on who earns automatic bids to the tournament and make sure to include those teams in your bracket!

Here's how to sign up:

Go HERE (if you are not signed in to your account, it will prompt you to do so) and click the "Join A Group" tab. It will then ask you for a Group Name and Password, which are:

Group Name: thesteelersnat

Password: sixburgh

After that, happy bracketing! For the at-home bracketologists out there, we're going to warn you, this game is dangerous because you can spend hours and hours researching and moving teams around. In other words, it's a lot of fun!

The second game is the typical "Tournament Pick 'em" game. We set it up on Yahoo! because we like their system the best. We made it a public group, so anyone can join. You need a Yahoo! account, which is free and pretty easy to sign up for.

Joining the group is simple. Click here. Then hit the "Join Group" button. If you're not signed in to your Yahoo! account, it will prompt you to do so. If you are, you will be added to the group. Don't forget to check back after Selection Sunday to make your picks!

If anyone has any suggestions for other games for us to organize, just let us know!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Olympic Hockey Bracket

Just so you all can follow along as we progress through the tournament, here's the bracket. We'll try to update it after the games each day to make things easier to follow.

All times EST

Tuesday, February 23
Switzerland 3, Belarus 2 (OT)
Canada 8, Germany 2
Czech Rep 3, Latvia 2
Slovakia 4, Norway 3

Wednesday, February 24
USA 2, Switzerland 0
Canada 7, Russia 3
Finland 2, Czech Rep 0
Slovakia 4, Sweden 3

Friday, February 26
3:00pm USA v. Finland
9:30pm Canada v. Slovakia

Saturday, February 27
10:00pm Bronze Medal Game
USA/Finland loser v. Canada/Slovakia loser

Sunday, February 28
3:15pm Gold Medal Game
USA/Finland winner v. Canada/Slovakia winner

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Wow. What a performance by Ryan Miller and Team USA to beat Canada 5-3 in regulation. If you missed the game, you might be able to watch it here. If you're able to figure out NBC's crazy log-in system, then you'll be treated to one of the best hockey games you'll ever see. It's a shame the majority of America probably missed it because NBC was showing Ice Dancing instead.

At any rate, here's a look at the standings in the tournament and some scenarios for tonight's game between Sweden and Finland.

Group A
1/2. USA - 9 points (+9)
6. Canada - 5 points (+7)
8. Switzerland - 3 points (-2)
10. Norway - 1 points (-14)

Group B
3. Russia - 7 points (+7)
4/5. Czech Rep - 6 points (+3)
7. Slovakia - 5 points (+5)
12. Latvia - 0 points (-15)

Group C
Finland - 6 points (+9)
Sweden - 6 points (+4)
9. Belarus - 3 points (-4)
11. Germany - 0 points (-9)

Here's the first round matchups that are locked in stone:

#6 Canada v. #11 Germany
#7 Slovakia v. #10 Norway
#8 Switzerland v. #9 Belarus

Latvia will play the #5 seed, which will either be Sweden, Finland, or the Czech Republic. More on this below.

And now to look at how things will shake out depending on tonight's games:

If Finland wins in regulation

Since Finland and the US both have a +9 Goal Differential, a win by Finland in regulation would give them 9 points and increase their goal differential, making them the #1 seed in the tournament. If Finland wins by more than 2, the Czech Republic would get the #4 seed and the final bye. If Finland wins by 1, the Czechs and Swedes would be tied with 6 points and a +3 goal differential. I'm not sure what the next tiebreaker is.

If Sweden wins in regulation

This would give Sweden 9 points. Since Sweden's goal differential is only+4 right now, they would need to win by 5 to get into a tie with the US for the #1 overall seed. If Sweden wins by 4 or less, they will be the #2 seed and the US will be the #1 seed. Additionally, Finland would get the #4 seed if Sweden wins by less than 6 goals, based on goal differential against the Czech Republic. If Sweden wins by more than 6, the Czechs will be the #4 seed and get the last bye.

If the game goes to overtime

If the game goes to overtime, the US will be the #1 overall seed because the winner will only get 2 points and finish with 8 rather than 9. In this case, the winner of the game would be the #2 seed and the loser would be the #4 seed and get the extra bye, pushing the Czech Republic back to the opening round.

Did that all make sense? If not, here's a picture of the bracket to try to make things a little clearer:

Now, what does all this mean for the US? A bye to the quarterfinals means that we are two wins away from a medal, three away from Gold. In order to get to the medal round, we will need to win our first round game. After that is the semi-finals, in which the winners go to play for Gold and the losers play in the Bronze medal game.

How important is it that the US get the #1 seed? Very. You might not think it's all that important, but look at the bottom half of the bracket. Russia is the #3 seed and Canada is the #6 seed, which means they will probably face off in the quarterfinals. If the US is the #2 seed, we would probably have to play Slovakia in the quarterfinals (bring back the Marian Hossa hate) and then the winner of the Canada/Russia game just to get to the Gold Medal game.

On the other side of the bracket, things look a bit easier. The #1 seed will get a quarterfinal game against either Switzerland or Belarus, a much easier opponent than Slovakia. After that, to get to the Gold Medal game, we would have to play the winner of the 4-5 matchup (unless 12th seed Latvia shocks the world), which would be the Czechs against either Sweden or Finland. Based on what we've seen in the tournament so far, the top half of the bracket offers a much better path to the Gold Medal game than the bottom half, which will be stacked with Russia, Canada, Slovakia, and the winner of tonight's Sweden-Finland game.

NBC Thinks Hockey is Boring

NBC has the NHL television contract. So, when the player you've decided to make the face of the game (Sidney Crosby) is playing against Team USA in one of the marquee games of the Olympic Hockey Tournament thus far (in prime time nonetheless), what does NBC put on? Ice Dancing. And the US-Canada game? Relegated to MSNBC.

Obviously, hockey isn't NBC's #1 priority. But we've known that for a while. The Pensblog has done a great job documenting just how little NBC cares about hockey, starting with the treatment (or should I say lack of treatment) headliner hockey games get on You would think when you have the television contract for only 1 of the 4 major sports, you would do a little more to promote it. Nope.

This didn't hit home for us until a few days ago when we were trying to re-watch the Canada-Switzerland game on NBC's website. We had missed the game when it was originally broadcast, and wanted to go back to watch it because we knew it was a good game. However, when we went to NBC's Olympics website where you are supposed to be able to watch full event replays, we were shocked to discover that the Canada-Switzerland game featured no announcing, only the crowd/arena noises. Since the game had been on television, we knew there had to be announcers there and that NBC somehow managed to edit out their audio track from the game they put online. This didn't make much sense to us, so we took our question to Twitter.

These are actual screenshots, but we've provided the links as well so that you can see we're not making this up.

Wait, what?

"Long and boring"

Go ahead, read that again.

An NBC employee, specifically the one they have running their Olympic Hockey Twitter Account thinks that hockey is boring?


Seriously, WTF?

In the end, this is the network that trashed Conan, so I guess we shouldn't expect too much from them. Honestly, if they didn't have the NHL, The Office, and 30 Rock, there would be no reason to watch NBC.

I think we have someone on our blogging staff that can handle this. Minister of Ire, take it away...

UPDATE: Via comments here and some responses on Twitter, some people have mentioned that it is possible the NBC person meant that the reason was long and boring, not the object in question (the hockey game). We believe this is possible and it may be a case of poor wording. Given that you only have 140 characters on Twitter to get your point across, sometimes things get abbreviated. However, they could have saved space by saying "There's a long & boring reason" rather than the wordage they used. Additionally, had they said something like "There's a reason that is long and boring" or "There's a reason, which is long and boring" it would have been much more clear what they meant. We'll be the first to admit that this very well could be a case of poor wording. However, NBC stays On Notice for not showing the US-Canada hockey game. And for employing Pierre McGuire.

Updated Olympic Hockey Scenarios

Russia beat the Czechs 4-2 in regulation. Here's an updated look at the standings and how things are shaking out for the elimination tournament. Numbers next to the teams mean they are locked in to that seed in the tournament.

Group A
USA - 6 points (+7)
Canada - 5 points (+9)
8. Switzerland - 3 points (-2)
10. Norway - 1 points (-14)

Group B
Russia - 7 points (+7)
Czech Rep - 6 points (+3)
7. Slovakia - 5 points (+5)
12. Latvia - 0 points (-15)

Group C
Finland - 6 points (+9)
Sweden - 6 points (+4)
9. Belarus - 3 points (-4)
11. Germany - 0 points (-9)

Here's a look at how the bracket breaks down as of right now. The Czechs are still in contention for the #4 seed (more details below). The Russians will get one of the 4 byes, but can not get the #1 overall seed because the winner of the Finland-Sweden game will end up with at least 8 points (9 if the game ends in regulation).

Scenario 1: US beats Canada in regulation

In this, the most ideal scenario, we are guaranteed a bye and one of the top two seeds in the tournament. If the Finland/Sweden game is won in regulation, goal differential will decide the tiebreaker for the #1 seed between the US and the winner.

Scenario 2: US beats Canada in OT/Shootout

Under this scenario, it's a little more difficult for the US to get the #1 overall seed. Since the Czechs lost to Russia, the US would end up with 8 points in this scenario and finish ahead of Russia. In order to get the #1 seed, we would need Sweden to beat Finland in a shootout. If Finland wins either in regulation or OT or if Sweden wins in regulation, they will get the #1 seed and the US will get the #2 seed.

Scenario 3: US loses in OT/Shootout

This is the easier and more ideal case if the US loses. Obviously, the ideal would be for the US to beat Canada. But for argument's sake, let's say we lose in OT. We would wind up with 7 points and a +6 goal differential. Given that Russia beat the Czechs in regulation, the US would finish ahead of the Czechs in the standings in this scenario.

Finland/Sweden - If the game ends in regulation, the loser will have 6 points and the US will finish ahead of them. If Finland wins in OT, Sweden and the US will be tied with 7 points but the US will win on goal differential. If Sweden wins in OT, Finland beats the US on goal differential.

Scenario 4: US loses to Canada in regulation

In this case, it's a little harder for the US to get the last bye. The tiebreaker will likely be goal differential, which will be impossible to predict until after the games end. Since the Czechs lost in regulation, the US would have to lose by less than 4 goals in regulation to stay ahead of them in goal differential.

Finland/Sweden - If the game ends in regulation, goal differential will decide the tiebreaker between the US and the losing team. If the game goes to OT, the losing team will have a 1-point advantage on the US.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Olympic Hockey Breakdown

If you've been following the Olympics, you've definitely seen some breathtaking moments thus far in the games. If you've been staying up through the wee hours of the night to watch hockey games, you've seen some totally awesome stuff. Like Ovechkin choking twice in a shootout and Slovakia upsetting Russia. Given the upset, the door is wide open for the United States to not only get a first round bye in the elimination tournament, but also to get the #1 overall seed.

Just to give you some background, here's how the Olympic Hockey tournament works: 12 teams are divided into 3 groups with 4 teams in each. Each group goes through "round robin" play (where you play all the other members of your group). A regulation win is worth 3 points, an overtime or shootout win worth 2, and an OT/SO loss worth 1. The tiebreakers are head-to-head and then goal differential. All 12 teams make the elimination portion of the tournament. The 3 group winners AND the next best team all get first round byes.

Here's how the tournament portion will look:

Currently, the group standings look like this:

Group A
USA - 6 points (+7)
Canada - 5 points (+9)
Switzerland - 1 point (-3)
Norway - 0 points (-13)

Group B
Czech Rep - 6 points (+5)
Russia - 4 points (+5)
Slovakia - 2 points (-1)
Latvia - 0 points (-9)

Group C
Finland - 6 points (+9)
Sweden - 6 points (+4)
Germany - 0 points (-7)
Belarus - 0 points (-6)

Now, here's the schedule for the weekend:
Saturday: Norway v. Switzerland (3:00), Latvia v. Slovakia (7:30), Germany v. Belarus (11:55)
Sunday: Czech Rep v. Russia (3:00), USA v. Canada (7:30), Sweden v. Finland (11:55)

So why is it important for the US to get a bye? Well, if they get a bye, they only need to win once to get to the medal round. Going into the weekend, here are the standings in the tournament:
1. Finland - 6 points (+9)
2. USA - 6 points (+7)
3. Czech Rep - 6 points (+5)
4. Sweden - 6 points (+4)
5. Canada - 5 points (+9)
6. Russia - 4 points (+5)

Mathematically, these 6 teams are the only ones that can get the 4 byes. Regardless of whether or not the game is won in regulation or overtime/shootout, the winners of the US-Canada and Finland-Sweden games will get byes. Russia needs to beat the Czechs in regulation in order to get a bye. If the game goes to OT, regardless of the winner, the Czechs will win the group and get the automatic bye.

Now, the 4th bye is where things start to get a little tricky. If the US loses to Canada, they can still get a bye, depending on the results of the other games. Let's look at a few scenarios.

Scenario 1: US beats Canada in regulation

In this, the most ideal scenario, we are guaranteed a bye. If the Finland/Sweden game is won in regulation, goal differential will decide the seeding tiebreaker between the US and the winner. If the Czechs win in regulation, they will also be tied with the US and goal differential will be the tiebreaker. If any of the other Sunday games go to OT, the US will automatically finish ahead of both teams. If BOTH other Sunday games go to OT, the US will be the #1 seed in the bracket.

Scenario 2: US beats Canada in OT/Shootout

Under this scenario, it's a little more difficult for the US to get the #1 overall seed. In order for that to happen, they would either need Russia to beat the Czechs (in regulation or shootout) or the Czechs to win in OT/shootout AND Sweden to beat Finland in a shootout. Regardless of the other games, if the US beats Canada, they will get a bye.

Scenario 3: US loses in OT/Shootout

This is the easier and more ideal case if the US loses. Obviously, the ideal would be for the US to beat Canada. But for argument's sake, let's say we lose in OT. We would wind up with 7 points and a +6 goal differential. Now let's look at the other games that matter:

Finland/Sweden - If the game ends in regulation, the loser will have 6 points and the US will finish ahead of them. If Finland wins in OT, Sweden and the US will be tied with 7 points but the US will win on goal differential. If Sweden wins in OT, Finland beats the US on goal differential.

Czech Rep/Russia - Things are a little trickier here. If the Czechs win in regulation, the US will be ahead of Russia (7 points to 4 points). If the Russians win in regulation, they will win the group and the US will finish ahead of the Czechs (7 points to 6 points). As we mentioned earlier, if the game goes to OT, the Czechs will win the group. Additionally, if the game goes to OT, the US would have an advantage over the losing team (Russia - US wins 7-5 on points, Czechs - US wins 6-4 on goal differential).

Scenario 4: US loses to Canada in regulation

In this case, it's a little harder for the US to get the last bye. The tiebreaker will likely be goal differential, which will be impossible to predict until after the games end.

Finland/Sweden - If the game ends in regulation, goal differential will decide the tiebreaker between the US and the losing team. If the game goes to OT, the losing team will have a 1-point advantage on the US.

Czech Rep/Russia - If the Czechs win in regulation or OT, the US will have the advantage over Russia. If Russia wins in regulation, goal differential will decide the tiebreaker between the US and the Czechs. If Russia wins in OT, goal differential will decide the tiebreaker between the US and Russia.

Hopefully you now have a better sense of what the US needs to do to get a bye in the tournament. Obviously, the ideal scenarios would have us finishing either 1st or 2nd because then we wouldn't have to play any of the top 6 teams until the semi-finals. Either way, the tournament has been full of excitement so far and we don't doubt the ensuing games will be even more exciting.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ian's 2010 Mock Draft 1.0

We're approaching NFL Scouts dream week (aka the Scouting Combine) where scouts from every team will watch prospective players lift weights, run, and do other workout activities. From watching these, the scouts will draw up determinations of how well these players will stack up in the pros. Think the combine doesn't matter? It catapulted a little-known East Carolina running back into the first round when he posted the fastest 40-yard dash time recorded at a combine. That was Chris Johnson, who led the league in rushing last year. Al Davis likes to use the combine to pick out his draft picks. No one in their right mind would have selected Darrius Heyward-Bey over Michael Crabtree last year, but Al Davis isn't in his right mind.

In preparation for the Combine, I'm going to throw out my first mock draft of the year. Mock Drafts are just guesses, and my guess is as good as Mel Kiper's or Todd McShay's. So why do people do them when they don't mean anything? Because they're fun. I'll also have a more in-depth look at the Steelers team needs in the lead up to the draft.

N. Suh (DT-Nebraska)
If this isn't the pick, the people of St. Louis should riot.

G. McCoy (DT-Oklahoma)
Personally, I went back and forth between Berry, Okung, and McCoy here. I settled on McCoy because of their awful run defense. Franchise LT's are hard to come by, but there will probably be one of the "second tier" OTs available at the top of Round 2. A talent like McCoy won't be.

E. Berry (S-Tennessee)
Everyone loves Berry, and for good reason. If Tampa wants any shot at competing with New Orleans for the division crown, upgrading the secondary is an absolute necessity.

J. Clausen (QB-Notre Dame)
Honestly, this is the first pick on the board that I think has a legitimate shot at being trade bait. With only 5 picks in the draft, Mike Shanahan may try to pull some strings and leverage this pick into not only additional picks this year but also future picks. If they don't trade, Clausen is the obvious pick unless Shanahan is comfortable with Jason Campbell as his franchise passer.

R. Okung (OT-Oklahoma St)
Cassel might not be a franchise QB, but he's better than the rest of their QBs for now and they are paying him enough that they need to protect him. With 9 picks in the draft this year, the Chiefs aren't likely "sellers" of a pick, but they could leverage those as a "buyer" if they want to trade up for someone.

S. Bradford (QB-Oklahoma)
There are two QBs that are head and shoulders above the field in this draft. With Clausen off the board Pete Carroll nabs Sam Bradford to run his offense.

D. Bryant (WR-Oklahoma St)
Really, would you be surprised if Eric Mangini traded down again? Cleveland had one of the worst passing attacks in the league last year. Massaquoi can be good, but he's no #1.

J. Pierre-Paul (DE-South Florida)
Anyone who thinks Al Davis is going to do something sensible like take an Offensive Lineman should look at his drafting history. He's going to do something outrageous and JPP fits the bill.

B.Bulaga (OT-Iowa)
With both QBs off the board, Buffalo continues to reforge their offensive line. They are making the move to a 3-4 defense which will benefit Aaron Maybin and Paul Posluszny, but this seems a bit high to go after a 3-4 DT.

D. Morgan (DE-Georgia Tech)
With all the picks they've invested in their D-line, it will probably be DE by committee next year until someone can finally get pressure. Jacksonville has a lot of holes to fill and with only 5 draft picks, they could be a key seller if someone wants to trade ahead of Denver to nab either Haden or McClain.

R. McClain (LB-Alabama)
Denver needs some help on defense, but if they lose Brandon Marshall in Free Agency, don't be surprised if they take a swipe at trying to get Dez Bryant (which may require them trading up to do).

B. Graham (LB-Michigan)
This might be a bit of a reach for Graham, but with the Dolphins releasing Joey Porter, they have a glaring need for a pass-rushing 3-4 OLB.

J. Haden (CB-Florida)
There's no way that Haden drops all the way to 13. Someone will trade up to take him if he drops out of the top 5. However, since I'm not including trades in this Mock, Haden slides a little bit.

CJ Spiller (RB-Clemson)
If Pete Carroll isn't able to pry Reggie Bush away from New Orleans, you had better believe he's going to go after a play-making running back in the draft. Spiller will add instant excitement to the Seahawks offense that has been lacking in that area.

E. Thomas (S-Texas)
The Giants defense was absolutely atrocious down the stretch last year. Their linebacker play was poor and their secondary was even worse. Sean Weatherspoon could be an option at linebacker here, but chances are the Giants attempt to upgrade their secondary. For as bad as their corners were last year, they could be a candidate to trade up to try and snag Haden.

C. Dunlap (DE-Florida)
Tennessee's defensive line dominated the league in 2008, but the loss of Albert Haynesworth hurt more than people anticipated. Their DE's were atrocious at getting pressure on the quarterback, which caused their overly-aggressive secondary to get torched. Dunlap has had some character issues, but Jeff Fisher should be able to get him in line.

A. Davis (OT-Rutgers)
Without a proven passer, San Francisco will continue to rely on Frank Gore and the running game to control the game. Upgrading their O-line with Davis will not only help their run game, but also their pass protection. The 49ers gave up 40 sacks, 11th most in the league, last year - making upgrading the O-line a priority.

M. Iupati (OG-Idaho)
Depending on what happens in Free Agency, this pick might change. RT Willie Colon is an RFA and NT Casey Hampton is a UFA. If the Steelers fail to re-sign one of them, that may change who they pick. They could use a mauler like Iupati to improve their run game. S and CB are also options here.

S. Weatherspoon (LB-Missouri)
The Falcons have other needs, such as CB, but with Weatherspoon still on the board, an improvement to their linebacking corps will be a welcome addition. Mike Peterson has been okay and Curtis Lofton is solid, and adding a playmaker like Weatherspoon would make the unit even better.

K. Wilson (CB-Boise St)
DT is another possibility here, but when you play against Peyton Manning twice a year, upgrading your secondary is always a good idea. Robinson hasn't quite stepped into his own as a #1 corner yet, and the Texans secondary is definitely the weak point in their defense.

B. Price (DT-UCLA)
Gresham would also be a possibility here, but with Price still on the board, Cincy looks to upgrade their D-line. The Jets were able to run all over them in the playoffs, showing that their defense is still vulnerable.

S. Kindle (LB-Texas)
Talks with Vince Wilfork have gone nowhere, but with a talent like Kindle still on the board, the Patriots go in that direction rather than taking Dan Williams. The Patriots have a plethora of picks if they feel the need to trade up if a player starts dropping.

B. Campbell (OT-Maryland)
Anyone who things Green Bay is going to pick anything other than an O-lineman needs their head examined. The Packers gave up a league-leading 51 sacks this year. Aaron Rodgers is a tough QB but he got absolutely killed in multiple games this year.

E. Griffen (DE-USC)
Trent Cole is a monster, but Philly could use another pass-rushing DE. They have good corners, but their safeties have been vulnerable, which could be a focal point later in the draft.

D. Williams (WR-USC)
If their offense is going to excel, Joe Flacco is going to need some help in the passing game. Their 3-headed monster at running back is dominant, but adding talent at WR is a must.

B. Spikes (LB-Florida)
With the future of Karlos Dansby up in the air, Arizona looks for a replacement. LT is also a need, but no one left on the board really fits the bill.

T. Williams (OT-Oklahoma)
Flozell Adams is more of a liability than an asset at this point. The Cowboys need an upgrade on their O-line and Williams is the best player left on the board.

R. Matthews (RB-Fresno St)
With Ladanian Tomlinson set to finish his career elsewhere, San Diego has a glaring need in the backfield. Jonathan Dwyer from Georgia Tech is another option here, but I like Matthews blend of power and speed for San Diego's offense.

J. Odrick (DL-Penn St)
The Jets have built a solid team and Odrick is an ideal 3-4 DE. He's a monster against the pass, demanding double teams with a quick first step and strong power and he's almost unmovable against the run.

T. Cody (DT-Alabama)
The Vikings need a replacement for 36-year old Pat Williams on the interior. DE Ray Edwards is also set to be a free agent, and they could look to add another pass-rusher opposite Jared Allen. Cody may be overweight at the combine and on draft day, but his size makes him virtually immovable in the middle, making him an ideal replacement for Williams.

P. Cox (CB-Oklahoma St)
Indy's lack of secondary depth showed up big time in the Super Bowl when they were picked apart by Drew Brees. The Colts D-line could also use some help, both on the interior and adding someone as depth behind the oft-injured Dwight Freeney.

N. Bowman (LB-Penn St)
The Saints defense had an excellent game plan in the Super Bowl and really hunkered down, only allowing 7 points after giving up 10 on the first two drives. They lack depth at CB, but adding Bowman at linebacker will go even further towards improving their defense. Adding a TE like Gresham is also a possibility here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

2010 Olympics: Hockey Preview

Ice Hockey Preview




It is ice hockey. You should know what it is if you read this blog, or if you are alive. This year they are playing on American sized ice and not Olympic sized ice which means that the rinks will be NHL size and they will be a little smaller.


There are some loaded teams in the years Olympics. In 2006 Sweden took home the gold medal with a 3-2 win over Finland. Should be pretty interesting that Russia, Canada and the U.S. did not make it back in 2006.

This season the teams are loaded with some NHL star talent and it should set up to be a wild ride. For Penguin fans like us it is going to be a great ride to see our top stars play on the top teams on the Olympics. Whether you like the NHL being in the Olympics or not you have to admit that they are going to bring the spotlight onto hockey. Too bad NBC is covering it and they will probably preview the medal games with the 700 Club and cut it out so we can see the Charlie Brown Christmas Story.

Here are the groupings for the men’s tournament (IIHF World Rankings):

Group A
Canada (1)
USA (6)
Switzerland (7)
Norway (12)

Group B
Russia (2)
Czech Republic (5)
Slovakia (8)
Latvia (11)

Group C
Sweden (3)
Finland (4)
Belarus (9)
Germany (10)

Lets take a look at the top teams in this year’s Olympics:


You gotta think that they have more to lose than any other team in this Olympic hockey tournament. After not medaling last season the pressure is on. If Canada does not win the gold there are going to be some upset people in Canada.

Look at the Canada team and they are just loaded with talent. Marty Brodeur, Marc-Andre Fleury, Sidney Crosby, Shea Weber, Dan Boyle, Rick Nash, Dany Heatley, Jonathan Toews just to name a few are on this team.

When you can keep a guy like Jordan Staal off the team because you just don’t have room for them then you know you are in a good spot.

From your Pittsburgh Penguins Bing and MAF are on the team. Bing is going to be the leader of this team that more closely resembles an all-star team that you might put together when you play NHL on your Playstation 3 when you want to dominate. MAF isn’t probably going to play any minutes but he will get to practice.

This team is loaded offensively so that is where they are going to make their money. They have good enough goaltending that they will be able to push it a little bit more and score some goals. They are the front running favorite to win the gold medal. They have to or they might not be able to stay in Canada for the closing ceremonies.


Sweden is going to be sort of a sleep team. They are a strong team and after taking home gold in the last winter games you can’t really call them a sleeper. They have a lot of NHL talent on their team and if they can get strong goaltending they will be a force in the games and a definite gold medal contender.

Henrik Lundqvist will be the main man in net for the Sweds. If he goes down they are going to be in trouble with young Jonas Gustavsson and little known Stefan Liv as his back ups. King Henrik has been the backbone for the Rangers team, a team that does not score a lot of goals. He knows what it is like to have to stand on his head night after night in order to get wins and he is perfectly capable of doing so. Remember, this isn’t a best of seven series, these are a lot of one game playoffs so to speak. A goaltender can get hot and carry a team and if Henrik gets hot Sweden has a chance. He can get rattled though, ask the Penguins.

Sweden also has arguably two of the best players in the NHL this year in Daniel and Henrik Sedin. They are atop most offensive categories and are just straight hockey players. They are very good at what they do and they should be on the same line so they are going to be a force. Pair them up with Daniel Alfredsson and Tomas Holmstrom and you have a very gritty team.

Nik Lidstrom will be the key player in the defense that also features Johnny Oduya and Niklas Kronwall. Lidstrom is one of the best in the NHL and has been for a very long time so he will be the glue that holds this defensive unit together.

Do not be surprised if Sweden takes home gold.


If there is a team that can match up with the high powered, offensive, Canada team it is defiantly Russia. Russia is littered with talent that inclues Alexander Ovechkin, Illya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Alex Semin, Andrei Markov, Anton Volchenkov.

The Penguins sent up Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar. Geno and Sarge are two of the center pieces of the Penguins Stanley Cup run last season will look for Olympic gold with their high powered team.

Legit how do you match up a line with AO, Geno and Kovalchuk? Sure OV and Illya don’t play any defense but they can fill the net with the best of anyone in the Olympics. When that line is on the ice they can do some damage and might carry this Russia team to greatness.

The Russians also have some experience on their late lines with Alexei Kovalev, Sergei Fedorov and Aleksay Morosov but they can still fill the net. What a team.

Sarge and Markov might be paired together for a very nice defensive pairing and pair that with defensive stud Anton Volchenkov who is one of the best PK guys in the league and for those Penguins fans that he can just shut down a player like nobody’s business.

Evgeni Nabokov will be the main man for the Russians and he is a brick wall for the San Jose Sharks. His backup, Ilya Bryzgalov has been rock solid for the Phoenix Coyotes and will be a solid backup should something happen to Nabokov. Like I said before goalies can steal games in a format like the Olympics and while Nabokov might not have to steal the games with the offense that Russia has, he has that ability.

United States

The United States will probably not be picked to medal by most people because they will say that they just don’t have the talent to match up with Russia and Canada. To some extent they are absolutely right. I mean when you look over the rosters for those two teams you just get scared because they are the best of the best when it comes to hockey players. If you think I am going to be impartial when it comes to team USA then you got another thing coming. My American pride trumps all.

Team USA is a very young team and they are very raw. Is that going to be good or bad for the US? Will it be better for them to go and just not know what is going to happen or to have some playmakers out there that have been there and done that before. Who knows. Their team will be exciting, however, and should make for some great games.

Ryan Miller will be the man in net with Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick. Miller is the starter, no questions asked. Miller is one of the best players in the NHL right now and some people are saying that he could be the league MVP if they were to pick now. That is saying a lot. He is atop the list of most statistical categories facing guys like OV, Geno and Bing all the time. If he comes up big then the USA has a chance to do some big things. Thomas has been mud, Quick is only 24. Yikes.

The defense is also pretty young with Pittsburgh’s own Brooks Orpik being one of the oldest guys on the blue line. Orpik is 29 and makes his cash on dishing out free candy. You know what that means if you follow hockey. He is a physical presence

Joining Free Candy with me the Johnson’s (Jack and Erik), Brian Rafalski, Ryan Whitney and Ryan Sutter. Not a terribly flashy defensive group but they can play some hockey. It will be interesting to see how Ryan Whitney fits into the fold as he is a very offensive minded player and is not physical at all. That might hurt. Rafalski was on the last two American teams and brings some experience as he has played on that venue and also for the Wings on some finals teams.

On the front lines for the Red, White and Blue is a mixed bag of players. A lot of youth of front with Pat Kane, Ryan Kesler, Bobby Ryan and Paul Stasty. Those group of youngsters are joined by some good veteran players such as captain Jamie Langenbrunner, Chris Drury and Ryan Malone. I like seeing Malone on the team. He is a gritty player that does whatever it takes to get the job done.

A man on this team that I absolutely love (in a hockey way, not in a I want to marry that guy way) is Zach Parise. He is the most underrated player in the NHL. He is a superstar that never gets any pub. I can’t wait until he beats fat Marty with 1 second left in OT.

Overall this team doesn’t have a ton of flash on it, but it does have a lot of heart. While heart does not score goals it does mean something, especially in a tournament like this. I talked about it a hundred times but a goalie standing on his head for a few games goes a long way in a one-and-done type thing. Ryan Miller can steal games.


Three Rivers Burgh Blog – Are you kidding me? Team USA. Suck it Canada and Russia.

The Steelers n’at - I actually took a long time debating this pick. Team USA knocked off Canada in the World Junior Championships a few weeks ago and this may have signaled a changing of the guard in hockey. However, when your team has Sidney Crosby on it, you have to be the favorites. Therefore, I am going to pick Crosby to do what Wayne Gretzky never did: win a gold medal. For the record, Mario Lemeiux was on the '02 Canadian team that won gold, so 66 has a gold to his name while Gretzky does not. Suck it, Wayne. I'm going to take Finland as my sleeper team. I do think the US will find their way onto the medal stand. Sweden is basically the Detroit Red Wings, there's no way I'm picking them. In Women's hockey, it's between Canada and the US for the Gold. Go America!

2010 Olympics: Speed Skating Preview

Speed Skating Preview

What's not to love about Speed Skating? Short track is basically a condensed version of a NASCAR race with no penalties for taking people out. Okay, maybe there are, but Apolo Anton Ohno got taken out in the 1,000 meter race in 2002 and the dude who knocked him out didn't medal so there really weren't any penalties.


Long Track
Men’s 500 m
Ladies’ 500 m
Men’s 1,000 m
Ladies’ 1,000 m
Men’s 1,500 m
Ladies’ 1,500 m
Ladies’ 3,000 m
Men’s 5,000 m
Ladies’ 5,000 m
Men’s 10,000 m
Men’s Team Pursuit
Ladies’ Team Pursuit

Short Track
Men’s 500 m
Ladies’ 500 m
Men’s 1,000 m
Ladies’ 1,000 m
Men’s 1,500 m
Ladies’ 1,500 m
Ladies’ 3,000 m Relay
Men’s 5,000 m Relay

In Long Track, just called "Speed Skating" for these games as "Short Track" was given it's own event, skaters compete head-to-head around a 400-meter oval. In each event, each skater gets only one run. The skater with the fastest time wins. Personally, we think a bracketed competition would be cooler, but we love brackets and stuff, so that's probably just us.

In Short Track, skaters compete in heats of 4 to 6 skaters. The top 2 from each heat advance to the next round until only 4 skaters remain for the final heat.

. In the relay, 4 skaters from 8 nations compete. There is a semi-finals and finals round in relay.


In 2006 in Turin, the Netherlands (3G, 2S, 4B), Canada (2G, 4S, 2B) and the United States (3G, 3S, 1B) cleaned house in Speed Skating. Short Track has been dominated by Japan, Korea, and American Apolo Anton Ohno. The fields are a bit more wide open this year, particularly in the shorter distances where any number of skaters could bring home gold. Distinct favorites are American Shani Davis (who beat Stephen Colbert in a race to get on the team) in the 1,000 and 1,500 and Sven Kramer of the Netherlands in the 5,000 and 10,000. In Short Track, Apolo Ohno will have another shot at gold this year.

US Hopefuls

Beyond Shani Davis and Apolo Ohno, the US's hopes rest on Chad Hedrick in Speed Skating. No one else is even close to Ohno in short track. Hedrick probably couldn't hold Shani Davis' jockstrap but he still has an outside shot to reach the medal stand.


The Steelers n'at Pick: Stephen Colbert. For those that haven't heard, he and Colbert Nation saved the US Speed Skating team by raising money. The Colbert insignia will be on the US Speed Skater's uniforms and give them the "Colbert Bump" necessary to get them on the medal stand. On the women's side, Canada will probably sweep everything.

Three Rivers Burgh Blog Pick:

The United States will take home with Ohno, and maybe some guys from the Netherlands. Colbert is an interesting choice as I believe he just went off the board in Vegas so they must know something.

2010 Olympics: Skeleton Preview

Skeleton Preview

There isn’t really much to this sport. You get the fastest combined time and you win. Skeleton is pretty much like bobsleigh and luge where you are basically sled riding down an icy slope in order to get the fastest time. The difference with the skeleton is that the sled is literally shaped like a human body, hence the name skeleton. The athletes start by running to start and then finding the right groves to race in, must like when you were a kid and you wanted to hit the lane that was already made by your friend before.




You steer your skeleton sled by just shifting your body weight as you lye on your stomach. Each event (men’s and women’s) consist of four heats held over two days and the lowest combined times win.

U.S. Hopefuls

The U.S. will probably not hang their hat on their skeleton teams as they don’t look to really figure in to any serious medal contention for either the men’s or the women’s field. Eric Bernotas, Zach Lund and John Daly will compete for the men and Katie Uhlaender will compete for the women.


Three Rivers Blog - For the women Mellisa Hollingsworth is the top ranked skeleton competitor in the World Cup circuit and she is a Canadian so you know for sure she will put her best foot forward for this one. For the men, I am going a little deeper in the pool and going with German Sandro Stielicke to win. He has some good performances in the World Cup and it should translate in Vancouver.

The Steelers n’at - Skeleton is all about guts. Do you have the guts to lay with your face 2 inches from the ice while rocketing down a chute? Unlike Luge, I feel like Skeleton requires a bit less technical skill. With the games in their home country, we're going to take Canadians to sweep gold here with Hollingsworth and Jon Montgomery bringing home the Canadian Bacon.

2010 Olympics: Bobsleigh Preview

Bobsleigh Preview

You've seen Cool Runnings, right? If you haven't, you really need to get off your ass and do that before the Olympics start on Friday. Bobsleigh (or "Bobsled") is basically team sledding down a hill. With the team members packed into a large metal phallus, it's only slightly less homoerotic than 2-man luge. Stephen Colbert gave 4-man Bobsleigh a try:


The Bobsleigh "run" begins with the team members pushing the sled to build up momentum then hopping on board and riding down hill. There are two important jobs on the sled: driver and break man. The driver sits in the front and steers the sled through the 16 turns on the course. The break man sits in the back and applies the breaks when needed. In Two-man and Women's, there are only two people in the sled, the driver and break person. In Four-man, there are two additional riders that are basically there to push at the beginning then to be as aerodynamic as possible.

For all of the events, each team makes four runs down the hill over two days. The team with the lowest aggregate time at the end of the fourth run wins.


Traditionally, Germany and Switzerland are the powerhouse countries in the event. Germany has utterly dominated since the turn of the century, taking home all three gold medals in Turin and two of the three in Salt Lake City. The United States, who has won a gold, 2 silvers, and a bronze over the last two Olympics should be competitive as well. Don't be surprised if Canada uses their homeland advantage and lands at least one team on the medal stand.

US Hopefuls

The United States will enter three teams in each of the three events. The US has a lot of bobsleigh talent on their roster for these games and should be competitive in every division. In 2006, the US 4-man team finished 6th, less than 1 second behind Gold medal Germany. Since the margins for victory are so small and the US roster filled with experience and talent, there is always a good possibility for America to bring home the gold here.


The Steelers n'at Pick: The German teams have struggled since their 2006 sweep in Turin, but still remain the favorites going in. We're going to be complete homers here and take the US to bring home at least 2 golds. Look for a good showing from Canada, particularly in the Women's event where they won Silver in Turin.

Three Rivers Burgh Blog Pick: If I could I would pick the US for everything. I will take Germany since they took the U.S.