Today's Names to Know: Najeh Davenport, Bill Parcells, Levance Fields, Poinsettia Bowl, Jason Grimsley, Jon Papelbon, Gabe Kapler, Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, Yao Ming, Stuart Scott, Sports Blog Tournament Update, Holiday Wishes and More!
Steelers beat Rams, 41-24: Najeh Davenport! So which fantasy football owner in their league finals on the back of Pro Bowl RB Willie Parker swapped out Parker for backup Najeh Davenport yesterday, foreseeing Parker's injury and Davenport's TWO touchdowns and insanely productive night of action. (No, I'm not talking about your "Hamper Dump Fantasy League," where Davenport remains the Tomlinson of the league.)
Meanwhile, Willie Parker's leg is broken, which is such a shame in a Pro Bowl season where he was leading the league in rushing. Here's to a full recovery for him and another big season next year, for one of the great running back stories of the decade in the NFL. (Not to seem to callous, but if people are thinking about a Pro Bowl replacement, Fred Taylor would be an honorable choice.)
Parcells to Dolphins, Cont'd: Like Dolphins fans, I am looking ahead to what Bill Parcells might do in the offseason, starting with what could/should be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Go the franchise QB route (a la Bledsoe) with Brohm, even though the Fins used a 2nd-rounder on Beck a year ago? Get a franchise tackle in Jake Long? Get a franchise D-lineman in Glenn Dorsey? Or, maybe, trade down for more picks?
Meanwhile, did you hear how effusive Bill Belichick was about the 1972 Dolphins? How genius of The Genius: The '72 Fins look like even BIGGER jerks for their dissing and criticizing the '07 Pats… they can root against them, but you can't deny the '07 Pats as a spectacular team. Beating the Dolphins today will be sweet for Belichich – even sweeter now that Bill Parcells is attached to the team.
Oh, and it'll be extra-sweet for Belichick to top the 1972 Dolphins' 14-0 regular season by beating the Dolphins to take the Pats to 15-0.
This Week's Top 5 NFL Storylines:
(1) Pats 19-0 Watch Continues
(2) NFC Wild Card Madness: Vikings control destiny.
(3) AFC Wild Card Meh-ness: Jags', Browns' to lose?
(4) Fantasy Football playoffs: Are you in your title game?
(5) The Race for the Bottom: So who's tanking?
The Picks (Home team in ALL CAPS)
Cowboys over PANTHERS (HFA Watch)
BILLS over Giants (Game of the Week)
Packers over BEARS (Rivalry game)
BENGALS over Browns (Makes Cincy's season)
LIONS over Chiefs (Kitna will fall short)
COLTS over Texans (Mario vs. Peyton)
SAINTS over Eagles (Must-win for Saints)
JAGUARS over Raiders (Wild Card lock-up?)
CARDS over Falcons (Tank Watch!)
Bucs over 49ERS (Don't tank, Niners!)
TITANS over Jets (Mus-win for Tennessee)
PATS over Dolphins (Oh, the symbolism!)
SEAHAWKS over Ravens (Troy Smith starts)
VIKINGS over Redskins (SNF)
CHARGERS over Broncos (MNF)
CBB: Pitt beats Duke in thriller at the Garden: I was lucky enough to be on a JetBlue flight last night that let me catch the 2nd half and the OT. Levance Fields' game-winning 3 was heavy on the cojones, with Pitt down by 2. And DeJuan Blair (15 pts, 20 reb, 3 blocks) is one of my new favorite players this season: Dominant in the paint AND he plays with amazing enthusiasm… Meanwhile, Oklahoma upset No. 20 Gonzaga.
College Hoops This Weekend: What a lineup of great games, topped by Georgetown-Memphis, which on paper is arguably the best game of the year: A match-up of two teams for whom anything less than a Final Four is a failed season.
Rich Rodriguez fires all holdover Michigan assistants: What else did you think was going to happen? He's got to bring in his own group. Besides, would you really WANT this group?
(Don't cry for them: They get to coach through the bowl loss to Florida AND they get paid through the end of the 2008 season… a nice little golden parachute. Credit Lloyd Carr for protecting his guys by giving them that two-year deal last year, probably knowing that this past season was going to be his last.)
But really: How awkward must things be in the football offices as Carr and his staff prepare the team for the bowl game, ? (Cue "The Office" theme song, with clips of Rod and Carr participating in the annual Michigan football program White Elephant Christmas gift-giving party.)
Poinsettia Bowl: Utah beats Navy in a barn-burner. (Actually, given how lame the first half was, it was a second-half barn-burner.) Can't ask for a better kick-off to bowl season, except if you wanted to see Navy cap a spectacular season with a bowl win. But Utah in bowl games is close to as much of a lock as there is in college football.
College Bowl Mania This Weekend:
Papajohns.com Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Cincinnati (Saturday). USM is in between coaches; Cincinnati has one of the best coaches in college football. Pick: Cincy.
New Mexico Bowl: Nevada vs. New Mexico (Saturday). Not particularly a sexy matchup, and doesn't this smack of bowl nepotism? Pick: Nevada.
Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl: BYU vs. UCLA. (Saturday) The Bruins are another team in between coaches; meanwhile, BYU might be the second-best non-BCS-conference team behind Hawaii. Pick: BYU
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Boise State vs. East Carolina (Sunday). Boise State is a long way from last year's BCS triumph, arguably one of the Top 5 bowl games of the decade. Pick: Boise State.
NBA Last Night: What a game on TNT between the Nuggets and Rockets. Double-OT, a last-second one-point win by the Nuggets at home. Carmelo with 37 (and a career-high 16 rebounds) and Iverson with 36. Yao with 26 and 19.
Must-Read: From Free Darko, about Julian Wright, who I happened to see play in person a week ago -- but more importantly, FD remembered that before the 2007 NBA Draft, I said Wright would be "the most Free Darko player" in the draft class. Here's the link. (h/t: NBA.com's excellent Court Reporters blog, for the DS name-check in citing this FD post.)
Jon Papelbon's dog ATE the World Series clinching baseball: First of all, what the hell is Papelbon doing with the ball? Shouldn't it be on display at Fenway or in the Hall of Fame? Second, it's just sitting on his counter? If you had a World Series-clinching ball, wouldn't you, like, have it in a nice container on the mantle or something?
MLB PED Scandal: The release of Jason Grimsley's affidavit to the Feds came, oh, about two weeks after it would have any impact. Two weeks ago? "Bombshell!" After the Mitchell Report? "Yeah…and?"
(Although to be fair, Grimsley named Sammy Sosa, who was missing from the Mitchell Report. Sosa-haters have been waiting on this moment, I'm sure.)
Jewish Sports Heroes: Red Sox A-ball manager Gabe Kapler is back in baseball as a player, signing a one-year deal with the Brewers. The moment he is in the same lineup as Ryan Braun will truly be a glorious one. Hanukkah comes late this year!
Stuart Scott cancer diagnosis revealed: Here's to a full recovery for him in his battle.
Sports Blog of the 2007 64-team tournament: DanShanoff.com is up against MetsBlog and it could be ending before we even get to the Sweet 16! Help out and vote now! (Ugh: It's a rout. Hat-tip to the MetsBlog folks for a fantastic effort in rallying their readers to support them.)
Question: When you lose in a bracket-style tournament, what's the etiquette? Are you supposed to support the team that ousted you (Transitive Property?) or are you supposed to want to see them destroyed (Revenge Factor?).
Happy holiday weekend to you and your family: If you aren't planning on being online between now and after Christmas. I put together my second annual "Night Before Christmas" poem for Deadspin, which should be running today. (Here's last year's.) It's a spin-off of my longtime "Night Before Christmas" poem for Page 2, one of my favorite pieces to write each year. If you want a trip in the Way-Back Machine, here you go.