Monday, September 22, 2008

Top NBA Rookies in 08' 09' Season

This year's NBA draft has several great guards and a few strong forwards/centers. Here are the rankings/ratings on my top 5 prospects of this NBA season.

1. Greg Oden - This "rookie" has been recovering from knee issues for the last year or so. It will be interesting to see how he performs in the coming year. Size/strength/talent wise I'm pretty sure he'll make one of the top 7-8 centers in the league immediately. However, he will have to continue conditioning and strengthening his body to become one the top big men in this bone-crushing league. Offensively, I don't expect him to do much as he was mainly drafted for a threatening defensive presence. He average 4 blocked shots (4 blocked shots), 15 points, and 10 rebounds. Some solid stats for a potential solid player. His impeccable blocking capability and superior rebounding skills give him a boost over most of the other rookies this year vying for the best first year big man. I will give this handsome hunk an B+. (I am a tough grader)

Pros: Defensive abilities have flowered. Makes him one of the best.

Cons: Offensively, he is average. Another primary concern that remains is his health.

2. Michael Beasley - First off, his off court follies will hurt my grading of him. To me, people who can't focus on their jobs don't deserve to do too well. The reason he is on my top 5 is because he is an extremely talented player. After watching highlights of Beasley and Love, Beasley seemed to be the better player. His court awareness and his ability to creates shots is phenomenal. Moreover, his high school stats are drop-down crazy (Take a look: about 50 PPG, 20 RBG, 8 BPG) - Yes crazy is an understatement. But he still performed like a star during his time at KSU with more humanly stats. Unlike the other top large prospects in this draft, Beasley will prove to be the #1 offensive threat (with Kevin Love in a close second) this year. I give him a B+/B.

Pros: Talent, pure raw talent. This kid is amazing on the court and if focuses on the game (i.e. conditioning, watching tapes, playing hard at scrimmages, learning from mentors) he has the potential to become a very dominant PF.

Cons: Off court follies = Lack of focus. Especially in Miami, these youngsters might have the tendency to go a bit Tipsy. I don't want him to become another Ron Artest, Dennis Rodman, and the ilk.

Beasley/Rose Summer League Highlights

3. Derrick Rose - Out of my top 5 picks, he is my favorite. He has loads of talent - passing, court vision, and shooting. He just needs to work on a few things...taking better shots..ball handling (maneuvering with the ball), and learning how to handle screens. I read something about this on ESPN, and was in accord with David Thorpe. If you watched the NCAA finals last year, you noticed he lacked the ability to utilize screens to his advantage. He took some really nice shots, but also made some irrational choices. The problem is, he had average stats in college, 15 PPG, 5 APG, and 5 RPG. The only way he can become a solid player is if he practices against the big dogs. Eh...about a B-/C+

Pros: He has an excellent work ethic. He has lot of potential - passing and shooting wise.

Cons: Although he played extremely well during HS, he played averagely in college. Hopefully he can recreate his HS performance or else he'll soon find himself floating among the free agents.

4. Kevin Love - A really bright rookie with good knowledge of the game, and great physical abilities. Unlike Oden, Love is capable of moving extremely fast without the ball giving him a major advantage over other big men. Offensively, he is capable of shooting, postsing up, and taking it hard to the rim. He is the antithesis to Oden in game play as he needs to work on defense. Better timing for blocks, boxing out some more, and other drills can really help Love become a dominant PF/C. I would have to give him around a C/C- (because his defense needs some serious help)

Pros: Excellent agility for big man, solid offensive player(probably what made him a relatively high pick in the draft)

Cons: Defense...and I mean defense - blocking, lockdown defense, rebounding, etc.

I was too tired to write a I ended up with 4. I'll list the next few top players who I know less about

5. OJ Mayo

6. Marc Gasol

7. Brook Lopez

Sunday, September 14, 2008

MLB Playoff Push is Down to the Wire

Before I reflect on my predictions from way back when, actually August 30th, I'll talk about some of the cool happenings from around the leagues.

Leading off (pun intended), Zambrano's no hitter: Today, Zambrano became just the 2nd pitcher of the year (after Jon Lester) and the first Cubs pitcher in 36 years to throw a no-hitter. And he did it at a time when his performance was unclear. The ace had not started a game since September 2, yet was hitting 98 on the gun with his heat early in today's game. The doubt erased, we will see how far Zambrano can carry Chicago in this postseason. Plus, Harden's addition will prove even more valuable once the team enters the playoffs.

For more important matters (unless you're a Cubs fan), on to the playoffs:
On August 30th, the teams I predicted would make the playoffs are:
Los Angeles Angels
Minnesota Twins
Tampa Bay Rays
Boston Red Sox
LA Dodgers
Chicago Cubs
Milwaukee Brewers
Philadelphia Phillies

Of those predictions, the only ones that are really up in the air right now are the Twins, Phillies, and Twins (all of which have 67 losses and either 82 or 83 wins). I was hoping that the Mets were not going to make it, and Philadelphia has been holding up their end by winning their last 4. Just that Milwaukee's 4 straight losses are guaranteeing that the NL East sends 2 teams to the NLDS.

And the midseason worries about the NL West being represented by a sub-.500 ballclub seem to be discounted now that the Dodgers have been surging by winning 8 of their last 10 games. And if Arizona doesn't watch it, the Giants (8-2 in their last 10) might overtake their 2nd place spot.

It would appear that the only possible reason to mention the Giants in an article of any decency would be to discuss Tim Lincecum and his shot at winning the Cy Young Award. But being a true Giants fan myself, I have to give credit to their scrappy playing of late. But back to Tim for a second. His 237 strikeouts and 2.43 ERA combined with only 3 losses make him arguably the most dominant pitcher in the NL, if not all of the Major Leagues. And with his first career shutout thrown yesterday, Lincecum has showed his maturation from a young flamethrower to a lightly seasoned ace.

Zambrano's no-no wasn't the only milestone this week - K-Rod recorded his 58th save of the season, to beat Thigpen's previous mark of 57 for saves in a season. Not surprisingly, Rodgriguez pitches for the best team in baseball. There was an era when closers were simply washed up starters who didn't have the endurance for multiple innings. Until the last couple of decades, closers routinely were asked to record 4, 5, or 6 outs to secure the win. But now days with the glorification given to closers, these specialists are called upon to record almost primarily 3 outs, and sometimes even fewer. No doubt that this is still a great record to break; it just sets the bar even higher for the next great closer on the next great winning ball club.

So finally, my playoff predictions:
I'm gonna stick with Minnesota overtaking the White Sox and their 1.5 game lead with about 13 games left in the season. However, I will replace Milwaukee with New York to make it to the playoffs because of each team's performance over the last handful of games.

Thats it for now. Let's see how many teams I pick correctly. If you would like to make your own predictions, please do so and comment.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

NFL Week 2 Power Rankings

Wow. This past weekend in the NFL was full of surprises: Tom Brady's injury, the Chargers' last-second loss, the pounding the Bears put on the Colts...the list goes on and on. Here's our power rankings for week 2 (warning: full of movers and shakers).

1. Dallas Cowboys (1-0)
Why: The Cowboys retain the top spot after their convincing 28-10 victory over the Browns. Their offense was rolling, and their defense shut down Braylon Edwards and company.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)
Why: Pittsburgh's 38-17 defeat of the Texans sounds impressive enough already, but Houston also scored both of their touchdowns during garbage time in the 4th quarter. Willie Parker was strong, and James Harrison led the defense with 3 sacks and a forced fumble.

3. New Orleans Saints (1-0)
Why: The Saints eked out a 24-20 victory at home against the Bucs, and, as expected, their offense was explosive. If their defense can continue to play just semi-decently, New Orleans will push for the Super Bowl.

4. New York Giants (1-0)
Why: The Giants were in control for the entire game in their 16-7 win over the Redskins, even if it wasn't quite reflected in the score. Their pass defense was outstanding, and Eli Manning played well.

5. Green Bay Packers (1-0)
Why: The Packers, with the exception of Aaron Rodgers, return largely the same 13-3 team from last year to this 2008 season, and they looked good in their 24-19 win over the Vikings. Aaron Rodgers handled his first ever NFL start with poise, and Ryan Grant had a good game against the tough Viking run defense.

6. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)
Why: The Eagles rolled over the Rams 38-3 on Sunday. Donovan McNabb looked like his old self, throwing for 361 yards and 3 touchdowns without even having his top 2 receivers.

7. Tennessee Titans (1-0)
Why: Tennessee's defense was relentless in the team's impressive 17-10 win over the Jaguars with 7 sacks, 2 interceptions, and a forced fumble. Despite their struggles at quarterback, the Titans are still very solid overall.

8. Indianapolis Colts (0-1)
Why: The Colts looked horrible in their 29-13 loss to the Bears on Sunday night. Peyton Manning was hesitant and rusty after missing the preseason while resting his knee.

9. San Diego Chargers (0-1)
Why: The Chargers lost a heartbreaker to Carolina, 26-24, after Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme connected with Donte Rosario in the end zone on the final play. They also lost Pro Bowler Shawne Merriman for the season after he opted today to have surgery on torn knee ligaments.

10. Denver Broncos (1-0)
Why: The Broncos dominated on both sides of the football in their 41-14 victory against the Raiders. As long as their defense can stop the run, Denver will win games, as Jay Cutler and the offense can put up a lot of points.

On the bubble: Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers

If you agree or disagree with any part of our rankings, leave a comment!
Come back next Tuesday for week 3 rankings.

Monday, September 8, 2008

US Open Women's Final

(4) Serena Williams def. (2) Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 7-5

Definitely the match of the tournament on the women’s side for me even considering the Serena/Venus quarter. They had some INCREDIBLE points and games where there were at least 4 deuces and lots of momentum swings. Their contrasting styles really made it a fantastic match with Jankovic a counterpuncher who runs everything down and Williams a power player with an extremely aggressive game.

Jelena never fails in the drama department when she plays and today’s match was no exception where she fought frequently from 0-40 or 40-0 down to push games to multiple deuces. She also showed her diva side by putting sparkles in her hair and wearing makeup onto court. Serena also had her share of accessories as she marched on in her self designed Nike outfit and her classic earrings. Not long after the match started, Serena already knocked one of her earrings off after hitting a backhand winner. This didn’t seem to hinder her performance as she managed to strike 44 winners in total past Jankovic today.

About the match, I first thought that Jankovic would be majorly overwhelmed by Serena today as it was her first grand slam final and she would be nervous. Instead, she gave Williams a big run for her money in the first set when she broke Williams at love and led 40-0 on her serve before Serena came roaring back with 4 games in a row. Jankovic wasn’t finished yet as she broke back to 4-5 before finally surrendering her serve one last time for Serena to take the first set. Serena picked up her game and was getting leads in pretty much all the games in the 2nd set but Jankovic kept running down shots and forcing errors which visibly frustrated Williams. Serena surprisingly surrendered her serve at 3-all and it seemed poised for the final to go into a 3rd set when Williams was down 0-40 on her serve at 3-5. From there, Serena took control and rolled off 4 straight games while saving another set point along the way to win the set and the championship as well as claim the #1 ranking.

I think Jankovic has a lot to be proud of this tournament as she finally broke the grand slam semifinal duck and made her first final and played in my opinion one of the best matches of her life in the final. Jankovic has been knocked by many for not doing enough with the ball and just waiting for opponent’s errors, but in the final, she went after her forehand (normally a weakness) and took her chances and went for more shots than she normally would be comfortable with. If she keeps up this play, she could definitely make another slam final and possibly win one in the near future. And as for Serena, it’s great to see that all her hard work finally paid off in a slam win. Unlike previous years, Williams has played for much of this year and has not had to take a long break off due to injuries. She has stayed fit (something she had trouble with in previous years) and has greatly improved her footwork and consistency. So all in all, both have great memories from this tournament to take back home with them as they prepare for the upcoming indoor season and we can look forward to them playing well in the European stretch and the YEC in November.

- Written by Vivian H. (Our first guest writer!)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Tom Brady Out For the Year?

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady suffered a torn ACL in today's game against the Kansas City Chiefs and is likely gone for the remainder of the season. Brady was injured when safety Bernard Pollard inadvertently rolled over Brady's leg following a throw to Randy Moss. This is devastating news for the Patriots and their fans. With backup Matt Cassel in, New England struggled against a lowly Chiefs team and had to put up a last-minute goal-line stand to squeeze out a 17-10 victory.
Assuming against a miraculous return from injury by Brady, the Pats are in serious trouble in their quest to return to the Super Bowl. New England is probably not even the best team in the NFC East right now, given Buffalo's resounding victory this morning over Seattle.
From a fantasy standpoint, Brady's injury diminishes the values of receivers Moss and Wes Welker. However, running back Laurence Maroney should see an increase in carries, and in turn improved statistics.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

US Open Final Weekend

Well...what a US Open! Truthfully, this has been a exciting tournament teeming with upsets/surprises. Most of the players I predicted to stay in did, and right now we're headed for a serious upset. The match will continue tomorrow, but Andy Murray is up 2 sets against World Number 1 Rafa Nadal. Oh yeah..I've been meaning to comment about the Nadal Wedgie ordeal. Watching Rafa play in so many tournaments, I've wondered why he has this problem. I've searched videos on youtube, and only in one he addresses it.

Back to US Open. Nadal started off weak, but found his rhythm. However, Murray was a step ahead playing a solid, steady mix of offense and defense keeping Nadal on his feet. Andy Murray was looking really strong, and hopefully he'll keep up his game tomorrow.

The Djokovic/Federer match was interesting, but nothing too surprising. For some reason, I've noticed, Djokovic is intimidated by Federer in the beginning of most of their matches.Once again he started off ice cold, but was able to find his groove. Federer had some amazing shots. He was playing like he did in the beginning of the tournament. Djokovic played some fantastic tennis towards the end, but was not able to keep up with Roger Federer's brilliant tactics and overall sound play.

Prediction for the finals: Murray vs. Federer
Winner: Federer - For the first time this year, Federer will not have to face Nadal in the finals for a major tournament. Based on this fact, Roger will capitalize, and I predict a 3 or 4 set victory. Murray is relatively new to playing on such a tremendous scale, but I'm sure he'll be back in the coming tournaments.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Today's Notable Baseball Happenings

This day in baseball featured a two important announcements, a milestone home run, and a bizarre occurrence. Sorry, next time I'll have to be a little more vague.

Since the two announcements actually have to do with the success, or lack of, for two teams, I'll lead off the order with them.

1. Joba off DL - The Yankees have decided that the starting rotation puts too many innings on the young and fragile (if fragile means one that can thrown 100 mph) rotator cuff. To reduce Joba's workload for the remainder of this season and the start of the next, he has been moved to the bullpen, where he will act as the 8th inning setup man. While I agree that this is the correct spot for Joba to pitch from, I think that Joba and his young arm are too valuable to use this year. I mean, come on Yankees, face it: you are not going to make the playoffs this year. So there's no reason to put more innings on a young arm like Joba's.

2. Kent DL'd after surgery on left knee - Not too much of a mystery here, the man has been playing for a long, long time. As mean as it is to say, I tend to root against Kent and others of the sort because of my loyalty to the Giants. However, in past articles I have predicted that the Dodgers will make the playoffs. This is why the injury to Kent hurts me just a little. Kent has been one of the biggest RBI men for the Dodgers, so we'll see how LA does without him in the lineup. The Dodgers are optimistic that Kent will be back in around two weeks, if not as a 2nd baseman then at least as a pinch hitter. And it looks like the NL West will be a close race, one that I still believe the Dodgers are going to win.

3. ARod tied for 12th in career HR's - Congratulations to ARod, who today smashed his 548th hr of his career to tie Mike Schmidt for 12th on the all time hr list. ARod, in his first year of a ten-year contract with the Yankees, appears to be finishing the season off on a high note. And if he manages to pass Barry Bonds some time in the future, that 10 year contract could be worth as much as $300 million. I've got to say that this man is amazing; I mean he's only 33 years old and is already passing legendary players' career marks. At least the Yankees believe he has many more productive years, 9 to be exact.

4. Hidden ball trick? - At least not intentionally. During the Cubs game today at Wrigley Field, Hunter Pence lined a triple into the ivy. Yet while center fielder Jim Edmonds dug out the Pence-hit ball, another popped out of the ivy as well. Although no confusion ensued, the occurrence was nonetheless amusing. I'm just surprised that this has not happened more often. On another level, outfielders could even try hiding a ball in the ivy to dig out when a home run was almost robbed or a ball actually does get stuck. Officials suspect that the ball was hit into the ivy during batting practice.

That's it for today. I'm most interested in hearing your opinions on Joba, since its the only topic that merits much discussion.

US Open Update

Here are some thoughts on key players in the tournament.

Roger Federer - Well, I'm watching the match vs. Andreev right now. Fortunately, he pulled of a win (solid 6-3 in final set). Federer has been on one smooth ride until today. He was playing like he did a couple years back when nobody could slow him down. He hadn't dropped a set, had some great winners, and he played like he wanted to win it all. Today in his match against 23rd seeded Andreev, he has struggled since the start. The first two sets went to a tiebreaker, and he lost one and won the other. Then they split sets, and now here we are in the magnificent 5th set. I'm noticing that Roger is showing a great deal of emotion, something very uncharacteristic of him. Normally, Federer is able to withold that anger/frustration during a match, but today he screamed at himself after a couple points. I'm not sure if this is from the mono he suffered from earlier this year, but something has gotten in his head (and it all came out today). He's up 4-1 in the set, and the only thing that can stop him is some sort of mental lapse(which I doubt will happen). Regardless of the match today, I'm going to Federer wins the US Open.

Rafa Nadal - There's something strange about Nadal. Every shot he takes has tremendous top spin that overwhelms most players. I think the tremendous spin he is able to put on the ball gives him an edge over shorter opponents. He cruised through all his matches, but (just like Federer) had trouble with the red hot 20-year old American, Sam Querrey. Boy, when I saw Sam pick up a set against Nadal, I was ecstatic. I thought he would pull of a tremendous upset, but then I remembered - he has only played one 5 set match. And (as I have said several times before). Anyways the match turned out to be 4 sets, but the American has a lot of potential. Standing at 6' 7'' he proves to be a threat on the tour in the coming years. As the commentators were saying, Nadal lost his "kick" or in my opinion his "spin advantage" during the match. Another potential reason for his depressing shotmaking was because of the Olympics. Querrey's height enabled him to return most of Nadal's powerful spin shots which gave the Spaniard a tough time in the beginning. Eventually, fatigue and relentless smashing overcame Querrey as Nadal pulled through. Once again, Rafa will make it to the finals as he is truly at the top of his game.

Novak Djokovic - I have not watched a Djokovic play during the US Open. Statisically, he has struggled with Cilic(4 sets) and Robredo(5 sets). Personally, I can't say much, but I hope he can get his act together and pull off a miracle because he's going to have to face Roger(or someone red hot) to get to the finals. I favor the Serb, but I'm not sure if he's going to win.

Andy Roddick - Andy. Currently America's (second) best player. James Blake is the best American (obviously). If you have checked out the courts, everyone is saying that the hardcourt is playing extremely fast. This has proved to be a great advantage for most of the hard-hitting Americans, especially Roddick. He has not struggled much throughout the Open (he skipped the Olympics to train). His strokes are actually really clean and crisp. His aggressive game has pulled off some easy victories, but his next round match vs. Gonzales will be tough. He'll have to count on his serve and some powerful backhand shots to win. Eventually, he should learn to develop a strong net game(something he definitely lacks). Roddick has been one of the big surprises this year.

Mardy Fish - Another surprising American, Fish, has played some phenomenal tennis during the US Open. All of his important/difficult matches have been 3 sets. He struggled a little bit in the beginning of the tournament, but a W against James Blake(in 3 sets) gave him the necessary confidence boost he needed. I saw some really nice net play with Fish and some solid baseline strokes. Combined with the power and accuracy he is hitting with, he poses to be a formidable threat against Rafa Nadal. Probably my favorite Cinderella story of this year's tournament, I am hoping for an upset to avenge fellow American Querrey's crushing loss.

Surprises in this year's open:

  1. Mardy Fish - Just out of the top 50 (rankings), Fish has proved to be a shining light for the American tennis players.
  2. Gilles Muller - pulled off upset against number 5 seed Davydenko - some spectacular tennis (from the clips).
  3. Sam Querrey- hasn't played very much on the ATP tour and to make it this far is quite an accomplishment.
  4. Kei Nishikori - Brilliant upset against David Ferrer in an epic 5 set match. However, he fell to JM Del Potro.
  5. Del Potro - Argentina has continued to provide some great tennis players, and Del Potro adds to the list. Going strong in this years open and playing some of the best tennis of his life, I wouldn't be surprised to see an upset against Murray.
  1. James Blake - I don't know if it was the Olympics or something else. Blake was playing some mediocre tennis resulting in a mediocre performance.
  2. JC Ferrer - He gave the crowd a brilliant fight against Nishikori, the surprise Japanese star. I think he was a tad bit unlucky this tournament since the Japanese brought his A-game.
  3. N. Davydenko - Can't say much as I didn't watch him or Muller.
  4. S. Wawrinka - Federer's Swiss teammate has been playing the tennis of his life. I wouldn't call him a big disappointment, but I thought he would be able to upset Murray.
Potential Winners
  1. Rafa Nadal
  2. Roger Federer
  3. Andy Murray
  4. Novak Djokovic
  5. Andy Roddick
  6. Mardy Fish

NFL Week 1 Fantasy Update

In this week 1 fantasy update we'll be providing sleepers, who to start, and who to sit for the week 1 games. Enjoy!


Limas Sweed, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Why: Sweed, the Steelers' slot receiver, faces a weak Houston pass defense that will likely be focused on defending Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes.

Arnaz Battle, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Why: Battle was the 49ers' leading receiver last season and draws a good matchup with a Cardinals secondary lacking in skill and depth.

Mark Clayton, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Why: Clayton will start opposite Derrick Mason and is in line to have a good game against Cincinatti, who has one of the worst defenses in the NFL.

Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Why: Rice will get a large share of injured Willis McGahee's carries on Sunday against Cincinatti's poor run defense.

Leonard Pope, TE, Arizona Cardinals
Why: Pope will find a lot of holes in the 49ers' 3-4 defense that is designed to blitz the quarterback, not play pass coverage.

Start Them

Jon Kitna, QB, Detroit Lions
Why: Kitna faces an unproven Falcon secondary that was among the bottom 10 in the league last year in pass defense even before they traded DeAngelo Hall.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Why: Rodgers' opponent, Minnesota, may supposedly have one of the best D/ST for fantasy football this year, but they still return much of the same secondary that gave up the most passing yards in the league in 2007.

Thomas Jones, RB, New York Jets
Why: Jones gets a great matchup this week against the Miami Dolphins' porous run defense that now doesn't even have star end Jason Taylor.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders
Why: McFadden will receive a lot of carries in a game that features the Raiders' nonexistent passing offense facing the Broncos' strong pass defense.

Patrick Crayton, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Why: Terrell Owens will get all the attention from the Cleveland secondary, which was in the bottom 10 in passing yards given up per game last year.

Tony Scheffler, TE, Denver Broncos
Why: Jay Cutler will give Scheffler a lot of looks as the Broncos face a stout Oakland secondary without their best receiver, Brandon Marshall.

Sit Them

Derek Anderson, QB, Cleveland Browns
Why: Anderson is still feeling the effects of the concussion he suffered a couple of weeks ago and also has to throw against the upgraded Cowboys secondary.

Willis McGahee, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Why: McGahee has a banged up knee and will lose carries to rookie Ray Rice.

Jerricho Cotchery, WR, New York Jets
Why: The Jets will seek to move the ball on the ground against one of the league's worst run defenses.

Javon Walker, WR, Oakland Raiders
Why: Like the Jets, the Raiders will be much more inclined to run the ball against the Broncos' poor run defense and strong pass defense.

Have any questions about who to start and who to bench this week? Leave a comment!

Monday, September 1, 2008

NFL Week 1 Power Rankings

In addition to the weekly fantasy football updates, we will be publishing NFL power rankings, typically every Tuesday. This week's rankings come a day early, since the season already kicks off this Thursday with Washington visiting the New York Giants.

The rankings are called "The 10," as they comprise of who we believe the top 10 teams in the league are at the time the rankings are published. Why not include more teams? Blame time restraints. Well, here's the first installment of this series:

1. Dallas Cowboys
Why: Yes, neither quarterback Tony Romo nor head coach Wade Phillips have ever won a playoff game, but there is a lot of reason to believe that this season will be magical. The Cowboys are solid at every position, thanks to a bevy of offseason acquisitions; Dallas picked up cornerback Pacman Jones and middle linebacker Zach Thomas to bolster their defense and also drafted speedster Felix Jones to serve as a nice compliment to bruiser Marion Barber in the backfield. Add these impact players to last year's 13-3 team, and you get our 2009 Super Bowl pick.

2. New England Patriots
Why: Despite their problems in the secondary (which they attempt to address in the signing of CB Deltha O'Neal), the Pats still have the best offense in the NFL. They will give up more points than they did last year, but with the Tom Brady-Randy Moss-Wes Welker triangle, they'll be scoring in bunches as well. Don't forget that New England is also loaded at running back with Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, and LaMont Jordan. We see the Pats repeating as AFC champs this season.

3. Indianapolis Colts
Why: Now that Marvin Harrison and Dwight Freeney are healthy, the Colts seem primed to make a run against the Patriots for AFC supremacy. However, the Colts lost center Jeff Saturday last Sunday (Saturday tore his MCL and will be out for at least half the season) and also have a string of injured players on defense, which is why we have them behind the Pats in our preseason rankings. The offense, already brought down by the loss of Saturday, will be under a lot of pressure to carry this team through the first few weeks of the season with DE Robert Mathis and DT Raheem Brock also out with injuries.

4. San Diego Chargers
Why: Many people have pinned the Chargers as the best team in the AFC, and even in the NFL, but we're not seeing it. Ok, Philip Rivers heroically played last year's AFC Championship game with a torn ACL, but how does that make him a better quarterback? Rivers is not an elite QB, and the last time an average quarterback won the Super Bowl was Trent Dilfer with the Ravens in 2000. Baltimore had the one of the best defenses of all time that season, and we don't think the Chargers currently match up to that. The Chargers, however, do have some things going for them this year, hence their #4 ranking; Antonio Cromartie has developed into a lockdown cornerback, and LaDainian Tomlinson will put up another monster statistical season. Look for the Chargers to win the AFC West but not truly contend for the conference title.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars
Why: Quarterback David Garrard and the Jags showed the world that they were for real in last season's divisional playoff game against the Pats, and Jacksonville is back this year with strength on both sides of the ball. Tackle John Henderson leads one of the game's best defensive lines, and the linebackers and secondary aren't too shabby either. On offense, the Jaguars sport the one-two combo of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew at running back that helped the team to the 2nd best rushing offense in the league last year. The only questions are in the receiver corps; the Jags have former Viking first-round bust Troy Williamson and erratic Jerry Porter as their starters. To compete in the AFC, the Jaguars will need to somehow establish their passing game, as they will not go far with a one-dimensional offense.

6. New Orleans Saints
Why: The Saints have one of the league's most potent offenses. Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees heads a large group of playmakers in receivers Marques Colston and Devery Henderson, and backs Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister. New Orleans also acquired star tight end Jeremy Shockey from the Giants this offseason, who rounds off their loaded offense. On the defensive side, the Saints hope that the addition of rookie tackle Sedrick Ellis will help a squad that on average gave up 24 points per game last season. The Saints will score a lot of points, and as long as the defense can bend but not break, they will be a winning team.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers
Why: The Steelers are making strides on offense while retaining one of the league's best defenses. After last season's 32 touchdown versus 11 interception effort, Ben Roethlisberger has developed into a top-tier quarterback. Santonio Holmes' strong sophomore effort dictates his own rise as a receiver; Pittsburgh has a top receiving tandem in Holmes and stalwart Hines Ward. In addition, rookie Rashard Mendenhall joins Pro Bowler Willie Parker in a strong backfield. The Steelers are a real threat in the AFC if their offense plays as good as it looks on paper, since they have no significant losses from last season's top 3 defense.

8. New York Giants
Why: We wanted to give the reigning Super Bowl champs a little bit of respect and tried desperately to justify a top-5 ranking, but we couldn't find ample evidence. The losses of pass rushers Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora to retirement and injury hamper the otherwise average defense, which is built around quarterback pressure and relied on it in their playoff wins last season. Quarterback Eli Manning must continue the quality play he displayed in last year's postseason if the Giants are to even return to the playoffs, as the offense will need to carry the team this year. Manning has the weapons in the likes of Plaxico Burress and Brandon Jacobs; he just needs to make good decisions with the football.

9. Green Bay Packers
Why: Only part of the Packers' success last season can be attributed to Brett Favre, and there is no reason to believe why the team will be much worse this season under quarterback Aaron Rodgers. In case the offense falls into trouble, a solid defense headed by linebackers Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk can lead the team, but it is unlikely that the Packers will ever even encounter this situation. Rodgers will be aided on offense by Greg Jennings and Donald Driver at wideout; they perfectly complement each other, as Jennings is a big-play guy while Driver is a possession receiver. In addition, running back Ryan Grant aims to carry over his amazing play in last year's postseason to this 2008 regular season. As long as Rodgers doesn't flop, the Packers will compete in the NFC.

10. Cleveland Browns
Why: Quarterback Derek Anderson and receiver Braylon Edwards are fully recovered from injury and will play in week 1, which is great news for the team. The two both enjoyed breakout seasons last year and have established themselves as an elite quarterback-receiver combo. At 10-6 last season, the Browns were the surprise of the NFL, and they only hope to build on that record this year. The addition of receiver Donte' Stallworth further strengthens their high-scoring offense, which will have to make up for their below-average defense. Nonetheless, Cleveland will challenge the Steelers again for the AFC North division title.

Agree or disagree with our rankings? Leave a comment!

NBA Teams to Watch Out For

Boston Celtics- The reigning NBA champions held onto their Big 3 throughout the offseason, and with Rajon Rondo maturing into a great pointguard, there is a strong chance for a repeat of last year. However, they still have a relatively weak center position, and the depth of the roster is questionable. But that didn't stop them last year. Now, their superstars have had a whole season of experience together, so you can bet on seeing them at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Los Angeles Lakers- The biggest change the Western Conference Champions have from last season is Andrew Bynum is back. The 7-foot center was injured early last season after an amazing (and very surprising) start. Only 20 years old and mentored by one of the all-time greats, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, there's no doubt he's going to keep getting better. With a lineup of Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Bynum, it's hard to find a weak point, but let's see if they can work as well together as the Celtics.

Detroit Pistons- There's little doubt that the Pistons have the most depth in the league. Adding Aaron Afflalo, the 6-5 guard from UCLA could be the boost they need to bring them back to the finals. Aside from Rasheed Wallace's temper, everything about the Pistons has been consistent from their defensive focus to their balanced scoring. Although they don't have the superstar power of many teams in the league, they arguably play better together than anybody else because their starting lineup has been relatively unchanged throughout the years with the notable exception of Ben Wallace to the Bulls. Don't be surprised to see the Pistons up there with the Celtics in the East.

New Orleans Hornets- The clear underdog last season because of their inexperience, the Hornets put together an absolutely spectacular season with a lineup that few could have guessed would finish 2nd in the west. Chris Paul finished second in the MVP voting behind Kobe Bryant. Paul, who is only 23, obviously has superstar potential. With a young team enables them to play the fastbreak offense better than anyone in the league, the Hornets are just going to keep getting better. We'll just have to wait and see if the other teams can keep up.

The 5th spot is pretty close. With Ginobli out, the aging Spurs are looking slower than ever. Adding Shaq to the Suns was clearly a big mistake since a halfcourt offense is not their style. Dallas hasn't seemed to recover from their shocking loss to the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs a couple years ago. The Rockets and the Cavaliers have been very inconsistent, their success dependent on the performance of Tracy McGrady and Lebron James, respectively. I'll give the 5th spot on this list to the Jazz because when they are at their best, their strong offense led by Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer is nearly unstoppable. They'll have to step up their game to compete with the best in the west though.

The NBA season opens on October 28th.