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Steve Geller


Morning Sports Anchor / Sports Talk Producer
@SteveGellerWWL
Posts from October 2012


Revamped Hornets tip off tonight
The Hornets open the regular season tonight.  New Orleans hosts San Antonio.  With so many changes for the Hornets, let's take a look at this revamped team.  The biggest changes take place up front, with the club possessing four capable players to fill the three spots.

THE FRONTCOURT:

Most eyes will be on the rookie Anthony Davis, the prize of the draft who helped lead the Kentucky Wildcats to the NCAA Championship as a freshman before jumping to the NBA.

The 6-foot-10, 19-year-old is a great defender with a knack for blocking shots.  That should instantly make him a favorite of Head Coach Monty Williams.

General Manager Dell Demps made sure to get Davis some help as well. After trading away center Emeka Okafor and swingman Trevor Ariza to clear a starting spot for the rookie, Demps made a deal with the Orlando Magic to secure the services of 6-foot-10 forward Ryan Anderson, while also getting center Robin Lopez from the Phoenix Suns as part of a three-team trade.

Lopez is a 7-footer and a nice option that will eat up minutes in the middle and save Davis some wear-and-tear down low. 

Anderson will also be key to giving Davis some room to work.  Though he has the body of a big man, the four-year vet has the shooting touch of a sniper. The 24-year-old set career bests with 16 points and 8 rebounds per game with the Magic last season and led the league in three-pointers made on the way to earning the NBA's Most Improved Player award.

Anderson's ability to shoot from the outside will force teams to pull a player out of the paint and give Davis some room to thrown down dunks.

Anderson or Lopez could come off the bench and leave minutes at the small forward spot to Al-Farouq Aminu, who had a strong finish to the 2011-12 campaign.

THE BACKCOURT:

Eric Gordon became the de facto franchise guy a season ago after coming over from the Clippers in the Chris Paul trade, but one season removed from a 22.3 point and 4.4 assist per game campaign, he was limited to just nine contests due to injury. He has seen very little action during training camp as he tries to get ready for this season.

Gordon is one of the league's up-and-comers and is under contract for the next four years after New Orleans matched the offer the restricted shooting guard got from the Phoenix Suns worth $58 million.

While Austin Rivers figures to be Gordon's running mate of the future, it seems likely that Coach Williams will opt to open the season with Greivis Vasquez starting at the point.  The second-year guard was one of three players to appear in all 66 games last season for New Orleans, and the club went 12-14 when he started.

THE BENCH:

Monty Williams figures to throw some different looks out early in the season in an effort to find the right mix of players to generate offense. That should give his bench a changing look throughout the year.

Rivers should see plenty of minutes, even if he doesn't start. The 20-year-old became just the third freshman in Duke's star-laced history to lead the team in scoring, averaging 15.5 points per game. Rivers sprained his ankle twice in the preseason, so how much time he sees off the bat is unknown.

There is also 2nd round draft pick, and 2012 SEC Sixth Man of the Year Darius Miller, as an option.  He was a college teammate of Davis'.  He should see some minutes, along with forward Hakim Warrick and big man Jason Smith, who averaged nearly 10 points and five rebounds a game last year in 40 games while missing time with a concussion.

Warrick, entering his seventh NBA season, figures to offer this young squad some valuable experience off the bench along with eight-year veteran guard Roger Mason Jr.

SEASON OUTLOOK:

The Hornets don't figure to walk over opponents night in and night out, as there will be some growing pains for the club. The Hornets will first have to establish offensive identity, while also making sure young players commit to defense.

Talents like Davis, Rivers, Anderson and Miller are used to winning, and the upcoming season could offer many moments of frustration. The key is turning those moments into lessons that will serve the Hornets down the road.  At best, I could see the team vying for the 8 seed in the West.

2011-12 Results: 21-45, fifth in Southwest Division; Missed playoffs

KEY ADDITIONS: F Anthony Davis, G Austin Rivers, F Ryan Anderson, C Robin Lopez, F Hakim Warrick, F Darius Miller, G Roger Mason Jr.

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: PG- Greivis Vasquez SG- Eric Gordon SF- Al-Farouq Aminu PF- Anthony Davis C - Robin Lopez

KEY RESERVES: G Austin Rivers, F Ryan Anderson, C/F Jason Smith, F Darius Miller, G Roger Mason Jr.
 
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Insisde the SEC: Week 9 battle of unbeatens
The race in the SEC East is Florida's to lose, while Alabama takes on the other remaining unbeaten team (Mississippi State) in an SEC West showdown.  Meanwhile, LSU is the only team in the conference off this week.

Let's go, Inside the SEC...

Mississippi State (7-0) at Alabama (7-0)

MSU has a lot to be proud of this season and is setting up for a nice bowl game at the end of the year. Unfortunately, they run into a wall this week in the form of Alabama. The Crimson Tide's defense is outstanding, and that's no surprise as it is a hallmark of Nick Saban's teams. It's the Tide's balance on offense that is really impressive and should concern the Bulldogs. If Mississippi State loads up to stop the run, Alabama can get yards and scores throwing the ball. If the Bulldogs play back in coverage, get ready to watch the Crimson Tide's backs chew up the ground in big numbers.
State is a quality team, but Bama has dominated in every game so far.  The Crimson Tide has played 420 minutes of football this season and have trailed for...wait for it...just 15 seconds.  There's nothing in this match-up that convinces me Alabama will be challenged. The Tide rolls into Death Valley to take on LSU next week 8-0.

Florida (7-0) vs. Georgia (6-1)

This shapes up to be a classic offense vs. defense battle, with Florida bringing the defense and Georgia bringing the offense. The Bulldogs nearly let Kentucky upset them last week, meanwhile the Gators compiled less than 200 yards of total offense, but still hung 44 points on turnover-prone South Carolina. Since defense trumps offense most of the time in the SEC, Florida is the popular favorite, but they don't have great comeback ability and must guard against letting Georgia get a couple of cheap scores early. If that happens, the Gators will be in big trouble. The Bulldogs are playing horribly on defense, though, and may even be bad enough to make Florida's offense look dangerous.

Kentucky (1-7) at Missouri (3-4)

On several occasions this year, Kentucky has looked left for dead. But last week, the Wildcats showed a pulse when Georgia came to town. Ultimately, they lost the game and assured themselves of missing the postseason, which will probably be enough to cost Joker Phillips his job this offseason. Unfortunately for Missouri, they haven't looked much better lately. Furthermore, if the Tigers don't win this game, a bowl appearance becomes a tough get. Missouri's offense has been out to lunch for six weeks now, and QB James Franklin remains doubtful for this game. Without him, even Kentucky becomes a formidable opponent. Perhaps the week off that Missouri had last week will have been put to good use.

Tennessee (3-4) at South Carolina (6-2)

South Carolina needs Marcus Lattimore to put up big numbers if the Gamecocks hope to stop a two-game slide. Tennessee is another team in turmoil with rumors circulating about the future of the head coach. The difference in this match-up is South Carolina's defense. If the front can put pressure on Vols QB Tyler Bray, it will cause miscues and turnovers which will give the Gamecocks enough opportunities to cash in and pull ahead. I do expect Tennessee to go down swinging but still end up on the mat for the ten count by the final bell.

Ole Miss (4-3) at Arkansas (3-4)

The last time the Razorbacks played at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Louisiana-Monroe shocked the world. This time around, the Hogs look much improved... but so is Ole Miss.  The rebels are definitely the surprise team of the SEC West so far. The key to Arkansas' resurgence the last two games has been its defense, which yielded just 14 combined points to Auburn and Kentucky. But the Ole Miss offense is light years better than either of those two opponents, while the Razorbacks offense is still a bit shaky - particularly on the ground. If Arkansas can somehow find a way to win this game, bowl eligibility isn't out of the question. Lose this game, and Razorback Coach John L. Smith can get a head start on packing.

Texas A&M (5-2) at Auburn (1-6)

Prior to the season, this looked like a pretty good matchup on paper. Now, it looks like an Aggie romp - unless Auburn suddenly finds an offense. Texas A&M was humbled somewhat last week by LSU, at least in terms of offensive output, but held their own and put a good scare into the Bayou Bengals. These Tigers are not nearly as fearsome. Auburn is completely lost at the moment, with rumors swirling about the fate of some or all of the members of its coaching staff. A road loss to Vanderbilt last week pretty much put a bow on the season, and bowl eligibility is little more than wishful thinking. A loss to A&M cinches a homebound holiday season.

Massachusetts (0-7) at Vanderbilt (3-4)

Vanderbilt isn't a juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination, but UMass is one of the worst teams in Division-IA football this year. Actually, the Minutemen aren't full-fledged members of the Football Bowl Subdivision just yet, as they are in a transitional year prior to joining the MAC. UMass is coming off a shutout loss at the hands of Bowling Green, and have lost three games against BCS conference opponents by a combined score of 145-19. Look for the Commodores to notch back-to-back wins for the first time this year.
 
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Fantasy Football Week 8: Sit 'Em, Start 'Em
Fantasy FB
My squad pulled off a big win last week over one of the league's better teams and is now 4-3 on the year.  That's good enough to be 4th best in the league and 2nd in my division.  Now I square off against WWL co-worker Mark Menard who is the GM of Stormageddon.  Like the Saints, I'm looking to put together a 3 game win streak.  I really like my match-ups, so I'm confident I will roll. Here are some of my suggestions for week 8:  


SIT EM

Steven Jackson: Running Back, St. Louis Rams

New England has given up just the 23rd most fantasy points to opposing backs so far this season. Now add to that the fact that Daryl Richardson is cutting into Jackson's carries, and that's the reason why I consider him a must sit this week. He did log his first rushing TD of the year in Week 7 vs. Green Bay, but the split time is a huge factor to consider. Richardson's activity in the passing game also should be a concern since he is stealing additional time from Jackson. 

Santana Moss: Wide Receiver, Washington Redskins

Moss has jumped into the primary role in Washington with the absence of Pierre Garcon, but I do not like the match-up this week. Pittsburgh has the ability to shutdown the passing game with their pass rush and is giving up the 23rd most fantasy point to receivers currently. Don't get me wrong, Santana is the best weapon at receiver for the 'Skins, but I do not think he is your answer this week.

Vernon Davis: Tight End, San Francisco 49ers

Davis has now had two down weeks in a row, with last week being a big goose egg on fantasy rosters. He can be a fantasy stud, but if defenses can hold him up and interfere with his ability to get open and grab passes, he's a fantasy liability. Davis has not scored a TD since Week 3 and faces a tough Arizona defense on Sunday.  I think his drought continues.


START EM

Rashad Jennings: Running Back, Jacksonville Jaguars

It looks like Jennings will finally get his shot to start in Jacksonville over the next few weeks and maybe longer, depending how long MJD's foot injury keeps him out. After Jones-Drew went down this past week, Jennings came on in relief and rushed for 44 yards and 1 TD... as well as catching 7 passes for 58 yards. The Jags offense is sad and has very few players that can make any plays, so look for the Jennings to get involved early and often this week.

Chris Givens: Wide Receiver, St. Louis Rams

For the first few weeks of the season, the only receiver that mattered in St. Louis was Danny Amendola.  But since his injury, it's been a group effort to replace him. It seems Brandon Gibson has become Sam Bradford's favorite target, while Chris Givens has become the big play guy.  He's caught a pass of at least 50 yards in 4 straight games. Well, this week the Rams face a New England offense that seems to have issues keeping leads. A lot of that has to do with not being able to stop the pass. The Pats are giving up the 4th most passing yards per game at 290. Bradford's trust in his rookie receiver seems to grow each week, and I have a feeling that continues in this game.

Heath Miller: Tight End, Pittsburgh Steelers

Miller is coming off a very solid week vs. the Bengals, where he caught 6 passes for 53 yards, a touchdown and a 2 point conversion. This week he faces the Redskins who are giving up a league worst 328 yards per game through the air, and just last week gave up 5 receptions and 79 yards to Giants TE Martellus Bennett. With such a juicy match-up, you just can't leave him on the bench.


PICK UP OF THE WEEK

Brandon Weeden: Quarterback, Cleveland Browns

The fact that the Browns are 1-7 on the season has no doubt softened the impact of Brandon Weeden's solid play on the collective fantasy consciousness. After the kind of rocky start you'd expect from a rookie QB who stepped into a first day starting NFL gig with a non playoff team, Cleveland's 2012 first-round pick has made a dramatic turnaround. He has now thrown two TD passes in each of the last three games.  He is averaging 262 yards and just one interception per contest over that span. Cleveland's faltering run game and tendency to play from behind have actually helped boost the first-year pivot's fantasy numbers. Don't be afraid to test him out this week against a San Diego team that is giving up 280 passing yards per game and fielding one of the top ten most pass friendly defenses.
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Steve Geller: Inside the SEC - WEEK 8
College football enters its eighth week and excitement couldn't be higher in the Southeastern Conference.  Alabama is riding high above the country with their undefeated and unanimous #1 ranking.  We've seen the resurgence of the East division, in particular Florida as they now control their destiny to the SEC championship.

Beyond the high rankings are high hopes. They're playing for history with every game in Starkville.  Taking care of Middle Tennessee will be essential this weekend, but looming even larger is the massive contest with Bama.  Can the Bulldogs stay focused?

Time go to inside the SEC...

LSU (6-1) at Texas A&M (5-1)

Auburn (1-5) at Vanderbilt (2-4)

Auburn's offense had a much improved outing against Ole Miss, but failed to maintain momentum and once again the defense folded like a cheap umbrella in the fourth quarter.  On the year, the Tigers have been outscored 62-3 in the 4th quarter, and that 3 was in the first game of the season.  Vandy is not all that special, but they cause turnovers on defense and they know how to pounce on a vulnerable opponent when the opportunity presents.  I expect the Commodores defense to get a late turnover or two that will put them in position to score just enough to take down the Tigers.

South Carolina (6-1) at Florida (6-0)

The Gamecocks crystal football shattered in the waning moments of the LSU game and now can ill-afford to drop another conference game, if they hope to make a run at the championship game in December or anything of significance beyond.  Meanwhile the Gators looked bored most of the night with Vanderbilt, before finally finishing them off...and Florida is poised to take another step towards wrapping up the division.  The formula for Will Muschamps's Gators is going to be the same as it was against LSU:  stifle the run game and make the QB beat you. While Connor Shaw is better than Zach Mettenberger, he can be contained as evidenced last weekend.  Expect Florida to use a heavy dose of the run game to wear out the South Carolina defense and pull out a close game.

Georgia (5-1) at Kentucky (1-6)

The Bulldogs had a week off to lick their wounds, while the Wildcats lined up and took another loss.  Look for Georgia to exorcise some frustrations and work out any final kinks they can against this outmatched SEC East foe.  Big Blue is just trying to stay above Auburn in the “worst team in the league” race at this point.

Middle Tennessee State (4-2) at Mississippi State (6-0)

Mississippi State is a prime example of a team that learns how to ride momentum and now the Bulldogs are on the verge of a special season.  This week's draw out of the Sun Belt is no chump, but MSU's continually improving line play and balance on offense should be enough to propel them to a 7-0 start and a showdown with the Crimson Tide next week.

Alabama (6-0) at Tennessee (3-3)

Nick Saban's Alabama squad has still yet to play that complete game and now the Tide's biggest concern is mounting injuries and a second straight long road trip.  Tennessee, meanwhile, is quickly slipping off into a deep sleep having lost three SEC games in a row.  The Vols fought hard in all of those games, but they haven't had the pieces in place to finish.  There's your difference in the game.  Bama, in spite of injuries and youth, is so deep and so well-coached; they've overcome lapses and hiccups in games particularly down the stretch.  I expect Tennessee to come out guns blazing, but just like previous contests only to peter out as the game wears on with Alabama chalking another dominant victory.
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Steve: LSU should beat A&M in a close game
Sixth-ranked LSU takes on 20th ranked Texas A&M today in a pivotal SEC Western Division matchup.  The Tigers lead the all-time series 27-20-3, and won the most recent meeting in the 2011 Cotton Bowl.

The LSU offense ranks in the middle of the SEC pack in terms of scoring, averaging 32 points per game. Still, Zach Mettenberger would like to be more consistent at QB; he's completing just 60% of his passes for 1,322 yards, 6 TDs and 4 interceptions.  He spreads the ball around, with Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry both logging 22 catches for a combined 604 yards and 3 scores.  Mett could find things easier this week, as the Aggies have a subpar secondary.  Meanwhile the Tiger's ground game accounts for 207 yards per game and features a stocked and talented stable of backs.  In all, six guys have rushed for at least 100 yards this season.

The Tigers' defense is as formidable as ever, with foes averaging just 14 points and 220 yards per game. LSU ranks just below Alabama in the conference in both run defense and pass defense, and also rank second in sacks.  Linebacker Kevin Minter leads the team in tackles with 63, while defensive end Sam Montgomery leads the hit parade on opposing quarterbacks, tallying 4 sacks.

Texas A&M is the top offensive team in the SEC, averaging 47 points per game and 544 total yards per contest.  Both figures are far and away the highest in the conference, and the Aggies present a balanced attack that typically generates 236 yards on the ground and 308 through the air.  Quarterback Johnny Manziel isn't playing like your typical freshman, as he leads the SEC in rushing while ranking third in passing.  Receiver Mike Evans has been Manziel's go to guy more often than not, and currently sits third in the league with 36 receptions, 549 yards and two TDs.

As for the Aggie's defense, it allows an average of 22 point per game to rank sixth in the conference.  Their efforts against the run have been much better than its showing against the pass.  Led by defensive end Damontre Moore's 8.5 sacks, A&M has taken down the opposing quarterback 19 times.  However, the unit has come up with only seven turnovers to date.

Something has to give as the SEC's best offense goes up against one of its top defenses.  Can LSU contain Johnny Football?  Manziel has been magical over the last several weeks, but he's about to be bottled up by the LSU defensive front.

I just see the power of the Tigers overcoming the flash of the Aggies.  The home field advantage can't be minimized, but I expect LSU to pick up another tough win.

PREDITCTION: LSU 27, Texas A&M 23
 
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Fantasy Football Week 7: Sit 'Em, Start 'Em
I am very fortunate to only have Jamall Charles on a bye this week as I go up against one of my league's best teams "Honey boo boo badger."  I'm sitting in 4th place at 3-3 and really want to prove as commish that I am the alpha dog, so this is a must win.  Here's my forecast for week 7.

SIT 'EM

Christian Ponder:  Quarterback, Minnesota Vikings
I know, I know...with Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers on a bye this week, Ponder LOOKS like a good option.  He had two solid back-to-back outings for decent fantasy numbers, but I think you should look elsewhere for your bye week QB.  Ponder is facing an Arizona defense that has been solid this season and only looks to be getting better with time.  This defense is ranked only 18th against the pass, but they can really shut down an opponent significantly.  Expect Ponder to see the Card's pass rush in full-force, which will create a number of inaccurate passes and possibly some turnovers.

Shonn Greene:  Running Back, New York Jets
He might be coming off a huge game, but I believe it is a fluke.  Greene is one of those guys you hate to pass up on draft day because he has great potential, but he never truly lives up to the hype.  This week he faces a New England defense that can shut down the run and if we've learned anything about being a Shonn Greene fantasy owner, it is that he is inconsistent.  Take him for what he is:  a solid back who can have a huge day or a bust of a day.  Unfortunately, his bust days come more often.

Santana Moss:  Wide Receiver, Washington Redskins
Alright, let's analyze Santana's' situation.  He is third on the depth chart, not considering Pierre Garcon's injury.  He ranks second in team receptions and yardage, but he has only had one double-digit fantasy week.  Garcon sat out again this week with his nagging, somewhat undisclosed foot injury, so does this mean we will see increased production from Moss, if Garcon remains sidelined?  I think not.  Moss tends to play the slot receiver role and this week he faces a surging Giants defense.  It is projected that his fantasy numbers might be down as much as 25% this week, indicating about a 4-5 point week.  Moss could have some increased production if Garcon continues to miss time, but at this point he is better left on your bench.

START 'EM

Ryan Fitzpatrick:  Quarterback, Buffalo Bills
It seems like this year started very similar to last season for Fitzpatrick, who is putting up big fantasy numbers.  After passing for 12 touchdowns in the first four games though, he hasn't thrown any in the last two.  That should change this week as the Bills face the 4th worst passing defense in the NFL, the Tennessee Titans, who are giving up 292 yards per game through the air. With all the QB's on bye this week, I wouldn't hesitate for a minute to give Fitzpatrick the start.

Felix Jones:  Running Back, Dallas Cowboys
Going into the season last year there were huge expectations about what Jones could do in the Cowboy's offense.  Unfortunately, due to injuries and inconsistent play, that never happened. This season he was scheduled to be the backup, but that all changed since DeMarco Murray went down last week.  Jones came on in relief and had one of his better games in a long time.  He rushed 18 times for 92 yards and a touchdown, as well as 1 catch for 13 yards.  Murray has already been ruled out for this week's game, so if you have Jones sitting on your bench get him in your starting lineup.

Martellus Bennett:  Tight End, New York Giants
Bennett started out his first season with the G-Men like a man possessed.  Over his first three games he caught 15 passes for 185 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Over his next three games, though, he only had 5 receptions for 41 yards and no touchdowns.  Look for him to get back on track this week as he faces the Redskins, who are giving up the most yards per game through the air (323 passing yards per game) and have had a very tough time covering TE's the last few weeks, getting torched by Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez and again last week having trouble dealing with Minnesota's Kyle Rudolph.

Pick-up of the week

Vick Ballard:  Running Back, Indianapolis Colts
Ballard and the Colts never had a chance to establish a ground attack last week, because Indy bailed on the run game after falling behind in the second quarter.  Ballard and Mewelde Moore did end up splitting snaps equally, as the vet is trusted as Andrew Luck's protector in the no-huddle.  Ballard, though, has a better shot at 15-18 touches this week in a home game versus the Cleveland Browns.
 
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Some big games in the SEC
Week seven of the college football season is upon us, and four unbeaten teams in the Southeastern Conference are in action.  Two are at home, and two play on the road.  The only university off in the conference this week is Georgia.
Time to go inside the SEC...
 
South Carolina (6-0) at LSU (5-1)
 
 
Auburn (1-4) at Ole Miss (3-3)
 
Auburn is a team on the verge of completely falling apart. While there have been fleeting moments of improvement on defense, at no time has this team stopped an opponent from scoring in a crucial situation. Conversely, the Tigers offense has rarely answered the bell either and is not even effective enough to be one dimensional.

Ole Miss, on the other hand, has been impressive under first year head coach Hugh Freeze. While they have a long way to go, they play with speed and with a plan.  Those are two things Auburn clearly doesn’t have. The Rebels defense is nothing to write home about, and it may be close for a bit, but Ole Miss has the speed to pull away in the second half and drop Gene Chizik’s Tigers.
 
Alabama (5-0) at Missouri (3-3)
 
Missouri’s nightmares about this game could make for a good sleep study in fear, and there is plenty to fear. Alabama has trounced every team so far and still has not played a complete football game.  That is something Nick Saban is sure to have reminded them of for the last two weeks as they prepared for this road trip.
 
Missouri’s inability to protect the pocket and establish timing with the offense are big concerns for the Tigers as Bama’s defensive front thrives on bringing pressure from multiple spots and disrupting basically everything. The Crimson Tide has sustained some injuries, but Bama’s depth is phenomenal. Missouri’s only hope is...ummm, nope can’t come up with a thing. This could get ugly before it is over.
 
Florida (5-0) at Vanderbilt (2-3)
 
Vanderbilt has to feel better after scoring a win against Missouri, but that feeling will not last long as Florida rolls into town fresh off knocking out LSU. The Commodres are the kind of scrappy team that gives coaches fits because they just keep coming.  The Gators, though, are just too physical up front along the lines of scrimmage for Vandy to handle, and that’s the difference in the game.
 
Kentucky (1-5) at Arkansas (2-4)
The Razorbacks may be a mess, but they aren’t nearly the mess the Wildcats are. Kentucky does NOTHING well, and there is nadda in terms of match-ups that favor the Big Blue. Arkansas continues the showcase for new coaching personnel and will notch another conference win, albeit against another one of the SEC’s worst teams. Hey, you gotta take them as you can get them, right?
 
Texas A&M (4-1) at Louisiana Tech (5-0)
Ah yes, the infamous Hurricane Isaac game. Don’t look now, but this match-up is suddenly between two ranked teams. Louisiana Tech is undefeated and plays a brand of offensive football that can frustrate even the best defenses. Texas A&M, though, is starting to come into its own under first-year coach Kevin Sumlin, and the late comeback win over Ole Miss ought to give the Aggies some confidence heading into this game. The biggest question in this match-up is how in the world Texas A&M ever agreed to go on the road to play in Ruston.
 
Tennessee (3-2) at Mississippi State (5-0)
Tennessee’s off week couldn’t have come at a better time after dropping two conference games and essentially ending the Volunteers' hopes for an SEC East title run. Mississippi State is riding high, playing consistent football and continuing to improve. The Bulldogs defense is good against the pass, having picked off nine passes this year, while only surrendering three passing touchdowns. That spells trouble for the Vols, who have yet to establish the run and need the arm of Tyler Bray if they hope to win. Tennessee’s defense can be had, and that, along with the previous note about the Bulldogs defense gives Mississippi State the edge.
 
Ah yes, the infamous Hurricane Isaac game. Don’t look now, but this match-up is suddenly between two ranked teams. Louisiana Tech is undefeated and plays a brand of offensive football that can frustrate even the best defenses. Texas A&M, though, is starting to come into its own under first-year coach Kevin Sumlin, and the late comeback win over Ole Miss ought to give the Aggies some confidence heading into this game. The biggest question in this match-up is how in the world Texas A&M ever agreed to go on the road to play in Ruston.
 
Tennessee (3-2) at Mississippi State (5-0)
Tennessee’s off week couldn’t have come at a better time after dropping two conference games and essentially ending the Volunteers' hopes for an SEC East title run. Mississippi State is riding high, playing consistent football and continuing to improve. The Bulldogs defense is good against the pass, having picked off nine passes this year, while only surrendering three passing touchdowns. That spells trouble for the Vols, who have yet to establish the run and need the arm of Tyler Bray if they hope to win. Tennessee’s defense can be had, and that, along with the previous note about the Bulldogs defense gives Mississippi State the edge.
 
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Steve: LSU should win a close game
Facing their second straight top ten opponent, 3rd ranked South Carolina invades Baton Rouge today for an SEC showdown against 9th ranked LSU.
 
Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks laid a smackdown on Georgia last week, and their reward is traveling to Death Valley to play an angry Fighting Tiger football squad that is coming off a loss in Florida. That's like knocking out Lennox Lewis and turning around to see Evander Holyfield in the other corner waiting for you. 
The Gamecocks are now 6-0, and it's their best mark since 1988. The team has won 10 straight games overall, the longest win streak in school history, and its current ranking represents the highest since 1984.
 
Les Miles' Tigers are also facing their second straight top ten foe.  LSU was flirting with disaster for the last couple of weeks, and it finally caught up with them last weekend in Gainesville. Now at 5-1, LSU plunged to ninth in the rankings and will need to run the table the rest of the way and receive help to get back into the BCS race.
 
The Tigers have dominated this series, holding a 16-2-1 advantage all-time, including a 10-1 mark in Baton Rouge. LSU has also won four straight against South Carolina.
 
Long gone are Spurrier's days of the "Fun 'n Gun" that he used so effectively with the Gators. South Carolina plays a much more methodical game, relying heavily on a dominant ground game, instead of airing it out. The Gamecocks come into this contest averaging a steady 181.5 yards per game rushing the football, on 4.4 yards per carry.
 
It helps to have a workhorse in the backfield in the form of All-American Marcus Lattimore. The junior tailback missed half of 2011 with a knee injury, but he has found his way back to the field in 2012.  Lattimore is leading the team in rushing and touchdowns. The 6-foot, 218-pounder is also the team's top receiving threat, coming out of the backfield with 18 receptions for 133 yards.
 
Junior quarterback Connor Shaw has been more of a manager of the offense than a game-changer, connecting on 75.7 percent of his passes, for 733 yards, with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. He also adds a running dimension under center, averaging 56 yards per game on the ground.
 
The South Carolina defense was at its best last week against Georgia, holding the Bulldogs to a meager 224 yards of offense. The Gamecocks rank fourth nationally in scoring defense, 11th in total defense and are tied for the most sacks in the country with 25.
 
The star on the defensive side of the ball is 6'6" sophomore end Jadeveon Clowney. Last season's SEC Defensive Freshman of the Year, Clowney has picked right up where he left off. He has 25 total tackles this season and ranks second in the SEC in both tackles for loss and sacks.
 
LSU has put up some big numbers offensively out of conference, but has managed a mere 16 points in its two SEC games thus far. The Tigers have had the majority of their success on the ground this season, ranking fourth in the conference in rushing at 198.3 yards per game. Unfortunately passing the ball is not a strength, with LSU ranking 12th in the SEC at a mere 195.7 yards per game.
 
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has played to mixed reviews thus far, completing 61.8 percent of his passes, for 1,174 yards, with six touchdowns and three interceptions.
 
The loss of tailback Alfred Blue has not helped the cause; although Kenny Hilliard, Michael Ford and Spencer Ware have tried to fill the void.
 
The LSU defense remains one of the nation's best; ranking eighth nationally in scoring defense, 15th in rush defense, second in pass defense and third overall.
 
Linebacker Kevin Minter has been a big part of their success. The junior led LSU with 20 tackles and a forced fumble in the loss to Florida last week and now has a team-high 54 tackles on the year, with 2 sacks.
 
The front line was supposed to be a dominant force this year, but hyped ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo have yet to deliver big numbers.
 
If South Carolina holds any advantage, it's their defensive line vs. LSU's offensive line. The Tigers front has not been protecting Mettenberger adequately or opening up running lanes for the stable of backs. If LSU can corral Lattimore, all the pressure will fall squarely on the shoulders of Conner Shaw, who is effective but still has a ways to go to be an elite signal caller in the league.
I expect another hard fought game, and for LSU to come out angry and roaring to go.  I see a low scoring battle where the Tigers find just enough to get by.
 
Prediction: LSU 20, South Carolina 17
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Fantasy Football Week 6: Sit 'Em, Start 'Em
The Saints may be off this week, but your fantasy team ain't!  If you're a Drew Brees owner, I feel for you.  It's always tough when one of your main studs isn't playing.  Here's who I do and don't like in week six...

SIT EM

Hakeem Nicks: Wide Receiver, New York Giants  
Many are speculating that Nicks might return this week after sitting out weeks 3-5 with foot and knee issues. Even if he does give it a go this week, it is not likely a positive outlook anyway... given the match-up against the 49ers. If I were the G-Men, I would give Nicks one more week to heal and come out in game shape vs. Washington next week.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: Quarterback, Buffalo Bills
He had a poor outing in Week 5 against San Fran - with just 126 passing yards, zero TDs and an interception. This week the Bills face a stout Arizona defense that could pose similar issues. Also, the Buffalo offense has not looked great of late. The rushing attack has settled down, and the passing game is suffering too. The team's defensive unit is not pressuring opponent offenses, and this means that Fitzpatrick will be throwing to try to keep pace. In my opinion, this is not positive news. The likelihood of turnovers and incomplete passes increases dramatically.

Willis McGahee: Running Back, Denver Broncos
McGahee and the Denver rushing attack are becoming a second thought. As long as Peyton Manning and his receivers continue to be in sync, Coach John Fox will not hesitate to use him and the other backs as backup. This week the Broncos face a Chargers defense that was ranked in the top five in Weeks 1-4. I think both teams will focus on the passing game. Denver will win this one through the air. It's bad news for McGahee owners.

START EM

Sidney Rice: Wide Receiver, Seattle Seahawks
Ever since his breakout season in 2009, fantasy owners have been hoping that one day Rice would get back to that form. He has become the receiver that rookie QB Russell Wilson looks to the most. Rice leads the Seahawks in targets, receptions and yards.  This week Seattle faces New England. The Pats are giving up the 3rd most passing yards this season, so I am looking for Rice to have a big game this week... maybe even eclipsing the 100 yard mark for the first time this season.

Owens Daniels: Tight End, Houston Texans
Daniels is still a free agent in tons of fantasy leagues, and has scored a touchdown in three straight games.  He is third in fantasy points among tight ends, and this week he faces the Packers.  Green Bay has allowed an average of close to nine fantasy points per game to opposing TEs this year. I say ride the hot player.

St. Louis Rams Defense
The Rams defense is for real, and that was evident last week when it posted a tremendous fantasy point performance over the Arizona Cardinals. They recorded 9 sacks, recovered a fumble and allowed only 3 points.  This week, Coach Jeff Fisher's crew goes up against a rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehill and a pass attack with no reliable options. Look for the Rams to have another nice weekend.

Pick up of the week

Alex Green: Running Back, Green Bay Packers
Cedric Benson will be gone for at least eight weeks and maybe the whole season. There is plenty of talk about who will carry the load in his absence, and as it stands now, the Packers will most likely use a committee of Alex Green, James Starks and fullback John Kuhn to run the ball.  Green stands the best chance to get the most carries though especially on Sunday. Starks was horrible in the preseason and was also dealing with a turf toe injury that kept him inactive. That being said he will most likely be active this week, but since Green has been active through the first five games of the season, it stands to reason he will get the bulk of the carries. 

 
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Brees responds to Bradshaw, Fujita comments

Former NFL QB Terry Bradshaw created a mini-firestorm with the Who Dat Nation yesterday in comments about Sean Payton attending Sunday's Saints-Chargers game.  The Hall of Famer for some reason is upset that Drew Brees asked Commissioner Roger Goodell's permission to get suspended coaches Sean Payton and Vitt Joe and suspended GM Mickey Loomis in the Superdome for his record-breaking performance Sunday night.

Now, quarterback Drew Brees has responded to Bradshaw's contention that having the suspended men in the Superdome was a "slam" to the Chargers and the Unitas family.

Speaking on ESPN's "Mike and Mike" radio program, Brees said that it was entirely appropriate to ask the NFL to allow Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis and Voe Jitt to be in the 'Dome on the night Brees broke a major 52-year-old NFL record.

"I mean, we've acknowledged that this whole bounty thing for the most part is just a big sham," Brees said.  "The fact that our coaches are suspended for part of the year or the entire year is pretty ridiculous, it's obviously unprecedented.  But my opinion was that these guys, Mickey Loomis, Sean Payton, Joe Vitt, were as big a part of this night as anyone. To have the opportunity to be in to building and to be a part of it was extremely important to me. Those were all the guys who brought me to New Orleans, that brought all of us to New Orleans to help the building  the foundation of what we've been able to create there.  So I felt it was very appropriate they were there."

Click HERE to listen to the full comments from Drew Brees on "Mike & Mike."
Click HERE to listen to the full comments from Terry Bradshaw on WFAN


Brees also told the NFL Network this morning that he concurs with comments from former teammate Scott Fujita.  Fujita on Wednesday released a scathing statement in which he accused NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell of abusing his power.  

“I agree with everything Scott Fujita said in his statement,” Brees said. “I thought it was a strong statement but certainly very true.”

Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, said in his statement that Goodell had a “condescending tone” in letters sent to him and other former/current Saints players, and described the commissioner’s actions “an absolute abuse” of power.

Click HERE for more of what Fujita had to say

Brees threw a touchdown pass Sunday night to break Johnny Unitas' record for consecutive games with a TD pass.  Brees has now done that in 48 games in a row.

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Steve's SEC preview: Strongest week yet!
This is one of the strongest weeks yet for SEC matchups, and there are several key contests. Idle are Tennessee and top-ranked Alabama.

LSU (5-0) at Florida (4-0)

The Tigers will edge the Gators!  Click HERE for my in depth preview of LSU-Florida.

ARKANSAS (1-4) at AUBURN (1-3)

This might be the most intriguing conference matchup of the week, and it has nothing to do with the postseason aspirations of either team. Just how bad is Arkansas? Bad enough to be torn apart by Texas A&M last week, and in the process falling to dead last in the nation in the turnover margin. The Hogs defense is thoroughly putrid, but the real surprise has been the fact that they can’t run the ball despite having a deep running back corps. The Razorbacks would still have had hope against Auburn, were it not for an impressive defensive showing the Tigers put up against LSU two weeks ago.

So what we have is Auburn, with no offense and a mediocre defense, going up against Arkansas, which has no defense and a mediocre offense.  The Razorbacks are the more potentially dangerous team, but the Hogs haven’t shown any evidence of actually being dangerous.  With this game in Jordan-Hare Stadium, I got to give the game to Auburn on general principle.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (4-0) at KENTUCKY (1-4)

The Bulldogs’ biggest test so far has been from Troy, which should tell you something about the quality of the scheduling in Starkville.

Mississippi State needs to get off the bus and act interested if they want to win this one because Kentucky will show up to play.  Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they just don't have the personnel for any advantages here.  Expect the visiting Bulldogs to carve big running holes through the porous Kentucky defense.

VANDERBILT (1-3) at MISSOURI (3-2)

Missouri seems to have stopped the leaking in the ship, reeling off a couple of big out-of-conference wins.  Meanwhile, Vanderbilt has regressed each week since the opener, especially on offense.

That's bound to hurt Vandy in this game because Mizzou can move the ball effectively.  If the Tigers can control turnovers and stay balanced on the attack, they should notch a home win.

TEXAS A&M (3-1) at OLE MISS (3-2)

Give credit where it is due.  Hugh Freeze has done a lot with an Ole Miss team that seemed to lack talent last year.  Kevin Sumlin has done quite well in his first year at Texas A&M also, as they are a team that is clicking on all cylinders.

This should be a fun game to watch if you like offense.  The difference in the game is going to be the Aggies' defense, which should find a way to stop Ole Miss more than the Rebels' defense will be able to stop A&M.  The Aggies will win the shootout and notch another SEC West win.

GEORGIA (5-0) at SOUTH CAROLINA (5-0)
 
Both of these teams have destructive defensive fronts, and both sport offenses with explosive players in the backfield. So where's the advantage? Well, it’s Georgia's overall experience. The Bulldogs are largely composed of guys who have fought, lost, got up, and fought better the next time around. South Carolina has grown into a very formidable opponent week in and week out, but they are still missing experience and enough depth for me to feel comfortable picking them in this contest.

It will probably remain close, but in the end, Georgia's playmakers and experience should lead the Bulldogs to a win and one step closer to the SEC East crown.
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Steve's game-day report: Tigers will edge out the Gators
It’s a pivotal SEC contest today as LSU and Florida meet as ranked foes for the ninth straight season.  The Gators lead the all-time series 30-25-3, and they hold a 14-11-3 edge against the Tigers when playing in the Swamp.  LSU, however, has won the last two meetings, and are seeking their first three-game win streak over Florida since 1977-80.

The LSU offense is scoring an average of 39 point per game and prides itself on putting forth a balanced effort each time out.  The Tigers put up on average 230 yards per game on the ground and 203 through the air.  However, the rushing attack has been the main source of scoring, as its produced 16 of the 22 offensive TDs.  Tailback Kenny Hilliard leads the team with 366 yards and six TDs, and a total of five players have at least 100 yards on the year.

The Tigers' aerial attack is led by QB Zach Mettenberger, who has completed 65.5 percent of his passes for 1,016 yards, and has six TDs and two interceptions.  Receivers Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, Jr., and Kadron Boone have combined for 44 grabs, 627 yards, and all six of Mett's scoring strikes.

Like so many years past, this year’s LSU defense is among the best in the nation, allowing just 12.6 points and 218 total yards per game. The Tigers have been equally tough against the rush and pass, yielding just 83 yards per game on the ground and only 135 through the air.  They also average more than eight tackles for loss per contest, and have logged 11 sacks and 12 turnovers.  Linebacker Kevin Minter leads the team with 34 tackles, while safety Micah Eugene has a club-best three sacks.  Both cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Ronald Martin have a pair of interceptions. Opponents have not scored a single point in the third quarter this season against LSU, and average just four points in the second half of games against the Tigers.

Florida has used the ground attack to maximum efficiency this season, averaging 225 yards per game. Running back Mike Gillislee has rumbled his way to 402 yards and five TDs already. As for the Gators' passing attack, it typically generates 183 yards per contest, with QB Jeff Driskell hitting the mark on nearly 70 percent of his throws. He has just four passing TDs, and has been picked off only once.  Tight end Jordan Reed is the club's top receiver, having hauled in 16 balls for 193 yards and a score.  The one area of concern if you're Coach Will Muschamp is opponents getting to the quarterback, which is 12 times already.

Defensively, Florida has enjoyed similar success to that of LSU, allowing a mere 12.8 point per game and has given up only two passing scores all season.  They are led by defensive back Josh Evans and his 26 total tackles, while the entire defense has been credited with 20 tackles for loss and six takeaways.  Additionally, the Gators have yet to allow a point in the fourth quarter of a game this year.

Both teams have exceptional defenses, so don't expect either to cruise up and down the field when they have the ball.  LSU probably has more overall talent, but winning in the Swamp isn't easy, so expect a real dogfight.

The Tigers have been noticeably sleepwalking through the last couple of games and have the doubters out in force wondering if the cracks in the dam are real.  Here's the deal:  The praise of the Gator's defense is well deserved…BUT, they haven't played a team as proficient at running the ball and as physically controlling of the line of scrimmage as LSU.  

This should be a close, hard-hitting game, but the experience of Les Miles squad gives the Tigers the edge.

My Prediction:  LSU 23, Florida 21
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Fantasy Football Week 5: Sit 'Em, Start 'Em
The first quarter of the season is complete, and my squad is 2-2 with the 4th most points in the league thus far.   Bye weeks are upon us, and with that comes the need to go deeper into your bench... good luck in week 5.

SIT 'EM

Micheal Turner, Atlanta Falcons Running Back

Turner finally looked like the Turner of old last week against the Panthers, but that had more to do with the deficiencies of the Carolina run defense than him finding the fountain of youth.

This week he faces a Washington run defense that is in the Top 10 of the NFL, and the Skins have only allowed one rushing touchdown this year. Robert Griffin III could also take the Redskins to an early lead and force the Dirty Birds to be less patient on offense. The weakness of the Washington pass defense also makes me think that Atlanta is more likely to score through the air rather than ground.


Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills Quarterback

Believe it or not, this Harvard man leads the NFL in passing touchdowns and is eighth in total fantasy points.

No, that was not a typo folks. 

Fitzpatrick is finding his receivers for 12 touchdown scores, but he is also finding the opposing team with 7 interceptions.  Buffalo faces a stout San Francisco 49ers defense that just put the wraps on the New York Jets and QB Mark Sanchez. While Fitzpatrick is a better and smarter single caller than Sanchez, I can't see that making a difference.  The 49ers defense is third in passing yards allowed and fifth in takeaways. 


San Diego Chargers Defense

The Bolts D has been a pleasant fantasy surprise to date, allowing just 17.8 points a game, while ranking 12th overall. Norv Turner's defense is sixth against the run and 17th against the pass.  The latter is the concern in the Superdome versus Drew & Krewe.

Sure the Saints are 0-4 and backed completely into the corner, but Brees is going to throw early and often in front of a home crowd frothing at the mouth for a victory and a record setting TD. I think the Black & Gold get the win, and it'll be a shootout.


START 'EM

Malcolm Floyd, San Diego Chargers Wide Receiver

Entering the 2012 season, there were questions as to whether it would be Floyd or Robert Meachem who would step into the void at wide receiver in San Diego created by Vincent Jackson's departure.  Well, if the first four games of the season are any indication, that question has been answered.

While Meachem has been almost invisible, Floyd has flourished.  He has reeled in 15 catches for 250 yards and a touchdown and has been rewarded with a three-year contract extension.

San Diego Super Chargers QB Phillip Rivers is facing a Saints defense that has been awful, allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season. 


Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals Quarteback

Hmmmm, let's see here...Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford, Mike Vick, and the brothers Manning. Those are just a few of the quarterbacks with fewer fantasy points than Dalton. The TCU product has averaged well over 20 fantasy points in his last three games, so don't be afraid to start him against a Dolphins defense that ranks just 19th in total pass defense.

Miami just allowed Arizona's Kevin Kolb to throw for 324 yards and three touchdowns last weekend, so I have every reason to believe the Andy man can.


Minnesota Vikings Defense

This week's matchup against the Tennessee Titans, who are averaging 20.2 points per game and are without starting quarterback Jake Locker, is oh so attractive. Sure, Chris Johnson did show signs of life last week, but the Vikings are among the 10 best run defenses in the league.  They are averaging 85.2 rushing yards per game.

We also will have to monitor the news on Kenny Britt, who missed Week 4. If he is out again, this matchup gets that much better.

The Vikings may not intercept many passes, but they are seventh in the league with 12 sacks and have recovered 4 fumbles. Throw in allowing only 18 points against per game, and Minny's defense is a little bit more than just a matchup play.


Pick up of the week

Brandon Bolden, New England Patriots Running Back

As an undrafted rookie and struggling special teamer, Brandon Bolden was well off anyone's fantasy radar. We all passed off his Week 3 TD against the Ravens as nothing more than a blip, but it was a big sign of things to come as he exploded against the Bills with 16 carries for 137 yards and another score last weekend.

The performance likely wasn't enough to unseat former LSU Tiger Stevan Ridley as the Pats' top back, but it should be enough to at least earn Bolden a larger role going forward. This big bruising back from Scotlandville Magnet High School in Baton Rouge has shown he can be effective when given a heavy workload. 
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Sore start to Hornets training camp
Are you ready for some...basketball? Well, it's that time of year already.  The NBA season begins with the Hornets entering training camp today. 

Unfortunately, shooting guard Eric Gordon's participation will be limited due to soreness in his knee.  That's not a good start to the 2012-13 campaign.

Gordon underwent arthroscopic surgery last season on his right knee and didn't return to full strength until the very end of the year. 

"The team is taking a cautious approach with Eric to give him the best chance to be ready for the season," General Manager Dell Demps said of this latest setback.
Gordon has gotten the reputation of being injury-prone.  He missed 26 games in 2010-11 and played in just nine contests last season after coming to New Orleans in the Chris Paul trade. Gordon signed a max offer from the Suns as a restricted free agency during the summer, and then he saw the Hornets match that deal to keep him in the Crescent City.

"It's just a little aggravation right now, and I'm not very concerned,'' Gordon said at the team's media day on Monday. "It's just something that you hate to deal with at this point and time. But, at the same time, I'm looking forward to getting ready and progressing during camp.''

The good thing is that Gordon says there is no swelling in the knee.  He has had so many different leg problems in the past, however, that for him to already be experiencing pain is not how the new look Hornets want to tip-off the year and so much invested in him. It's definitely something to monitor as camp progresses.
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