Tuesday, August 30, 2011

NFL Division Preview: NFC South

Look here, Matt: it says if Peyton doesn't play, you might be the top QB in the AFC South!

The Indianapolis Colts may have won the AFC South eight of the past 10 years, but after a season in which they did so with only 10 wins -- their fewest since 2002 -- the winds of change may be blowing through.  Below is the first of our divisional previews which we will roll out as a precursor to more in-depth looks at the beasts of the AFC, Pittsburgh and New England.

1) Which QB in the division will have the best QB Rating at the end of the season?

Scott Simon: Schaub is going to have a big year, in part, thanks to his defense. He won't need to make as many plays or take as many chances this fall. That being said, it's Peyton. No question.

Sam Widdoes: I'll just assume this question is really asking "Who will be the best quarterback in the division?"  The answer is Peyton Manning because Hasslebeck sucks, the Killer G's for the Jags will combine to be mediocre, and I'm still not ready to give Matt Schaub the division crown.

Johnny Hendrie: Obviously it depends on the health of Manning, which isn't looking particularly good right now for Indy. If healthy, it's Manning. If not, Paper MaSchaub by default.

Nate Hendrie:  Matt Schaub.  The Texans are banged up at RB to start the season, they have games against Oakland, Cleveland, Cincy and Carolina to fatten up, and no other team will start a QB for more than 13 games.  Easy pick.

Dave Hendrie:  The last thing I will ever do is underestimate Peyton Manning. Unless this is his last year I don't expect him to be anything but exceptional.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ed's Food Commentary: Game Day Special

Guest columnist Ed has been so inspired by his work on the Collective that he decided to create his own blog Bachelor Chow. This blog will unveil some of Ed's culinary mastery with at least one new recipe a week. Below is one of Ed's introductory blog posts. Stay tuned for more culinary mastery to come.

Football is all about things you can eat with one hand so you don't have to miss the action by having to look down and use utensils. Here are some d'oeuvres that will fit your Saturday quite nicely.

Quick Dip Tip: Get a personal French baguette and a bag of tortilla chips for everyone dippin. Triscuits are money dippin utensils too.

Chicken Taquitos
Taquitos are mini enchiladas that Texans eat on a regular basis, so you know they're over the top and awesome.
These men were all vegans before they had a taquito.

Dissecting the "Elite 8" of the NFL

One of my recent posts broke down the contenders for the NFL title. My conclusion was that there was an "elite 8" in the NFL. These eight teams had a relatively equal chance of coming away with the Lombardi trophy this January. The other twenty four teams, in my opinion, only have about a five percent chance of winning the whole thing.
Thanks Todd and Company
Recently, Scouts inc. came out with their top 200 players in the NFL list. Although I disagree with some of the ratings, I thought it would be interesting to see how the "elite 8" stacked up with the rest of the league in terms of the best individual talent. I broke down the ratings by assigning a point value to each player. The top player (in this case Tom Brady) would be assigned 200 points while the bottom player would be assigned 1 point. This system resulted a teams elite player raw score (simply just the players values added up). One stat is that these eight teams have 75 players rated in the top 200. This is a testament to some really great drafting. Below I ranked the eight teams by their raw scores

Steelers (14): 1362
Packers (10): 1303
Eagles (10): 1160
Ravens (10): 1132
Patriots (8): 927
Colts (7): 777
Falcons (8): 759
Saints (8): 731

Next post, I will take a look at each on of these teams depth by taking Scout inc.'s player score (95 for Tom Brady) and adding them up for every starter. Until then, here are the elite player breakdowns by team.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Q&A with Howard Schnellenberger

After spewing some serious hate in his last post about the ACC, guest contributor Ed is back in action with a different twist. Here at the Collective, we cherish eclectic mixes of fact, opinion, and weirdness. This "interview" with legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger puts a capital E in eclectic.

A Q&A with Howard Schnellenberger
Howard Schnellenberger is the current coach of Florida Atlantic University, but is known for his role as the head coach of Miami University that brought them to glory. He also coached under legends like Bear Bryant and Don Shula. He was kind enough to take aside time from entering games in helicopters (read the entire article, it will melt your face) and wearing pimp ass suits every game to give me a Q&A session about all things football.

Q: Turning a program from obscurity to bowl eligible must be a daunting task and you’ve done it with two different programs. How do you do it?

Howard: First off you must have a solid routine. Every morning I make myself a good breakfast steak, the most important steak of the day, then I watch the entire Rambo series to pump myself up. After that it’s on to practice where we uppercut lions and run sprints through active minefields. You know the usual football stuff.

What looks like a break during practice is actually lunges on broken glass.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Of Clippers and Thunder, Gordon and Westbrook


In Part Two of at least a two-part series I'm doing at ClipperBlog, I looked at the importance of Westbrook and Gordon to their respective teams.  As it turns out, looking at the disparate recent success of the two franchises and the raw production of Westbrook tends to mislead, at least as a predictive tool for the Clips.

Westbrook had career highs in: points (21.9 per game), assists (8.2), and steals (1.9).  He became an All-Star for the first time thanks to increased efficiency from the field (44 percent), from the line (84 percent) and even beyond the arc (33 percent) — up from only 22 percent in his second season.  Still not a strong shooter, he showed promising signs by playing to his strengths, getting a quarter of his looks (6.8/game) at the rim and converting those at a 60 percent clip.
What may not be so encouraging for Thunder fans were instances down the stretch where Westbrook struggled to stay under control.  For all his power and quickness, the guy whose 316 turnovers led the NBA by 32 over the next highest total underwent a very public battle over his decision-making and execution.  He found himself on the bench during the playoffs in favor of Eric Maynor because Maynor took care of the ball, and he seemed to struggle, at times , to understand why.  Unlike fellow 2008 draftee Derrick Rose, he is not designed to be the primary option on his team — that’s Durant.  And unlike Gordon, he seemed unable at times to defer to his star teammate...
Even in a down year, Gordon is the better shooter by far, and it is the area in which he figures to have the biggest advantage going forward.  He is a natural shooter with the athleticism and strength to get to the hoop, whereas Westbrook is a penetrator by trade taking jumpers when defenses give him too much space.  If Gordon can even return to his career form of 37.5 percent from downtown — and he should continue to find openings as teams focus on Griffin — it shouldn’t be a surprise to see his numbers jump into All-Star territory.  For whatever that’s worth.
What makes Westbrook’s journey through last spring even more interesting to Clipper fans is what it can teach us about Eric Gordon.  We saw what Westbrook could do – both good and bad —  over a season in such high usage, but to this point Gordon has not had that opportunity.  He may not be the primary ballhandler next season, but he does have a clear opportunity to assume an even more prominent role with Mo Williams playing to his strength off the ball as a spot up shooter. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New England Renaissance Series: #6 Noah Vonleh

The New England Renaissance Series is an ongoing countdown of some of the best prospects in the region regardless of class. It is important not to dwell on the order of the rankings but rather on the unprecedented amount of talent the region possesses.

#6 Noah Vonleh (2013)
Height: 6'7   Weight: 190
Hometown: Georgetown Mass
School Team: Haverhill High School
Travel Team: Mass Rivals
NERR Rank: 3     National Rank: 18
Vonleh's recent offer from the University of Kansas only underscores this young players unlimited potential. The Georgetown native can play four positions, run the floor, and play well above the rim. This combination of versitility and athleticism make Vonleh one of the top player his age in the country. It will be worth watching him next year as he will be moving to play for New Hampton Prep. Here is is ESPN evaluation and highlights.

A tremendous young talent, with a world of potential, Vonleh has improved by leaps and bounds within the last year. He has a long and strong build and appears to still be growing with huge hands and feet. He plays the game with terrific economy of motion, taking the ball off the defense glass and pushing the length of the court with four dribbles and getting to the rim in the half-court with only a single bounce. He plays through contact already, passes well, has a good nose for the ball coming off the glass, has good touch on his jumper, and a handle that has become a weapon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Big Night for the Bucs

Not sure how much we all know about what happened last night, but it was ENORMOUS for the Pirates so I figure I'll give a little recap.

The MLB first-year player draft (also known as the Rule 4 draft) was held in Secaucus, New Jersey two months ago.  No players showed up because it was right in the middle of their seasons and it was in Secaucus, among other things.  

On that night, the Pirates selected RHP Gerritt Cole out of UCLA, one of the handful of players worthy of the top pick in what is considered to be one of the deepest talent pools in the history of the draft.  (Cole had been selected 30th overall by the Yankees, not because of talent but because of his strong commitment to UCLA, three years earlier and decided not to sign.)

In the second round, the Pirates took a flier on arguably the best high school hitter in the draft -- and remember, good hitters rarely even wind up in college because teams tend to snatch them up out of high school -- outfield monster-masher, Josh Bell.  With their first two picks, the Bucs had selected a legit frontline ace pitching prospect and one of, if not the, best bat in the draft.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New England Renaissance Series: #7 Kuran Iverson

The New England Renaissance Series is an ongoing countdown of some of the best prospects in the region regardless of class. It is important not to dwell on the order of the rankings but rather on the unprecedented amount of talent the region possesses.

#7 Kuran Iverson (2013)
Height: 6'8    Weight: 205
Hometown: Windsor Connecticut
School Team: Northwest Catholic
Travel Team: Connecticut Select
NERR Rank: 2     National Rank: 12

Iverson has the ability to be a young Kevin Durant when it is all said and done. He is a legitimate 6'8 wing who can shoot from deep, take people off the dribble, and finish explosively. Iverson has all of the tools to be a McDonalds All-American by the time his high school career is finished. Here is his ESPN evaluation and highlight video. 

An incredibly skilled and talented young player, with a world of talent, Iverson has as much long term potential as any player in the class of 2013. He stands a legitimate 6'8" with guard like skills and the versatility to play four different positions on the floor. He has the complete package for a skill standpoint, able to shoot the three, make mid-range pull-ups, score with a jump hook on the low post, handle and pass against pressure, and create for himself and others. Physically, he has great agility for his size, a pretty strong and developing frame, and solid athleticism.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The NFL's "Elite 8"

Since ESPN just came out with their initial NFL power rankings today, I was in the mood to do something similar. Most people would agree that the NFL is the hardest league to predict year in year out. The fact that there are only sixteen games, a multitude of injuries, a hard salary cap, and short primes for even the best of players, all contribute to a league that prides itself on parity. Although there is always a chance that a random 7-9ish team can win the superbowl one year later (Cowboys in 2011?), this years NFL has an elite group that should stake claim to the Lombardi Trophy this winter. The amazing thing about this "Elite 8" is that they are equally distributed amongst the AFC and NFC. Just for fun, I decided to categorize the 8 teams based on their likelihood of winning it all. In reality, each of these eight teams has a pretty equal shot.

Friday, August 5, 2011

New England Renaissance Series: #8 Kris Dunn

The New England Renaissance Series is an ongoing countdown of some of the best prospects in the region regardless of class. It is important not to dwell on the order of the rankings but rather on the unprecedented amount of talent the region possesses.

#8 Kris Dunn (2012)
Height: 6'3     Weight: 180
Hometown: New London Connecticut
School Team: New London High School
Travel Team: CBC
NERR Rank: 10     National Rank: 48

One of the fastest rising players in the country is New London's Kris Dunn. Dunn uses elite quickness and a serviceable outside shot to put immense pressure on opposing defenses. It would be criminal if we also didn't include Dunn's confidence as a tool. It is clear that all of the players around him feed off it. Here is his ESPN evaluation and highlight video.

Dunn is a young and talented guard who is really just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. The key for him is confidence; he finally believes he is a player. He has good versatility in the backcourt, able to play either guard position because of his length and skills with the ball in his hands. He shoots the ball well off the catch or the dribble, gets to the rim equally well in the open floor or the quarter court, and will also create for his teammates. It's a good mix getting buckets and distributing the ball. He has all the physical capabilities to blossom into a good defender as well.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cool story, Hansel

The other day I went on a tour of the White House.  I saw a lot of the rooms named after colors, the hallway in which the president announced that we got bin Laden, the state dining room and I even got to pet the pup that Sasha and Malia play with every afternoon.  Pretty cool stuff.  But the best part was talking to the security guards, all of who double as tour guides and know the place inside and out.  As I was leaving the grounds, my friend and I were marveling at all the security and one of the guards overheard us.  We're both 6'6" so the guy jumps into a story he figures we both might be interested in:

-- You guys know Shaq?

-- Yeah

-- Well every time he's in town, he comes to the White House, walks right up to the side of the gate, and asks if he can go in and say hi to the President.  Just say hi.

Can I come over and play?

Monday, August 1, 2011

New England Renaissance Series: #9 Georges Niang

The New England Renaissance Series is an ongoing countdown of some of the best prospects in the region regardless of class. It is important not to dwell on the order of the rankings but rather on the unprecedented amount of talent the region possesses.

#9 Georges Niang (2012)
Height: 6'7   Weight: 230
Hometown: Methuen Mass
School Team: King Philip Regional
Travel Team: BABC
NERR Rank: 8   National Rank: NR

Niang might not have the highest ceiling of some of the others on this list, but the Iowa State commit might have been the most effective high school player in New England this year. He uses supreme footwork, feel for the game, and timing to be a scoring and rebounding machine for both BABC and Tilton. Here is his ESPN evaluation and highlight tape.

Niang is a highly skilled four-man who can score both inside and out. He is a throwback low-post player with exceptional footwork and a wide arsenal of offensive moves featuring every pivot and counter move in the book as well as a soft touch over either shoulder. Niang is equally dangerous on the perimeter as he has picture perfect shooting mechanics and is a very dangerous catch and shoot threat all the way out to the three-point line.