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April 18, 2013

Dolphins' schedule: Here's early call on won-lost record; plus NBA 1R playoffs odds and my picks, Branden Albert, Heat MVOG, Brittney Griner & more

1aa1rsd1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 20. It is Record Store Day! Unshackle yourself from the chains, go find a local indie shop and hunt for some great vinyl. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat MVOG poll, Heat-Bucks, Kiper plays Ireland, Marlins odds, Shane Larkin, reflections on Boston. 3) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

That ol' Peyton Magic?: Bovada tells us the Super Bowl champion Ravens will be a 7 1/2-point underdog at Denver in the 2013 NFL season opener, the first time in at least eight years the defending champ has been an opening 'dog.

DOLPHINS SCHEDULE IS READY FOR PRIME TIME: NFL schedules were finalized, and Miami will be under the lights thrice: Sept. 30 at New Orleans (a Monday), Oct. 31 here vs. Cincinnati (a Thursday), 1aa1dol13logoand Nov. 11 at Tampa Bay (a Monday). Dolphins open with two straight on road, Sept. 8 at Cleveland and Sept. 15 at Cleveland, with the home opener Sept. 22 at 4:05 p.m. vs. Atlanta. Bye week is Oct. 13. The full schedule:

September: 8--at Cleveland, 1 p.m.; 15--at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.; 22--vs. Atlanta, 4:05 p.m.; 30--at New Orleans, 8:40 p.m. October: 6--vs. Baltimore, 1 p.m.; 13--Bye; 20--vs. Buffalo, 1 p.m.; 27--at New England, 1 p.m.; 31--vs. Cincinnati, 8:25 p.m. November: 11--at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8:40 p.m.; 17--vs. San Diego, 1 p.m.; 24--vs. Carolina, 1 p.m. December: 1--at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.; 8--at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.; 15--vs. New England, 1 p.m.; 22--at Buffalo, 1 p.m.; 29--vs. N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.

The quickie analysis: Six games clear favorites, four clear 'dogs, six in-between. Seeing 10-6 / playoffs as a legitimate early possibility. Not a great home schedule, beyond Patriots and champion Ravens. Although I guess we still include the Stinkin' Jets, even though they actually do stink now.

NBA FIRST-ROUND PLAYOFF ODDS, OUR PICKS: The 16 most deserving teams have made the playoffs that start this weekend. Or, as i like to say it: The 15 most deserving teams plus the Milwaukee Bucks. Our opening-round synopses and picks, starting with the East of course:

1aa1buckNo. 1 seed Miami Heat vs. No. 8 Milwaukee Bucks: Must we even go through the pretense that the losing-record Bucks will be anything other than ease-into-it fodder for the revving defending champions? No, we must not go through that pretense. Miami vs. Milwaukee in the first round is like the U.S. vs. Barbados in a war. Bovada betting title odds: Heat 2-3, Bucks 500-1. My pick: Heat in 4 games. [Click on Must Win for today's latest column from me on the Heat as it segues from regular season to playoffs]. 

No. 2 New York Knicks vs. No. 7 Boston Celtics: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and wise Doc Rivers have enough left to make this interesting. Surely the recent Boston bombings will be an emotional factor. NYK and Carmelo bring too much, though. Title odds: Knicks 16-1, Celtics 66-1. My pick: Knicks in 7.

No. 3 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 6 Atlanta Hawks: Indy brings the annoying, cocky, defensive brats Miami wouldn't mind avoiding en route to the Finals. I give Hawks a better chance than most seem to but do not see an outright upset. Title odds: Pacers 25-1, Hawks 150-1. My pick: Pacers in 6.

No. 4 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 5 Chicago Bulls: By seed and betting odds an even series. Tough to side against Deron Williams, but I like Chitown rising up even without Derrick Rose. Title odds: Nets 60-1, Bulls 60-1. My pick: Feels like an upset even if it isn't. Bulls in 7.

No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 8 Houston Rockets: James Harden vs. his former team makes the easy storyline, but Jim is surrounded by enough talent o top his ex's. No hiccup here to the inevitable OKC-Heat Finals rematch. Title odds: Thunder 17-4, Rockets 100-1. My pick: Thunder in 6.

No. 2 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers: Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol have been on the court together without Kobe Bryant five minutes all season. Five minutes! Just a gut feeling on this one. Title odds: Spurs 10-1, Lakers 40-1. My pick: Upset! Lakers in 7.  

No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Golden State Warriors: Denver has hardly seemed to miss Danilo Gallinari. I give Golden State less a first-round shot than any team not named Milwaukee. Title odds: Nuggets 25-1, Warriors 100-1. My pick: Nuggets in 5.

No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies: I think a strong Memphis defense will slow LAC into a haf-court mode and take away the Clips' run-and-lob preferences. Title odds: Clippers 25-1, Grizzlies 40-1. My pick: Upset! Grizzlies in 6.

NOT SURE BRANDEN ALBERT IS WORTH IT: The Dolphins are negotiating to agree to terms with 1aa1albertband then trade for Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert -- even though coach Andy Reid later told KC media his team had not granted Miami permission for such discussions. Hmm. Anyway, the issue to me is whether Albert (pictured) is worth the second-round pick being talked about. He is 28, a pretty solid starter but nothing more. Has not made a Pro Bowl in five seasons. Has had sporadic back issues. He'll be wanting Jake Long money, but is he worth it? Is he that much better than Jonathan Martin to spend that much and also yield a high pick? I'd be more inclined to make the deal if it was for the lower (54th overall) of Miami's two 2R picks; the other is 42nd overall.

Poll result: Battier, Birdman lead Heat 'MVOG' vote: Who is the Heat's Most Valuable Other Guy? (Meaning non-Big 3). We asked, and you anointed Shane Battier (40.4 percent) and Chris "Birdman" Andersen (30.3%) as your clear picks. Results surprised me a bit. I thought starter Mario Chalmers (12.7%) and star-reserve Ray Allen (11.3%) would fare much better. The other four guys on the ballot (Norris Cole, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis) had negligible support.

GOOD FOR BRITTNEY GRINER: The Baylor star-turned-No. 1 pick in the recent WNBA draft has revealed 1aa1brittneyshe is gay. She didn't "announce" it. She mentioned it casually. She was not defensive, flip or ambiguous. It was as if she was discussing the weather. Perfect. America has been waiting for a prominent, active professional team-sports star to come out. We have one  now. It isn't the headline maker it would be if it were an NFL or NBA star -- far from it. But that's OK. Griner's honesty (and to a degree bravery) makes it that much easier for her male counterparts to someday prove themselves as strong. You're out there, guys. We're waiting...

Click back. Will be updating/adding to this latest blogpost...

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