Can The #Packers Survive Without A Running Game?

With the game tied at 3-3 late in the first quarter against the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers stood in the shotgun with his five wide receivers spread wide on the one-yard line. With no HB present, it was obvious either a QB sneak or a quick pass was coming. The play happened to be a planned QB sneak, which resulted in a costly fumble by Rodgers that proved to be the difference in the game. The question here is: why did it even come to this? Most teams would have opted to get in the goal-line package and pound their running back or fullback right up the middle. Sure, Rodgers is a fantastic QB, and he’s more than capable of executing the QB sneak to perfection on most occasions, but there’s no need to sacrifice a QB’s body down on the goal-line. Except here they had to because they don’t have a running game. One thing was blatantly clear in Sunday’s 20-17 loss against the Falcons: the Flacons can run it; the Packers can’t. Michael Turner rushed for 110 yards while Green Bay’s Brandon Jackson rushed for a mere 26 yards on 10 carries. Is this major flaw going to derail the Packers’ hope of a Super Bowl run (or even their hope of making the playoffs)?

Despite this huge discrepancy in rushing yards, the Packers were right there until the end, though. Rodgers led the Packers on a magnificent late-game rally, but a subsequent personal foul call on the kickoff halted any overtime plans. The Packers aren’t any worse than the Falcons. Anyone who watched that game knows either team could have come out victorious. The Packers are equipped with a more talented QB (some may disagree), a better set of WR’s (Jennings/Driver/Jones > White/Gonzalez in my opinion), and their defense is considered superior. Without a running game, though, the question becomes, can the Packers beat the elite in the playoffs – if they make it? The Colts of the past have survived with a suspect running game, but because they had an MVP QB leading their squad, they were able to get by. Rodgers isn’t Peyton Manning, but he’s damn good. He’s proven that he can lead his team despite having a pedestrian run game. The Packers were an unfortunate fumble and an unnecessary personal foul away from defeating the now-considered “best team in the NFC” – on the road. Spectacular QB play and great defense can get you to the Super Bowl. The Colts, Patriots, Cardinals are past examples of that. I think the Packers have just that. With an unimpressive NFC, I think the Packers have as good of a chance as anyone to come out of the conference despite their apparent flaw.

So, readers, can the Packers overcome their obvious flaw and come out of the NFC?

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Shaq Brings Up An Interesting Question On LeBron’s Return To Cleveland

Will he or won’t he do the powder throw that has become a staple of his pre-game ritual?  From the Akron Beacon-Journal:

“Shaquille O’Neal watched all last season as LeBron James tossed powder in the air to the roar of a sellout crowd inside Quicken Loans Arena. Now O’Neal wants to see if James can do it again.

‘I’m anxious to see him do the powder (expletive),’ O’Neal said. ‘We have bets he won’t do it.’

As the Cavaliers begin bracing for James’ return to the Q on Thursday, the little subplots such as the powder toss — James’ longstanding pregame ritual prior to both home and road games — are drawing great interest.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers struggled finding sports comparisons to James’ return to Cleveland. Johnny Damon’s return to Boston as a member of the New York Yankees, Rivers said, and O’Neal’s own return to Orlando as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

But O’Neal said James’ return is a far bigger deal than either of his big returns.

‘My situation in Orlando was a six, my situation in LA was a seven,” O’Neal said. “This is like a 12.’”

We’re still waiting for Shaq to throw the first punch to call out LeBron for being a puss.  This is a nice first jab to start the boxing match but perhaps he’s saving the haymaker for the postseason?

[Acron Beacon-Journal]

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NHL Appears To Have Adopted NFL/NBA-Like Rules For Protecting Superstars (Video)

Watch carefully as Sidney Crosby perfectly executes this take down on Ryan Callahan of the Rangers, known as a slew foot (an illegal maneuver, for the record).  Watch even more carefully as the refs call a penalty on Callahan for interference.  Kobe Bryant and Tom Brady are nodding somewhere.

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Cynical Sports Writers

By Nick Childs

(Editor’s Note: The article Nick references here can be found by following this link}

On the greatest day, in my eyes, in Colorado Rockies’ offseason history, I didn’t think anything written about the Rockies could make me mad. I was wrong.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports writes, “What could’ve been, though. Oh, what could’ve been. On one hand, Tulowitzki played things safe. He was reasonable. And on the other, he lacked the fortitude to chase the greater glory that awaited him elsewhere. The money he could’ve gotten and the championships he could’ve won had he simply played out his current contract with the franchise that can’t help itself from taking a blade to its jugular.”

Saying that someone “lacks fortitude to chase the greater glory” by being loyal to a franchise that he loves and brought him into the big leagues is simply ridiculous. Sometimes I wonder if some writers either don’t understand what makes an athlete great or special or if they just want to write these ridiculous columns simply to make people like me mad.

I don’t see how being loyal and not using the Rockies merely as a stepping stone to get somewhere else shows a lack of fortitude. If anything, it displays great character and class. Any other take on this move by Tulo is absurd.

What does an athlete have to do to make the right decision these days? I guess some people are just so cynical that they jump at any opportunity to criticize a player or organization. And this is the industry I am trying to get into? Do I really want to be a columnist, so I can be a cynical prick like Passan that won’t ever give someone their due for making a good decision? No thank you.

Tulo did the right thing. He didn’t go down the Lebron path, waiting for free agency and receiving what I see as Passan’s idea of “greater glory.”

Some athletes don’t do it for the money Mr. Passan. The high character guys want to stay with one team for their entire career and do everything in their power to bring that franchise a championship. I mean, seriously, criticizing someone for being loyal to their team is inexplicable.

Tulo doesn’t want his “A-Rod moment” of getting a $200 million contract that Passan later refers to.

I can understand criticizing the Rockies move here but only because they are taking a huge risk. Signing someone for the next 10 years is always a risk, but if there is anyone to take that gamble on, its Troy Tulowitzki.

Tulo doesn’t want to win a ring with another team. He wants to bring a World Series championship to Colorado, and for that, we thank you, Tulo.

Man, I want to go Derrick Anderson on Jeff Passan right now.

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NBA Weekly Seven

by Eddie Moore

1) San Antonio Spurs (12-4): Tony Parker is apparently the antithesis of Tiger Woods. When the times get tough (see: Tony and Eva Longoria’s divorce info), his game gets better. Ever since news broke about his divorce, the Spurs reeled off five straight wins until losing to the red-hot Dallas Mavericks. In a Western Conference filled with quality teams such as the Mavericks, Utah Jazz, New Orleans Hornets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Denver Nuggets, the Spurs have quickly emerged as the greatest threat to the Los Angeles Lakers. I’m pretty certain most Laker fans would agree, too.

2) Utah Jazz (13-5): The Jazz started the year off losing three of their first five. NBA pundits questioned whether Al Jefferson could fit in Jerry Sloan’s complicated system; rumors swirled about Deron Williams wanting out once his contract expired; and not adequately replacing Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver proved costly. Since then, the Jazz got on a roll. They managed to get dubbed the “Comeback Kids” after ferocious comebacks against the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, and the Charlotte Bobcats. They’re now 12-2 since their lethargic start and all criticism has vanished. With two games against the Mavericks in the next six games, we’ll be able to better gauge what team really deserves this spot.

3) Dallas Mavericks (13-4): Don’t look now, but the Mavericks have won five straight and are sitting with an impressive 13-4 record. What’s most surprising about the Mavs, though, is that they’re road warriors. They’re 6-1 on the road this season, and some of those wins have come against the Nuggets, Hornets, Thunder, and Spurs. Not too shabby. Everyone bashed the Brendan Haywood signing went it occurred (and deservingly so, he’s sucked!), but the biggest surprise on their team so far is the play of Tyson Chandler. He’s averaging nearly 10 points, 9 rebounds, and over 1.5 blocks a game. If the Mavericks have any intention of defeating the Lakers in a playoff series, they better hope Chandler keeps up his play. Dirk Nowitzki is carrying the load offensively and is quietly having an MVP-like season, but there’s still reason to worry if you’re a Mavs fan. If Dirk has an off night, they’re going to lose. The Lakers, Thunder, Jazz, Celtics, Heat, and Spurs on the other hand, they can all overcome one of their stars having a bad night. That’s what’s going to hinder the Mavs’ playoff run in my opinion. Mark Cuban needs to make a deal. Andre Iguodala and O.J. Mayo come to mind.

4) Los Angeles Lakers (12-4): The reason I don’t have the Lakers atop these rankings is because they haven’t really defeated anyone of note. Their most notable wins this season are the Suns, Rockets, Warriors, Bulls, Blazers. Sure, they’re top five in the league in points, rebounds, and assists per game, but I want to see the Lakers beat some of the blue-chip teams before I just jump them over the Spurs. It didn’t help that Roy Hibbert absolutely destroyed Pau Gasol head-to-head either. The Lakers have the easiest stretch of their schedule coming up now (MEM, HOU, SAC, WSH, LAC, CHI, NJ, WSH, IND, PHI, TOR, MIL), so 22-6 or 23-5 is completely feasible for LA. After that stretch, though, they battle against the Heat, Hornets, and Spurs. We won’t be able to tell how much better the Lakers are than anyone else until January.

5) Boston Celtics (12-4): Unlike the Lakers, the Boston Celtics have impressive wins – Miami (twice), Chicago, Oklahoma City, and Atlanta. It was an unfortunate blow to the Celtics to have enigmatic Delonte West go down with a severe wrist injury. Rajon Rondo has battled injury lately, but at this point, the Celtics are just trying to keep everyone healthy. Once Perkins and (Jermaine) O’Neal return from injury, the Celtics present the greatest threat to any team in the NBA. The Celtics are the class of the East and with six guys averaging double-digit points, they also have the greatest depth in the league, with the possible exception of LA. The most spectacular thing about this team, though: Rondo is still averaging 14+ assists. Absolutely insane.

6) Oklahoma City Thunder (11-6): Is Kevin Durant even the MVP of his own team right now? I don’t think so. Russell Westbrook led the Thunder to two impressive road victories with Durant sidelined, most notably the one against Boston, and he’s taking a Derrick Rose-like leap this season – how’s 24 PPG, 9 APG, and 2 SPG for you? This team, like Utah, started off slow going 3-3, but since then has gone 8-3. The best-kept secret about this team is that they quietly have formed quite the Big Three. Jeff Green is averaging 18 PPG, a jump up from 15 PPG last year. Also, Russell Westbrook might have the play of the year thus far:

7) Orlando Magic (12-4): This seventh spot was by far the most difficult to fill. The Bulls, Hornets and Indiana Pacers could easily slide here, but the X-factor was Dwight Howard. I still believe this team needs to make a major trade if they plan on making the finals, because I really don’t see how this team is any better than last year’s. Howard, though, is having the best year of his career and maybe we need to start believing that his tutorials with Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon are the catalyst. It’s too bad there’e a remote chance Steve Nash ever gets dealt, because fans would drool at the prospect of seeing Nash run pick-and-rolls with Superman. I still believe Gilbert Arenas, especially with his recent play, wouldn’t be a horrible option either. Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter and Gilbert all have horrible contracts. Why can’t a switch be made?

On the bubble: Chicago Bulls (9-6), New Orleans Hornets (12-4), Indiana Pacers (8-7), Denver Nuggets (10-6)

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Is It Time For Dwyane Wade To Take A Stand?

This LeBron circus is threatening everything Wade had planned for when the Big Three agreed to unite this summer and someone has to make a stand to possibly salvage the season.  Whether that is Riley firing Spoelstra to become coach or whether it’s someone challenging LeBron remains to be seen.  In his latest column, SI’s Chris Mannix calls out D-Wade for throwing his coach under the bus with recent comments to the media in which he stated, “I’m not going to say he’s my guy, but he’s my coach, you know.”  Mannix goes on to blast him for the weak move.  From SI:

“The offense is too simple, too predictable? Please. Miami’s offense is sputtering, sure, but it’s not because of the system. It’s because Wade, a basketball alpha male, can’t find a way to play effectively off the ball. Neither can Bosh. And the next time a play breaks down, take a closer look at who was the one who called it.

‘A lot of times LeBron will call his own play,’ an advance scout said. ‘And when it doesn’t work, he will look at the bench like it’s the coach’s fault.’

Spoelstra cracks the whip? Coaches of underachieving teams do that. Granted, Spoelstra doesn’t have the jewelry of Riley or Phil Jackson, but his credentials are solid. Last season, the Heat won 47 games with a lame-duck roster and one player (Wade) carrying the load. A .500 record with that group would have been cause for celebration. What Spoelstra did was squeeze water out of a rock.

His peers know it. Hell, Riley knows it. For years, rival executives have been trying to pry Spoelstra away only to be told by Riley that he was off limits. Spoelstra has been groomed for this situation. He’s ready for this. Riley isn’t going to wake up one day and decide Spoelstra can’t coach. Not after handing him an incomplete roster that doesn’t rebound or stop point guards from probing the paint. Not on the word of players who have griped publicly about playing 40-plus minutes and who would prefer to play a game less than prepared if it means working up only a light sweat in practice. Riley doesn’t want this mess. If he does, it won’t be long before he sees Spoelstra on someone else’s sideline.

What Riley should do is support Spoelstra publicly. And Wade should follow suit. Grueling practices and tough love are nothing new to Wade. He has seen the benefits of such tactics, and if he forgets, there is a diamond-encrusted reminder on his ring finger. If the options are backing Spoelstra or supporting cohorts with flimsy playoff résumés who have known nothing but coaches who have bent to their every whim, then that decision shouldn’t be a tough one.

Miami is Wade’s team, Wade’s town. He has asked everyone to believe it, to believe he can lead this team to great heights. This is his chance to prove it.”

Couldn’t agree more with Mannix’s take and I am loving all of these new revelations that we’re learning about LeBron.  I hadn’t the slightest clue that he was the destroyer of the offense who continues to call his own number while failing miserably.  Why couldn’t we have learned about this in Cleveland before we handed him back-to-back MVP awards??  It’s clearly been going on forever and I am desperately awaiting the day someone big calls him out in the media.  T-Mac got the ball rolling yesterday, but someone big is going to give it rocket fuel soon.  Although Riley or D-Wade would obviously be great, I’m thinking a Shaq rant (remember, the big diesel spent the season with him last year) is definitely in our future.

Pray that we get so lucky.

[SI]

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Louis Farrakhan’s Grandson Balled Last Night For The University Of Virginia

Yes that Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the nation of Islam.  From the Washington Post:

“With 17 minutes 36 seconds remaining in the second half Monday night, Virginia freshman guard Joe Harris made a three-pointer to cut the Cavaliers’ deficit to five. Five seconds later, Minnesota guard Blake Hoffarber responded with a three-pointer of his own.

This was what longtime college basketball coach Dick Bennett was talking about when he told the Cavaliers during dinner Sunday night that, as Harris later recalled, “our transition defense was just terrible.”

But thanks to the hot-shooting of Harris and senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan – who combined to make 8 of 11 three-point attempts – Virginia remained in contention long enough to correct its flaws. The Cavaliers trailed No. 15 Minnesota by 13 and led by 14 during a second half in which Virginia’s adjustments eventually led to an 87-79 victory, its first on the road over a ranked opponent since 2007.

This was what Bennett was talking about when he told the Cavaliers (4-3) during that same meal that they played with great heart and were an above-average shooting team.”

By what it sounds like in the article, he doesn’t do this often.  I guess it is way too much to ask that he makes the NBA.

[Washington Post]

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Drew Brees Wins The SI Sportsman Of The Year Award

Seemed like the logical choice.  The only person who could have competed with Brees would have been Josh Hamilton, but only if the Rangers had won the World Series.  That of course didn’t happen.  From SI:

“For not only leading the New Orleans Saints to the first Super Bowl title in the franchise’s history, but also for helping lead the city of New Orleans’ rebirth after the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, quarterback Drew Brees is the recipient of Sports Illustrated’s 57th Sportsman of the Year award. Brees will be honored at a ceremony Tuesday evening in New York City.

The SI award comes as Brees and the Saints have won four consecutive games and, with an 8-3 record, moved solidly into playoff contention in defense of the championship they won a year ago in Miami. Brees, 31, was the MVP of that Super Bowl game, but he wins SI’s highest honor for much more than just his ability to play football.”

No word on whether Peter King tried to vote for Brett Favre.

[SI]