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The current layout of Major League Baseball makes sense, but scheduling issues present unfair play for unlucky teams.

Breaking down a radical, yet somewhat practical, idea for making America’s pastime a fair and honest game

–Brett Lyons (Follow on Twitter @BrettLyons670)

CHICAGO, IL — There has been plenty of talk about what Major League Baseball needs to do regarding divisional and conference realignment.

It’s not as simple as just moving one team from the National League to the American League, though. The Astros or Marlins can’t just all of a sudden be included in the American League. Despite the fact that it would balance the conferences at fifteen teams apiece, it would however present more issues that would have to be ironed out across the sport.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle would be the designated hitter and what role it would play in baseball. If MLB wants to have two leagues with an odd number of teams in each, interleague play would “occur” all the time. This would be unfair and odd for teams who would have their pitchers always scheduled for when the random interleague games would pop up on the schedule.

As far as the DH is concerned, MLB needs to rule whether or not it wants the position for all 30 teams or for none of them. Either way, teams would be at a disadvantage. If MLB abolishes the DH, AL teams have a major player in their line-ups who they signed not for defense that are not forced to play them in the field. If MLB makes the DH a staple for its entire clubs, NL teams would have missed out then on the chance to sign a permanent slugger.

My personal theory would be to make a hybrid position. In softball, teams have a Designated Player, which is in essence allows a DH for a team’s worst defensive player. This does not necessarily mean for the pitcher. Why couldn’t MLB make this rule and link it directly to the pitcher? A team’s starting lineup could consist of eight position players and a DH. The strategy would be when the starting pitcher is taken out of the game, the DH will be lost and teams must bat personnel from their bench. I’m sure there are flaws, but it’s a jumping off point.

Baseball writer Jim Bowden from ESPN.com and Sirius XM radio (Twitter: @JimBowdenESPNxm)  recently presented what he considered to be a “radial” adjustment to modern day baseball. This plan would include an absolute shake-up of the former AL and NL teams, totally dismissing historical roots. The proposal would call for two “conferences,” not “leagues.” Similar to the NBA, NFL, and NHL, these conferences would be geographically determined and promote rivalries with teams from their closest proximities.  Here’s what the continental bombshell would look like:

AMERICAN CONFERENCE NATIONAL CONFERENCE
Eastern Division Southeast Division
Boston Red Sox Atlanta Braves
New York Mets Baltimore Orioles
New York Yankees Florida Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays Washington Nationals
Central Division Western Division
Cincinnati Reds Arizona Diamondbacks
Cleveland Indians Colorado Rockies
Detroit Tigers Houston Astros
Minnesota Twins Seattle Mariners
Pittsburgh Pirates Texas Rangers
Midwest Division California Division
Chicago Cubs Los Angeles Angels
Chicago White Sox Los Angeles Dodgers
Kansas City Royals Oakland Athletics
Milwaukee Brewers San Diego Padres
St. Louis Cardinals San Francisco Giants

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The “radical” comment would certainly be an understatement for this realignment. However, modern day baseball fans should be totally open for this much needed face lift of America’s pastime. There would be historical implications but the league would be even, fair, and much more simple.

The first point being is that MLB attendance and television ratings are down across the board. What better than a nice shake-up to regain interest and make for more local rivalries in heavier doses. Rivalries like Yankees-Mets, Indians-Reds, Rays-Marlins, Angels-Dodgers, Giants-Athletics, Astros-Rangers, and Cubs-White Sox would all be “divisional” games and we could see those matchups 18 times a year. This would be most appealing to the fans, who ultimately matter the most in this process. The only drawback would be if the teams in these local rivalries were non-competitive and didn’t draw the crowds like they would have if they only played six times a season.

Another area of concern would be divisional fairness. For example, look at Toronto in the Eastern Division. The heavy hitting financial division which consists of four of MLB’s highest spending franchises. The Yankees (1st – $201.7M), Phillies (2nd – $173M), Red Sox (3rd – $161.4M), and Mets (7th – $120.1M) all have more than twice the salary of the Blue Jays (23rd – $62.5M). This would have to call for a gradual salary cap to even out the dollars and cents. Also, The California Division would be ideal for teams to play in because of the short amount of travel between the divisional games as opposed to an Astros-Mariners divisional series in the Western Division.

What really seemed to have gotten this realignment ball rolling was the talks about playoff expansion, adding an additional wild card team in each league for a total of ten postseason berths. With an even playing field, MLB would be able to adapt a similar system to the NFL playoff bracket. Three division champions and three wild cards from each conference could make a total of twelve teams. The one and two seeds would get a quick three to four day bye while the 3-6 and 4-5 matchups could be quick best-of-three series. The advantage for the higher seeds would be they get the short (key word: short) rest to revamp and rest their starting rotations and be able to watch their potential opponents.

Last but not least, a change of conferences will result in a change of scheduling. The biggest complaint currently with interleague play is that teams like Milwaukee this year play at the Yankees and Red Sox while St. Louis gets the Blue Jays at home and would travel to the Orioles.  Because of the imbalance in teams per division, no one division can have all of its teams play the same teams. Working the geographic interconference rivals into annual play too throws a wrench into the schedule but that issue will be resolved with new divisions as is.

Here’s an example of what a sample schedule for any team would look like. Let’s do an example with the White Sox from the Midwest Division. The White Sox would play a total of 72 divisional games, as is the normal in modern day five team divisions. That would breakdown to be 18 games against the Cubs, 18 against the Royals, 18 against the Brewers, and 18 against the Cardinals. The White Sox would then play a series at home and away against every other team in its conference (30 games against the Eastern and30 games against the Central). Interleague play would be again like the NFL where divisions play entire other divisions on a rotation. The rotation would be set in advance. In 2012 for example the Midwest could play the Southeast, the Eastern could tackle the Western, and the Central would battle the California.

Now with the major issues ironed out, MLB would have a truly fair and balanced system giving every team a competitive chance to win. There’s even other things MLB could improve upon like starting the season earlier and perhaps out west and down south where the weather is nicer. All of this would equate to cherries on top of the sundae, but are certainly options.

Major League Baseball needs a drastic overhaul to level the playing field. It may take some tough love at first, but a news system could be the start to a new era in professional baseball.

 

.nick-gilbert (larrybrownsports)

Cavaliers representative Nick Gilbert (right) celebrates receiving the No. 1 overall selection as Kahn (left) and O'Connor (center) can only stand and watch (LarryBrownSports).

Last night’s NBA Lottery selection show was just another chapter in the book of suspicious league behavior.

It seems rather odd that the NBA, a league that dominated national headlines this last summer with the sporting world’s wildest free agency period ever, would be able to paint a picture better than it did last night.

Nick Gilbert, the 14 year old son of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, was the selected representative for Cleveland last night. Gilbert suffers from neurofibromatosis, a genetic defect which allows tumors to grow on certain parts of the nervous system including the brain and spinal cord. Side effects include difficulty hearing, learning, and cardiovascular problems.

When the dust settled last night, Gilbert’s Cavs were randomly chosen to pick 4th overall (a pick they acquired from the Clippers along with Baron Davis for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon) and 1st overall for the first time since 2003 when they took LeBron James.

Isn’t it funny that a league which doesn’t guarantee the worst team gets the highest draft pick would see such results like that? The Cavaliers, a nationally sympathetic team after LeBron broke their hearts, would send the owner’s sick son represent the team and it just so happens they get the first pick to make up for losing James to Miami a year ago.

That’s exactly how Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn felt when his team, who had the best statistical chance to land the top choice, was slated to choose second instead.

“This league has a habit, and I am just going to say habit, of producing some pretty incredible story lines,” Kahn said following Tuesday’s draft lottery. “Last year it was [Washington Wizards owner] Abe Pollin’s widow and this year it was a 14-year-old boy and the only thing we have in common is we have both been bar mitzvahed. We were done. I told [Utah Jazz executive Kevin O’Connor]: ‘We’re toast.’ This is not happening for us, and I was right.”

While Kahn may have been smiling and slightly chuckling at his own remarks, he does seem to have a point. The NBA lottery has not been the most criticized league drafting process across American sports dating back to the mid-1980’s when the New York Knicks, one of the NBA’s most important franchises, just so happened to land a pick to get Georgetown center Patrick Ewing.

Just as the Knicks should never have been handed Ewing should the Bulls have never gotten Derrick Rose in 2008. Chicago, who that year had only a 1.7% chance on getting the top overall selection, actually did. Instances like this make the public raise an eyebrow and question just how dumb it is that the NBA leaves the future of it’s non-playoff teams to the odds of ping pong balls being chosen.

Question if you will the integrity of not giving the Timberwolves the outright No. 1 pick. It’s obvious why the league does this lottery, to try and make itself different from the NFL, NHL, and MLB. I can completely understand why the NBA would want to avoid having a cookie cutter draft, but this just seems unethical to leave things like this to fate.

Every league needs its own way of generating ratings throughout the off-season just as much as the regular season. IT doesn’t seem like anyone will be able to catch the current king of the hill in the National Football League however. The NFL absolutely dominates all sports in ratings, revenue, and off-season interest. Even the NFL Draft is televised on multiple networks over several days. No other sport can lay claim to that.

While it seems as though there is reason to doubt how the NBA lottery works, it did do enough publicity to inspire this and other articles to be written. So in retrospect, the “avoid-getting-lost-in-the-news” gimmick did indeed work this time. Just wonder what next year’s draft, if it is so “fixed” as these last two, will provide for its headline.

The NBA Draft will take place on June 23 at 7/6c on ESPN.

wnba_layups

Jokes like the one above certainly don't help the cause of women's leagues like the WNBA (Maxim).

All-time low ratings after this year’s last WNBA season reflect the national interest in women’s professional basketball – none.

The WNBA has been at the butt of jokes for years as being just a promotional tool by the NBA to attract a female audience to basketball.

The fact of the matter is that leagues cannot force product onto an audience that quite frankly does not care for it. Women’s basketball has never been a popular sport for fans to admire, and now it not going to change that.

When it comes to sports, the demographic will always be males. Not even women are interested in women’s sports. And unless there is some sort of sex appeal, men do not give a damn. Call it sexist, but you can’t argue with fact.

Women’s sports are more internationally-based. Consider the more “classy” sports, such as ice skating, tennis, and golf. Softball and soccer have become more popular in the last decade. Women’s college basketball has sky rocketed over the last few years thanks to the tournament being on ESPN.

However, the current attractions all include sexual aspects: gymnastics and volleyball. Tight leotards, bikinis, and spandex shorts are the real reasons a majority of men view at all.

The WNBA is the main perpetrator to this unscientific man law. The league’s numbers as of late have been pathetic. Since the WNBA was created in 1996, the regular season’s viewership is down 65% while the playoff ratings are nearly half of what they initially were.

“As a woman who once played basketball in high school, it is sad that professional women’s basketball has never really taken off,” said sophomore Erin Cox. “The argument that men are simply not interested because of the lack of eye candy may be true, which just goes to show that sex sells. Without capturing the male audience, no sport can survive.”

The WNBA only has 4 original teams from the 1997 season still in existence – the Los Angeles Sparks, New York Liberty, Phoenix, and San Antonio Silver Stars. Six franchises folded while three others had to relocate due to low attendance and loss of revenue.

Fan attendance has declined steadily over the last few seasons. Just from 2009 to 2010, the WNBA suffered a 10% decline in attendance with 178,000 fewer tickets purchased.

The future of women’s professional basketball is certainly debatable. The league will need a serious boost in order to stay afloat, or risk folding into history.

WWE Elimination Chamber Preview

Posted: February 20, 2011 in Opinions

Yeah, that’s right. Your boy thanks in large part to the Rock’s return to the WWE, is caring about “sports entertainment” wrestling one a year as I usually do. Every January or so when the Royal Rumble is announced, I can’t help but keep my inner kid that grew up with this stuff from getting excited.

True confession – I watch wrestling from January to WrestleMania in March or April, and then zone it out until the first month of the next year.

The Elimination Chamber is the final PPV before WrestleMania, so the WWE has to set its storylines straight for the company’s biggest audience.

Here’s a breakdown of how I see these matches going and who will win.

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WWE Tag Team Champions Marella & Kozlov vs. Slater & Gabriel

tagteam

Courtesy of WWE.com

This match was drawn up hours before the PPV was to go live. Honestly, who cares? Santino had some fun with the fans at the last PPV, the Royal Rumble, as he technically finished second. Slater and Gabriel, both members of Wade Barrett’s CORRE, probably would look good with gold on their waists heading into WM27. However, who they would defend against at WM may not be as exciting for fans as the odd but effective coupling of Marella and Kozlov. It makes sense to belt the CORRE but somehow this is a fan’s match, with Marella and Kozlov winning.

Winner: Marella & Kozlov

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Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston vs. Alberto Del Rio

IC

Courtesy of WWE.com

This match is currently set as a non-title bout, but is subject to change. Many sources are whispering that it makes sense to belt the No. 1 contender for the World Heavyweight Championship, Del Rio, heading into WM. Kofi Kingston just can not break through the ceiling and become a main time superstar. It makes no sense for Kingston to hold the belt, seeing a she will more than likely just end up in the Money in the Bank Ladder match again at WM. Del Rio should have some gold around his waist heading into Atlanta and more than likely will to build his credibility and momentum.

Winner: Alberto Del Rio

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WWE Champion The Miz vs. Jerry “The King” Lawler

wwe

Courtesy of WWE.com

Seriously? Who is worried about The King winning this match? The angle for the WWE here may by to have Michael Cole, King’s broadcast partner, interfere and screw King out of the championship, setting up a King vs. Cole match at WM. That’s honestly the best scenario I can think of. There’s no doubt this match will not end in Miz retaining. The King will not be in a main event match at WM and I can guaren-damn-tee that.

Winner: The Miz

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RAW Elimination Chamber Match – John Cena vs. John Morrison vs. R-Truth vs. Randy Orton vs. King Sheamus vs. CM Punk

raw

Courtesy of WWE.com

Since the Miz-Lawler fight is for the WWE Title, this match will not be a championship match. It will instead decide the No. 1 contender for the WWE Championship at WM27. It’s a little bit of a different angle to take, but the company obviously needs extra matches to make their scenarios work. Knowing already the Miz will win and defend at WM, who would his opponent most likely be? We can easily eliminate R-Truth and Sheamus. CM Punk doesn’t make much sense without a previous track record. Morrison still hasn’t made it to primetime status. That leaves just Cena and Orton. For my money, I think Cena would be the way to go. His rivalry with Miz would fit best into the storylines. Orton most likely will have CM Punk to himself in a non-title match at WM. If I was a gambling man, I’m choosing Cena to win in the Chamber to face the Miz for the belt.

Winner: John Cena

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SmackDown Elimination Chamber Match – Edge (C) vs. Kane vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Wade Barrett vs. Mystery Participant

sd

Courtesy of WWE.com

Yes, there’s only five contenders shown in the picture. That’s because Dolph Zigler, the previous sixth man, was fired Friday night on SmachDown. This is the final PPV before WM and we still haven’t seen Triple H since early 2010, Undertaker who was buried alive at Bragging Rights months ago, and the reports of Sting coming back this next RAW. One of those three guys will be the surprise fighter and will honestly most likely win. I would think either Edge or Rey Mysterio would make the most sense of the participants we know of now. Edge is solid headlining stuff and Mysterio has a good feud with Del Rio, who awaits the winner of the match.

Undertaker, if and when he returns, needs an opponent. Reports are he will face Barrett who helped screw him out of his Buried Alive match vs. Kane the last time we saw him or he will face Triple H in a Streak vs. Career Match with Shawn Michaels guest referring. Barrett is in this match, so Undertaker-Barrett could rise again.

This is how it will go down. If Undertaker or Triple H comes into the match, I’m choosing Edge. This mystery guy is most likely going to just play a role in another WM match but not the World Heavyweight one. Overall, this is the match to watch tonight.

Winner: Edge

The Playoff Virgin

This Jay Cutler inspired spoof of "The 40 Year Old Virgin" makes for a good chuckle, but also brings up questions about his ability to make smart decisions (ChicagoNow.com).

Of the remaining eight quarterbacks in the NFL playoffs, Jay Cutler is the only one to have not played in the league’s second season.

The likes of Tom Brady, Mark Sanchez, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, and Matt Hasselbeck have all made at least one playoff start. And while that may not seem like much of a big deal, experience is absolutely something teams need to have in order to be successful.

Take for example last weekend’s Ravens-Chiefs Wild Card game. The Chiefs committed five penalties, converted only one third down, failed to convert either of their fourth down tries, and turned the ball over five times. The inexperienced Kansas City Chiefs proved there is no wiggle room for mistakes when it comes to the postseason. The seasoned veteran Ravens flexed their muscles.

Cutler has had a rather solid 2010 season given the circumstances. He passed for 3274 yards, 23 scores, and 16 interceptions. He was the first Bears quarterback to pass for 3000 yards in back to back seasons since the dawn of time. Cutler also cut his interception total down by ten compared to his first season in Chicago. Funny how when you establish a running game and don’t pass on 80% of your offensive plays those numbers tend to lower.

So why is it important Cutler hasn’t been a playoff quarterback yet?

The Bears again find fortune shining down upon them as they face the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field Sunday. Everyone and their uncle will mention the week 6 meeting between these two squads and mention the fact Seattle beat them already. There’s some reasons Seattle got the victory on that day.

When the regular season Chicago-Seattle game was played Oct. 17, the Bears weren’t the team they are presently. Mike Martz was still in the mindset that a three point deficit was the equivalent of trailing by two touchdowns, thus airing the ball out was the only way to play. This game was before the Bears bye week where Martz realized running the ball was legal in the NFL.

Another big difference from this game was that Bears linebacker Lance Briggs was a no-show because of injury. Without him, the Bears defense struggled and surrendered nice stat days to receiver Mike Williams and running back Marshawn Lynch, who made his first start with the Seahawks since his trade from Buffalo. Seattle ran an effective no-huddle offense. The defense also failed to force a turnover or record a sack.

Cutler is the key to this whole playoff run for Chicago. He has to be able to stand in the pocket, make smart throws, take sacks when there’s simply no other options, and let Matt Forte take some of the workload. Cutler will be the make or break factor for the Bears.

Having said that, still think his lack of experience is nothing to be concerned about? Oh contraire.

Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck went against the grain by staying in school. Is sacrificing a degree worth the loss of millions? (bleacherreport.com)

Call him whatever you want – an idiot, moron, ridiculous, or insane. It won’t make a difference however, as Andrew Luck has decided to pass on the 2011 NFL Draft.

Luck, a redshirt sophomore at Stanford, decided to pursue his degree instead of cash in on being the likely No. 1 overall draft pick in the Spring.
 
Luck issued a statement via Stanford in which he said, “I am committed to earning my degree in architectural design from Stanford University and am on track to accomplish this at the completion of the spring quarter of 2012.”
 
There were many other factors than just the pursuit of a collegiate degree that kept Luck in college. According to sources, his father, who once was an NFL quarterback himself, advised his son to speak with close family friend Peyton Manning. Manning influenced Luck to stay at Stanford – more than likely because he doesn’t want to face him at the pro level (of course, Carolina comes to Indianapolis in 2011).
 
Many other factors include his commitment to his teammates he entered the college experience with. Luck also has a serious girlfriend as well, which we all know can keep anyone from doing anything given the right circumstances. Additionally, Luck may simply just not want to see his career start in the same garbage disposal Jimmy Clausen’s did last season. Maybe this year of biding time is a way of hoping San Fransisco goes 2-14 next year so former head coach Jim Harbaugh and Luck can be reunited. Who knows?
 
Being the wise ass I am, I found it appropriate to take some stabs at this whole situation. Personally, I couldn’t leave college soon enough if I was given the option of staying or receiving a $50 million check. But to each his own, and Luck has every right to make this decision.
 
Here though are the ONLY reasons I would suspect Luck would stay in Stanford and forego the NFL. Fittingly, there are 12 which matches the uniform Luck wears. How’s this on for size?
 
 
 
12. The weather in California is just too nice.
 
11. Luck hasn’t pulled a Reggie Bush and cheated his way to a Heisman Trophy yet.
 
10. The excuse “it’s college” only applies for so long.
 
9. Luck’s girlfriend doesn’t have unlimited picture messaging (think about it).
 
8. Peyton Manning paid him off to stay out of his way.
 
7. Maybe architecture is fun? Doubt it, but hey.
 
6. Matt Leinart could take ballroom dancing – why not Luck?
 
5. Luck’s intramural basketball team is looking to run the table this winter.
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4. Lucks wants to remain the BMOC – and who wouldn’t?
 
3. Charlotte doesn’t have any Jimmy John’s near by.
 
2. Training camp would cut into Luck’s Call of Duty: Black Ops playing time.
 
1. Carolina just flat out sucks.

The playoffs begin this weekend with four wild card games split up over Saturday and Sunday.

For those who know me personally, you can attest to the fact I reserve Sundays for one thing and one thing only – the NFL. These next two weekends I feel spoiled every year. Two days, two double headers, two weekends straight. And all the games are far more important than regular season matchups against bad teams.

I’m going to break down this weekend’s action and tell you who I think will face the top two seeds in each conference next weekend in the Divisional Round.

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#5 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11-5) @ #4 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (7-9)

New Orleans Saints

Marques Colston (12) and Reggie Bush (25) are just a few of the weapons the Seahawks have to worry about containing (NFL.com).

Saturday, Jan. 8 at 3:30 CT (NBC)

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Spread: NO (-10.5)

Analysis: I don’t care what team has to do it, but no one wants the dreaded flight to Seattle. The travel will affect the Saints. The reason I don’t think the Seahawks have a chance though is because they only beat the Rams by 10 points last Sunday night. The Rams offense was hideous. Chris Ivory being placed on IR Tuesday does hurt the Saints offense, which will more than likely become one-dimensional. that one dimension is pretty good though. The champs will do what they have to do on the road. I don’t think it will be a blowout, but give me the Saints to win.

Prediction: Saints 24, Seahawks 13.

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#6 NEW YORK JETS (11-5) @ #3 INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (10-6)

Joseph Addai

Joseph Addai is finally healthy. How well he runs the ball will keep the Colts from getting too "pass happy" (NFL.com).

Saturday, Jan. 8 at 7:00 CT (NBC)

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Spread: IND (-2.5)

Analysis: This is a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game. Just like then, I think the game will produce the same winner. Mark Sanchez has been shaky as of late. The Colts are not one of the elite teams this year in the NFL, but they are riding a nice four game winning streak into the playoffs. Peyton Manning has settled down with his touchdown-to-interception ratio. For the first time all year, the Colts might have a healthy running game too. The matchup to watch will be Pierre Garcon on Antonio Cromartie. If Peyton can get enough time in the pocket, he will get work done.

Prediction: Colts 20, Jets 14.

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#5 BALTIMORE RAVENS (12-4) @ #4 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10-6)

Ray Lewis

The ageless Ray Lewis looks to lead his tenacious defense to a deep playoff run (NFL.com).

Sunday, Jan. 9 at 12:00 CT (CBS)

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Spread: BAL (-3)

Analysis: The Chiefs were a nice surprise story in the 2010 NFL season. Jamaal Charles was an absolute monster with nearly 1500 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards. He faces a tough task with the Baltimore defense. I don’t believe Matt Cassel will be much of a threat, so expect Charles to run the ball until the Ravens front seven finally breaks. The opposing running back, Ray Rice, is the key for this Ravens offense. Joe Flacco has gotten it done thru the air this season, but it will be Baltimore’s running game which will get them deep into the postseason. I love this battle of the running backs. The Ravens secondary will be the difference if the Chiefs can’t get it done on the ground. I’m calling it – there will be an Ed Reed pick-six in this one.

Prediction: Ravens 33, Chiefs 23.

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#6 GREEN BAY PACKERS (10-6) @ #3 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-6)

Michael Vick

Michael Vick may not be celebrating if Packer pass rushers have anything to say about it (NFL.com).

Sunday, Jan. 9 at 3:30 CT (FOX)

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Spread: PHI (-3)

Analysis: Michael Vick, where art thou? Vick has really cooled off in December for the Philly offense. Dating back to the game at Chicago, Vick has six interceptions and seven fumbles. That kind of ball control is exactly what does a team in come the playoffs. With no Vick, the Eagles will need to rely on their defense to contain a top five quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. You have to give the Pack credit – they’re still scoring with all the injuries they’ve withstood. Something tells me the Packers will shock the league with a win, but I have to believe a week 17 bye for Vick and Co. will provide enough rest and relaxation to get Philly banging on all cylinders.

Prediction: Eagles 24, Packers 17.

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NEXT WEEKEND’S GAMES WITH MY PREDICTIONS:

#5 New Orleans Saints @ #1 Atlanta Falcons

#3 Philadelphia Eagles @ #2 Chicago Bears

#5 Baltimore Ravens @ #1 New England Patriots

#3 Indianapolis Colts @ #2 Pittsburgh Steelers