Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints
Saturday, 1/7/12, 8:00 PM EST, TV: NBC
Opening Point Spread: New Orleans -10
Current Betting Line: New Orleans -10.5
Opening Total: 58
Current Total: 59.5
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker
The Atlanta Braves return to the playoffs for the first time in four years and gave retiring manager Bobby Cox one more in the playoffs. The team the Braves are taking to the playoffs comes hobbling in as the Braves lost two key figures to season-ending injuries, infielders Chipper Jones and Martin Prado.
In making their 15 appearance in the playoffs in 16 years, the defending champing Yankees appear vulnerable heading into the postseason. The Yankees, who are trying to be the first team to repeat since they did it in 1998-2000, finished the season 13-17 and missed winning the division by one game to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Cincinnati Reds, who won the NL Central, are making their first playoff appearance since 1995. And, for that effort, they get to face the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies have won their fourth straight NL East title, and are trying to win the pennant for the third straight time. The Phillies were seven games back of the Atlanta Braves in July, but made a push and won the East by six games. The Reds were not expected to hang on, but the St. Louis Cardinals faded in the second half of the season and were not a threat in September.
The Tampa Bay Rays finished the American League with the best record and that gives them home-field advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs. But because the wild-card team is in their division (Yankees), the Rays do not get to face the wild-card team. They get the Texas Rangers and left-handed ace Cliff Lee in the opener. It hardly seems fair.
The Blackhawks struck back Sunday night and dropped seven on the Flyers. They chased Michael Leighton from the net for the second time in this series. And Leighton still looks to be the goalie in tomorrow’s Game 6 at Philadelphia.
The NHL playoffs get underway tonight. As a Canadian I am legally obligated to be a hockey fan, so this is always a bit of an exciting time of year. I don’t think that there is a championship any harder for a team to win than the Stanley Cup. This should be a very good playoff tournament as well – there are several teams that are legitimate contenders in each conference, and no clear, runaway favorite. That being said, I don’t think that the first round is particularly interesting this year. Actually, it’s a bit dull. In my mind seven of the eight higher seeds are legitimate favorites to should be able to come out ahead if they play their game, and the eighth, New Jersey, can as well as long as they play up to their potential. Here’s a quick look at each series:
I know which way I think I am leaning in both of the NFL conference championships, but there is still a long time before the games kickoff, and that means I have lots of time to drive my self crazy with speculation and analysis. Before I can be totally comfortable with my picks, there are several questions I have to wrestle with. Among them:
Before we get to the games, I want to look at the reports out of Denver for a second. Word is that Josh McDaniels, the 32 year old offensive coordinator of the Patriots, is going to be named the new head coach. I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, I like that Denver wants to break into new blood to get some new ideas. I wish Cleveland had done the same thing. They also got a guy who is hot after turning a raw QB into a budding star. On the other hand, though, Bill Belichick has yet to really prove himself as a breeder of strong coaches. Far from it, in fact. Romeo Crennel got fired after creating a mess. Eric Mangini takes over that messing after failing in his first try. You can throw in the disaster that is Charlie Weis, too. The first coach after a legend like Shanahan is going to have it tough at the best of times, so I am not convinced that a young coach with a bad pedigree is a great gamble. A more established assistant might have been a better risk – especially since they are in a very winnable division.
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