Even as the Christmas parties start flooding in over the next couple of weeks, Water Cooler Talk still finds the time to ditch the party and make sure to watch football. The food was great, but the people weren’t, so off I went to watch two great championship games on Saturday night. If you took my advice and picked Michigan State, then hoorah for you! If you took a chance on UNC, my bad. The Vikings laid an egg (my bad again), and darn if I didn’t take a chance on the Eagles! The Panthers are still unbeaten while the Patriots fall to the #3 seed…who’d have thunk it? Only one college game this week, but of course a plethora of NFL. The MLB Winter Meetings have been great so far, with trades and signings left and right. Enough of that though, hide the monitors from the boss, minimize your online shopping window, and let Water Cooler Talk help you be the sports guru of the office this week.
No shockers this past weekend from the championship games, except maybe that Iowa hung in until the very end against Michigan State. Hats off to you Iowa, you were oh-so-close to being in the top four. Stanford cruised, as did Houston, as did Alabama, and Clemson too (thanks to more awful ACC officiating).
Now our top four has been set and the committee made the absolute right call deciding between the #3 and #4 seeds. The Spartans took #3 while Oklahoma dropped to #4, but Sparty deserves that ranking. We’ll soon be discussing the New Year’s Eve semifinal games which are sure to not disappoint.
The Heisman finalists have been announced: Alabama RB Derrick Henry (1,986 yards, 23 TDs), Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey (3,496 all-purpose yards, 30 TDs), and Clemson QB Deshaun Watson (3, 512 passing yards, 887 rushing yards, 41 total TDs). Derrick Henry has been the clear-cut favorite since Bama defeated LSU, but McCaffrey has proven that he deserves some much serious consideration, especially after his performance against USC in the Pac-12 title game.
One game to watch for this week. The 116th edition of Army versus Navy is always one that has to be watched. The Midshipmen come into the game ranked #21 with a 9-2 record, while Army continues their struggles as they’re just 2-9. Still, it’s a tradition that deserves its love. Navy is a (-23) favorite, and I have to agree. Navy wins over Army, 41-18.
It was ugly, especially in the first half, but Carolina managed to escape New Orleans with a 41-38 victory to move to 12-0. Cam Newton executed a beautiful drive at the end of the fourth quarter to put the Panthers up for good, cementing his place among the MVP discussion. For the third straight season, the Panthers are NFC South champions!
I don’t think Eagles fans believed it could happen, but miraculously the Eagles were able to upset New England. The Patriots have looked mediocre at best since Edelman and Lewis have been out, and of course there was no Gronk on Sunday. Brandon LaFell continues to drop passes from Brady, leaving Amendola as “the guy.” I still don’t think the Eagles have a shot at the playoffs, but in that awful division, anything is possible right now.
How awful is the NFC East? I think the records speak for themselves. Washington finally had a chance to put some distance in the race last night, but let one slip by once again. The Redskins haven’t been able to string together consecutive wins on the season, and now Dallas is still in the race for the division crown with a 4-8 record. I think it’s safe to say that the NFC East division champion will hold a sub-.500 record.
Are the Seahawks really back? The defense has been playing better lately, and Russell Wilson is putting up gaudy numbers. I think Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham going down has actually helped this team, because they can now go back to what’s worked in the past. Still, Russell Wilson will not continue to throw 4 or 5 TDs a game and Doug Baldwin will not continue to receive multiple touchdown passes. Four more weeks for the Seahawks to cement a playoff spot, with three easy games before facing Arizona Week 17.
Johnny Football is the starter again. The Browns need to see if they have a future at QB with Manziel at that spot. Careful Johnny, no partying to celebrate.
Minnesota at Arizona (-7.5) – The Cardinals are hot, winning six straight and holding on to that #2 seed in the NFC. Minnesota is now 8-4 and need to show some signs of life on the offensive side of the ball. Arizona’s defense is not going to allow that to happen, which is why they get the win on Thursday night, 27-13.
Atlanta at Carolina (-8.5) – Atlanta has really struggled the last six weeks sustaining their high-powered offense late in games and have had defensive struggles at the worst times. The Panthers want to prove that they’re not a team that will allow 38 points, so the motivation will be there to shut down Julio Jones and company. I do think Carolina loses to Atlanta, but that’s in two weeks. This week, Panthers get another win with a score of 27-16.
Pittsburgh (+3) at Cincinnati – Both of these teams looked phenomenal on Sunday on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Their first meeting was a battle with the Bengals squeaking out a 16-10 win. I expect a lot of the same this week, only with more points scored. I’m picking the Steelers for this one, with a score of 23-19.
The showdown we’ve been waiting for is finally arriving on Saturday as Conor McGregor faces Jose Aldo for the featherweight belt. 10 months is a long time to wait, but it should be worth every second when these guys finally get to go at it. McGregor is roughly a 2-1 favorite, which is right about where it should be. I love McGregor, but since I’m a betting man I’m taking Aldo in this one. I think (and hope) this fight goes the distance, meaning we’ll have a main event worth buying.
Last week I mentioned the Red Sox were making a push for David Price, eight hours later, Price (30) had agreed to a 7-year, $217 million deal with Boston. He can opt-out after three years, but no team will pay a then 34-year-old pitcher $31 million annually. Boston has their ace they’ve been needing since Jon Lester was traded in July 2014.
Speaking of big money, how about the Diamondbacks sneaking in and signing Zack Greinke away from both the Dodgers and Giants. A 6-year, $206.5 million deal did the trick, after Johnny Cueto turned down a 6-year, $120 million deal last week from Arizona. The Diamondbacks had roughly $40 million to spend this offseason, they’re now basically done signing free agents. Dbacks fans should be pumped with Greinke (32) anchoring the rotation and Paul Goldschmidt leading the offense, an offense that scored the most runs in the NL this past season.
We heard the rumors, but we couldn’t be sure if it would really go through. Well it did yesterday, the Reds traded away Aroldis Chapman to the Dodgers…or so we all thought. Reports indicate that a domestic-violence claim against Chapman held up the deal, and prospective teams (or at least the Dodgers) want to know the outcome. Reds president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty has said that multiple teams are interested in Chapman’s services, but if this charge is strung out, Jocketty won’t be able to trade away the fireball lefty. If a deal does eventually happen, the Reds will get much needed prospects and Chapman will immediately solidify the backend of a bullpen.
Johnny Cueto is the only big-named starting pitcher on the market, so now we’re all anticipating position players like Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, Daniel Murphy, Alex Gordon, and Jason Hayward to sign. Hopefully, something will happen sooner than later, but it appears teams are waiting for Ben Zobrist to come off the market before offering out the big money. Let’s have fun with this and predict who will sign with what team…
Justin Upton – Baltimore Orioles
Yoenis Cespedes – San Francisco Giants
Daniel Murphy – New York Mets
Alex Gordon – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Jason Hayward – St. Louis Cardinals
That’s all for this week’s edition of Water Cooler Talk. Follow me on Twitter and let me know what you think of the picks this week, or gripe, moan, and complain about the track record lately. Even better, show some love! Enjoy the week and weekend in sports everyone!