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1. Super Bowl Sunday is just two days away and one of the biggest matchups to watch for is between two Texas players: Wes Welker vs. Aaron Ross.
In Super Bowl XLII, when these two faced each other, Wes Welker was the leading receiver in the game making 11 catches for 103 yards. Welker’s biggest catch of the game came late in the 4th quarter for a first down to set up the New England Patriots inside the New York Giants 30 yards line. Welker eluded Aaron Ross over the middle on that play to set up a go-ahead touchdown.
Even though Ross didn’t really make an impact on the stat sheet (2 tackles), he arguably had the better game. Shifting between helping on Randy Moss on long passes and taking other receivers going down the middle, Ross and the Giants defense didn’t allow any passing play to go for more than 20 yards in the game. Their combination of defensive line play and outstanding coverage in the secondary is what allowed them to win the game.
(It still blows my mind that Eli Manning was named MVP. Really? Was it Eli Manning that held the best offense in NFL history to under 300 yards and just 14 points?)
Photo courtesy Mike Roemer
That’s what makes New York so dangerous this year. They don’t let teams that live for the big plays get them. Aaron Rodgers had just one pass go for more than 20 yards against the Giants. Alex Smith had a few more, but totaled less than 200 passing yards in an overtime game.
Meanwhile, Wes Welker is likely to be the focal point of Tom Brady and the New England offense with Rob Gronkowski coming into this game less than 100 percent. Expect Ross to help out a lot on Welker, Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez because they don’t have a wide receiver that will be a legitimate deep threat in this game. In the last Super Bow, the Patriots had Randy Moss. Now they have a cast of also-rans punctuated by a washed up Chad Ochocinco.
Their running game isn’t much stronger either. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is capable of breaking out for a big game occasionally, but it’s unlikely to happen against this Giants team. And with New York sporting an incredible trio of wide receivers against a New England secondary that’s been vulnerable all year, it seems like, once again, the Giants can expose every weakness the Patriots have in the big game.
For personal reasons, I’m rooting for the Patriots. But I really don’t see how they win this game.
Prediction: Giants 30, Patriots 24
2. The second game of a back-to-back set the night after a close comeback victory is always significantly less daunting when you’re playing the worst team in the league. Such was the case for the San Antonio Spurs when they took down the New Orleans Hornets 93-81 for their 3rd straight win.
The Hornets were actually able to hang in with the Spurs throughout most of the game, but San Antonio was able to close the game out with a superior 4th quarter at home. This time they didn’t need a Tim Duncan last second shot to win it.
But Duncan still had a big game, going 6-8 for a game high 19 points and nine rebounds. Tony Parker also put in 18 points with seven assists.
This is what I was expecting when Manu Ginobili first went down: the Tim Duncan and Tony Parker show. We haven’t really seen it much over the last couple of weeks, but it happens when Tim Duncan doesn’t slow down the ball. It can be frustrating to see Duncan get the ball in the perimeter, face up against his man, and then wait a few seconds before making his move as he stares at his opponent and gives a few ball fakes. When he had a quick first step, this was a useful tactic. But he doesn’t have that anymore. It’s best for him to make his move right away, and that’s what I’ve seen out of Duncan the last couple of games. He’s been really good at finding open spaces in transition and when the defense gets behind on switches.
San Antonio’s biggest test as to how they’ve improved offensively and defensively will come on Sunday when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder in their last game before they start their Rodeo Road Trip.
Photo courtesy Bradford Harrison/Playmaker Magazine
3. The Dallas Mavericks start a back-to-back set tonight when they host the Indiana Pacers and then travel to Cleveland to play the Cavaliers on Saturday.
What I wouldn’t give to be in Cleveland tomorrow night. I’ll be tuning in to see the crowd reaction alone. After this Dallas Mavericks team took down Lebron James and the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals last year, I would expect nothing less than for the city of Cleveland to provide a heroes welcome for the Mavs, complete with a pregame tribute.
Hopefully we’ll start to see the re-emergence of Dirk Nowitzki, who has shot extremely poorly since returning from taking a week off to heal his right knee and get back into playing shape. Dirk has scored 28 points in his last three games and shot just 28% from the field in that span. He’s hesitating every time he gets the ball. He’s passed up wide open looks to drive to the basket and when he does, he doesn’t finish near the rim nearly as well as he did last season.
Charles Barkley thinks it’s Father Time catching up with Dirk and that there’s no way that the Mavs can win a championship with the current team’s make up. I still think Dirk has way more left in the tank and in a year where everything has been thrown out of sync for Nowitzki and the Mavericks, it’s just been tougher on him to find his footing.
I still think the Mavs will make some noise and we’ll be talking about Dirk Nowitzki turning things around a couple of months from now.
4. The University of Houston Cougars are moving on up in 2013. Next year will be their last in Conference USA as they’ll be set to join the Big East, a BCS conference that will bring more money and more success if they can maintain their winning ways, especially in football.
We know now that U of H student have the athletic department’s back as a record student turnout resulted in a vote that gave the athletic department more money to build a new football stadium and to renovate the current basketball arena.
With all the attention the school has gotten over the last few years which led to Kevin Sumlin scoring a job as Texas A&M’s head coach, the University of Houston is going to start looking like a very desirable school for top high school athletes in and out of Texas. A new stadium and a BCS conference schedule goes a long way in helping the Houston Cougars become a major player in college sports, especially in football.
Photo courtesy Jamie Squire/Getty Images
5. According to reports, Josh Hamilton had a relapse with alcohol earlier this week and will address the media today about the incident.
We all know of Hamilton’s past with drugs and alcohol. Under normal circumstances, this would be considered a personal problem that would barely warrant a mention to most fans. But the consequences of this incident are evident because Hamilton is in the final year of his contract and has said that he won’t negotiate with the Texas Rangers anymore once spring training starts.
Hamilton slipped once before three years ago in January of 2009. Back then Hamilton reportedly “drank to excess.” So far there’s no telling how much he had to drink during his relapse this week, but any alcohol is too much with a guy like Hamilton.
We’ll see if this affects the money he could potentially get from the Rangers, but I would suspect that it doesn’t because whether this incident happened or not, there’s going to be a lot of teams that will throw a lot of money at him and tell him to go be a free agent next year so he can get that big payoff.
6. Speaking of the Rangers, a team source has told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that it’s unlikely that Roy Oswalt is coming to Texas. And I can’t really say that I blame him.
Roy Oswalt wants to be a starter and he wants to have an impact with a good team. Texas was going to bring him in and stash him in the bullpen as an insurance policy in case a starter got injured or didn’t pan out. But Oswalt doesn’t want to go to the bullpen. The Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, and even the Houston Astros have spots in the starting rotation for him and they’re all likely willing to pay him the $10 million that he wants for a one year deal.
So it looks like the Rangers are going to stick with Matt Harrison and the other four starters that Texas already has in their starting rotation. Now if they can find a way to get rid of Koji Uehara, they’ll be all set in their bullpen as well.