Who am I?

I'm from Houston, a graduate of the University of Texas, a fan of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans. But this blog will be about the "greater sports", whatever that means.

Follow me on Twitter: @lhd_on_sports


LHD_PotW (629) MLB (185) NFL (165) NCAA (129) NFL Playoffs (73) NBA (70) NHL (64)

Monday, January 30, 2017

Sportsman of the Week Ending 1/29/2017

The legend continues.  As in the legend of the greatest men's tennis player of all time.  Roger Federer defied his age and seeding to capture his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, by far the most in history.  In an era that should be widely considered as the most competitive (or as competitive) ever.  Federer did it over his old nemesis Rafael Nadal, who likewise made an improbable run to the final.  But it was Federer who won the last five games of the last set, squashing a 3-1 game lead.  Roger Federer has his stake in the ground as best men's tennis player of all time, and is our Sportsman of the Week!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Super Bowl LI Preview

This Houston Super Bowl LI
has all the intrigue!
The say it bluntly, outside of one game, the NFL Playoffs have not offered much in terms of thrilling finishes.  You could say a second game (PIT vs. KC) but PIT didn't even score a TD.  No NFL game in which the winning team doesn't score a TD can qualify as a"thrilling".  However, Super Bowl LI seems to be a heavyweight matchup that can't miss.  Number one Falcons offense vs. number one (scoring) Patriots defense.  On the other side, Tom "four rings" Brady tries to enter immortality with a fifth ring.  He's never lost a Super Bowl to a team that wasn't the Giants (although one of them he didn't win, that was Pete Carroll making a dumb play call).

But for last week, both J.R. Ewing and Bulldog Babe (@bulldogbabexo) split the two games (that they disagreed about).

So J.R. pretty much pushed the weekend, not much activity
Bulldog Babe stole the show this Playoffs,
will she be right in Super Bowl LI?
Total coming into week: $210
Straight Up (1-1): $0
ATS (1-1): -$10
O/U (1-1): -$10
Weekly Total: -$20
Total through three weeks: $190

So will Super Bowl LI live up to the billing?  Last time the Patriots won a Super Bowl in Houston it came down to the final seconds as they edged the Panthers.  Hopefully for fans, this one is as close as that.

Lines and spreads are from CappedIn.com, a great website to track picks and play along for fun.  Amazing how up to date data they have (with very informed members).
February 5, 2017: 18:30 EST
New England Patriots  (-3, -150) vs Atlanta Falcons (+3, +130) O/U 58.5

New England (16-2)
Last nine games: 9-0

Against Playoff teams: 6-1
Key Injuries: Rob Gronkowski (out)

Atlanta Falcons (13-5)
Last eight games: 7-1

Against Playoff teams: 4-2
Key Injuries: None

J.R. Ewing prediction
I keep picking against the Atlanta Falcons and I keep losing.  I bet on the New England Patriots and do nothing but win.  I have a gut feeling for the Falcons.  Matt Ryan is playing amazing football.  The Patriots have not had to face a decent offense this postseason.  First the Texans (enough said), then the Steelers without Le'Veon Bell.  Without that running threat, they easily rolled their defense to stop Antonio Brown and pinned their ears back on Ben and shut him down.  The Falcons can run (with two legit RBs) can throw (with Mohamed Sanu and Julio Jones), not to mention a half dozen other complimentary weapons.  This will be a game of ball control with each possession at a premium.  Keeping Brady on the sideline is the way to beat the Patriots (Texans actually succeeded for three quarters) and this Falcons offense can do it (note the Patriots don't allow big plays).  It will actually be high scoring efficiency, but low scoring (both red zone defenses are good).  And the Falcons finish their miracle season.

Final Prediction: Falcons 26 Patriots 23

Bulldog Babe prediction:
I will fully admit that the two best teams in the NFC & AFC are playing next weekend. Atlanta and New England will be a great matchup, full of crazy things to happen. Atlanta has had the dream season, while New England is going to compete for their fifth Lombardi. While New England may be the favorite to win, I firmly believe in upsets. So I think the Atlanta Falcons will be the Super Bowl Champs! RISE UP

Final Prediction: Falcons 27 Patriots 21

This has been the most fun I've had doing the postseason blog, primarily due to the contributions of  Bulldog Babe (@bulldogbabexo).  The real fun was the private Twitter message debates and banter.  And she wanted to pass on thanks as well (her words):

"Thank you guys for reading my predictions and to @lhd_on_sports for allowing me to make predictions for the playoffs this year. I had a blast doing this & I hope you guys enjoyed reading these predictions."

We did enjoy BB, and I'd love to have you back for next year or hopefully sooner NASCAR or college football discussion.

In the meantime to all fans, enjoy your Super Bowl LI, it's the game for the fans!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Sportsman of the Week Ending 1/22/2017

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is perhaps the greatest game planners in NFL history, and he saw something in our Sportsman of the Week that clearly the Pittsburgh Steelers did not.  Third (or fourth) receiver Chris Hogan was free and clear early and often in the Steelers secondary and made the AFC North Champions pay.  He led all receivers in the AFC Championship Game with 9 receptions and 180 yards.  With a long of only 39 yards, he literally chipped away at the Steelers secondary with no mercy.  His two touchdowns were the first two of the game for New England putting the team up by 11 in the 2nd quarter.  From bit part to featured star, the Atlanta Falcons now have an extra dimension to worry about in Super Bowl LI.  Chris Hogan is the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sportsman of the Week Ending 1/16/2017

The NFL Divisional Playoff Game of the week was no question the Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys and our Sportsman of the Week made what might be the play of the year.  Jared Cook hauled in a 35 yard pass from Aaron Rodgers with just 3 seconds left to set up the Packers game winning field goal to ruin the Cowboys playoff party at home.  For the game, he ended up with 6 catches for 103 yards and a TD as Rodgers favorite target.  All were season highs (except yards within 2 yards of his 105 yards during the last Packers loss in Washington).  But it was the catch in the clutch that thrust the Packers into the NFC Championship Game that earns Cook our Sportsman of the Week!

2016-17 NFL Conference Championship Playoff Preview

Not a good week for my
Cowboys or my bank account

An entertaining Divisional Playoff Weekend saw J.R. Ewing and Bulldog Babe (@bulldogbabexo) go 3-1 straight up, missing only the Packers who onw on a wild finish in Dallas.  Both correctly picked the Steelers mild upset of the Chiefs (much to Bulldog Babe's pleasure).

As for other props, not so good for J.R. Ewing
Total coming into week: $570
Straight Up (3-1): +100
ATS (2-2): -$20
O/U (0-4): -$440
Weekly Total: -$360
Total through two weeks: $210

This assumes a $110 bet to win $100 on 50/50 props, S/U has $100 on underdogs, money line to win $100 on favorites.

Bulldog Babe an impressive 6-2 so far
straight up and 3-1 last week ATS
The Steelers and Packers look to continue their miracle playoff runs.  Would you believe that these four teams are on a summed 30 game winning streak?  Just check out their last losses

Green Bay: 11/20
Atlanta: 12/4
Pittsburgh: 11/13
New England: 11/13

So the big question everyone is wanting to know is how Bulldog Babe thinks her Steelers will do.  And will either J.R. or Bulldog Babe go with the red hot Packers?

Lines and spreads are from CappedIn.com, a great website to track picks and play along for fun.  Amazing how up to date data they have (with very informed members).

January 22, 2017: 15:05 EST
Green Bay Packers  (+6, +204) at Atlanta Falcons (-6, -204) O/U 60

Green Bay Packers  (12-6)
Last eight games: 8-0
Road: 5-4
Against Playoff teams: 7-2 (2-1 on road)
Key Injuries: Jordy Nelson (doubtful)

Atlanta Falcons (12-5)
Last seven games: 6-1
Home: 6-3
Against Playoff teams: 3-2 (2-1 at home)
Key Injuries: None

Previous matchup (@Atlanta): Falcons 33, Packers 32.

J.R. Ewing prediction
It's getting hard to bet against Aaron Rodgers, he seems to be feeling it.  I've doubted in the past due to injuries but that continues to not slow down the Pack.  The Falcons demolishing of the Seahawks was maybe the most impressive team last weekend (Patriots big win was expected).  Matt Ryan won the MVP, Rodgers maybe thinks he should have won it.  I feel a Packers upset in thrilling fashion just like last week.  Take the earlier score and give the Pack an extra FG

Final Prediction: Packers 35 Falcons 33.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
This NFC Championship matchup is a great one, with two great teams. Packers had an absolutely outstanding win last weekend, which knocked Dallas out of the playoffs. Falcons had a great win against the Seahawks last weekend, which eliminated Seattle from the playoffs. This is a hard one to predict honestly. Both teams have worked hard to get to this point and there are no other teams more deserving. I believe that Atlanta having home field advantage will motivate them to do well. While Green Bay will dominate early, Atlanta will come through and score their Super Bowl berth in a close game.

Final Prediction: Falcons 28 Packers 21.

January 22, 2017: 18:40 EST
Pittsburgh Steelers  (+6, +231) at New England (-6, -231) O/U 50

Pittsburgh Steelers  (13-5)
Last nine games: 9-0
Road: 6-3
Against Playoff teams: 4-3 (1-1 on road)
Key Injuries: None

New England (15-2)
Last eight games: 8-0
Home: 8-1
Against Playoff teams: 5-1 (3-1 at home)
Key Injuries: Rob Gronkowski (out)

Previous matchup (@Pittsburgh): Patriots 27, Steelers 16.

J.R. Ewing prediction
The Steelers won, but seemed to sputter more on offense than expected with nary a TD in their Divisional round win over the Kansas City Chiefs.  Field Goals won't beat the Patriots (and this is a better defense).  Meanwhile some analysts thought the Patriots looked sluggish against the Texans.  Mind you they covered one of the largest spreads in playoff history.  We should all struggle so much.  The Patriots machine is too much for the killer B's (Ben, Bell, and Brown) and they advance to the Super Bowl.

Final Prediction: Patriots 28 Steelers 20.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
This AFC Championship consists of two of the best quarterbacks in the league, Ben Roethilsberger and Tom Brady. So this will be a showdown that everyone needs to watch. I feel like this is going to be an up and down game. I was not impressed with the Patriots last weekend especially considering it was their first game after a bye week and they were very rusty and sloppy. While I think that Brady is going to have a great night, I also feel like Big Ben and the Steelers have just a bit more momentum than the Patriots do. Why? The Steelers are on a nine game win streak and they have fate on their side. They are motivated and ready to get back to the Super Bowl. They have not been their best on the road, especially in New England (0-3), but like I said, they are a second half team so they will show up and win. I have Pittsburgh taking this one and going to Houston to get their shot at the Lombardi.

Final Prediction: Steelers 24 Patriots 17.

So there you have it, J.R. and Bulldog Babe disagree on both games?  Who will be correct?  Tune in Sunday afternoon to find out!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

2016-17 NFL Divisional Playoff Preview

How 'bout dem Cowboys!
Once again, J.R. Ewing owned the playoff picks in Wild Card Weekend.  Joined by new Blog partner "Bulldog Babe" (@bulldogbabexo) you were wise to take in the advice and win.

Gamblers summary (only for J.R. Ewing, not sure BB is old enough to legally give gambling advice yet)
Straight Up (4-0): +400
ATS (3-1): +190
O/U (2-2): -$20
Total: $570

This assumes a $110 bet to win $100 on 50/50 props, S/U has $100 on underdogs, money line to win $100 on favorites.

Bulldog Babe's debut was impressive
After all favorites and home teams winning in the Wild Card Weekend, the Divisional Playoff round will feature all eight Division Champions.  Home teams will have had a bye, however last week's winners all won by 13 points or more.  And each game is a rematch of the regular season, with only one of the four being in the same venue.

We're glad to have Bulldog Babe back this week to break down each of the matchups.  Will she take her Steelers?  Does she have an upset up her sleeve?

 J.R. Ewing's Cowboys will see their first postseason action while Bulldog Babe's Steelers want to continue their momentum!

Lines and spreads are from CappedIn.com, a great website to track picks and play along for fun.  Amazing how up to date data they have (with very informed members).

January 14, 2017: 16:35 EST
Seattle Seahawks (+5, +190) at Atlanta Falcons (-5, -220) O/U 51.5

Seattle Seahawks (11-5-1)
Last seven games:4-3
Road: 3-4-1
Against Playoff teams: 4-1 (1-1 on road)
Key Injuries: Earl Thomas (out)

Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
Last six games: 5-1
Home: 5-3
Against Playoff teams: 2-2 (1-1 at home)
Key Injuries: None

Previous matchup (@Seattle): Seahawks 26, Falcons 24.

J.R. Ewing prediction
One of the most intriguing match ups of the weekend because the Seahawks have been there, done that in the playoffs lately, but the Falcons have yet to parlay a good regular season into a Super Bowl berth.  A little baffling that the Birds have not played many playoff teams, and don't have a very good record.  Also not extraordinary at home.  I think they find a way to win, but it remains close.  Their regular season match up went 26-24 Seahawks in Seattle, I'll turn that score around here.

Final Prediction: Falcons 26 Seahawks 24.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks won in dominating fashion last weekend against the Detroit Lions, as expected. It will not be that easy this weekend, as they head cross country to Atlanta to face Matt Ryan and the Falcons in the NFC Divisional Playoff. The offensive line for Seattle is going into this game knowing that the defense for Atlanta isn’t too great, so that gives them some confidence already. On the offensive side for Atlanta, they are ranked #2 overall and Matt Ryan has had probably his best season to date. Wide receiver Julio Jones is healthy and he will be a strong factor for Atlanta. My prediction is, this will be a flip flop game with a lot of surprises bound to happen. With that being said, I have the Falcons taking this one.

Final Prediction: Falcons 35 Seahawks 27.

January 14, 2017: 20:15 EST
Houston Texans (+15, +975) at New England (-15, -1500) O/U 44.5

Houston Texans (10-7)
Last five games: 4-1
Road: 2-6
Against Playoff teams: 3-3 (0-3 on road)
Key Injuries: J.J. Watt (out), Lamar Miller (probable)

New England (14-2)
Last seven games:7-0
Home: 7-1
Against Playoff teams: 4-1 (2-1 at home)
Key Injuries: Rob Gronkowski (out), Danny Amendola (probable), LaGarrette Blount (ill)

Previous matchup (@New England): Patriots 27, Texans 0.

J.R. Ewing prediction
The most talked about line of the week because it is so large.  I believe calling the Texans frauds is unfair, they beat teams like the Chiefs and Lions in the regular season.  But they were awful on the road, and their awful scoring differential is a result of blowouts.  The reason they get blown out is that the only way they can win is to get a lead and rely on that defense.  If they get behind, it's "Katy bar the door."  Get Katy ready, because when the Patriots jump out quickly, the Texans won't have the weapons to respond.  An easy win and cover for the Patriots.

Final Prediction: Patriots 27 Texans 6.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
The Texans escaped the Raiders last weekend, but this next game for them will be their true test. They are off to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional Playoff. I don’t see this game being a heavy weight battle. The Texans have come far this season despite all of the injuries and shake ups at numerous positions, but the Patriots have just a little more juice on them as much as I hate to admit it. I say this one will be a blowout, Patriots win.

Final Prediction: Patriots 44 Texans 14.

January 15, 2017: 16:40 EST
Green Bay Packers  (+4.5, +175) at Dallas Cowboys (-4.5, -205) O/U 51.5

Green Bay Packers  (11-6)
Last seven games: 7-0
Against Playoff teams: 6-2 (1-1 on road)
Key Injuries: Jordy Nelson (doubtful)

Dallas Cowboys (13-3)
Last four games: 2-2
Home: 7-1
Against Playoff teams: 3-2 (1-1 at home)
Key Injuries: None

Previous matchup (@Green Bay): Cowboys 30, Packers 16.

J.R. Ewing prediction
We might be having a different conversation of Jordy Nelson were healthy, but he's not.  The Packers also have a very suspect defense and don't play incredibly well away from home.  The fear of the Cowboys pick is that they may be rusty (full 20 days since any of their key players played a meaningful game).  And the Packers are hot, while the Cowboys stumbled down the stretch (one loss was resting starters).  This Cowboys offense and defense is build for the playoffs with balance and talent.  The Packers are feast or famine.  Even last week's Wild Card Game they looked awful, then good.  No real running game, I don't see the Packers staying in this one.

Final Prediction: Cowboys 27 Packers 13.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
Last but not least, we are at this classic match up (at least I think it is). The veteran vs. the rookie. I personally am a fan of Dak Prescott, great young man on and off the field. He has had his fair share of adversity over the season, but he has proven himself as the starter for Dallas. Aaron Rodgers has had a great year as well, as I previously mentioned last weekend. Both teams have a great offensive line, but I think that Dallas has better targets for Dak to throw to (such as Ezekiel Elliott). Dallas wins this one, in a close but steady percentage.

Final Prediction: Cowboys 30 Packers 20.

January 15, 2017: 20:20 EST
Pittsburgh Steelers  (+1.5, +105) at Kansas City Chiefs (-1.5, -125) O/U 44

Pittsburgh Steelers  (12-5)
Last eight games: 8-0
Road: 5-3
Against Playoff teams: 3-3 (0-1 on road)
Key Injuries: None

Kansas City Chiefs  (12-4)
Last six games: 5-1
Home: 6-2
Against Playoff teams: 3-2 (1-0 at home)
Key Injuries: None

Previous matchup (@Pittsburgh): Steelers 43, Chiefs 14.

J.R. Ewing prediction
Another intriguing game to pick because it's so close to a pick'em game.  The Steelers are red hot since a mid-season losing streak (including injury to Ben Roethlisberger) made them fight back to the playoffs.  The Chiefs likewise had to fight their way from a Wild Card to the second seed with key wins down the stretch.  I simply like the Steelers weapons (Ben, Bell, Brown) more than the Chiefs weapons (Smith, Kelce, Hill).  I'm put off also by the late season loss by the Chiefs to the Titans, it doesn't seem like they are that tough at home.  Close, but nod to the hot Steelers.

Final Prediction: Steelers 27 Chiefs 24.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
My Steelers had a great win last week, with all of the main guys healthy and just simply mowing down all of the Dolphins players one by one. This weekend, they head to Kansas City to face Alex Smith and the Chiefs. This is another rematch as these two teams met back in week 4, Pittsburgh ran over Kansas City 43-14. Now that this is a playoff match up, this will a tough one to predict, as both teams have had an incredible last few months since they last met. The Chiefs have some great targets for Alex Smith to throw to, like tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. On the Steelers side, having running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown will help significantly. While it will be very close, I know the Steelers well enough to know that no matter how badly their performance is early, they are always a second half team. I have Pittsburgh taking this one.

Final Prediction: Steelers 27 Chiefs 20.

So there you have it, when J.R. Ewing and Bulldog Babe agree, watch out.  They both have the Falcons, Patriots, Steelers, and Cowboys.  There's probably something to it (combined 7-1 picking winners last week).  Again, I want to thank Bulldog Babe for her thoughtful analysis and, be sure to follow her on Twitter, particularly during the Steelers game.  Let's just say she gets into it!

Enjoy your football weekend fans!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sportsman of the Week Ending 1/9/2017

This is another week I'm going to use blog editor privilege to extend the sports week one day to Monday.  To cover the biggest sporting event of the week while it is hot!  The National College Football Championship game delivered drama, intrigue, and excitement like the two semifinal games (and frankly, all the NFL Playoffs games thus far) did not.  In a rematch of the 2015-16 championship, Clemson would not be denied.  Mainly because their quarterback would not let them.  Deshaun Watson did not take to losing last year's game lightly.  So he lit up the scoreboard.  He threw the ball 56 times, completing 36 of them for 420 yards.  But more importantly, 3 TDs (plus another he ran in).  The biggest TD with one second left to give his team the victory.  And the championship.  And revenge.  And himself probably a bigger pay day in the pros.  Deshaun Watson is our Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2016-17 NFL Wildcard Weekend Playoff Preview

Yee Haw, I love Football!
As is the tradition for NFL playoff time, Dallas native and Cowboys fan J.R. Ewing will offer you a full range analysis of the NFL playoffs week by week.  This year, we have a special twist to discuss in a minute.  But here each playoff game will have a short analysis with thoughts on key factors then a final score predict.  The final score predict then gives you a Straight Up, Over/Under, and Against the Spread (ATS) pick to chew on for recreation purposes only.  We'll be tracking our own progress.  Or if you're someone with disposable income, gamble away (but this blog is not responsible for losses).

Welcome NFL Expert consultant, Bulldog Babe
For this year's twist, we're bringing in a NFL expert consultant to offer supporting or contradictory analysis.  Welcome "Bulldog Babe" (@bulldogbabexo) whose candid football analysis is spot on, funny, and usually turns out correct if you are smart enough to follow her on Twitter.  Bias alert, she really likes Aaron Murray and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  And if you follow NASCAR, you have to track her lap by lap analysis (just don't cheer for Jimmie Johnson).

Lines and spreads are from CappedIn.com, a great website to track picks and play along for fun.  Amazing how up to date data they have (with very informed members).

January 7, 2017: 16:35 EST
Oakland Raiders (+3.5, +175) at Houston Texans (-3.5, -205) O/U 36.5

Oakland Raiders (12-4)
Last ten games: 8-2
Road: 6-2
Against Playoff teams: 1-3 (0-1 on road)
Key Injuries: Derek Carr (out)

Houston Texans (9-7)
Last eight games: 4-4
Home: 7-1
Against Playoff teams: 2-3 (2-0 at home)
Key Injuries: Lamar Miller (probable)

J.R. Ewing prediction
Most pundits slam the Texans for playing in a bad division and having no offense.  Both true.  But they have the number one defense (by yardage allowed) and are very tough at home.  The Raiders will be starting rookie quarterback Connor Cook and this is a tough assignment for him.  These teams played in Mexico City and the Raiders prevailed on a fourth quarter comeback.  The methodical Texans get it done at home with a tough defense and enough scoring (maybe via turnovers) to move to the next round.

Final Prediction: Texans 20 Raiders 12.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
Texans have had an up and down year, especially at the quarterback position towards the end of the regular season. Raiders are without Derek Carr going into the first playoff round and their final regular season game was not their best of the season, but they will have to lean on rookie Connor Cook during the playoffs. I have the Raiders taking this game in a close one

Final Prediction: Raiders 20 Texans 13.

January 7, 2017: 20:15 EST
Detroit Lions (+8, +300) at Seattle Seahawks (-8, -360) O/U 43

Detroit Lions (9-7)
Last three games: 0-3
Road: 3-5
Against Playoff teams: 0-5 (0-4 on road)
Key Injuries: Matt Stafford (probable)

Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
Last six games: 3-3
Home: 7-1
Against Playoff teams: 3-1 (2-0 at home)
Key Injuries: Earl Thomas (out), Tyler Lockett (out)

J.R. Ewing prediction
The Seahawks edge seems to have been less since Earl Thomas went out.  Always tough at home in front of the 12th Man, self-proclaimed loudest crowd in the NFL.  They have sputtered on offense with no real running game this year.  But the Lions are reeling badly.  Note no wins against playoff teams for Detroit, they seem to have little chance to keep up with the Seahawks.  Lower scoring victory for Seattle, but closer than people think.

Final Prediction: Seahawks 21 Lions 17.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
This is a great matchup with two great teams that have had a great season. Despite his injured finger, Lions QB Matt Stafford is having one of, if not, his best season since being drafted by Detroit in 2009. He became the fastest player in league history to throw for 30,000 pass yards in just his 109th career game, breaking Dan Marino’s record of 114 games. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is a mobile quarterback who has that ability to extend plays. Just because of that, he will be a force to be reckoned with when he faces the Lions defense. It will be a close matchup I feel like as well.

Final Prediction: Seahawks 24 Lions 21.

January 8, 2017: 13:05 EST
Miami Dolphins (+10, +380) at Pittsburgh Steelers (-10, -455) O/U 46

Miami Dolphins (10-6)
Last eleven games: 9-2
Road: 4-4
Against Playoff teams: 1-3 (0-2 on road)
Key Injuries: Ryan Tannehill (doubtful)

Pittsburgh Steelers  (11-5)
Last seven games: 7-0
Home: 6-2
Against Playoff teams: 2-3 (2-2 at home)
Key Injuries: None

J.R. Ewing prediction
No team in the AFC seems hotter than the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose last loss was an epic thriller to the Dallas Cowboys.  The Dolphins have also been winning with one of the best records in the NFL the second half.  However, missing Tannehill is a killer.  And while they defeated Pittsburgh earlier in the year, these Steelers are vastly improved.  Much better offensive weapons, plus terrible towels and the Steelers roll easily against the punchless Dolphins, who rely on the running game and Jay Ajayi to protect leads or keep them in close games.  This won't be close.

Final Prediction: Steelers 31 Dolphins 10.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
Dolphins have a great running back in Jay Ajayi, but the Steelers have a great offensive line with guys such as wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell included in the mix. These teams faced each other in week 6 and it was not a good run for Pittsburgh, but it will be a different go around this time. Pittsburgh will be playing angry remembering the previous matchup in week 6.

Final Prediction: Steelers 24 Dolphins 14.
January 8, 2017: 16:40 EST
New York Giants (+4.5, +185) at Green Bay Packers (-4.5, -215) O/U 44.5

New York Giants (11-5)
Last eleven games: 9-2
Road: 3-5
Against Playoff teams: 3-2 (1-2 on road)
Key Injuries: None

Green Bay Packers  (10-6)
Last six games: 6-0
Home: 6-2
Against Playoff teams: 5-2 (4-1 at home)
Key Injuries: None

J.R. Ewing prediction
The Packers are the talk of the NFC after living up to MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers prediction of "winning out" after Week 11.  They are always impressive at home and did damage against playoff teams this year.  The Giants haven't been too shabby either, and Eli Manning just knows how to win in the playoffs (8-1 in his last nine playoff games).  The Giants fight tough, but the Packers too tough at home.  The temps will be well below freezing, keeping it lower scoring than otherwise.

Final Prediction: Packers 24 Giants 17.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
Eli Manning is one of five quarterbacks to win a road game in Green Bay, he has done so twice. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are headed into Sunday on a six game win streak and Rodgers threw for 300 yards last week in the matchup against the Detroit Lions. He is also has had an MVP, and he has had a stellar season despite the team’s regular season record. Sunday is the first time that they will face off in the NFC Wild Card game, so it will be another great game.

Final Prediction: Packers 27 Giants 20.

The NFL playoffs are for the fans, no more pretenders, just contenders.  I want to thank Bulldog Babe for her analysis and contributions and hope she can join us the rest of the postseason (her contract at this point is week to week).  Enjoy the games, and we'll provide a postmortem along with Division Playoff analysis next week!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Sportsman of the Week Ending 1/1/2017

Our first Sportsman of the Week hails from a team we've recognized many times for the college football exploits.  But he was not the first player you would have figured for the honor coming into the week.  Alabama Crimson Tide RB Bo Scarbrough was just about the sole highlight on offense in the Peach Bowl, and with one run, put the College Football playoff game out of reach.  Scarbrough busted out a 68 yard TD run on a day that mistakes kept dooming the Tide as they held on to a 17-7 lead over the Washington Huskies (7 of those points off of a defensive score).  Scarbrough also hit a TD to tie the game in the 1st quarter on an impressive 18 yard TD run.  His overall stats of 19 carries and 180 yards were season highs, and just in time to enable Alabama to try and repeat as College Football Playoff champions.