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19 posts from January 2012

January 15, 2012

NFL Divisional Playoffs: Giants stun Pack, Ravens defense prevails, Tebow's Biblical inspiration fails Broncos, Niners win one for the ages

1aa1mlk1) Commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The great man (pictured) would have turned 83 Sunday. 2) You can still vote in our Jeff Fisher-decision Dolphins poll in post directly below this. 3) Enjoyed Lana Del Ray on SNL, sort of avante garde/creepy, maybe kindred with Florence (of the Machine). 4) Click here for Sunday's Random Evidence notes column. 5) Micky Arison's Carnival cruise line owns the Costa ship in the news for the wrong reasons, putting in perspective those three Heat losses in a row. 6) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

AFC/NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES: Initial thoughts. AFC: Ravens at Patriots. See New England favored by around 6 points. Gut feeling that Pats win and cover. NFC: Not many saw this, but Giants at 49ers. Think San Fran will be favored by the token 3 points. Too close to  call for me at this point.

1aa1lordNFL DIVISIONAL-ROUND PLAYOFFS: [Game capsules below] I had 49ers upsetting Saints outright and Broncos, Texans and Giants all losing but all covering the spread this weekend in NFL Divisional Round playoff games. Click on Divisional Gems for all our latest picks, and on Being Tebow for our related NFL column on the most talked-about player of these playoffs and perhaps of this season. I ended up going 3-1 straight-up for the weekend and 3-1 vs. the spread. (I'll take that, I guess). I'd be lying if I said Tim Tebow didn't inspire my passing along the David Sipress cartoon at  right, whose caption is, "First, I'd like to blame the Lord for causing us to lose today." Oh how I would pay to have heard Tebow say that last night, although I don't imagine he was in much of a jesting mood...

Giants 37, Packers 20: New York, New York! -- Did not see this. Saw NYG beating the spread, yeah, but not winning outright. Not against a 15-1 team at home. Props to the Biggies defense. Props to Eli Manning. Original post: OK we've had our token defensive battle for the day, now back to the 1aa1aaroncrazy air show. It would not surprise me if Aaron Rodgers (pictured) and Eli Manning combined for 90 passes, 800 yards and 70 points. Buckle up. Ultimately you can give me the better team that also happens to enjoy a bigger-than-typical home field advantage, although I like 'dog Biggies to cover the line. Pick: Packers, 34-30.

Ravens 20, Texans 13: De-fense, de-fense... -- Game went as expected, with Ravens defense ultimating dominating a point-shy game. Original post: This probably is the least sexy of the weekend's four games, but in terms 1aa1raylewisof competitiveness it'll be a lot closer to Saints-Niners than to Broncos-Pats, guaranteed. Arian Foster vs. Ray Rice is about as good as a running backs duel gets, and these certifiably are two of the top five defenses in the league. The other three Divisional Round games are airborne, pass-happy. This is the Old School game of the four, the one John Facenda's voice would most fit, and if you don't agree, Ray Lewis (pictured) will come and beat the crap out of you. Like Crows at home, outright, meaning I like Baltimore's defense vs. a rookie quarterback, but I still think the 7.5-point line is too big. Pick: Ravens, 19-17.   

Patriots 45, Broncos 10: Tim Tebaawww -- Heard on TV yesterday that before the game Tebow 1aa1bradytiminspired his team with the familiar old Biblical bon mot about David vs. Goliath. Hey how'd that work out, Timmy? What happened was, the Broncos were all motivated and moved and then David went out and got crushed under Goliath's gigantic sandal. Tom "Goliath" Brady was great. Six touchdown passes. "David" Tebow was not, inviting all the old doubts about his NFL future. Tebow completed 9 of 26 passes. Those damn slingshots never were very accurate. Sorry I thought Denver would beat the spread. Guess I bought too much of the fairy tale. My proposed caption for the photo at right: Tebow: "At least I still have the Lord at my side." Brady: "Yeah but I've got the Lord and Giselle Bundchen at my side." Original post: Tebow this, Tebow that, Tebow the other. Whatever. This one comes down to Tom Brady, Bill Belichick off a bye and a mighty home-field advantage. Pick: Patriots, 31-20.

49ers 36, Saints 32: A game for the ages -- Wow. Just wow. What a fantastic game! (Yes, made all the better 1aa1patrickwbecause I called it!). Saints go up late on a TD catch by UM's Jimmy Graham and then Niners win it on a TD catch by Vernon Davis, the brother of Dolphin Vontae. Little Alex Smith going pass for pass with mighty drew Brees when it counted. I try to avoid hyperbole, but this truly will be remembered as one of the greatest playoff games. (By the way, with Saints ahead 24-23 and 49ers driving inside the two-minute mark, I had a great chance to hit my predicted score exactly. That was when the scoreboard began to explode). Original post: Do I feel really good about thinking the Niners will win today? Um, no. It is tough picking against Drew Brees and that offense. But do I believe that San Fran actually will prevail? Yeah. N'Awlins isn't the same juggernaut on the road; all three of its losses have been away. This will be the best defense Brees has faced all season (Patrick Willis is pictured). Meanwhile, you can move and score on the Saints' defense, and I'm thinking Frank Gore will keep Brees off the field enough and that SF's defense will do the rest. Writing a big check here. Cover me, Jim Harbaugh. Pick: 49ers, 26-24.

January 13, 2012

Fisher-to-Rams a huge loss for Dolphins (with poll); plus LeBron signs with Cleveland & more

1aa1blackcat 1aa1blackcat[1) Our NFL Divisional Round playoff coverage is now a new, separate post directly above this one. 2) A belated Happy Friday the 13th, if that isn't an oxymoron. To all you triskaidekaphobes and paraskevidekatriaphobes, hope you stayed indoors, preferably in a fetal curl in a dark closet. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

FISHER PICKS RAMS OVER DOLPHINS: Rationalize and spin it any way you wish, but Jeff Fisher picking St. Louis over Miami is a significant defeat for Miami and owner Stephen Ross, not much less than a public embarrassment in what was a direct head-to-head battle for Fisher. Now the Dolphins are left to scramble into Plan B mode. Click HERE for my new column on this, online now and in today's/Saturday's pulp editions. (And thanks for making it the most-read column/story on all of MiamiHerald.com). I write that Ross picked the wrong Jeff -- Ireland over Fisher -- and also that there is one way for Miami to now atone for losing Fisher. Hint: It involves St. Louis again. Now what is your gut reaction to Fisher's decision? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

LEBRON SIGNS WITH CLEVELAND: Could I say it if it weren't true? Click here.

PANIC GROWS AS HEAT LOSING STREAK AT THREE!!!: Three losses in a row to end this West Coast road swing. Oh my. A third straight loss was as unacceptable as it is unfathomable. We might even refuse to take you back. Air space would be denied and airports blockaded, forcing the Heat to skulk home under cover of darkness on one of Micky Arison's cruise ships, the Disappointment of the Seas.

NAMATH RIPS JETS' SPARANO HIRING: In a radio interview up there Jets great Joe Namath said he was mystified by the Planes hiring defrocked Dolphins coach Tony Sparano to run their offense. "Credentials as an offensive coordinator," said Namath. "I don't see it." [Your Suzy Kolber punchline goes here].

1aa1romneyON MITT ROMNEY: Must be cartoon day in the blog. I admire good political cartoons because they convey so much with a single image or phrase, like this work by Paul Noth: "Romney: Oh, alright. Fine." With one satirical yard sign the artist sums up the idea that this man who seemingly has been running for president forever finally has worn down resistance as the now-presumptive Republican nominee, less by his own sway than by a weak field of rivals. Romney's most commonly stated primary attribute? "Well, um, he looks presidential..."  Oh, alright. Fine.

AND IN OTHER NEWS, DOLPHINS PART-OWNER ASKED TO CUT TERRORIST TIES: Jennifer Lopez, one of the cadre of Dolphins celebrity sort-of part owners, is under fire from the advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, for appearing in the ads of Italian automaker Fiat, which does business with Iran and therefore (says the group) tacitly supports terrorism. I'd also like to point out that the gritty J-Lo/Fiat ad that has her driving back to the old New York hood? It was filmed on the West Coast.

1aa1pencilPENCIL UPDATE: Are you like me? Have you been caught off-guard by the onset of computers and find yourself suddenly stuck with thousands of perfectly good pencils you no longer need? There are myriad uses. For example, a sharpened pencil pops a balloon in a way that would shame a pin. But the ticket is to develop alternatives that deploy many pencils at once. For example, pictured: A pencil dish rack. Something to think about. 

DEAR GREG...: "Your blog's OK but would be better if occasionally you would direct me to a gratuitous video of Three French Models Stripping Down to Their Lingerie at a Paris Museum. Thank you." (You're welcome).

Click back. Will be adding to or updating this latest blogpost later today, especially if Jeff Fisher gets off his a-- and makes a !@#$ing decision...

January 11, 2012

Bulletin: While Jeff Fisher waffles, life goes on! Sparano joins Stinkin' Jets; plus Heat in all-star voting, Saban, Tebow spoof & more

[1) Congrats Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell for being only Cat selected to NHL all-star game. One player from a first-place team seems odd, but that's the residue of a lot of years of not mattering. 2) You can still vote in our who-you-want-as-next-Dolphins-coach poll in blogpost directly below. 3) Musical treats: Click here to see/hear Mavis Staples, Wilco and Nick Lowe in dressing-room rehearsal of The Band's "The Weight" prior to a December 2011 performance in Chicago. And here to hear Elton John cover Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit In the Sky," recorded late 1969. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

JEFF FISHER MANIA!!! Click on A Game Dolphins Must Win for my column today on Miami's pursuit of Fisher. I do not blame Fisher for leveraging both offers to get the best deal for himself. Nor do I blame both teams for waiting him out, within reason. There is no point in a hard, fast deadline after just a few days. Note, we'll have a new poll right here the nanosecond Fisher (finally) picks Dolphins or Rams, so watch for it and weigh in.

SPARANO TURNS UP DOLPHINS-JETS RIVALRY ANOTHER NOTCH: While we were obsessed with Jeff Fisher's Dolphins/Rams waffling, an intense rivalry added another intriguing layer of heat today with the news that dumped Dolphins coach Tony Sparano had arisen as Jets' offensive coordinator. Not surprised Sparano found work quickly; am surprised it is at the coordinator level. Good move for Sparano personally. He's a Northeast guy, from Connecticut, Mets fans, sons played at Albany, looks the part. Also a good move professionally I think. He's in a division coaching against a lousy Patriots defense, a lousy Bills team, and the ex's he thinks fired him prematurely. Plus Rex Ryan loves to tweak teams in his division and this, make no mistake, is a tweak at Miami. Negatives? He inherits a mini-mess with sniping about QB Mark Sanchez. And the New York media market will make we in South Florida seem like a welcome wagon.

LEBRON, D-WADE GOBBLING VOTES: LeBron James is first among Eastern Conference forwards with 640,789 votes in the first wave of NBA all-star voting, while Dwyane Wade is second among East guards with 637,912, narrowly trailing Chicago's Derrick Rose. Chris Bosh is fifth among conference forwards with 140,601. Joel Anthony is fourth among centers with 41,832. Game is Feb. 26 in Orlando.

PLAYING "WHAT IF" WITH SABAN: Couldn't help doing that watching ol' Nick win another college championship with Alabama the other night. What if he had stuck it out with the Dolphins and the NFL rather than flee after two seasons? He could rub people the wrong way, and did here, but oh could he coach. A Dolphins executive told me recently he remains convinced that if Saban had stayed he would have turned this thing around and been a great pro coach. I tend to believe it. I know the vast majority of Dolfans don't agree, but I'd hire him back in a second.

"TIM TEBOW'S FIRE": John Parr, who had a 1985 No. 1 hit song with "St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion)," has adapted the lyrics and recorded "Tim Tebow's Fire," a tribute that is well-meaning in its god-awfulness. Click on Tim Tebow's Fire for the YouTube vid. My opinion of the '80s as music's most barren decade has not budged. Click on Hitler Reacts to Tebow for a spoof-video more to my liking (with apologies in advance to any readers who might be offended by the very idea of involving the likeness of Hitler in anything comedic).

SOUTH FLORIDA IN THROES OF PANIC AS HEAT LOSE SECOND STRAIGHT!: Heat lost a second straight road game last night, this in OT at Clippers. Predictably the hand-wringing and over-analysis are a-bloom. A) The Heat will lose occasionally, sometimes even two in a row. B) The Heat have lost these last two for no reason more psychologically deep than missed free throws. Last night it was 14 misses, eight by LeBron James. Still, two in a row oh my God! Grief counselors are standing by.

1aa1brownzDOLPHINS DRAFT ... A LINEBACKER?: Yes, it's Zach Brown! Not the Zac Brown Band guy ("Chicken Fried"), the North Carolina outside linebacker who'd be a sack guy paired off with Cameron Wake. That's according to an SI.com mock draft out this week. It has Andrew Luck going No. 1 to Indy (of course) and then Cleveland trading up with St. Louis to take Robert Griffin III No. 2 overall. Two quick thoughts: 1) Z-Brown is by no means a consensus top-10 pick. 2) I would sooner thank that if Miami, selecting 8th or 9th, is going to reach, it would be for a quarterback such as Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M (assuming a veteran is not obtained), not for another position. Then again, once or twice a decade or so, I am wrong.

COTE'S STATE OF THE STATE: Our final 2011-season, post-bowls ranking of the seven FBS teams in our state, with previous week's rank in parentheses:

1aa1fla1. FSU Seminoles (1) 9-4, 5-3 ACC

2. Florida Gators (3) 7-6, 3-5 SEC

3. Miami Hurricanes (2) 6-6, 3-5 ACC

4. FIU Panthers (5) 8-5, 5-3 Sun Belt

5. S. Fla. Bulls (4) 5-7, 1-6 Big East

6. C. Fla. Knights (6) 5-7, 3-5 C-USA

7. FAU Owls (7) 1-11, 0-8 Sun Belt

HEADLINES YOU NEVER THOUGHT YOU'D SEE, one in a series: Click here. Comment: He thought getting it hurt. Just wait'll the removal.

THE REAL T-30 / FINAL 2011: The Real T-30 is our weekly cumulative, consensus Top 30 college football ranking based on a season-long combination of the three major polls: Associated Press, USA Today, ESPN. Points based on 30 for a No. 1 ranking, 29 for No. 2, etc. This is the final 2011-season, post-bowls aggregate:

Rank   Team   Points

1   Louisiana State   1,293

2   Alabama   1,260

3   Oklahoma   1,135

4   Oklahoma State   1,129

5   Stanford   1,128

6   Boise State   1,107

7   Arkansas   1,031

8   Oregon   1,014

9   Wisconsin   930

10   Virginia Tech   821

11   South Carolina   789

12   Nebraska   740

13   Michigan State   654

14   Clemson   646

15   Michigan   527

16   Houston   489

17   Texas A&M   457

18   Kansas State   436

19   West Virginia   428

20   FLORIDA STATE   410

21   Georgia   354

22   Texas   327

23   Texas Christian   322

24   Baylor   318

25   Georgia Tech   307

26   Penn State   289

27   Southern Cal   269

28   FLORIDA   262

29   Arizona State   244

30   Auburn   215

33   SOUTH FLORIDA   144

44   MIAMI   13


Final 2010: 1. Oregon; Miami 23rd.

Final 2009: 1. Florida; Miami 16th. 

January 09, 2012

WWJD: What Will Jeff Do? Vote for Dolphins' next coach (with poll); plus Nick Saban, Tim Tebow, Larkin, 'Shameless,' 11/22/63 & more

[1) You can still vote in our what-team-are-you-supporting-in-NFL-playoffs poll in post just below this. 3) Hurricanes women fall 12th to 13th in latest AP basketball poll. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

Update: Indefinitive quasi-"reports" continue to suggest Jeff Fisher is now leaning toward the Dolphins over the Rams. No official word. Stay tuned. Meantime, strike Mike Mularkey from Miami's list of head-coach candidates. He has been hired by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

1aa1copterWHOM DO YOU HOPE IS THE NEXT DOLPHINS' COACH?: Obviously the team's No. 1 choice is Jeff Fisher, and even thought he reportedly is leaning to St. Louis until the moment he says "It's the Rams," I would not discount Miami' chances. (Pictured at right, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross' coach-squiring helicopter under attack by the St. Louis Rams). Fisher would get my vote to be next coach since I am finally convinced any hope of Bill Cowher/Jon Gruden is dead in the water. Now have your say. Tell the Dolphins how much you too want Fisher -- or don't. This poll includes the six men who have or will be interviewed by the club for the job as of now, plus one wild-card of my choosing (Les Miles), based solely on speculation and rumor. Also there is a "somebody else" category. Take a dip in our poll and say why you back the person you do.

Joe Philbin's son found dead: Click here for a serious and tragic story about the son of Dolphins coaching candidate Joe Philbin, the Packers offensive coordinator. He had been reported, his body later pulled from a river. Foul play is not suspected in the death of the 21-year-old, leading one to suspect an accident or suicide. The son had been convicted in 2009 of sexual assault.

ALABAMA QUIETS THE COMPLAINERS: Nick Saban's Tide rolled mightily over LSU last night, 21-0. Field 1aa1nicksgoals + that defense = national championship. These were the two best teams in the country (sorry, Oklahoma State), and the victor would deserve the title. A narrow 'Bama win (after Tigers beat Tide 9-6 during the season) might have left debate, but this was conclusive. I had picked Alabama to win 24-20; did not imagine a rout. One post-mortem quibble: Alabama got 55 of 60 votes in the final Associated Press poll. I can almost see the four votes for Oklahoma State; it's like supporting Ralph Nader. You know you are hopeless but you get to pretend you are standing for something. But can someone please explain the one vote for LSU? After last night? That voter should be identified and stripped of his voting rights. Seriously. [See related 'List' below].

"WE'RE NO. 7! WE'RE...": Tom Lemming of CBS Sports issues his Top 25 college football recruiting classes of 2012 and Miami Hurricanes check in 7th. Top five: Alabama, Texas, Michigan, Florida, Ohio State. FSU 10th.

1aa1shamelessWELCOME BACK, 'SHAMELESS': Pleased to watch the season premier of Showtime's Shameless last night. Any other fans out there? For me it joins an echelon with Boardwalk Empire, Dexter, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Family Guy as the best stuff on TV. William H. Macy as the alcoholic, deliciously derelict family patriarch Frank (pictured) is brilliant.

ON TIM TEBOW, HIS ACOLYTES: I wrote that Tim Tebow was a "fraud QB" and that he'd be dominated by 1aa1ttebowPittsburgh's defense yesterday. Um, I was wrong -- or at least certainly on the latter point. He threw for 3:16 oops sorry I meant 316 yards and Denver won in OT. So the Legend of Tebow is resuscitated! It is the reaction since that has amused me. My e-mail box is stuffed with delighted, crowing, told-ya-so messages from His (benefit of doubt on the capitalization) fans. And some of the words contained, I must say, are rather un-Christian! Anyway, I deserve it. I underestimated Tebow. Based on the reaction, I'm pretty sure that's a sin.

UPDATED SUPER BOWL ODDS: With the field down to eight, from our friends at Bovada: Packers 9-5, Patriots 11-4, Saints 7-2, Ravens 7-1, 49ers and Giants both 14-1, Texans 28-1 and Broncos 40-1. Exact- matchup favorites are Pack-Pats at 2-1, Saints-Pats 9-4, Pack-Ravens 5-1 and Saints-Ravens 8-1.

LARKIN IN COOPERSTOWN: [Barry Larkin is the father of Miami Hurricanes freshman basketball guard Shane Larkin. Click here for the tale]. Career-long Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin (1986-2004) was voted 1aa1barrylinto the Hall of Fame Monday on his third try. (Guess he was especially good in retirement this past year). Larkin was the only one voted in, and an expected if somewhat marginal choice. To me, he's in the Hall of Very Good, a solid (.295 career average) guy who never led the league in any statistical category for a season, though he did win the NL MVP in '95 and gained a solid 86.4 percent of the votes. All-star career? Yeah. Cooperstown? Well, congratulations in any case. Voters held their ground, though, on the two guys smudged by steroids era, with Mark McGwire at a mere 19.5% of the votes and Rafael Palmeiro at 12.6%.

TUNA IN CAN(TON)?: Bill Parcells is among 17 who made the latest cut for consideration for the next wave of Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees, along with former Hurricanes standout Cortez Kennedy and briefly-a-Dolphin Cris Carter. I'd call Tuna's chances pretty good, unless voting is confined to Miami.

1aa1kings11/22/63: Am presently immersed in Stephen King's latest novel, 11/22/63, about a man who time-travels in an effort to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. As a Constant Reader of King's I am amazed by how prolific he is without diminished quality. The man sh--s best-sellers. He can take a premise that every fiber in your being knows is ridiculous (time travel? c'mon!), sell it, give you no choice but to buy it, and make you glad you did.

THE LIST: ALABAMA/LSU NATIONAL CHMPIONSHIPS: Alabama (7) and Louisiana State (3) have combined for 10 national football titles, based on BCS championships since the 1998 season and final Associated Press polls prior. Championship seasons by the two schools:

Season   Champion   Coach

1958   LSU   Paul Dietzel

1961   Alabama   Bear Bryant

1964   Alabama   Bear Bryant

1965   Alabama   Bear Bryant

1978   Alabama   Bear Bryant

1979   Alabama   Bear Bryant

1992   Alabama   Gene Stallings

2003   LSU   Nick Saban

2007   LSU   Les Miles

2009   Alabama   Nick Saban

2011   Alabama   Nick Saban

Click back. Will be adding more stuff to this latest blogpost...

January 07, 2012

Who are you most rooting for in the NFL playoffs? (with poll); plus Broncos, Giants join Saints, Texans as winners advancing

1aa1carterdon[1) My Sunday Random Evidence notes column (here) mentions four known Dolphins coach candidates. It was written before a fifth, Falcons offensive chief Mike Mularkey, was added. That Jeff Fisher is the preferred candidate is no-duh obvious. 2) R.I.P. Don Carter (pictured), Miamian and all-time bowling great who died at 85. One of my first Herald assignments was writing a bowling column back when the sky was filled with pterodactyls. Don was gracious and a true legend. 3) Getting pretty tired of people b----ing about the LSU-Alabama rematch. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

Next weekend's schedule: Broncos @ Patriots, Texans @ Ravens, Saints @ 49ers, Giants @ Packers.

Find updated Wild-Card Weekend playoff capsules below poll...

"I HOPE THE [BLANKETY-BLANKS] WIN THE SUPER BOWL": This is risky for us, because a 1aa1nflposplurality reading this surely are Dolphins fans, whose gut-instinct answer to the poll question might be a belligerent, "None of them!" The militant wing of Dolfandom might well boycott a poll that offers a hard reminder Miami is an NFL playoffs spectator yet again. But I also know many of us have other rooting interests, if only as in, "Well, if Miami can't be in it I guess I'd like [so and so] to win it all because..." Sadly, Dolfans have frequent, virtually annual practice at settling on somebody else to root for as the playoffs get underway, and there are always reasons. Maybe you're from Pittsburgh, maybe you're a Tebow acolyte, maybe you anoint a Cinderella, whatever. So who do you back this time and why? Remember, this poll is heart, not head. Not who you think/predict/bet will win the Super Bowl but who you hope does! Oh, and the poll stays good even as the results roll in; just make it "who I would have liked to win..." Vote and say why. (More on the playoffs below the poll...)

Click on Wild-Card Gems for our original Friday picks on this weekend's four games, and on Then There Were Twelve for our ranking of the playoff teams based on championship likelihood.

BRONCOS 29, STEELERS 23 (OT) -- Review: Forgive me, Tim Tebow, for I have sinned. Original post: Tim Tebow fans are devout. This, I 1aa1pitt 1aa1pitt2know. Called him a "fraud QB" the other day and learned that God-fearing Christians are quite capable of writing nasty emails. I needle Tebow partly to counteract the over-the-top idolatry but mostly, I think, because he truly is a bad, inaccurate passer. OK on to the game! Ben Roethlisberger's ankle injury gives us pause here and makes me think Denver will cover the 8.5 betting number. Big Ben will play but obviously isn't right. Semi-Ben, no Rashard Mendenhall and the Broncos' history of being pretty tough at home in playoffs sounds like a close game to me. Bottom line, though: Steelers' very good defense brings Tebow to his knees. Not to pray, but to rise from having been tackled and sacked. Pick: Steelers, 20-16.

GIANTS 24, FALCONS 2 -- Review: Guess my upset pick made me queasy for damn good reason! Not the least surprised NYG won, but very surprised/disappointed by the way Atlanta's offense was AWOL. 1aa1mattrThe playoff monkey is now certifiably on Matt Ryan's back. Original post:  This for me was the toughest game to pick and my choice of Falcons in an upset admittedly sits queasily in my gut, like too much bacon. Picking a dome team to win at NYG is a risk (if that dome team doesn't have fleur de lis on its helmet). Despite the stage and stakes I think NYG could be a bit flat/overconfident after last week's huge win over rival Dallas that was tantamount to a playoff. Mostly I think Atlanta is a dangerously underestimated team. Birds have won five of past six trips to the Meadowlands and bring a very solid red-zone defense. Also, Matt Ryan is 23-0 when he has a 100-plus passer rating, and Biggies have league's 29th-ranked air-D. I'll be needing Ryan to replicate the gesture he is pictured making at least three times today. Thanking you in advance, Matt. Pick: Falcons, 27-24.

SAINTS 45, LIONS 28 -- Review: Had N'Awlins covering a 10.5 betting line and was right, even though it seemed shaky for a while. (I'd predicted 42-27. Close enough?) Thought the game was all about Brees dominating and got that, too. Umm, unless you think 466 passing yards doesn't rate as dominating? Original post: Have you heard of The Land That Time Forgot? (Edgar Rice Burroughs novel,

1aa1brees1975 cult film). This is The Game That Defense Forgot. Seriously. Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford might throw 100 passes. This is the matchup for which the phrase "bet the over" was invented. Bottom line? The scariest thing in the NFL is Brees vs. a bad pass defense. (Pictured, Stafford already is congratulating Brees for tonight's win). Lions in their first playoff since 1999 are a nice, feel-good tale, but c'mon on! You out, Motown! One and done. New Orleans is 8-0 and averaging 42.4 points at home this season. I would be stunned if the Cajuns lost, and surprised if they didn't cover the big (10.5) line. Pick: Saints, 42-27.

TEXANS 31, BENGALS 10  -- Review: I had Houston covering a 3-point favorite's line and was right, though I thought it would be closer. I saw the Texans' defense at home being the difference and was right. I said the HOU ground game would prevail, and Arian Foster went nuts. (Oh how I absolutely hate to brag!) Original post: For me the least compelling of the four first-round games, with 1aa1balllucilleHouston 1aa1daltonbacking in having lost three in a row and the Bengals sort of reminding me of the Dolphins (decent, not nearly great). Notably, it's a first-ever playoff meeting between rookie starting quarterbacks in Cincy's Andy Dalton and HOU's T.J. Yates. Dalton is NFL's most famous active redhead. Since the all-time redhead is Lucille Ball, does that mean Dalton's new nickname should be Lucille Football? (Sorry). Texans making their first postseason appearance in club history and 'Gals aiming for their first playoff victory since 1990, so this matchup is Cinderella overload. I give Cincy a medium-to-large upset shot but ultimately like Houston's defense, especially at home. Also like Arian Foster/Ben Tate to win the battle vs. visitors' run defense. Pick: Texans, 24-20.

January 05, 2012

Here are your NFL playoff winners; plus Carlos Zambrano worth Marlins' risk, Landry Jones, magic Geno, Dave Toub-tastic & more

1aa1don2 1aa1don1HAPPY 82ND, DON SHULA: The all-time winningest NFL coach, twice Super Bowl champion, imprimatur of the Perfect Season, turned 82 on Wednesday. Congrats, Don. Many more!

[1) Penn State hires Pats assistant Bill O'Brien. Thank goodness. That means no more rumors about Al Golden leaving, until the next one. 2) Elton John fans: He's playing Sunrise arena March 9, with tix on sale Jan. 14. 3) You can still vote in our Dolphins-2011-MVP poll in post directly below this new one. 4) Saw a bumper sticker that must be old but still made me smile: "Honk If You Love Peace & Quiet." 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

1aa1earlessUrgent Bulletin: Earless rabbits (right) have been discovered in China. Updates as warranted.

DOLPHINS COACH FRONT: ESPN is reporting Jeff Fisher has narrowed his decision to the Dolphins or Rams and will choose within the next week. QB FRONT: Landry Jones returning to Oklahoma is another blow to Miami's hopes of drafting a QB in first round. Looks at this point like you spend hugely and try for Robert Griffin III or begin to target another position.

GET YOUR NFL PLAYOFF WINNERS FOR FREE!: ("And get what you pay for," I can hear the cynic 1aa1fripix 1aa1tebowharrumphing). The NFL playoffs are upon us, and for the ninth time in 10 years the Dolphins won't be in them. That is the only playoff prediction I can guarantee as Wild-Card Weekend pops in with doubleheaders Saturday and Sunday. Click on Wild-Card Gems for the four predictions I am less sure of. Texans and Saints will cover, Steelers will win but not cover, and (you read right) Falcons will upset Giants. Not winning: Denver, led by Tim Tebow (pictured right in his Marvel Comics form). Click on Then There Were Twelve for my playoff preview column ranking the surviving teams in order. 

CARLOS ZAMBRANO? MARLINS KEEP GETTING BIGGER, LOUDER, MORE INTERESTING: It isn't enough 1aa1carloszthe Miami Marlins will have manager-eating owner Jeffrey Loria trying to coexist with cartoonishly boisterous Ozzie Guillen, or that Haney Ramirez's delicate ego must coexist with the arrival of Jose Reyes to take over his position. Now: Carlos Zambrano! That would be the same Big Z who has proved emotionally volatile (i.e. the 2010 dugout altercation that got him suspended, and bolting the stadium during a game last season) and who also has battled weight issues. Not to mention he is 30, has been in gradual career deline since cresting in 2006-07, and has a slowing fastball that now tops out at 88, maybe 90. Nevertheless, I like this trade -- sending fellow righty Chris Volstad to the Chicago Cubs -- for a few reasons. Getting Zambrano for a younger pitcher underlines a win-now mindset, and Guillen, who is good friends with him, is as likely as any manager to cajole a solid, tranquil season from Zambrano. He comes dirt-cheap, with the Cubs picking up almost all his 2012 salary. I also think he'll slot in neatly as an innings-eating fifth starter, after Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco. Volstad majored in nothing but inconsistency down here. Give Zambrano a short-leash shot to play nice. Welcome, Carlos. Should be a wild fun ride.

THE 10 WORST PLACES ON EARTH: Instantly feel better about living in Miami. Click here. (I'm kidding. Love Miami...)

1aa1neanderthalOUR HUMAN ANCESTORS: Interesting story here about what our earliest human ancestors (probably) really looked like. Piece is accompanied by the photo at left. This to me does not look like a Neanderthal man. This looks like a homeless man I saw yesterday at Stranahan Park in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

1aa1genosMAGIC GENO LIGHTS UP ORANGE BOWL GAME: Click on Magic Geno for my column off the 78th annual OB Classic, a game that ended too late for many of our pulp editions. West Virginia upsetting Clemson was not a shock. The ridiculous 70-33 score was. Beyond all the scoring records being set the story of the night was WVU quarterback Geno Smith (pictured postgame), from nearby Miramar High, throwing for 401 yards and six TDs (and running for another). Kid grew up close enough to Dolphins stadium to sit on the hood of his mom's car in their driveway and watch replays and highlights on the stadium Jumbotron. Now he was the highlight up there. Neat night. Well, unless you were Clemson's defensive coordinator. [See related 'The List' below].

DAVE TOUB POWER! HE'S TOUB-TASTIC! WHOOOO!: By that last word I mean "whoooo!" as in excited, not "whoooo-the-hell is that!" How hilarious would it be, in a sad sort of way, if the Dolphins wound up hiring Bears special-teams coach Dave Toub (pictured), who interviewed here, as their new 1aa1davethead coach. Over here would be your exciting, fan-thrilling hire -- you know, Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden, maybe Jeff Fisher -- and then way over there at the far opposite extreme would be Dave Toub. Nothing personal, Dave. You've done well in Chicago (having Devin Hester helped a smidge), but maybe the Cam Cameron/Tony Sparano lesson is that the Dolphins should hire an experienced head coach with and stop renting out the franchise as a proving ground for guys still with training wheels. The official Miami interviews so far have been Fisher, interim guy Todd Bowles and Toub. Up next: Packers offensive guy Joe Philbin. The imperative to land Fisher, to win him from the heavily competing Rams, grows ever more urgent.

HEAT: BIG 3 AND 1 SURPRISE: NBA announced its all-star ballot. Miami has LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh -- of course -- and ... and ... Joel Anthony! Seriously. Best of luck to you, Joel. (Heat's triple-OT win in Atlanta last night without LeBron James or Dwyane Wade -- wow. Mighty impressive. Bosh and Mario Chalmers stepping up XXL. Chalmers' continuing development plus addition of Norris Cole makes point guard Miami's most improved position).  

THE LIST: OB WINNERS FROM BIG EAST: West Virginia joined an exclusive club last night. Teams from the Big East conference to win the Orange Bowl Classic:

Season   Team / Result   (MVP)

1991   Miami / d. Nebraska 22-0 (RB Larry Jones)

2003   Miami / d. Florida State 16-14 (RB Jarrett Payton)

2006   Louisville / d. Wake Forest 24-13 (QB Brian Brohm)

2011   West Virginia / d. Clemson 70-33 (QB Geno Smith)

Note: Big East teams have appeared in OBC four other times but lost: Miami (1994 season), Virginia Tech ('96), Syracuse ('98) and Cincinnati (2008).

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

January 03, 2012

Name Dolphins' 2011 MVP (with poll); plus Orange Bowl, Ross' imperative, LeBron's cake, Jeff Fisher, topless basketball & more

[1) Thanks to all who tapped into our live chat today. Do it each Wednesday 1-2 p.m. Click HERE to join us then or to post questions any time. 2) Colts fired proven talent guru Bill Polian. He outranks Jeff Ireland by country mile on scale of NFL personnel guys. I'M NOT SAYIN', I'M JUST SAYIN'! 3) See results of season-ending Dolfan Satisfaction Meter poll in blogpost directly below. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

DOLPHINS COACH SEARCH: 1. Chargers announced Norv Turner would be back as coach. San Diego with its Pro Bowl QB would have been an attractive destination for Jeff Fisher, so this enhances Miami's chances of landing Fisher, who interviewed here yesterday. 2. But a new report (here) indicates Stephen Ross buddy Carl Peterson is frontman wooing Fisher, not GM Jeff Ireland. Peterson was on helicopter that flew Fisher in. Oy. This feels wrong. Feels like another reason Miami might lose Fisher. 3. Todd Bowles and Dave Toub arm-wrestling to see who has less chance to be named Dolphins head coach.

NAME THE DOLPHINS' 2011 MVP: I know. At 0-7 it looked like a good year to skip the award altogether. 1aa1mvdolphinBut there turned out to be some solid individual performances worthy of accolade. The poll below includes my seven candidates, listed alphabetically. Who'd I leave out? The Dolphins' run-defense was the best facet of the team this season but, for me, the MVP award comes down to the three guys on offense. I think my order would be Moore-Bush-Marshall but a very close call. As always, you all will make the decision. Vote now and say why.

1aa1ob78TH ORANGE BOWL CLASSIC: A year from now Miami will host the BCS national-championship game. Maybe we'll get lucky and a team not from the SEC might actually be in it. For now, tonight's Clemson-West Virginia "warm up" is, to me, an interesting matchup with a fresh feel, and suggesting tons of offense. I'll be at the spectacle columnizing tonight. Click on Tasty Appetizer for my preview column.

STEPHEN ROSS' LITMUS TEST: Click on Hunting Season for my column on the imperative that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross hit big in either a coach hiring or a QB signing if not both. The top aims should be Jeff Fisher and Robert Griffin III (who'd require a major draft trade-up). I also explore other possible QB options, including Green Bay's Matt Flynn.

1aa1cakeWAYS LEBRON JAMES IS DIFFERENT THAN YOU AND I: LeBron James' recent 27th birthday party was "hosted" by Remy Martin V and featured (pictured) a five-tier vanilla-rum cake with edible 18-karat gold lion heads and topped by 'LJ' in Swarovski crystals. An earlier cake had been rejected by LeBron's people. Now I can't speak for you, but I don't have "people." And when I have a birthday party (not that I do), it is not "hosted" by an upscale cognac, and chances are I bought the cake from Publix. This has been another in a series of 'Ways LeBron James Is Different Than You And I.'

THERE GOES HEAT PERFECT SEASON: After first 5-0 start in franchise history, a clunky home loss to Atlanta. Damn! And my bet on 66-0 was beginning to look so good. On a more serious note, Erik Spoelstra better figure out a way to defeat zone defenses. This was the second game where an opponent going zone deflated Miami's vaunted attack. It is the early Heat weakness, exposed and seeking remedy.

HANLEY'S MARLINS OLIVE BRANCH: Story out of the Dominican Republic says Marlin Hanley Ramirez is OK with his moving to third base to accommodate new shortstop Jose Reyes. Good to hear. But let's see how it plays out. The coexistence of Ramirez and Reyes and of manager Ozzie Guillen and owner Jeffrey Loria are two interesting dynamics percolating into this coming season.

1aa1bkbtoplessTOPLESS BASKETBALL: Dennis Rodman says he will coach a topless women's basketball team he is starting at a "gentlemen's club" in New York. Or, did that go without saying? I presume Rodman seeks women who are adept at shooting but mostly adept at bouncing. Woman at right appears to be first in line for tryouts. (Note to self: Pitch boss on flight to New York for investigative column on topless basketball).

Click back. Oh yes I will be adding more to this latest blogpost...

January 01, 2012

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 2011 Final: 34.9%

[Main Dolphins-Jets game post is directly below this in blog. Also, join us on Twitter @gregcote]

Thanks to the thousands of voters throughout the years who have made our DSM a Dolfan tradition!

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: GAME 16/FINAL 2011: Results are certified in the season-ending 2011 Dolfan 1aa1dsmSatisfaction Meter (in the wake of Sunday's 19-17 home victory over the New York Jets putting Miami's record at 6-10), and they show a final reading of 34.9 percent overall satisfaction.

The DSM, in its fourth season, is a continuous gauge of how fans feel about the team and its 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, the season as a whole, the direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. For the final poll, it was suggested special emphasis be given to the season as a whole.

The poll never closes but results are certified official after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 10 a.m. today/Tuesday.

2011 Dolfan Satisfaction Meter

G16/Final: 34.9% satisfaction (11.4 very, 23.5 somewhat) following 19-17 victory vs. N.Y. Jets.

G15: 28.0% satisfaction (9.9 very, 18.1 somewhat) following 27-24 loss at New England.

G14: 46.6% satisfaction (12.3 very, 34.3 somewhat) following 30-23 victory at Buffalo.

G13: 11.9% satisfaction (7.4 very, 4.5 somewhat) following 26-10 loss vs. Philadelphia.

G12: 65.4% satisfaction (29.7 very, 35.7 somewhat) following 34-14 victory vs. Oakland.

G11: 38.5% satisfaction (14.0 very, 24.5 somewhat) following 20-19 loss at Dallas.

G10: 58.5% satisfaction (23.8 very, 34.7 somewhat) following 35-8 victory vs. Buffalo.

G9: 35.9% satisfaction (7.8 very, 28.1 somewhat) following 20-9 victory vs. Washington.

G8: 31.6% satisfaction (16.0 very, 15.6 somewhat) following 31-3 victory at Kansas City.

G7: 19.6% satisfaction (18.1 very, 1.5 somewhat) following 20-17 loss at N.Y. Giants.

G6: 14.5% satisfaction (14.0 very, 0.5 somewhat) following 18-15 loss vs. Denver.

G5: 9.6% satisfaction (9.2 very, 0.4 somewhat) following 24-6 loss at New York Jets.

G4: 5.6% satisfaction (5.4 very, 0.2 somewhat) following 26-16 loss at San Diego.

G3: 3.9% satisfaction (3.3 very, 0.6 somewhat) following 17-16 loss at Cleveland.

G2: 3.7% satisfaction (2.6 very, 1.1 somewhat) following 23-13 loss vs. Houston.

G1: 34.4% satisfaction (3.9 very, 30.5 somewhat) following 38-24 loss vs. New England.

2011 Final: 34.9% overall satisfaction.

2010 Final: 3.8% overall satisfaction.

2009 Final: 31.2% overall satisfaction.

2008 Final: 96.9% overall satisfaction.

Dolphins 19, Jets 17 (Final): Miami sends Jason Taylor out a winner!

1aa1a2012 1aa1a20121) Happy New Year! Click HERE for a special New Year's video from me to you. 2) Our Random Evidence Sunday notes column returns today. Click here to read. 3) Vote for biggest South Florida sports story of 2011 in the blogpost directly below this. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

Watch for season-ending Dolfan Satisfaction Meter poll in separate post beginning at 5:30 p.m. sharp!

G16: DOLPHINS END VS. JETS, BID ADIEU TO OL' NO. 99: 4Q: Sanchez to ex-Dolph Patrick Turner for 10-yard TD and Planes within 19-17 with 1:15 left. ..... Storybook ending! Jason Taylor scores TD with recovered fumble with 2:21 to play. Oops. Wait. On review, it was ruled ground caused Jets fumble. Oh well. .... Miami up a safe 19-10 with 2:32 to play on Carpenter's 4th FG. ..... Dolphins LB Marvin Mitchell interceots Sanchez and returns 55 yards to save Miami. Jets were donw to MIA 10. ..... Oh my. Jets incomplete on 3rd downpass but Yeremiah Bell personal foul with hit on Mark Sanchez and Planes have first down. ..... Davone Bess carted off field. ..... Miami parlays Starks' second pick into 40-yard Carpenter FG and 16-10 lead with a Big Slurpee (7:11) left to play. ..... Second INT of game by Randy Starks, who does the big-man stumble and trips. But still! Jason Taylor's QB pressure led to the pick. ..... Matt Moore's 1-yard flip to Charles Clay gives Miami 13-10 lead with 10:27 to play. Mammoth drive: 21 plays and 94 yards eating up 12 minutes 29 seconds. The 21 plays and 12:29 set franchise records for longest scopring drive. Wow. ..... Thoroughly 3Q: Thoroughly uneventful third quarter,but Dolphins driving with a 1st down at Stinkin' Jets 28 as stanza ends. ..... Half: Matt Moore's 2 INTs and 16.7 passer rating pretty much sum up why Miami is trailing. Offense with only 97 total yards. Jason Taylor quiet so far (1 tackle) in his farewell game. ..... 2Q: Dan Carpenter with a clutch 58-yard FG (second longest of his career) on final play of half and Dolphins' hole trimmed to 10-6. ..... MIA gets it right back on INT by Randy Starks, how also had an earlier sack. ..... Jet Brodney Pool intercepts Matt Moore in final minute. What were Pool's parents thinking with "Brodney"? ..... Another sign your offense isn't working: Matt Moore passer rating is 29.2. ..... Signs your offense isn't working: Late in first half, and Daniel Thomas has 14 yards rushing. ..... This game makes a 10-3 deficit feel big. That's how ineffective the Dolphins offense has been thus far. ..... Jets Jeremy Kerley beats Will Allen for a 30-yard catch. Not sure how much Allen has left in the career tank. ..... Matt Moore (38 air yards from 10 throws) is finding this Jets pass-D stifling. ..... Big 28-yard run by Steve Slaton, for those of you who'd forgotten Steve Slaton was a Dolphin. ..... 1Q: Brandon Marshall, he OK. ..... Antonio Cromartie picks off Matt Moore in final minute of quarter. ..... Karlos Dansby (groin) with helmet off, might not return. ..... An old weakness reoccuring for Dolphins defense so far: Inability to cover opposing tight ends. ..... Mark Sanchez 1-yard scoring pass to uncovered TE Dustin Keller and Stinkin' Jets up 7-3. The customary lots of fans in green here. ..... That was set up by trick play that caught Miami defense snoozing: WR Jeremy Kerley 41-yard pass to TE Matthew Mulligan to MIA 25. ..... Miami 3-nil on 44-yard Dan Carpenter kick. ..... Brandon Marshall left field apparently injured after that catch. ..... Pregame: Jason Taylor asked to play today's entire game and coaches rightly agreed. ..... Zach Thomas -- not coincidentally -- will be today's honorary captain for brother-in-law Jason Taylor's farewell game. ..... "Mr. Ross, Save Our Dolphins. Fire Ireland," reads a banner being pulled by a small plane circling the stadium. Happy New Year, Jeff! ..... Original post: The false drama surrounding this game is that 1aa1doljetsMiami is in a spoiler role trying to block the Jets' playoff bid. Hardly. Even with an NYJ win it's very unlikely the Planes would luck into the final AFC wild card. Rex Ryan's latest ridiculous Super Bowl guarantee is all but doomed regardless of today's result. No, the biggest storyline today is that retiring Dolphins all-time sack leader Jason Taylor is playing in his final 1aa1blartgame after 15 NFL years, 13 of them in Miami. A pregame ceremony will honor Taylor. A Dolphins victory would honor him more. I'm sticking with my prediction of a Miami win although the injury-absence of RB Reggie Bush (knee) frankly makes me nervous about my pick. Bush marked his first 1,000-yard season by buying all his offensive linemen Segways. I'm sorry but I cannot hear the word Segway without thinking of the movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Pick: Dolphins, 24-20.