BLOG

It’s an exciting and sad time of year for Water Cooler Talk as the NFL playoffs are set to begin this week as well as the National Championship in college football, but that means football season is drawing to a close. Let’s take a look at the Wild Card games on Saturday and Sunday, as well as the title game between Clemson and Alabama on Monday. Black Monday didn’t have as many surprises as expected, but are there more coaches on the move? Water Cooler Talk talks about the Hall of Fame voting in MLB and some free agents who may be signed soon. Let’s get 2016 kicked off right! Hide the monitors from the boss (because let’s face it, you’re not ready to be back), kick back, and let Water Cooler Talk help you be this week’s sports guru of the office.

NFL:

NFL-logoAre any of us surprised that Cleveland fired their head coach and GM? Probably not. Is anyone surprised on how the Browns will look to fill those positions? Probably not. Usually, you look for a GM first so they can bring in a head coach they can work with. The Browns however are going about the process backwards, they’re looking for a head coach who will then have input on who will be hired as the GM. Is it any wonder this team has been so bad for so long? This job is very undesirable, which leads me to believe they’ll have to reach to bring someone in.

Tom Coughlin stepped down as the New York Giants head coach after 12 seasons at the helm. Kudos to the ownership for not firing the future hall of fame coach, they instead let him walk away with dignity. The players didn’t find this to be a satisfying move, but 12 years is a long time with one franchise. I think Coughlin finds another job in a hurry, and I think the vacancy left for the Giants will be filled in with a very viable head coach.

The Miami Dolphins are interviewing anyone who has ever coached…that’s exaggerated but they are talking to a lot of former head coaches. They are obviously ready to put a record together that matches their on-field talent.

49ers owner Jed York admitted he made a mistake last offseason by hiring Jim Tomsula, and after a 5-11 2015 he’ll look to get the team back to the glory days of winning. This too would be a desirable destination, but GM Trent Baalke is staying put. If you remember, this is the guy who drove Jim Harbaugh away to Michigan, so a red flag still remains within the 49ers front office.

The Eagles are also looking to get back to their days of winning consistently, and I’m sure it begins with someone who’s the total opposite of Chip Kelly. This is also a desirable destination, and whoever fills the position should have success for numerous years to come.

Tennessee is another desirable destination seeing as they have an established QB for years to come, a solid defense, and the #1 overall pick for the 2016 NFL Draft.

After a disappointing 8-8 season, the Indianapolis Colts didn’t fire Chuck Pagano, they instead gave him a new contract. I don’t disagree with the move as Pagano is a good coach who just happened to fight injuries on his squad throughout the season. With this new contract, let’s see if he and GM Ryan Grigson can work out their differences and get the Colts back on top in the AFC South and eventually get to the Super Bowl.

Sean Payton is still employed as the New Orleans Saints head coach, but that could change in the weeks to come. Both parties seem ready to part ways after 10 years, but the Saints won’t let Payton go so easily. Word has it that the Saints want a 2nd-round draft choice for Payton’s services. Plenty of teams will inquire about Payton, and I think the 49ers are the team to get him.

Four games are on tap for this weekend with the AFC Wild Card games on Saturday and the NFC games on Sunday. Let’s predict who will win this weekend:

Chiefs at Texans – Houston will look to embarrass Kansas City after the Chiefs put a whooping on the Texans in the season opener. The Chiefs are riding a 10-game winning streak while the Texans won 6 of their final 8 after their bye. The Texans suffered a big loss on Sunday when LT Duane Brown was lost for the season. KC continues their hot streak and gets by Houston with a score of 20-14.

Steelers at Bengals – The Steelers needed a lot of luck to get into the playoffs, but no one cares how you get in as long as you’re in. The Bengals have played surprisingly well with AJ McCarron as the QB and were close to having a first-round bye. If D-Will is out for the Steelers, this game will go to the Bengals. Should D-Will play with his ankle injury, I still think he’ll be ineffective enough that the Bengals strong secondary can contain Big Ben and Antonio Brown enough to move on to the next round. Cincinnati wins 23-15.

Seahawks at Vikings – The Vikings got embarrassed by the Seahawks just a few weeks ago, a game which was played in Minnesota. The Vikings want revenge, but I don’t know if they’re receiving corps can do enough. Sadly, I think Seattle will win 27-16.

Packers at Redskins – The Packers just can’t click offensively, the complete opposite can be said for the Redskins. With Green Bay struggling as bad as they are, I think Kirk Cousins leads the Redskins to a 30-24 victory. You like that!

NCAAF:

635850317002095475-1004202147_yuhhhhhIt comes down to Clemson and Alabama for the national championship. These are the two teams that absolutely deserve to be in this position, as they’re the best teams in the nation, especially after convincing wins on New Year’s Eve. Offensively, Clemson has a significant advantage. Defensively, these two teams are evenly matched. Both front-sevens have superb talent while each team fields an above-average secondary. Clemson DE Shaq Lawson is expected to play, which helps the Tigers have hope. I’m a fan of the Crimson Tide, but I think Clemson gets their first title since 1980 with a 28-27 win.

NCAAB:

2015-College-Basketball-National-Championship-Odds-and-Predictions-300x282If you missed last night’s Oklahoma-Kansas 3 OT thriller, then you missed what will most likely be the game of the year. #1 ranked Kansas and #2 Oklahoma showed us why they’re ranked where they are and should continue to do so throughout the remainder of the season. There’s plenty of buzz in Lawrence, KS and Norman, OK, as both teams have squads to potentially get to the Final Four. While Kansas is more balanced, Oklahoma has POTY candidate Buddy Hield, Ryan Spangler and Jordan Woodard. The next time these two will meet is on February 13th.

Let’s not forget about Michigan State. They were #1 until last week when they lost to Iowa, and that was without their best player on the floor, Denzel Valentine. The Spartans will soon have their POTY candidate back and are heavily favored to make a push to a Big Ten title and a Final Four appearance.

MLB:

1280px-Major_League_Baseball.svgThe Los Angeles Dodgers made a couple of moves last week to bolster their starting rotation. The first signing included LHP Scott Kazmir who got a 3-year deal with an opt-out option after 2016. The Dodgers then signed Kenta Maeda to an 8-year deal. Maeda hails from Japan and has a variety of pitches to include a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, slider and changeup. This past season he won Japan’s equivalent of the Cy Young Award and has a lifetime 97-67 record with a 2.39 ERA. LA now has six arms to work with in the rotation, with five lefties and Maeda who is the lone right-hander for now.

Yoenis Cespedes is still the one name we’re all waiting for to sign. It sounds as if the Baltimore Orioles are the front-runners to sign the superstar outfielder, which indicates they’re moving on from Chris Davis. The remaining chips should fall in place shortly after he signs, names like Justin Upton, Howie Kendrick, Denard Span, Dexter Fowler, and Ian Desmond will find landing spots.

The voting results will be in tomorrow on who will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this July. Ken Griffey Jr. is definitely in, and the consensus is he’ll be the first player to ever be unanimously voted in. Other names who should make the list this year are Mike Piazza and Tim Raines. Names who should be in but will probably have to wait another year are Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina.

Alan Trammell, who played for the Detroit Tigers from 1977-1996, will also most likely not get voted in which means he’ll move off the ballot starting next year. Known more for his defense than offense, the second baseman hit a career .285 with over 2,300 hits and 1,000 RBIs. If Trammell hopes to make it in,he’ll need the Veterans Committee to make that vote, but no one from the Golden Era has been voted in by this committee.

Then there’s Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Not going to happen…ever.

That’s it for this week’s edition, the first of 2016 Water Cooler Talk. I hope to have helped make you become the sports guru of the office this week, and if I have hit me up on Twitter and tell me about your conquest. Have a great week everyone!

 

 

After a week hiatus, Water Cooler Talk is refreshed and ready to tackle the final two weeks of the NFL’s regular season. Before we move on to Week 16 however, there will be some talk about what transpired during Sunday’s game between the Panthers and Giants.  Should some of the best college basketball teams start to worry?  Water Cooler Talk breaks down the intriguing bowl games in college football this week and what games you should watch (sarcasm).  Sit back, relax, hide the monitors from the boss, and let Water Cooler Talk help you to be the Christmas sports guru in the office and around the relatives for the holiday.

NFL:

NFL-logoWe can’t move on to this week’s action without first discussing the game which has been dubbed, ‘NFL Game of the Year.’ We’ll first start with the gameplay itself.  Cam Newton and the Panthers offense are legit, and any doubt of their prowess before Week 15 should go out the window.  Cam himself threw for 340 yards and ran for 100 yards.  Ted Ginn still drops passes, but seems to immediately make up for those mistakes with big-time catches as he hauled in two more TDs.  Greg Olsen continues to be the safety-net for Cam, and he has proven to be the second-best Tight End in the league after surpassing the 1,000 yard mark.  Devin Funchess and Philly Brown step up when needed, two young receivers that have a pretty high ceiling, each had a TD reception.  The defense speaks for itself, though they’ve had two rough outings in the last three weeks.  The last 20 minutes on Sunday are not what that defense stand for.  Give credit to Eli Manning and the Giants, they scared another undefeated team which seems to be there calling card in recent years.  Had it not been for bad losses in which they’ve blown 4th quarter leads, we’d be discussing the G-Men on a regular basis.  If they can shore up the defense over the offseason and add some offensive line help, this team could be dangerous next year.

On the season, Cam has 3,402 yards passing with 33 TDs and just 10 INTs, his passer rating is 98.9, and had it not been for a few drops he’d be right around 100. Let’s also not forget about the rushing yards, where he has 580 with another 7 TDs. All of this work has come without the top receiver for Carolina, Kelvin Benjamin.  With these numbers, and a 14-0 record, Cam is the MVP…he’s the CAMVP.

Now, let’s get to the sideshow. Odell Beckham Jr. versus Josh Norman, this was hyped for seven days.  In the technological and social media world that we live in, everyone heard about this unless living under a rock.  Two rising stars at their respective positions should’ve been a treat for all fans, instead it turned into Dana White’s wet dream.

I won’t go into all of the specifics and breakdown every instance because the action is being looped on every sports channel, talk show, blog, podcast…whatever is out there is showing and talking about it. Also, because I could write a short-novel.

It’s no secret that I’m a Carolina Panthers fan, but unlike the rest of the die-hards out there, I find fault with both players, not just Odell. After Josh tried to get his head taken off by Beckham, I admittedly cheered for Josh when he went after Odell on the next play, but I realize that was wrong on my part.  Speaking of that head shot by Beckham, that should’ve gotten him an ejection from the game.  Would the outcome have been different if that happened?  We’ll never know.  That’s not the point.

OBJ has been suspended by the league and an appeal has been made. The outcome of that decision should be known either tomorrow or Thursday, which puts the Giants in a tough spot as they prepare to game plan for their Sunday Night Football matchup with the Vikings.   The league made the right call, as they have told the fans that head-hunting is unacceptable, no matter who you are.

Let’s move on and discuss briefly the other ‘Game of the Year’ candidate, the Broncos and the Steelers. Pittsburgh kept their playoff hopes alive by scoring 24-unanswered points in the second half to win 34-27.  The days of the Steel Curtain may be over for now, but it doesn’t matter with the combination of Big Ben and Antonio Brown.  The Steelers have two cupcakes to finish the season with Baltimore and Cleveland, though both are on the road.  31st ranked pass defense or not, this team has potential to upset the top seeds in the AFC if they make the playoffs.

Looking forward to Week 16 now, there are intriguing games because of the playoff implications. Let’s take a look:

Redskins at Eagles – It’s simple for the Redskins, win and you’re in as the 4-seed and NFC East champs. The Eagles need to win out and have help to capture the division.

Colts at Dolphins – The Colts sit one-game back of the Texans for the AFC South lead. Indy needs to win-out or hope for a Texans loss either this week or next to have any chance of reclaiming the top spot in the division.

Browns at Chiefs – Kansas City has quietly gone on an eight-game winning streak. At 9-5 and holding onto the 5-seed in the AFC, KC all but needs to win their last ten to secure a playoff spot with Pittsburgh and the Jets holding 9-5 records as well.  Believe it or not, they could still win the AFC West.

Steelers at Ravens – Pittsburgh currently holds the 6-seed in the AFC and cannot afford a collapse to end the regular season. The Ravens won’t have a chance to pull off an upset.

Panthers at Falcons – The Falcons are still alive in the playoff hunt but need to win their remaining two games and have help to have a chance. For the Panthers, a win means the undefeated record is still intact and home-field advantage will be clinched.

Patriots at Jets – The Patriots have secured a first-round bye and hope to get healthy heading into the playoffs. The Jets look to keep their momentum going and absolutely need to win to stay alive in the playoff hunt.  With the Jets on the outside looking in, they cannot afford a loss.

Texans at Titans – It seems for now that the Texans will be on their fourth starting QB for this game, seems amazing they’re in the position they’re in.  The defense will need to step up, which seems reasonable as Marcus Mariota will be out for the Titans.  It’s easy for Houston…win.

Packers at Cardinals – The Cardinals suffered a huge loss on Sunday night with Tyrann Mathieu going down with a torn ACL, but they’re loaded so that should soften the blow. The Packers need to click on offense to have a chance.  Despite clinching a playoff berth, Green Bay needs at least one playoff home game to make a run, which means they win the division.

Giants at Vikings – The Giants season will either be over or barely hanging on depending on the Saturday game between the Redskins and Eagles. The Vikings are still fighting for the NFC North and/or a 5 or 6 seed.  Without OBJ, the Vikings chances seem very good.  Minnesota needs to win for a showdown with the Packers Week 17, a potential division winning game.

Bengals at Broncos – Both look to clinch the division this week, but both are riding second-string QBs. The Bengals will look to ground the passing attack with their extraordinary secondary, while the Broncos look to recapture their defensive dominance from the first 10 weeks of the season.  Denver is in danger of possibly losing the division and missing out on the playoffs.

NCAAB:

2015-College-Basketball-National-Championship-Odds-and-Predictions-300x282Michigan State holds onto the #1 ranking with a 12-0 record, but will be without Denzel Valentine for the next 2-3 weeks.  Despite this, the schedule favors the Spartans to remain undefeated during this time.

Duke suffered a bad loss on Saturday to Utah in overtime. The team will have to find a way to win without Amile Jefferson, who suffered a foot fracture in practice on December 12 and will miss about a month.  But it’s Duke we’re talking about, and Coach K will have his boys rebound.

UNC is also without a starter for a couple of weeks as Kennedy Meeks will miss probably another two weeks of action due to a bone bruise in his knee. The Tar Heels won easily on Saturday over UCLA and cruised past App State last night.

Despite these injuries, all teams shall have no trouble on their way to March, when the games really matter.

NCAAF:

NCAA-College-Football-Logo40 games is just too many.  As big of a college football fan as I am, I just don’t care to watch teams who barely went .500 or didn’t even win half of their games playing for a bowl.  Next week we’ll talk college football as the better games begin after the holiday weekend leading to New Year’s.

MLB:

1280px-Major_League_Baseball.svgWe’re still waiting for a majority of position players to find a new home for the 2016 season.  Jason Hayward signed last week with the Cubs, which should heat up the conversations between club and players.  Chris ‘Crush’ Davis, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon, Justin Upton, Ian Desmond, Daniel Murphy and Dexter Fowler are all still available.  The only remaining intriguing SP is Mike Leake, who should get a fairly nice contract.  Once January hits, the competitive juices within all 30 front offices will heat up, meaning free agents will come off the board and trades will spark the baseball world once again.

Have a good week everyone and a Merry Christmas.  Be sure to follow me on Twitter to share your thoughts on this week’s edition of Water Cooler Talk.

It’s that time of year when Thursday becomes the favorite day of the week and Friday the most dreaded (unless you’re insane and like getting beat-up shopping).  Water Cooler Talk always looks forward to Thanksgiving…grilling my bacon-wrapped asparagus as an appetizer, smelling the prime rib cooking, two apple pies in the oven (one for me, one for everyone else), hanging with family and friends, and watching football!  This year is extra special for me, as my Carolina Panthers take the national stage at 4:30 ET.   Seeing as Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right around the corner, Water Cooler Talk has more games than usual to make those bets and get some extra spending dough.  So, with that being said, turn your monitors away from the boss’s view, kick off your shoes for comfort, and prepare to be the sports guru of the office this week.

NCAA FB:

NCAA-College-Football-LogoI want to take a moment to brag on one of my picks from last week.  Michigan State was a 13-point underdog to Ohio State, and as you may recall, I picked the Spartans to win by 3.  Final score from Saturday night, 17-14.  While it didn’t go to overtime, if you took my pick and placed a bet, you made some serious cheddar!  You’re welcome by the way.

While the MSU-OSU outcome is considered an upset, there weren’t too many others to go around from this past week.  We did have a lot of near upsets however, which would’ve changed the landscape of the College Football Playoff Rankings and the AP Top 25.  #4 Notre Dame barely escaped against Boston College in Fenway Park in what was supposed to be a home game for the Irish, but were in BC’s backyard.  #8 Florida needed overtime to beat Florida Atlantic, #17 North Carolina also needed overtime to beat Virginia Tech, and #7 Oklahoma almost blew a 17-point 4th quarter lead to TCU.  Temple and UConn did complete upsets as they beat Memphis and Houston respectively, which assures a change in the bottom half of the AP Top 25.

My top four in the College Football Playoff Rankings for Week 13:

1) Clemson 2) Alabama 3) Iowa 4) Oklahoma

The actual top four in the College Football Playoff Rankings for Week 13:

1) Clemson 2) Alabama 3) Oklahoma and Michigan State

I always look forward to this particular week in college football because of the rivalry games, but also to see who could possibly spoil conference title games and the College Football Playoff Rankings.  Here are a few games I’m keeping an eye on for Friday and Saturday:

WARNING!  Six games picked this week instead of three…so make those bets count!

#15 Navy (-10) at Houston – The Midshipmen are 9-1 on the year and getting little love, but with a win this week and a win against Army next week, we’re looking at a serious bid for a major bowl.  Navy is hard to prepare for and will be too much for Houston, who’s coming off a devastating loss.  Navy wins, 31-21.

#7 Baylor (-10) at #17 TCU  – I wrote off the Baylor Bears, and was I wrong for that or what?  They beat undefeated Oklahoma State within the first 56 seconds of the game of Saturday, leaving the Bears in contention for the top four.  TCU will battle, but Baylor’s depth will prevail.  Baylor wins 35-24.

#8 Ohio State at #12 Michigan (+2.5) – The Buckeyes fell apart during the game and after on Saturday night, but they assure us they’ll rebound for this week.  Jim Harbaugh will frustrate the Buckeyes just like Sparty did, and then we’ll really see the lid blow off in Columbus.  Michigan wins, 18-14.

#11 North Carolina at NC State (+6) – The Wolfpack are riding a hot hand while the Tar Heels look to keep momentum heading into the ACC Championship game against Clemson.  The Tar Heels will be looking too far ahead, letting the Wolfpack get the upset win, 31-27.

#14 Florida State (+3) at #13 Florida – The Seminoles walked through Chattanooga last week while Florida barely defeated FAU.  Florida is already in the SEC Championship game and may be looking too far ahead as they prepare for Alabama.  FSU gets an easy win, 30-20.

#3 Oklahoma (-3.5) at #6 Oklahoma State – Mike Gundy’s squad lost a heartbreaker on Saturday, a game in which would’ve assured them a spot in the top-four.  That loss will prove to be too devastating for the Cowboys, the Sooners get an easy one with a score of 40-24.

And finally, #6 Notre Dame (-2) at #9 Stanford – The Fighting Irish had to travel east to Boston for a “home game” this past week, and now have to take the long flight west to Palo Alto.  Stanford hasn’t made their games pretty much of the year, but neither has Notre Dame.  What I’m saying is, this game could be ugly, but the Irish somehow manage to escape, 20-16.

NCAA BB:

2015-College-Basketball-National-Championship-Odds-and-Predictions-300x282We have a new #1 this week thanks to Northern Iowa defeating the UNC Tar Heels on Saturday afternoon, 71-67.  Now, for the third consecutive year, the Kentucky Wildcats will have held the top ranking at some point throughout the season.  The Wildcats are the clear-cut #1 team right now, and they solidified that notion last week with a double-digit victory over a very good Duke team last Tuesday.

Expect the Tar Heels to come back strong after the defeat.  They are missing PG Marcus Paige who was injured in the preseason with a broken bone in his right hand.  The senior should return next week, which is good timing for the Heels as they face the current #2 Maryland Terrapins in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

NFL:

NFL-logoWhat else needs to be proven for the Carolina Panthers to get the love they deserve?  They didn’t just beat the Redskins, they manhandled them, thanks in part to a defense that forced five turnovers and five touchdown passes from Cam Newton.  Speaking of Mr. Newton, I believe he just became the front-runner for the MVP award.  Next is a matchup with the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, a Cowboys team that has its swag back now that Romo is under center again.

Sign Brock Osweiler to a long-term contract!  On second thought, let’s hold off on that idea for now.  Replacing Peyton Manning, Osweiler threw for 250 yards and two scores as the Broncos snuck by the Bears.  Can Brock handle the primetime lights against the Patriots this week?  No.

Losing Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett puts a dagger in an already deflating 2015 campaign for the Ravens.  The injuries are still coming fast and furious around the NFL.

I certainly had no intention of watching the game last night, but I did have every intention of falling asleep to it and I did.  I now regret that decision, as apparently ‘WhistleGate‘ occurred.  The Buffalo Bills weren’t the only team robbed however, as the New England Patriots were hurt by the call as well.  Nonetheless, the Patriots got the victory that we all anticipated and remain undefeated on the season.

Seeing as it’s Thanksgiving this week, I’m only going to focus on the Thursday matchups to get you in the turkey mood, and to get you more spending money for Black Friday:

Eagles (-1.5) at Lions – The Lions are on a two-game winning streak and the Eagles are at the end of their rope with Chip Kelly as head coach.  Despite this, the Lions seemingly never win on Thanksgiving, so I’ll take the Eagles to win 21-19.

Panthers at Cowboys (+1.5) – The Panthers are coming off a dominating 28-point victory and the Cowboys are 3-0 with Romo under center, 0-7 without.  Make it 3-1 as the Panthers distract the Cowboys with the ugly color rush uniforms 26-17.

Bears at Packers (-8.5) – I don’t want to say the Packers are back just yet, but if they do anything remotely close to what they did against the Vikings, it’ll be a cakewalk.  Packers annihilate the Bears 28-18.

NASCAR:

NASCAR-logo-268x130Kyle Busch is your 2015 Spring Cup Series Champion after winning at Miami-Homestead in the series finale last night.  Busch overcame incredible odds to earn his first title.  A broken ankle and broken foot sidelined him for nearly one-third of the year at Daytona in February in the Xfinity Series, an injury that takes up to eight months to recover from.  When he had to win, he did.  While fans would’ve liked to have seen Jeff Gordon ride into the sunset as a champion, there’s no arguing that Kyle Busch deserves to be this year’s champion.

Speaking of Jeff Gordon, the ride is over.  He fought hard all night to get the top spot, but just didn’t have the car to get it done.  It’s going to be strange to watch the first few races of 2016 without seeing or hearing Jeff Gordon’s name and car.  Love him or hate him, Jeff Gordon was a great driver (93 wins and 4 championships) and a great spokesperson for the sport.

Jeff, if miraculously you read this, thank you for everything you’ve done in NASCAR and best of luck with your future endeavors.

MLB:

1280px-Major_League_Baseball.svgThe Los Angeles Dodgers have signed their new leading-man, and it’s a name that’s surprising to those who don’t follow baseball closely.  Dave Roberts takes over a very talented, yet current team in flux right now due to free agents and a large salary number.  Roberts, who is most famously known for his steal of second base in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS for the Boston Red Sox, served as the bench coach for the San Diego Padres last season.  In a game where numbers are defining decisions in the front office and the field, Roberts fits the analytical approach the Dodgers are taking, a role in which Don Mattingly didn’t fit which ultimately led to his firing.

Like what you see?  Follow me on Twitter and share your experience of being the sports guru of the office, or even better, let me know if you took any bets this week.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

  • 1
  • 2