January 23, 2017

The latest Hot Button Top 10: Show us the way, Edwin Pope, Falcons-Patriots SB, Women's March, Juan Pablo Montoya & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, JANUARY 23. There is a new Miami Herald Facebook page, debuting today. Click HERE to visit. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century -- and it includes a lot of vintage Edwin Pope -- makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Remembering Edwin Pope, NFL Championship Game picks, Heat/Whiteside battered in all-star voting & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

It's a Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl!: Click on Championship Game Gems for yesterday's Packers-Falcons and Steelers-Patriots NFC and AFC title-game picks, and on A Dramatic Final Four for my preview column.

Montoya wins historic Miami Race Of Champions: Historic? The 28th annual ROC had never before been held in the U.S. before Saturday's race in Miami, on a racetrack built inside Marlins Park. And Miami driver Juan Pablo Montoya won. Crazy, one-of-a kind day. Click on Home Run For Montoya, Miami for my column from the race.

The Death of a Wordsmith, other select recent columns: Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great?, on NFL's final four from a Miami vantage. When Playoffs Become the Norm Again, on when you'll know the Dolphins are truly back. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. EDWIN POPE: Herald sports icon dies at 88: If you are from South Florida, are aware life existed before ESPN SportsCenter or have ever held a newspaper in your hands, then you probably said or thought last week, “I grew up reading Edwin Pope.” Thank you, kind sir, friend, colleague and mentor. R.I.P. 

2. NFL: Championship Sunday gives us a Falcons-Pats Super Bowl: Atlanta walloped Green Bay and New England dispatched Pittsburgh on Sunday for the NFC and AFC titles to reach Super Bowl 51 Feb. 5 in Houston. The blowout games were decided by 23- and 19-point margins. The challenge? For the Super Bowl to be better. You know, an actual good game?

3. WOMEN'S MARCH: Women lead world's biggest protest march. Ever: Estimates are more than 4 million women worldwide including more than 500,000 in Washington, D.C. marched Saturday to protest Donald Trump and stand up for the freedoms and rights. Hmm. Impressive. But can't help but wonder: If that same passion and numbers had participated in the election, would there have been a need to march?

4. MOTORSPORTS: Montoya wins Race of Champions at Marlins Park: Most different, unique sporting event in Miami history? You could do worse than nominating NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One stars racing against each other inside a baseball stadium this weekend in the ROC series' first U.S. appearance. Miami won twice as hometown driver Juan Pablo Montoya won Saturday's main event.

5. HEAT: Three straight wins in a lost season as trade deadline looms: Good news? Miami has its first three-game win streak of season. Bad news? Everything else. Record is still only 14-30 and streak is unlikely to reach four as Heat host Golden State tonight. Be honest. The most compelling things left in this lost season are the two dates for the trade deadline and draft lottery.

6. MARLINS: Fish acquire quality starting pitcher: The latest aftershock of the Jose Fernandez tragedy: Miami dealt three prospects to Cincinnati for righty starter Dan Straily, who was 14-8 in 31 starts for Reds last year.

7. BASEBALL: Two ex-Marlins elected to Hall of Fame: Pudge Rodriguez, of course, had a starring role in helping Marlins win the 2003 World Series. But count yourself a real Fish fan if you also recall that, the year before, Tim Raines ended his 23-year career as a reserve here.

8. TENNIS: Both No. 1 seeds out as Australian Open enters final week: No. 1 seeds Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber both were ousted the same day, the first time in the modern era the Australian Open has lost both No. 1s before the quarterfinals. An even bigger shock: Why wasn't Serena Williams No. 1?

9. PANTHERS: Three straight losses, but Florida still in playoff hunt: As NHL all-star break looms, Cats have cooled off with three straight losses but lurk only two points off playoff in Eastern Conference. Still, when you were talking Stanley Cup and are scrambling for an eighth seed -- that's a disappointing season.

10. UM BASKETBALL: Tough stretch for Canes men, women: Miami's No. 14-ranked women have lost three of past six. The men have dropped four of past five  after Saturday's loss at Duke. Better snap out of it fast, Team Larranaga. No. 9 North Carolina visits in five days.

Missing the HB10 cut: San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich devoted seven minutes of a news conference Saturday to a pro-women's march, anti-Donald Trump soliloquy, pretty brave for a man who lives and works in Texas. It's enough to make me root for a Spurs championship just to see if he gets a White House invite, or goes ..... Former Marlins ace Josh Johnson retired at 32 from elbow issues, surprising analysts who thought he'd retired years ago ..... Prior to Bellator 170, Chael Sonnen talked trash. Tito Ortiz made his statement in the fight ..... A 25-year-old dunce from Boston was arrested for pulling a fire alarm in the Steelers hotel at 3 a.m. Put him in a room alone with James Harrison for 20 minutes ..... Saw the headline, 'Beagle scores in OT as Capitals beat Stars,' and thought, "Wow, what a great story!" But it turned out to be a guy named Jay Beagle ..... Sentences I Never Imagined Writing, one in a series: "Florida Panthers owner and Trump nominee for Secretary of the Army Vinnie Viola once was accused of punching a man in the face at a horse auction."

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

January 21, 2017

Remembering an epic life and personal hero: Edwin Pope, 1928-2017, R.I.P.; plus NFL Championship Game picks, Heat/Whiteside collect further disrespect, Women's March, Race Of Champions & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is SATURDAY, JANUARY 21. Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century -- and it includes a lot of vintage Edwin Pope -- makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Edwin Pope dies, Kiper's mock draft for Dolphins, two ex-Marlins make Hall, cowardly Goodell, your Super Bowl preference, BIMD video (The Circus) & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Women's March on Washington: Much respect to the hundreds of thousands participating today in the Women's March in D.C., a grass-roots stand-up for freedoms and rights. Proud to say my wife, and many others I know, are among them.

Race Of Champions: The ROC series is in the U.S. for first time today in Miami, with stars from NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One all racing together inside Marlins Park. I like big events and am a curiosity seeker, so I'll be there columnizing.

The Death of a Wordsmith, other select recent columns: Thank You, Edwin Pope, my latest column, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald legend. Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great?, on NFL's final four from a Miami vantage. When Playoffs Become the Norm Again, on when you'll know the Dolphins are truly back. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

TO A MONUMENTAL CAREER, AN EPIC LIFE AND A CHERISHED MENTOR: THANK YOU, EDWIN POPE: [Blog note: I rarely do this. I link to columns of mine, but rarely reprint them in their entirety here in the blog. But the death of my great friend and mentor, last night at age 88, is too important to me to not share as broadly as I can. So here is my tribute column]:

Epope
The Edwin I first knew, circa mid-'70s

"I grew up reading Edwin Pope." How many generations in South Florida will be saying that, thinking it, feeling it today? I was coming of age as a sports fan who hadn’t yet discovered he was interested in writing when Pope was at the peak of his powers, and reading him kindled and sparked something in me.

What it did was give me a future, a passion, a career.

Thank you, Edwin. For your inspiration, your talent, your grace, your mentorship and your friendship.Thank you so much.

South Florida and the Miami Herald have lost a giant with the passing of Edwin Pope at age 88. Newspapering and sports journalism and the craft of putting words in just the right order have all lost a giant.

Edwin came to the Herald in 1956 in his late 20s. He was sports editor and main sports columnist from 1967 until he retired in 2003, though still writing occasionally the next several years until age and Alzheimer’s dictated otherwise. I loathe the frivolous overuse of words like "legend," but the superlative has not yet been invented that can properly describe the epic arc of Pope’s career chronicling Miami sports.

From the black and white days of Cassius Clay in the 5th Street Gym to the Heat drafting some kid named Dwyane Wade — and everything in between — Edwin was the eyes and ears for South Florida sports fans, the rhyme and the reason.

He reigned before ESPN "SportsCenter" and before the Internet changed everything, putting news and opinion everywhere, and right now, diminishing the influence of the local newspaper. He reigned when "the paper" thudded onto front lawns every morning, up and down your block, and you turned to the sports section first to see what Pope had to say.

Dan LeBatard and I tried to replace him when he left. We never had a chance. Voices are everywhere, but there is no replacing Sinatra. Pope ends an era.

I felt smarter, as a teenager, when I read Edwin. There might be a word (or three) in every column that sent me to the dictionary. I liked that. He never talked down to readers. It’s a concept that has informed my own writing.

Edwin wrote with poetic elan. He told stories. He could make the scene on a racetrack’s backstretch as interesting as the horse race itself. You smelled the hay. You closed your eyes and saw the groom mucking-out the stable.

Epope2
Edwin in his career's latter stage

Edwin also could be direct. When he wanted a column to throw a punch, it landed.

When Lou Saban abruptly left the University of Miami football team after only two years following the 1978 season to coach at West Point, the lead to Pope’s column was: "You wanted a deserter, Army? You got one."

Edwin didn’t tap-dance into a column or, in the parlance of a former editor of ours, "clear his throat." He got to it. He was concise. He didn’t overwrite, either in style or length. He valued his readers too much to waste their time.

He was like that off the page, too.

He was a gentle man, but one whose humor could be sharp, and bite.

He’d had a stormy relationship with Dolphins owner Joe Robbie, and once kidded the only thing wrong with the name of the stadium was that it wasn’t Joe Robbie Memorial Stadium. (At least I think he was kidding.)

Edwin commanded utmost respect in press boxes. He was the dean, the monarch, the legend. If the clatter got too noisy too close to deadline, Edwin eventually would raise a hand and loudly snap, "Quiet!" and the room would shut up. He didn’t have to say it twice.

You didn’t want to be a waiter who ignored Edwin once too often when he was fishing for another drink.

"What’s a man got to do to get another Heinekin around here!?!" he once stood and loudly squawked from our table in some far-flung city after some game, Southern drawl lifting into a high pitch.

Epopejoelouis
A favorite photo of his: A young Edwin Pope with boxer Joe Louis

Edwin was a drinker. May I say that? We had a good time on the many road trips we took together.

I was in the company of Edwin and more than one unnamed UM football coach as the two of them killed a 12-pack of beer hours before a game. You’d visit his hotel room and not be surprised to see a jug of red wine on ice in the bathroom sink. Once we closed down a bar in (I think) Indianapolis, stumbled out into the cold and were discussing how to go about getting a cab when it dawned on us our hotel was right in front of us.

I delighted to cover the 1992 Summer Olympics with Edwin in Barcelona, in a cramped, barracks-style dorm room we shared. After two weeks, the day before we flew out, we treated each other by taking a cab to the city’s famous nude beach to take in the sights. Why not!

Edwin was a wonderful colleague and road-trip companion of mine for 30 some years. Mostly he was a writing hero, somebody who was what I wanted to be. I have never stopped striving or falling short, or being grateful for his influence in my life and career.

His was a long, wonderful life well-led.

Thank you, Edwin. Always. Thank you.

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FripixPLAYOFFS: CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES: OUR PICKS FOR NFL'S SUNDAY AFC, NFC TITLE GAMES: Lots of football fans call this Sunday the single best day of the season, better even than the Super Bowl, and I expect Packers at Falcons and then Steelers at Patriots to live up to expectations. A great final four! Our 26th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald saw us a robust 56.0 percent against the spread in the regular season, and we're 6-0 in the postseason after rolling a perfect 4-0 last week. Click on Championship Game Gems for my latest picks on the AFC and NFC title games. I see one game going as expected and the other not. We also offer our accompanying NFL column that today quantifies how good this final four is, historically, and how it gets the attention back where it belongs, on the field, after a weird week of drama for the NFL. Click on A Dramatic Final Four to read.

THE LIST: THIS FINAL FOUR IN THE POSTSEASON: Historically, this NFL final four includes three league giants and one interloper, as this list verifies. The franchise, head coach and quarterback records of these four teams in the postseason, listed in order of most all-time postseason wins, with total NFL championships listed in parentheses:

Team                                Franchise            Head coach                   Quarterback

Pittsburgh Steelers (6)       36-23, .610         Mike Tomlin, 8-5           Ben Roethlisberger, 13-6

Green Bay Packers (13)      34-21, .618        Mike McCarthy, 10-7       Aaron Rodgers, 9-6

New England Patriots (4)   30-19, .612         Bill Belichick, 24-10       Tom Brady, 23-9

Atlanta Falcons (0)             8-12, .400         Dan Quinn, 1-0              Matt Ryan, 2-4

HwhitesideHEAT BATTERED IN ALL-STAR VOTING, WHITESIDE SNUBBED: Hassan Whiteside collects perceived slights the way others of us collects stamps or coins, and he has added a big new one to his collection. He barely made the East frontcourt top 10 in NBA all-star voting, slotting in 10th overall after finishing eighth in the media vote, 11th by fans, and only 14th by players. Your colleagues don't respect you, bro! Get angry! Get even! No Goran Dragic in the East backcourt top 10. Starters were named Thursday. Reserves get added next week. I'd think Whiteside (pictured) will be included, but it sure isn't a given after his comeuppance in the triangular vote.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

January 19, 2017

HERALD LEGEND EDWIN POPE DIES AT 88: MY TRIBUTE COLUMN; plus Kiper's first '17 mock draft: Gator to Dolphins, no Kaaya; also, 2 Marlins (sort of) elected to Hall, Goodell is a coward, newest Back In My Day video, your verdict on Super Bowl matchup & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 19. I'm back up at Friday Page World Headquarters today figuring out my NFL Championship Game picks. Gonna nail 'em. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century -- best-selling of all the Herald books -- makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it's-not-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NFL Final Four poll, related Tannehill column, Radio Tuesday & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

EDWIN POPE DIES AT 88: Longtime former Miami Herald sports editor and columnist Edwin Pope died early this evening at age 88. My column on my mentor and friend: Thank You, Edwin.

NFL's Final Four through a Dolphins prism, other select recent columns: Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great?, our latest column, on NFL's final four from a Miami vantage. When Playoffs Become the Norm Again, on when you'll know the Dolphins are truly back. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

JdavisGATORS LB JARRAD DAVIS TO DOLPHINS, SAYS KIPER: Mel Kiper's first 2017 Mock Draft for ESPN is out and he has Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis (pictured) going to Miami 22nd overall in first round. Sayeth Mel: "As a steady and reliable linebacker with a nose for the football, Davis' versatility stands out. He could play inside or outside linebacker at the next level, though he's not a guy who will get 10 sacks on the outside in a 3-4. He can be an every-down guy." I think Kiper is right on the position; LB a big need. He has two other Gators, cornerbacks Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson, going 13th and 14 overall. He has one Seminole, running back Dalvin Cook, going 12th. Conspicuously, Kiper has zero Hurricanes going in first round. I tried to tell you to stay, Brad Kaaya, but did you listen? No! Another early Canes departure, tight end David Njoku, is much more likely than Kaaya to sneak into the first round. Click here for Mel's Mock 1.0.

TWO FORMER MARLINS PLAYERS MAKE HALL OF FAME: Nailed it! Raines, Bagwell and Pudge make the Hall of Fame. Raines and Pudge had (very brief, one-year) Marlins careers. Original post: There is little suspense to tonight's (or future) Baseball Hall of Fame announcements, thanks to Bagwellrainesbbhoftracker.com, which collects and publishes ballots that have been publicly revealed. As of today they had collected 233, or 55.2 percent -- including mine, Pudgewhich I revealed in this blog on Dec. 16. From the composite numbers we can state with certainty that, barring a shocking, aberrant swing in remaining votes, Tim Raines (running at 89.2 percent) and Jeff Bagwell (88.3%) will sail in easily above the needed 75% minimum. Some may recall Raines ended his career a Marlin in 2002. A third inductee very likely will be Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez -- a 2003 Marlin instrumental in the World Series championship -- now at 78.7%. Raines and Bagwell are pictured right and Rodriguez left. Those three likely will be the only inductees, although two others, Trevor Hoffman (72.5%) and Vladimir Guerrero (71.7%), are close enough that a late surge in voting, though unlikely, could yet sweep them into Cooperstown. My ballot included all five of the players mentioned so far. The vote totals so far of the other five on my ballot: Edgar Martinez 65.4, Barry Bonds 63.8, Roger Clemens 62.9%, Manny Ramirez 24.2 and Gary Sheffield 11.7. The faces of the Steroid Era, Bonds and Clemens, are seeing their totals rise gradually and I predict they'll get in someday. Not as sure about Martinez. Very surprised by Ramirez's low total. And I'm almost alone on Sheffield, I guess. Sorry, Sheff. Not gonna happen for you.

THE LIST: EX-MARLINS PLAYERS IN THE HALL OF FAME: Four future Hall of Famers have worn a Marlins uniform. The short list doubled yesterday, although all four men played only a brief portion of their careers in Miami. The sort-of Marlins in Cooperstown, ranked in order of the percentage of career games played with Marlins:

Player                        Games with Marlins        With Miami    Inducted

C Pudge Rodriguez      6.23% (161 of 2,583)      2003             2017

OF Andre Dawson       4.58% (121 of 2,642)      1995-96        2010

OF Tim Raines            3.86% (98 of 2,536)        2002              2017

C Mike Piazza             0.26% (5 of 1,944)          1998              2016 

GoodellROGER GOODELL, WHAT A COWARD!: The NFL commissioner needs to rethink his weekend plans, change his flight, and get his ass over to Foxborough on Sunday. He is hiding from New England Patriots fans, who loathe him over the whole Deflategate thing. He doesn't need to sit among them. He be encased high in a suite as always. But he needs to be there and take the reaction like a man. Instead he'll be in Atlanta for the second week in a row. I have defended Goodell at times, more than most in the media. But he's wrong on this. Weak, weak!

Poll result: Bring on a Packers-Patriots Super Bowl, please: With NFL down to its final four, we asked which of four possible Super Bowl matchups you'd most want to watch, and it was Packers vs. Patriots on top with 41.8 percent. After that it was Packers-Steelers 25.7%, Falcons-Steelers 19.9%, and Falcons-Patriots 12.6%. combined team totals were: Packers 67.5%, Patriots 54.4%, Steelers 45.6% and Falcons 32.4%.

THE LATEST 'BACK IN MY DAY': THE DEATH OF THE CIRCUS: There's a few seconds of unrelated jibberish here before the BIMD kicks in. Warning: Animal-rights folks might want to muster whatever sense of humor they have before watching this:

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

January 17, 2017

NFL: 4 teams left, 4 Super Bowl matchups possible. Which would you most want to watch? New poll. Last day to vote!; plus NFL Final Four through Dolphins/Tannehill prism, Radio Tuesday, the wedding crasher & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Wedding1) It is TUESDAY, JANUARY 17. Honoring the memory of civil rights giant Martin Luther King on MLK Day yesterday. He'd be 87 had he not been killed by a sniper on April 4, 1968 at age 39. 2) Still can't believe my older son Christopher is a married man! Congrats again to Chris and his beautiful bride Christie on their wedding Saturday in Fort Lauderdale. So happy for them. Pictured: Myself alongside a wedding crasher later identified as Dan LeBatard. 3) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it's-not-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NFL divisional-round picks and poll, Hot Button Top  10, your UM/Braun verdict, The List, Bitter Mickey/MNF video & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, airing locally on 790 The Ticket from 8:55 a.m. to 1 p.m., and nationally on ESPN Radio from 10-1. National show also simulcasts on TV on ESPNU. Or is it ESPN 2 now, I can never remember.

NFL's Final Four through a Dolphins prism: Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, Canton-bound and having great seasons. Matt Ryan, having an MVP year. Ben Roethlisberger, dynamic gunslinger as always. These are the NFL's Final Four quarterbacks. It invites a Dolfan to (again) wonder if Ryan Tannehill is good enough, or close enough to being great. That's my new column. Click on Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great? to read.

Select other recent columns: When Playoffs Become the Norm Again, on when you'll know the Dolphins are truly back. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

AfcnfcNFL FINAL FOUR: WHICH SUPER BOWL MATCHUP WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO WATCH?: Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game and New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC title will funnel into an intriguing Super Bowl matchup no matter what it is. Of the four possible matchups, any one of them suggests an entertaining, high-scoring game. But you can only prefer one. Only one can be the game you'd most want to watch. So. Which is it? Take a dip in our poll.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

January 16, 2017

The latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated); plus NFL Divisional-Round playoff picks and the perfect Super Bowl (with poll; vote now!); also, your UM/Braun verdict, The List, Bitter Mickey (video) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, JANUARY 16. Congratulations to my son Christopher on his wedding to Christie! So happy for them. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it's-not-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings, Dolphins lose coordinator, UM/Braun poll, Heat-Golden State, Saban loses & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Select recent columns: When Playoffs Become the Norm Again, off Sunday's eliminating loss, on when you'll know the Dolphins are truly back. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. NFL: Dolphins out, but hunt for Super Bowl continues: The Dolphins were quickly eliminated from the playoffs in the first round in Pittsburgh last week, but the NFL decided to go on with its postseason anyway and this weekend pared from eight surviving teams down to a final four. It'll be Packers at Falcons and Steelers at Patriots on Championship  Sunday, which is better than Super Bowl Sunday -- but without the parties.

2. HEAT: Homestand awaits for reeling, miserable Heat: Miami is 11-30 with 10 losses in its past 11 games, and now begins a four-game homestand on Tuesday. And now here is your official Heat midseason report in one word: Depressing!

3. PANTHERS: Finally, Cats showing signs of life at midseason: Florida has won three of its past four games and drawn to within one point of eighth place in the Eastern Conference -- playoff pace -- entering a four-game roadie. Stanley Cup dream still far off, but progress being seen.

4. TENNIS: Serena seeks history in Australian Open: The year's first tennis major, the Australian Open, begins on Sunday in Melbourne with Palm Beach's Serena Williams chasing her women's-record 23rd major title. It's becoming less a question than a statement: She's the G.O.A.T.

5. MOTORSPORTS: Marlins Park readies for Race Of Champions: Can you picture a major auto race inside a baseball stadium? Me, neither. But top drivers from NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula One and other circuits will compete against each other here next weekend. Vroom!

6. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Clemson, Saban haters still celebrating: Six days after Clemson's 35-31 defeat of Alabama in the College Football Playoff championship game, it's still a tie between who's happier: Tigers fans, or Nick Saban haters.

7. DOLPHINS: Fins lose defensive coordinator to Denver: Vance Joseph left for the Broncos' head-coaching job, replaced in Miami with the promotion of linebackers coach Matt Burke. Given Fins' 29th ranking in most yards allowed and 18th in most points given up, tell me again why Joseph leaving is bad?

8. MLB: Cooperstown announces latest HOF class Wednesday: As many as five may get in. Based on vote-tracking, Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell are locks and Pudge Rodriguez is likely. Maybes are Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman. The short-agains notably include Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. (But they're getting closer).

9. UM BASKETBALL: Big challenges for Canes men, women: Things getting interesting for Hurricanes hoops. UM men, 12-4, play at No. 7 Duke in five days. Canes' No. 14-ranked women are now 14-4 after 63-59 loss at No. 9 Louisville on Sunday. 

10. NBA: Pacers-Nuggets play in London: Nuggets beat the Pacers 140-112 Thursday night in London -- the fifth straight year the NAB has played a regular season game in the United Kingdom. So, the NFL's obsession with London apparently is catching, and the spread of the virus may be unstoppable. 

Missing the HB10 cut: The San Diego Chargers are leaving for Los Angeles. Seldom has the nickname "Bolts" been more fitting ..... Rams made Sean McVay, 30, the youngest head coach in NFL history. He's paid his dues. They were just a very small amount ..... Mavs owner Mark Cuban supports putting an NBA team in Mexico. Donald Trump vows to expedite his wall to prevent it ..... Ex-FIU coach Mario Cristobal, the Alabama O-line coach, has become co-offensive coordinator at Oregon. Who think that's a better job? Yeah, me neither.

Fripix DivisionalPLAYOFFS: DIVISIONAL-ROUND WEEKEND: OUR PICKS FOR NFL'S CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS: Update: It'll be Steelers at Patriots and Packers at Falcons in the AFC and NFC title games next Sunday ..... Original post: Four teams including the Dolphins have been bounced as pretenders. King Sport is down to its final eight playoff teams, and only four will survive this weekend. Our 26th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald saw us a robust 56.0 percent against the spread in the regular season, and 2-2 as the postseason began last week. Click on Divisional-Round Gems for our playoff picks for the weekend's conference semifinals. I see an outright upset in one of the four games. (I wish I could tell you it was the Patriots, Dolfans, but it ain't). We also offer our accompanying NFL notes column that today delves into possible Super Bowl matchups. Of all the combinations possible, two rise above the rest -- and one above them all. A Super Bowl to Save the Season to read.

Poll results: Divided views, but most (barely) OK with Braun at UM banquet: We asked what best reflects how you feel about PEDs-convicted Ryan Braun speaking at Hurricanes' First Pitch baseball banquet next month, and it was 42.5 percent "very good" and 36.6% "not good." Another 4.6% were undecided. The remaining 16.3% didn't care.

THE LIST: NFL'S FINAL EIGHT: The eight teams in this weekend's divisional-round playoffs, ranked in order of most all-time NFL championships won, along with all-time postseason records:

Team                                Titles (Last)    All-time postseason

Green Bay Packers                13 (2010)        .604 (32-21)     

Pittsburgh Steelers                 6 (2008)        .596 (34-23)

Dallas Cowboys                      5 (1995)        .567 (34-26)

New England Patriots             4 (2014)        .604 (29-19)

Kansas City Chiefs                  1 (1969)        .360 (9-16)

Seattle Seahawks                   1 (2013)        .517 (15-14)  

Atlanta Falcons                      0                  .368 (7-12)

Houston Texans                      0                  .400 (2-3)

MICKEY AUDITIONS FOR MNF BOOTH: This was a bit we did from this week's LeBatard Show. Hope you enjoy!:

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

January 12, 2017

The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings at midseason (40 games); plus are we OK with PEDs guy Ryan Braun at UM baseball banquet? Last day to vote!; also, Vance Joseph, Bitter Mickey/BIMD, Saban's tears, UM football ranked No. 16 & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 12. Holed up at Friday Page Headquarters today divining my NFL divisional-round playoff picks. Anybody got any extra luck I can borrow? 2) Happy anniversary this week to my wonderful wife, the greatest person I have ever known. Love you! 3) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it's-not-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins eliminated in Pittsburgh with season-ending DSM poll, Hot Button Top 10, The List & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Bitter Mickey/Back In My Day double-play from LeBatard Show: Click here for Tuesday's show podcast. The Bitter Mickey/BIMD back-to-back kicks in around the 38-minute mark.

Hurricanes 16th in (very) early 2017 college football Top 25: It's out from Mark Schlabach on ESPN.com. Click here to read. UM was ranked No. 20 in the final Associated Press poll for this season, the Canes' first year-end Top 25 ranking since 2009. Also, UM has 33-1 national-title odds via Bovada, tied for 11th best.

DSM final rating best since 2008: The Dolphins season ended with consecutive losses including Sunday's in the playoffs; still, the season-ending Dolfan Satisfaction Meter rating of 76.2 percent is the second-best in the nine-year history of our postgame polls, and best since '08. See the previous blogpost for complete week-by-week results and year-by-year totals. 

Dolphins-Steelers game column, select other recent columns: When Playoffs Become the Norm Again, off Sunday's eliminating loss, on when you'll know the Dolphins are truly back. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

UPDATED: "THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS" (MIDSEASON/40 GAMES)Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and introduce a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 11-29 after last night's loss at Golden State, here's The Luddite's eighth installment, with 35-game rank in parentheses:

LudditeThe Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (Midseason/40 games):

1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      1,177

2. Goran Dragic (2)               937

3. Tyler Johnson (3)            802

4. James Johnson (4)         678

5. Josh Richardson (5)        483

6. Dion Waiters (7)                393

7. Rodney McGruder (8)      385

8. Justise Winslow (6)         355

9. Willie Reed (11)                 329

10. Wayne Ellington (9)      284

Others: Josh McRoberts 232, Derrick Williams 226, Luke Babbitt 200, Udonis Haslem 61.

IS DOLPHINS LOSING DC JOSEPH A BIG DEAL? (NAH): Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph leaves the Dolphins after one season to become Denver Broncos head coach. I guess the Broncos were not watching Sunday as Joseph's Miami defense gave up scoring drives of 85, 90 and 83 yards to Pittsburgh on the playoff game's first three series. During the season his unit ranked 29th in total defense, 15th in pass defense, 30th in run defense and 18th in points allowed, despite being one of only seven teams with two Pro Bowl defensive starters.   

IS RYAN BRAUN THE RIGHT CHOICE TO SPEAK AT CANES BASEBALL BANQUET?: I think I'm sort of against this but don't feel too strongly. I guess that makes me conflicted. I wonder if you Braunare. (Hence, the poll that follows, because I'm curious). Former Miami Hurricanes baseball great Ryan Braun (pictured), now prominently of the Milwaukee Brewers, will be the featured speaker Feb. 10 at the team's annual preseason First Pitch banquet. The negative? Braun, of course, was implicated in the Biogenesis scandal over performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Many will recall he was suspended 65 games in 2013 for violating MLB's drug policy. Not saying that should be a life sentence on his reputation, but is he the best choice just a few years later to be the star attraction at your preseason banquet? UM's baseball stadium of course is partly named in honor of another steroids guy, Alex Rodriguez, but that's contractual, and tied to a major donation. Jim Morris' program was under no such obligation to invite Braun. It  makes me wonder if UM's athletic director signed off on this and if the university president is comfortable with it. Right now, though, it's your turn. Take a dip in our poll.

UglyTHE BAD NEWS, MIAMI? HEAT AT GOLDEN STATE. COVER YOUR EYES!: Update: Heat with a credible 107-95 loss last night at Golden State. The Good Whiteside (28 points, 20 rebounds) appeared. You know it's a bad season when you see the good in a 12-point loss. Original post: I guess it wasn't bad enough that the Dolphins took a crap Sunday after finally making the playoffs, so now the reeling Miami plays at mighty Golden State tonight, and what would have been a terrific matchup in, say, 2013, now is hard to envision being anything but season-low, lopsided-ugly. The good news: Doesn't start 'til 10:30, so much of South Florida won't bother to see it. Heat, 16-point underdogs, are having a train-wreck season at 11-28, evidently with the entire roster on the trading block, while 24-karat Golden State is 32-6 after adding Kevin Durant to Stephon Curry. Let's see Reid and Fiorentino try to put a positive spin on this one!

SadsabanTHE GOOD NEWS? BUT AT LEAST NICK SABAN LOST!: College football showed the NFL how it's done Monday night. We sat through four NFL first-round playoff games decided by a combined 121-45 score, none of them close or particularly interesting to watch. Then, last night, the CFP finale in Tampa gave us Clemson 35, Alabama 31, a compelling comeback victory that dethroned Nick Saban -- which alone made it gratifying for Saban-hating South Florida slow to forgive Nick for lying and baling on the Dolphins. So, as tonight's Heat game gets sad, So Fla, bright up by picturing Saban's abject disappointment as his kingdom quaked a bit.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

January 10, 2017

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 76.2% (season final); plus Fins out of playoffs in 30-12 loss at Pittsburgh with my game column, latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, JANUARY 9. Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect celebrate-they're-back-in-the-playoffs gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NFL Wild-Card Weekend predictions, Jose Fernandez death voted biggest Miami sports story of 2016 & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Nflplayoffs

 

 

 

 Our Dolphins-Steelers game column from Pittsburgh: Click on When Playoffs Become the Norm Again to read. And find our in-game blog and other postgame thoughts directly below the latest DSM poll.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: SEASON/FINAL: 76.2%: Results are certified in the latest -- and season-last -- Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, this in the wake of Sunday''s 30-12 DsmAFC wild-card playoff loss at Pittsburgh eliminating Miami following a 10-6 regular season and first postseason appearance in eight years. Reflecting that accomplishment, this is the highest final DSM reading since 2008. The DSM is a continuous weekly gauge of how fans are feeling about the Dolphins and their direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Because this was the season-ending poll, I suggested special emphasis be given to the season as a whole. Results are certified official the day after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 6:30 a.m. today/Tuesday.

2016 DSM results

G1: 52.5% (following 12-10 loss at Seattle)

G2: 13.3% (following 31-24 loss at New England)

G3: 9.9% (following 30-24 OT victory vs. Cleveland)

G4: 3.0% (following 22-7 loss at Cincinnati)

G5: 3.2% (following 30-17 loss vs. Tennessee)

G6: 67.4% (following 30-15 victory vs. Pittsburgh)

G7: 90.9% (following 28-25 victory vs. Buffalo)

G8: 94.0% (following 27-23 victory vs. N.Y. Jets)

G9: 96.8% (following 31-24 victory at San Diego)

G10: 95.7% (following 14-10 victory at Los Angeles)

G11: 95.9% (following 31-24 victory vs. San Francisco)

G12: 34.8% (following 38-6 loss at Baltimore)

G13: 93.2% (following 26-23 victory vs. Arizona)

G14: 98.0% (following 34-13 victory at N.Y. Jets)

G15: 98.3% (following 34-31 OT victory at Buffalo)

G16: 72.6% (following 35-14 loss vs. New England)

Playoffs/Final: 76.2% (following 30-12 loss at Pittsburgh)

Yearly DSM Results: 2016--76.2% (following 10-6 season/playoff loss); 2015--18.1% (6-10); 2014--2.7% (8-8); 2013--4.2% (8-8); 2012--29.8% (7-9); 2011--34.9% (6-10); 2010--3.8% (7-9); 2009--31.2% (7-9); 2008--96.9% (11-5/playoff loss).

MY DOLPHINS-STEELERS SUNDAY PREVIEW COLUMN: Click MASSIVE CHALLENGE  /  NFL Wild-Card Weekend predictions: Click Wild-Card Gems  /  Ranking playoff teams, year-end awards: Click Playoffs And Hardware.

Dolphins playoffs, other select recent columns: It Isn't About Tannehill, how Fins have a chance in Pittsburgh with Moore if everything else goes right. There's A Longer Drought to End Now, on Dolphins preparing for first playoff game in eight years. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade, Football Town Strikes Back.

MiapitPLAYOFF: PITTSBURGH 30, DOLPHINS 12: POSTSEASON DROUGHT ENDED TODAY FOR MIAMI ... BUT SO DID SEASON: Postgame thoughts: Watch for our game column from Pittsburgh online by early evening. For now, a good season for Miami ended badly today in Pittsburgh withj this 30-12 loss. Miami's defense got crushed early in giving up three long scoring drives for a fast 20-3 hole, and Fins could never recover. Moore's three turnovers really hurt, especially a lost fumble at the Pittsburgh 8 when Miami trailed 20-6 and had a chance to be withing 20-13 at halftime. A season of progress for the franchise, but an ending that verified how much of a gap remains between the Dolphins and better teams ..... 4Q: Howard intercepts Roethlisberger, begging the question, "Why was Ben still in the game?" ... Fins onside kick fails ... MIA now down 30-12 after first TD of day, 4-yard Moore to Williams pass, followed by failed 2-point pass ... Ajayi leaves game shaken up but seems OK. Tough, quiet game for him: 16 carries, 33 yards ..... 3Q: Fins turn it over on downs with :02 left in quarter ... PIT 30-6 now late in quarter after Bell 8-yard scoring run. Call it. Dolphins are done ... Dolphins continue to kill themselves. Moore's interception, his third turnover, has Steelers threatening again ... PIT expands lead to 23-6 on 34-yard FG ... That's twice in a row Moore fumbles on sacks have cost Miami points. Dolphins having chances to get back in this game but keep squandering them ..... Halftime thoughts: Three dominant drives have been enough for Pittsburgh in a 20-6 half. Roethlisberger's 188 yards passing, Bell's 99 rushing and Brown's 125 receiving have owned the Dolphins defense. And yet Miami, with the ball to start the second half, is hardly out of it. Fins had a wonderful chasnce late to make it 20-13 and seize momentum before Moore's sack/fumble loss at Steelers 8 in final moments. A crater of a hole Miami has dug itself, but I sense a chance, a bit of hope ..... 2Q: Parker 37-yard catch makes it 1st and goal at PIT 8 but play gioes for naught as Moore is sacked, loses fumble ... Fins' Thomas intercepts Roethlisberger. PIT was on edge of FG range so play may have saved three points ... Big interference penalty on MIA's Howard, then Mitchell drops an interception ... MIA within 20-6 on Franks 47Y FG. Dirty, penalized hit by PIT's Dupree knocks Moore from game during series, but he's back in after missing only one play. Tough young man ... Grant fumbles Miami kickoff return but Fins keep it ... Bell 1-yard TD run has PIT up 20-3 after missed extra point kick. Bell's 26-yard scoring run had been overturned, with ball marked at 1 ... MIA defense gave up 213 yards, 162 through air, in first quarter ..... 1Q: Seeing some really bad non-tackling by Fins so far ... MIA on board at 14-3 with 38-yard Franks FG. Stills 36-yard catch on 3rd down led the drive ... Absolute nightmare start for Miami. Pit 14-0 now on Brown 62-yard scoring pass. Steelers have 175 yards on 11 plays so far ..... PIT quick 7-0 lead when Brown turns screen pass into 50-yard scoring play down left sideline. Great hesitation and acceleration by Brown and exactly what underdog Fins didn't need: an early deficit ..... Pregame: Dolphins in aqua pants, white jerseys today ...  Coming to you from freezing Pittsburgh, where the temp is hovering around 10 degrees but the wind-chill factor supposedly makes it feel 2-below. I'm pictured arriving this morning at the game. Sunny and dry, though ... Betting line shot all the way to 13 but settled back down to 11 1/2 ..... Original post: Dolfans this morning awakened to a playoff day for their team for the first time since Jan 4, 2009 -- or 2,926 days later. This ends the franchise's eight-year postseason drought. But Miami's season will end today in Pittsburgh (1 p.m. kickoff, CBS) unless the Dolphins can rid themselves of another, longer drought: a first playoff victory since Dec. 30, Meheinz2000. Miami (10-6, No. 6 AFC seed) is not given much of a chance vs. Pittsburgh (11-5, No. 3). Dolphins are 11-point underdogs, biggest of Wild-Card Weekend. Teams that were double-digit underdogs were 0-14 this season. That means, by that measure, it would be the biggest upset of the entire NFL season if Miami won today. Fins are huge 'dogs despite having beaten the Steelers in Miami, 30-15, in October. Some of that is the perceived huge home-field advantage of Pittsburgh in January, with temps expected today as low as 10 degrees. Miami also will be missing four key players who led the October win: QB Ryan Tannehill, C Mike Pouncey, S Reshad Jones and CB Byron Maxwell. And Pitt is healthier now. This time Steelers will have run-stopping linebacker Ryan Shazier to make sure Jay Ajayi doesn't run for 204 yards again. The gaping point spread also reflects a perception that Miami, taking its first playoff bow since '08, is the sort of the happy-to-be-here interloper ready for its reality check, in contrast to the playoff-tested Steelers. Also, it's hard to envision that Big Ben Roethlisberger, the two-time champion making his 18th postseason start, won't best Matt Moore making his first postseason start. Did I mention Steelers are on a seven-game winning streak? One more: Dolfans should be concerned less about no-Tannehill than about their defense giving up 31 or more points in three of past five games. Having said all that, though, the double-digit betting line either flatters Pitt or (more likely) disrespects Miami, or both. Do I see Dolphins winning a playoff game today for the first time since 2000? Nope. But I like them with the points, respectably bowing out, not getting blown out. My pick: Pittsburgh, 27-20.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Playoffs!?! Yes, playoffs. But they didn't last long for Miami: Miami visited Pittsburgh Sunday for Dolphins' first playoff game in 8 years and 4 days. Alas, it was hardly worth the weight, with Fins bounced after a resounding 30-12 defeat. Oddsmakers had given Miami little chance. Buncha know-it-alls.

2. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Alabama-Clemson Monday for CFP crown: It's a rematch in the third College Football Playoff championship game tonight in Tampa, after Alabama won 45-40 a year ago. Nick Saban haters everywhere are temporarily Clemson's biggest fans.

3. HEAT: Winslow done as Miami flails through season: Heat has lost eight of past nine games and is 11-28, the NBA's third-worst record. And now Justise Winslow is is done for the season after shoulder surgery. Well, um, Tuesday at Golden State should be fun! 

4. HURRICANES: Kaaya departure rocks Canes football: Still glowing from a first bowl win in 10 years, UM football took a sack with the announcement Brad Kaaya would forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. Mark Richt's starting QB is now [Your Guess Goes Here].

5. NFL PLAYOFFS: It's Wild-Card Weekend!: Eight teams including Miami were in action this weekend, but only Houston, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Green Bay survived. Their prize? The four winners get to go on the road and be underdogs next week vs. the rested, top-seeded Chiefs, Patriots, Cowboys or Falcons.

6. UM BASKETBALL: Big week for Canes hoops: Coming into the meat of the season with ACC play underway. The No. 14-ranked UM women hosted and lost to No. 7 Notre Dame on Sunday, and now the Canes men, not ranked but close, host the No. 23 Irish on Thursday.

7. PANTHERS: At midseason, Cats disappointing but not done: Florida has lost six of past eight and is 6-13 since the coaching change, and yet Panthers find themselves only four points off playoff pace at midseason. Anybody up for a hopeful “We're No. 8!” chant?

8. ESPN: The downsizing of Chris Berman: Mr. BackBackBackBackBack is slowly fading to BlackBlackBlackBlackBlack with this week's ESPN announcement of a diminished role for their iconic, original voice.

9. DUKE: Tripping guard reinstated: Duke basketball star Grayson Allen was given an "indefinite suspension" by coach Mike Krzyzewski for tripping opponents. Duke lost its first game without him. He was immediately reinstated. Lesson learned!

10: NHL: Columbus finally loses: Blue Jackets lost after 16 wins a row, one short of the 24-year-old record set by Pittsburgh. Yes, because when you think of hockey tradition and excellence, you start with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Missing the HB10 cut: Nate Silver's fivethirtyeight.com is calling a Patriots Super Bowl win. If Nate's as accurate with that as he was on Hillary beating Trump, Pats fans should be worried, indeed ..... Erik Spoelstra called it "shameful, disgraceful" that Goran Dragic was ejected from Friday's game. Also shameful and disgraceful: Heat's 11-27 record following the loss ..... Ex-Dolphin Jason Taylor and Fort Lauderdale-born Isaac Bruce were locals making the Pro Football Hall of Fame cut to 16 finalists ..... U.S. beat Canada to win the world juniors title in hockey. First we steal their Stanley Cup trophy every year, now this ..... Marlins and Canes fans, we're one month from baseball kicking into gear ..... R.I.P., Marti Huizenga.

THE LIST: SUPER BOWL TOURNAMENT: Twelve teams were in it including Miami entering this weekend, but all teams are not created equal. Here are the 12 playoff teams listed in order of betting odds that each will win the Super Bowl, via the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. We also list each team's points differential. Notice how the two correlate to some degree:

Team                                Odds       Point +/-

New England Patriots         13-10     +191

Dallas Cowboys                   4-1       +115

Pittsburgh Steelers              8-1       +72

Kansas City Chiefs             10-1       +78

Green Bay Packers             10-1       +44

Atlanta Falcons                 12-1       +134

Seattle Seahawks              12-1       +62

New York Giants                16-1       +26

Houston Texans                 80-1       -49

Oakland Raiders               100-1      +31

Detroit Lions                    100-1      -12

Miami Dolphins                 100-1      -17

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

January 07, 2017

NFL Wild-Card Weekend playoffs: Predictions for Dolphins-Steelers and other games, ranking the 12 teams and King Sport season awards; plus death of Jose Fernandez voted biggest Miami sports story of 2016 with complete Top 15 results & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is SATURDAY, JANUARY 7. Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect celebrate-they're-back-in-the-playoffs gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Miami's biggest sports story of 2016 poll, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings, local guys who made cut for Canton & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

FripixPLAYOFFS: WILD-CARD WEEKEND: OUR PICKS FOR DOLPHINS-STEELERS, OTHER 3 GAMES: Twelve teams alive, four luxuriating with byes, and eight in action
WildcardSaturday or Sunday -- including, for the first time since 2008, the Dolphins, of course. Our 26th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald saw us a robust 56.0 percent against the spread in the regular season. Click on Wild-Card Gems for our latest opening-round playoff picks for Dolphins-at-Steelers and others. I see an outright upset in one of the four games. I wish I could tell you it was the game at the field named after a ketchup bottle. We also offer our accompanying NFL notes column that today leads with our ranking of the 12 playoff teams, based on the likelihood of winning the Super Bowl. We also dole out our King Sport season awards for the league and Dolphins. Click on Playoffs And Hardware to read.

Dolphins playoffs, other select recent columns: It Isn't About Tannehill, how Fins have a chance in Pittsburgh with Moore if everything else goes right. There's A Longer Drought to End Now, off Sunday's loss as Dolphins prepare for first playoff game in eight years. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade, Football Town Strikes Back.

POLL RESULT: DEATH OF FERNANDEZ VOTED BIGGEST MIAMI SPORTS STORY OF 2016: This was a major annual poll so we're giving the results the full treatment. I believe our blog has the smartest readers at MiamiHerald.com, and that y'all proved it again with these results. We asked what was the biggest Miami/South Florida sports story of 2016, offered our 15 choices and gave you five votes. That's because I thought the top three choices were obvious (I was right) and wanted to dig deeper. Your results:

Jose161. DEATH OF JOSE FERNANDEZ -- 20.76%

2. Dolphins make playoffs to end 8-year drought -- 17.32%

3. Dwyane Wade leaves Heat -- 16.96%

4. Hurricanes football wins first bowl game in 10 years -- 8.83%

5. Chris Bosh blood clots end season, likely Heat career -- 7.34%

6. Adam Gase hired as Dolphins coach 6.77%; 7. Laremy Tunsil falls to Dolphins after draft-night bong video 4.70%; 8. Hurricanes men's basketball reaches Sweet 16 4.47%; 9. Ichiro gets 3,000th MLB hit 4.13%; 10. Renamed, refurbished Hard Rock Stadium gets 2020 Super Bowl 2.64%; 11. FAU hires Lane Kiffin 1.83%; 12. FIU hires Butch davis 1.49%; 13. Death of Kimbo Slice 1.15%; 14. Panthers fire coach one year after best regular season ever 0.92%; 15. Dee Gordon suspended 80 games for PEDs 0.69%.

Putting in perspective the percentage results from a five-choice poll: Quintuple (x5) each percentage for an indication of the frequency that choice was included in everyone's consensus top five. The maximum percentage would be 20.00 if everyone used all five vote available. The fact Fernandez's winning percentage was greater than 20 indicates many voted only for that story as biggest. In other words, that story maxed out this poll and was a clear winner. Dolphins-in-playoffs and Wade-leaving both exceeded 80 percent in overall top-five mentions, after which there was a sizable dropoff. It was a big year for Miami sports, and to the hundreds of you who voted in this poll, I thank you! In case you missed it, click A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile for my column in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

January 05, 2017

What was Miami's No. 1 sports story of 2016? Poll lists 15 finalists. Voting extended to this one last day!; plus no way Tannehill should play Sunday, our Canton finalists, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 5. A happy 87th birthday to Dolphins and South Florida legend Don Shula. Here's to many more! 2) Condolences to former Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga on the passing of his wife, Marti Huizenga, at age 74. She was very charitable and much loved. 3) Happy to say sales of our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century spiked around 500 percent with the mention this week on the ESPN Radio show. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins fall to Patriots with DSM poll, Hot BUtton Top 10,  your biggest-national-sports-story-of-2016 verdict & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

"Nate Silver's fivethirtyeight.com has affirmed Patriots as the Super Bowl favorite. Uh oh, Pats fans. After Nate spent four months steadfastly predicting Hillary would beat Trump, not sure how I'd feel rght now." --Greg Cote 

Whether Tannehill plays Sunday (he won't) should be of secondary importance to Dolphins: Matt Moore is fine. Miami will need so much more than Ryan Tannehill's unlikely return to win its playoff opener at Pittsburgh. That's the theme of today's latest column by me. Click on It Isn't About Tannehill to read. 

Year-end, other select recent columns: There's A Longer Drought to End Now, from Sunday's Dolphins loss as team awaits first playoff game in eight years. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. An Orange Bowl Classic, from the 33-32 Florida State victory over Michigan. Also: Marino Led NFL Arms Race. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. The Gift Of Winning. Missing Dwyane Wade, Football Town Strikes Back.

South Florida bats .500 on Canton finalists: We had four men with South Florida ties among the 26 finalists for 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction. With this week's cut to 15, we have two left. The great Dolphins sack man Jason Taylor made it, as we fully expected. We weren't nearly as sure about receiver Isaac Bruce (Fort Lauderdale born, Dillard High), but he made it, too. Eliminated were former Dolphins and UM coach Jimmy Johnson and ex-Canes runner Edgerrin James.

Miami16WHAT WAS MIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA'S BIGGEST SPORTS STORY OF 2016?: We do this every year. Previously we asked you to name the past year's top national sports story and you did. Now we invite you to select the 2016 Miami/South Florida sports story of the year, from an alphabetically presented top 15 of my choosing. You may vote for your top five (5). I offer no synopsis beyond the description phrase in the poll, because if it needs further explaining, it obviously wasn't that big/impactful/important to you. Inviting your top five because, to me, the top three are pretty clear, s we want to dig deeper. Remember, you can choose your top five. Ready? Vote!

Vote for as many as five (5)!

UPDATED: "THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS" (35 GAMES)Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and introduce a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 10-25 after Sunday's loss to Detroit, here's The Luddite's seventh installment, with 30-game rank in parentheses:

LudditeThe Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (35 games):

1. Hassan Whiteside (1)       1,099

2. Goran Dragic (2)             795

3. Tyler Johnson (3)            705

4. James Johnson (4)          583

5. Josh Richardson (6)         437

6. Justise Winslow (8)         355

7. Dion Waiters (5)              346

8. Rodney McGruder (7)       334

9. Wayne Ellington (10)       244

10. Josh McRoberts (9)         232

Others: Willie Reed 220, Derrick Williams 197, Luke Babbitt 172, Udonis Haslem 29.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

January 03, 2017

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 72.6%; plus Miami 10-6 with 35-14 loss to Pats, opens playoffs at Pittsburgh Sunday; also, Kaaya goes pro, latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated), your pick for top national 2016 sports story & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Happy171) It is MONDAY, JANUARY 2, 2017. I Tweeted out the likelihood yesterday, now it's official: Dolphins at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. Sunday. 2) Happy official New Years Day Observance day! May it be a wonderful day and year for you and your loved ones! 3) Shameless Plug Alert: Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century is now available -- a perfect late Christmas or Happy New Year gift for every Dolfan you know! Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Biggest national sporty story of 2016 poll, NFL Week 17 picks, FSU-Michigan Orange Bowl & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Dolphins column from Sunday finale looking ahead to Pittsburgh: It's good Miami has ended its eight-year NFL playoff drought. Now it's time to erase that playoff victory drought stretching 16 years. Click on There's A Longer Drought to End Now for my column from Sunday's season-ending loss to New England. 

A year of loss, but one that left us smiling: We lost big when Dwyane Wade left. We lost bigger when Jose Fernandez died. But in the end 2016 left South Florida smiling because -- Hallelujah -- the Dolphins made the playoffs! Click on A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile for my year-in-review column.

Other select recent columns: An Orange Bowl Classic, from Friday's 33-32 Florida State victory over Michigan. Marino Led NFL Arms Race, on how No. 13 was so ahead of his time. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win, on why Hurricanes ending their bowl victory drought was so important. The Gift Of Winning, on Dolphins rewarding fans with a happy holiday for a change. Also: Missing Dwyane Wade, Football Town Strikes Back.

Find our Dolphins-Pats in-game blog and postgame thoughts directly below the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter poll.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER:72.6%: Results are certified in the latest (but not last) Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 72.6 percent overall approval -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Sunday's 35-14 loss vs. New DsmEngland putting Miami's final regular season record at 10-6. (We'll have our next poll following this week's playoff opener at Pittsburgh). The DSM is a continuous weekly gauge of how fans are feeling about the Dolphins and their direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the day after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 6:30 a.m. today/Tuesday.

2016 DSM results

G1: 52.5% (following 12-10 loss at Seattle)

G2: 13.3% (following 31-24 loss at New England)

G3: 9.9% (following 30-24 OT victory vs. Cleveland)

G4: 3.0% (following 22-7 loss at Cincinnati)

G5: 3.2% (following 30-17 loss vs. Tennessee)

G6: 67.4% (following 30-15 victory vs. Pittsburgh)

G7: 90.9% (following 28-25 victory vs. Buffalo)

G8: 94.0% (following 27-23 victory vs. N.Y. Jets)

G9: 96.8% (following 31-24 victory at San Diego)

G10: 95.7% (following 14-10 victory at Los Angeles)

G11: 95.9% (following 31-24 victory vs. San Francisco)

G12: 34.8% (following 38-6 loss at Baltimore)

G13: 93.2% (following 26-23 victory vs. Arizona)

G14: 98.0% (following 34-13 victory at N.Y. Jets)

G15: 98.3% (following 34-31 OT victory at Buffalo)

G16: 72.6% (following 35-14 loss vs. New England)

Next poll: Jan. 8 (following playoff game at Pittsburgh)

G16: NEW ENGLAND 35, DOLPHINS 14: PLAYOFFS AHEAD, TRIP TO PITTSBURGH ON DECK: Postgame thoughts: Well, Miami got handled today. Brady picked apart the defense, which couldn't get off the field. And the Fins offense, except in spurts, was ineffective. Miami gave itself a shot in drawing within 20-14, but the 35-14 final better conveyed the ass-kicking it actually was. Miami headed to Pittsburgh, as expected , but not with the desired momentum a win here would have generated ..... 4Q: Garoppolo in for Brady late in game ... Blount 1-yard TD after Williams fumble gives Pats commanding 35-14 lead after 2-point pass. Barring a miracle rally, Fins are headed to Pittsburgh for playoff opener ... Awful turnover by Williams on a 2nd-and-goal play from Pats 9. Ball returned 69 yards and has Pats in Miami red zone ... Pats have been controlling clock, Fins need 7 points pretty fast to give themselves a real chance ..... 3Q: NE up 27-24, regains control on Brady's 77-yard pass play to Edelman to snatch back the momentum Fins held for about a minute and a half ... Moore-Stills 25-yard scoring strike has MIA within 20-14 ..... Halftime thoughts: Somewhat incredible Miami is only down by two scores after being pretty thoroughly dominated all over the field. Fins defense has been passed- and run-over for 260 yards while the Miami offense has managed a tepid 105. Dolphins not out of it if they can score early in second half but looking very much at this point that Fins will keep No. 6 AFC seed and be headed to a playoff opener at Pittsburgh ..... 2Q: Pats miss a 52-yard FG try on half's final play ... MIA within 20-7 on Moore-Landxry 8-yard scoring pass 28 seconds before halftime. They're aliiive! ... Pats 20-0 now on 26-yard FG after 15-play, 8-minute drive. Fins defense just can't get off the field ... NE 17-0 on 40-yard FG ..... 1Q: NE 14-0 on Brady-Floyd 14-yard TD pass. Fins defense being dominated early ... Miami punt has its defense back on field much too soon ... NE 7-0 on Brady-Bennett 2-yard scoring pass. Impressive opening drive of 41 yards passing, 34 rushing and 3-for-3 on 3rd downs over 7:32. Pats ain't Super Bowl favorites for nuthin', folks ..... Pregame: Fins honoray pregame captains, all in Hall of Fame jackets: Marino, Griese, Csonka, Little, Stephenson, Warfield. Not bad ... Betting line, which opened with Pats favored by 7 1/2 and got as high as 10, has settled at 8 today ... Dolphins in all-aqua uniforms today, which beats the hell out of those hideous Creamsicle-orange unis they wore earlier this season ..... Original post: It's a great day to be a Dolphins fan. That is not a sentence written or said nearly enough the past several years. But today at 1 p.m. the 10-5 Dolphins host the rival 13-2 Patriots to close the regular season, and the club will see six of its Hall of Fame legends led by NeatmiaDan Marino honored at halftime. Then, of course, win or lose today, Miami's first playoff game since 2008 will be directly ahead. Fins will be the No. 6 AFC and open the postseason at Pittsburgh unless they can climb to No. 5 for a far more favorable opener at Houston. That will happen only if Miami beats New England today and if Kansas City loses at San Diego. Computer odds put the likelihood of that at 10.9 percent, meaning an 89.1% probability of "at Steelers" next week. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. First, the Patriots. Many readers have been kind enough to point out that I picked the Dolphins to lose both of past two games, and was wrong both times. Well, as a public service, I’m picking them to lose again! You’re welcome. But this time I mean it. Pats beat Miami early in season with Jimmy Garoppolo. Now I’m supposed to think they won’t with Tom Brady? The game is meaningful to NE, which would clinch home-field advantage throughout with a win here and a loss by Raiders, so we'll see the A-game Pats, not the resting-starters Pats. Yeah, I know: Brady has lost his past three starts in Miami. This I also know: New England’s defense has not allowed a touchdown in more than nine quarters. It is that balance and completeness at Bill Belichick’s command that makes Pats the Super Bowl favorite, not just Brady. Plus, Jay Ajayi has been limited this week by a sore shoulder. The betting line that opened at  7 1/2 ballooned to double digits — that’s too big. But if you’re looking at this game as the Litmus test for whether Miami finally has caught up to its AFC East nemesis, the answer is, "Not yet." My pick: New England, 24-20.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Playoff at Pittsburgh looms as Dolphins drop finale to Patriots: The regular season wrapped at 10-6 with Sunday's 35-14 home loss to New England, but forget that. What matters now is that the phrase said this time of year takes on a new and literal meaning for long-suffering Dolfans as their team prepares for its first playoff game since 2008 on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Pittsburgh. Happy New Year!

2. HURRICANES: UM ends 10-year bowl drought, Kaaya goes pro: It was a long time coming, but after an 0-6 run in bowl games, the 31-14 win over West Virginia in Orlando marked UM's first postseason victory since 2006. An even bigger win for the program? Would have been QB Brad Kaaya deciding to stay. Alas, Monday night he revealed he'll be entering the NFL Draft.

3. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: It's an Alabama-Clemson rematch for championship:  Crimson Tide and Tigers won their semifinals Saturday and will meet next week in College Football Playoff finale, with 'Bama an opening 6-point favorite. We keep rooting against Nick Saban, and it keeps not doing any good.

4. ORANGE BOWL: FSU-Michigan thriller an OB Classic: Orange Bowl had a heavyweight matchup in Florida State vs. Michigan. It also had one of the best games and thrilling finishes in its 83 years in FSU's 33-32 upset win. Started when Renegade bucked Chief Osceola, but got better for Noles.

5. HEAT: Miami hurtling toward worst season in nine years: Team is 10-25 with five straight losses and and eight of past nine as it heads out on six-game roadie cascading to franchise's worst season since 2007-08. “The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight”: A 1969 Jimmy Breslin novel turned into a movie, now finding its sequel in current Heat.

6. PANTHERS: Ice slowly melting on season of high hopes: A year ago Florida had best regular season in club history and Cats entered this season boldly thinking Stanley Cup. Then came the slow start, the coach firing, and the 5-11 record since that panicked move. Oops.

7. NFL: Final two playoff spots determined: Playoff schedule now set: In AFC it'll be Raiders-Texans Saturday at 4:30 and Dolphins-Steelers Sunday at 1, with Patriots and Chiefs enjoying first-round byes. In NFC it's Lions-Seahawks Saturday at 8:15 and Giants-Packers Sunday at 4:40, with byes to Falcons and Cowboys.

8. UM BASKETBALL: ACC play underway for Canes: No. 11 UM women lost their ACC opener to No. 7 Florida State, while the unranked-but-close UM men began conference play Saturday with a victory over North Carolina State. Conference play torques up interest, but, in this sport, it's still fast-forward-to-March, please.  

9. UFC: Rousey beaten badly in comeback: Ronda Rousey returned to the octagon this week, got battered badly and didn't make it past the first round. Thought her star wouldn't extinguish so soon, but, seems "UFC career" and "longevity" is an oxymoron.

10. HAPPY  NEW YEAR!: Welcome, 2017!: Please be better than 2016. Thank you.

Missing the HB10 cut: Missing the HB10 Cut is sleeping in this week. 

Poll result: Surprise! (Not). Cubs were 2016's top national sports story: We invited you to select 2016's biggest national sports story from among The Associated Press' top 10, giving you three votes, and your runaway winner with 35.5 percent was the Cubs winning their first World Series since 1908. Then it was LeBron James leading Cleveland to NBA title with 16.3% and the death of Muhammad Ali with 13.3%. Rounding out your top five: Broncos winning Super Bowl in Peyton Manning's last game (8.3%) and Phelps/Ledecky leading U.S. Olympic swimming (6.3%).

Coming tomorrow/Tuesday in the blog: Your vote for the No. 1 Greater Miami/South Florida sports story of 2016. 

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote