Steezy Sports NFL Week 15 Power Rankings

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Steezy Sports NFL Power Ranking Week 13

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Thank You Mr. Beckham, Sincerely The United States of America

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To some people David Beckham is a soccer player, to others he is a model. Most women love the way he looks, most men want women to look at them the way they look at Beckham. There are so many labels that can be used to describe Beckham and most of them are true. When Beckham came to Los Angeles in 2007 to join the Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy most people thought it was a big publicity stunt. The only publicity stunt was the astronomical figure of a 5-year/$250-million contract. What really happened is the way soccer is viewed in the United States has changed forever.

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Before Beckham, most Americans didn’t care about soccer. In fact the most Americans could tell you before Beckham’s arrival were that Pele was the “guy who made the cool-looking bicycle kick” and that girls liked some guy named David Beckham who modeled for Armani. They even played a World Cup Final and no one really seemed to care. American’s were very uninterested in soccer because it was a sport that they weren’t very good at it, they didn’t want to watch their team lose and get embarrassed. Another factor was when the U.S. basketball team struggled in 2004 (being a dominant force in the Olympics  over the years and being only able to obtain a bronze) and the underdogs were beating the best in the world.  Americans now embraced the idea of being the underdog to stun the soccer world and got some help from Beckham in showing them what it would take to do so.

When Beckham took the leap of faith to come to the United States he was coming into the unknown of professional soccer. What Beckham did was show us how to distinguish good soccer from bad soccer. His style was one of which we had never seen in the U.S., the style of play was fast but under control and more organized than the likes of which we had known. His signature free kicks would wow crowds and made all the kids want to “Bend it like Beckham”.  Soccer still may not be the #1 sport in America but has come a long way in a short time. Fans now go overseas to support the U.S. National Team, watch and go to MLS games, and even go to pubs in the early hour of the morning to watch their favorite teams most commonly found in the English Premier League. Names like Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard are becoming household names that regularly appear in commercials and on ESPN.

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The Beckham effect has also encouraged other European stars to come over to the MLS. Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, Robbie Keane and Alessandro Nesta have followed Beckham’s lead in coming over to the MLS and now Frank Lampard and Kaka are being linked to replacing Beckham in Los Angeles.

When the MLS started in 1996 Americans were fired up about it and had over 2.7 million fans come thru the gates.  However, attendance would never crack the 3 million mark. In Beckham’s first season the MLS finally cracked the 3 million mark and this season, Beckham’s final in the MLS, broke the attendance record with over 6 million fans coming thru the gates.

For all the people that said that Beckham coming over to MLS was just a publicity stunt, or that he was coming just to dominate lesser competition are deeply mistaken. Even at 38, Beckham has still played some great soccer and can even still make an impact on some really good European teams. Beckham has stated that he would like to play for a team that has UEFA Champions League aspirations. He may not play the whole 90 minutes like he used to, but he can be a very good off the bench  especially to hit a very good free kick or corner kick. A return to Real Madrid would be great for Beckham but highly unlikely because of their depth at center-midfield. The ultimate storybook ending would be for Beckham to return to Manchester United to setup the likes of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, and have a chance to win one more Premier League Championship and the Champions League.

As sad and selfish as it sounds American soccer fans do not want to see Beckham go, even though he is from England, he’s always felt like our guy. He is as flashy and extravagant as any Hollywood celebrity, but nice enough to take a picture with a random person while buying groceries. As famous as he Beckham is a lot of people that have crossed his path say he is the nicest guy they ever met. We hate to see him go but the mark he has left here in the States will never be forgotten. He has made us love this wonderful game that we were very ignorant about and wear the emotions of it on our sleeves as if we were born to love it. We applaud you David Beckham and wish you luck upon your return home.

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5 Reasons USC was Unsuccessful This Season

1. The offensive line wasn’t able to protect Matt Barkley

The absence of Matt Kalil was more evident than most were expecting. He was the most important piece of the offensive line because he would protect Matt Barkley’s blindside. Last year, Barkley was very comfortable in the pocket and was able to let plays develop. This year, Barkley didn’t look as comfortable and forced many bad throws due to the pressure he was facing from opposing defenses. No matter how many offensive weapons you have, if you can’t protect your quarterback he can’t get the ball to the weapons.

2. Robert Woods was phased out of the offense

If you remember last year both Marqise Lee and Robert Woods both accumulated over 1000 yards receiving. This year Woods only compiled 812 yards compared to Lee’s 1680 yards. Some people will say that is because Lee and Barkley had formed a connection that made him the focal point of the passing game or that Lee’s skills are better than that of Woods.  Lee is and will down the road remain the better receiver but Woods is no slouch. Later in the season teams were throwing two defenders on Lee and Barkley would still try to force the ball into Lee which accounted for most of Barkley’s interceptions. When Max Wittek played against Notre Dame he would use both receivers and it really took the double teams off Lee which allowed him to go deep against single coverage. If Woods returns for his senior season and is used like he was against Notre Dame along with good play calling, you can expect to the return of the dynamic USC offense.

3. Monty Kiffin’s Defense

The Tampa 2 defense isn’t a defense that is necessarily a great fit for this USC team. There was no penetration from the defensive line and the defensive backs were lining up at least five yards off the receiver which would allow easy slant and screen plays. The defense was also very exposed against play action as shown in the Oregon and UCLA games where they would almost always bite on the play fakes. No one would stay home to sniff out the option plays or put pressure on the quarterback. Plus there wasn’t a lot of depth on this side of the football, which should be taken care of next year which is being called one of the best defensive line classes that Ed Orgeron has ever brought in. Monty Kiffin must go in order to be successful and that is going to be hard for Lane to accept but it must be done.

4.  Lane Kiffin’s play calling

If you remember at the end of the Pete Carroll regime the rest of the Pac-10 (at the time) was able to catch on to what the offensive schemes were. Pete Carroll’s offensive minds of Norm Chow, Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian were all gone. Jeremy Bates poorly ran the offense and ran wide receiver screens and student body left or right. Lane’s first two years the offense had more wildcat formations and deep pass plays. This year Kiffin seemed to be dialing up the Bates playbook because most of the season he was very conservative and went away from the style of play that had the nation waiting to see what USC would do once off probation.

 5.  This team believed their own hype

As soon as Alabama defeated LSU last season, the sports media was already crowning USC the national champions. This was supposed to be the team whose offense was so good that they would neutralize the tough defenses of the SEC.  USC had only lost one starter on each side of the ball and this team beat a LaMichael James led Oregon team that was ranked 4th in the nation in Autzen stadium, one of the nation’s toughest places to play. Plus they took Andrew Luck’s #6 Stanford Cardinals to the limit. Why not bet on this team to win it all following that season? It seemed like this year the Trojans came out playing like teams were just going to fold because they were playing the best team in the country. The last two years the Trojans had nothing to play for so they left it all out on the field. This year they had something to play for and they began to play to not lose rather than to win. The outlaw Kiffin became a timid play caller that didn’t try to maximize his offensive potential in years past. Moving forward Kiffin should hire an offensive coordinator and not call the plays himself because it takes away from his head coaching focus and as stated earlier a new defensive coordinator is needed to ensure future Trojan success.

Bronx Not so Bombers

For everyone that dislikes the Yankees yesterday was the day everyone waits for after their team has been eliminated from playoff contention.  This year there was no Mariano Rivera to shut down games in the 9th, Derek Jeter got hurt which was a total morale killer, and A-rod was too busy asking for girls phone numbers that he apparently missed the memo that the ALCS was going on. Every year Yankee fans have “World Series or Bust” on their mind, which is understandable because they have some of the best players in the world and have won 27 championships. For Yankees fan another season without a championship is like another season down the drain.

The reality of this all is only one everyday player is in his 20’s,Robinson Cano and Russell Martin but both are 29. The starting pitching is a question outside of CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. The relief pitching hasn’t been great, with Rivera getting in to his mid-40’s and Rafael Soriano able to opt-out of his contract, the Yankees bullpen can soon look to be very depleted. With all the focus on A-Rod everyone misses that Robinson Cano hit .075, Curtis Granderson hit .100 and Nick Swisher hit .167. Usually I wouldn’t be one to defend A-Rod but he isn’t the only Yankee that was disappointing this post-season.

It looks like the plan for next season is to trade A-Rod because he has run himself out of town. The Marlins maybe the only team with salary cap room that has any interest. I can also see A-Rod being packaged with a few other players and prospects and maybe sent back to Seattle, where he started his career, in exchange for Felix Hernandez whom the Yankees covet so much. Look for the Yankees to be very active in the pitching market and looking at trades for a third baseman to replace A-Rod and potentially an outfielder to replace Nick Swisher, who has also likely seen his last days as a Yankee. Soriano will likely opt-out and try to pitch for a team that will make him the closer and his value is a lot higher as a closer than it is as a set-up man. Look for the Yankees to start loading up on pieces and engage in bidding wars with the Red Sox and now the Dodgers this off-season.

Everyone’s New Favorite Reliever

Last night Oakland Athletics reliever Pat Neshek threw 2/3 of a scoreless inning that kept the A’s in last night’s ALDS game that they would eventually lose. The part not everyone knows is that on Thursday Neshek lost his newborn son Gherig just 23-hours after his birth. The A’s wore a black patch with the letters “GJN” in white; Neshek circled the letters with his finger as he hit the mound. Neshek would retire the next few batters and tap his chest before leaving the field.

In a postgame interview Neshek said, “I know it sounds so clichéd but I felt I had someone looking down.” There was some looking down Pat; it was Gherig giving his dad the strength he needed to do what he does best.  In an interview with the SportingNews Neshek spoke about the one day he spent with Gherig, “Probably the best day I’ve ever had, the one day. I’d go through it all again for that one day. It was pretty awesome.”

I’ve heard parents say that the hardest thing for a parent is for their child to pass before them, it is just way too difficult to see something you helped create and raise, taken away from you.  I am sure Neshek’s case is no different; I really respect him for coming to the mound as not just a baseball player but as a father paying homage to his fallen son.

R.I.P. Gherig Neshek

Wait ‘Til Next Year Version 2012

As we close another season of Dodger baseball there is a lot to look forward to in the 2013 season as well as things to be proud of this season. There are a few things that didn’t go our way but there were also a few pleasant surprises that picked up the team when they were down. Some people have called us the New Yankees because the Dodgers finally spent money under new ownership but people have should be saying this is something the Dodgers should have been doing all along. However, this maybe the first step in the right direction for the Dodgers. The years that were spent being a big market team that didn’t spend money or giving money to unworthy players are over. Although it doesn’t mean that we can buy anyone and everyone and guarantee a World Series. While in Brooklyn at the end of the season “Wait Till Next Year” became the unofficial phrase of Dodger fans, so in their words “Wait Till Next Year!”

This season started off on a high note with the Dodgers being in first for the most of the first half season. Matt Kemp had one of the best first months in baseball history and the starting pitching was fantastic. Then a hamstring injury that sidelined Kemp for six weeks and an injury to Andre Ethier left the Dodger offense in disarray, along with the pitching was coming back down to earth. The injuries were so bad that the Dodgers were forced to bat Bobby Abreu and Juan Rivera, third and fourth. Then some mid-season trades were made to save the season and they rejuvenated the Dodgers for a little while. Unfortunately, the Dodgers would all start slumping at the same time with newcomer Luis Cruz and Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw being the only bright spots. With all the up’s and down’s the Dodgers were finally eliminated from playoff contention in game 161. This team needed some time to build some chemistry and they appeared to do that in the last two weeks of the season which was too little too late. Next year should be very promising with the team starting together from the beginning and barring injuries should develop into one of the top teams in baseball.

When the Dodgers were owned by the O’Malley family they were known as a team that would develop their own players. The game has changed a lot since then and teams in big markets flex their financial muscle like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Los Angeles is known as one of the biggest markets in sports and for years they were unable spend money on players that they needed. When Rupert Murdoch’s group bought the Dodgers they bought players that weren’t worth the money they were paid. The most notable was Kevin Brown, who the Dodgers passed up Randy Johnson for and paid an outrageous $105-million for. Once the team was purchased by Frank McCourt the Dodgers would pay for Manny Ramirez, who would play great for the Dodgers until he was suspended for using performance enhancing drugs. They would once again fail on players like Jason Schmidt and Juan Uribe, both of whom never completed a full season in a Dodger uniform.

This year was different although general manager Ned Colletti signed some players that were not the best out there, he did the best with what he could. Then when the Guggenheim Group purchased the Dodgers, Colletti was given access to an unlimited budget like a parent giving their teenager a credit card for whatever they wanted. Although Colletti was allowed to spend he did so in a manner to fit the Dodgers needs. Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez were brought in to solidify the infield and the middle of the order. Brandon League was brought in to help the bullpen. Josh Beckett added rotation depth and, Carl Crawford and Shane Victorino to add speed to the top of the lineup and get some consistency in left field. The Dodgers did have to take on a lot of money but did not mortgage the future of the franchise to do so.

2012 Best Trade Acquisition: Hanley Ramirez. This one may end up being Adrian Gonzalez but the sample size is too small. However, in 63 games since the trade Ramirez hit .274 with 10 homeruns and 44 runs batted in. Ramirez was struggling in Miami and had fallen out of favor with manager Ozzie Guillen. Ramirez was also forced to move to third base to accommodate new shortstop Jose Reyes. The risk reward on this trade was great the Dodgers gave up Nathan Eovaldi who is a good young pitcher but nowhere near the talent level that Ramirez could be at. Ramirez had a few game-winning RBI’s and a memorable 10th inning homerun in San Francisco in his 3rd game with the Dodgers. He even developed a trademark move where he put his fingers in a circle around his eyes called “I see you”.

2012 Biggest Surprise: Luis Cruz. Cruz came up to the Dodgers to take the place of an injured Dee Gordon. He was the everyday shortstop even after the Dodgers acquired Hanley Ramirez but they two would later swap at SS and 3B. He came up clutch for the Dodgers when all of the superstars seemed to all be in a slump at the same time. He ended the year batting .297 in 78 games and was probably the most popular Dodger in the month of September. Whenever he came up Dodger Stadium would roar with the sound of CRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUZ, there is a good chance the play of Cruz may have pushed either Dee Gordon or Mark Ellis out of town.

2013 Biggest Needs: Starting Pitching. Clayton Kershaw despite not having run support was still one of the best pitchers in the league and has some of the nastiest stuff in all of baseball. Chad Billingsley was finally looking like the pitcher Dodger fans had been waiting for since he came in the league. It is no secret that Josh Beckett is far from the pitcher that led the Marlins and Red Sox to World Series Championships. However he has shown he still has good stuff and can be a good back end of the rotation starter. Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano started off well but really showed why they’re journeyman pitchers during the dog days of summer. Joe Blanton came in and wasn’t really impressive either. They just were not what the rotation needed when Billingsley went down, I doubt either one of them will be back next season. Not sure if the Dodgers will explore the free agent market for a pitcher or entertain some trades.

2013 Potential Break-Out Star: Carl Crawford. Shane Victorino is a free agent and likely not willing to platoon with Crawford means the Dodgers will likely fill the left field and lead-off spots with Crawford. Although Crawford was an all-star in Tampa Bay he didn’t really produce in his year and a half with the Red Sox. He has a .292 batting average and averaged over 50 stolen bases, which would immensely help the Dodgers who have been lethargic at the leadoff spot. Crawford signed a big contract with the Red Sox and hasn’t really lived up to it but he is only going into the third year of the contract and played well before ending his season due to arm surgery. A change of scenery might be what Crawford needs to become the player of old.