For the last issue of the semester, we at Around the Dorm have decided to mix things up a bit. From now on different people will rotate in all the time! This week we have Signal Arts & Entertainment Assistant James Queally, Signal Managing Editor Andrew Grant and Signal Sports Editor Lauren Kohout. WTSR Station Manager Greg Miller will take over the reffing position for this week. Yay for end of the semester!
1) Now that we are 12 games into the NFL regular season and some of the contenders have distanced themselves from the pretenders, who do you believe has the best shot of winning the big one in Miami come February?
JQ: Every big contender has a fatal flaw this year, so I’m going with the only team capable of overcoming their Achilles’ heel, the San Diego Chargers. There’s no denying the Chargers’ offensive power. LaDainian Tomlinson is having a phenomenal year. He’s on pace to break the single-season touchdown record, while his presence on the field takes the pressure off of Philip Rivers, who is having a wonderful year in his own right. He’s got a 94.5 passer rating on the year, and he’s completed 65 percent of his tosses. The Chargers defense should find some new life with the return of Shawne Merriman to the lineup. Merriman has 8.5 sacks on the year, while teammate Shaun Phillips has 9.5. The Chargers can exploit every one of their potential foes’ weaknesses while hiding their own well enough to march through the crowd of contenders.
AG: I have a feeling that the NFL playoffs are going to be really interesting this year. The top team in each conference has clear weaknesses that could lead to downfall: the Colts’ run defense and the Bears’ inconsistency at quarterback. I wouldn’t be surprised if a wild card team that heats up in the last few games ends up winning the big game. Remember that the Steelers entered last year’s playoffs on a four-game winning streak as a sixth seed. At this point, however, my Super Bowl favorite has to be the San Diego Chargers. LaDainian Tomlinson has been unreal this season, and Philip Rivers has found success by not trying to do too much. The defense, though a bit inconsistent, was helped by the return of Shawne Merriman from suspension. Also keep in mind that if the Chargers remain second in the conference behind the Colts, they will never have to play a playoff game in the cold.
LK: I’d love to see Peyton Manning win a Superbowl and we all know he has the stuff to do it, but for some reason he plays more like Eli in the postseason. I think despite his postseason record, Joseph Addai, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne will help him through this postseason, so I’ll take a risk and say the Indianapolis Colts will win it. Think about how many more awesome Peyton commercials there would be if he won the Super Bowl. By the way, I do like 6-foot-5, 230-pound quarterbacks with laser rocket arms.
GM: Andrew and Jimmy both brought up great points about the San Diego Chargers and in particular Tomlinson, Rivers, and the defense. However, Jimmy knows I am a sucker for stats so he grabs the 3 points. Andrew gets the 2 points for reminding the world that Pitt was a No. 6 seed, which still makes me ill. Lauren, no matter how many weapons Manning’s laser rocket arm has to throw to, his chokes are legendary and only the Philly sports scene causes more heartache to its fans – 1 point for you.
2) Two months into baseball’s offseason and the free agent market has already been raided with guys like Carlos Lee, Alfonso Soriano, Gary Matthews Jr. and the Japanese sensation Daisuke Matsuzaka finding new homes. Which offseason pickup, thus far, will prove most beneficial to his respective team?
JQ: Alfonso Soriano isn’t the cure for the ailing Chicago Cubs, but he can definitely help stop the bleeding. Soriano’s addition to just about any of the MLB’s “lovable losers” would have rated as the “best free agent signing thus far,” but the Cubs made the move, so they get the honor. Sticking Soriano in a lineup that already has Aramis Ramirez (119 RBIs in 2006) and Derrek Lee will definitely make opposing pitchers sweat when they come into Wrigley this year. Soriano nearly went 50-40 last year, amassing 46 home runs and 41 stolen bases in his 2006 campaign. Of course, pitching does win games, so the Cubs might want to think about getting someone else in that rotation besides Carlos Zambrano and Kerry Wood. Soriano’s run support won’t mean a damn thing if he’s got no one to give it to.
AG: I don’t think that any move made thus far will propel a team into World Series contention, and that includes those made by the Yankees, Mets, Phillies and Red Sox. However, I think that the signing of Alfonso Soriano is a great move for the Cubs. With the signing of Soriano, re-signing of Aramis Ramirez and hiring of Lou Piniella, Chicago has finally shown that it is serious about turning things around. With a lineup featuring Soriano, Ramirez, Derrek Lee and Cesar Izturis, the offense looks pretty good. The Cubs’ pitching is always suspect, but Carlos Zambrano is a solid No. 1 guy, and maybe the baseball gods will finally show mercy for Mark Prior and Kerry Wood and allow them to pitch relatively injury-free seasons. I’m not saying the Cubs are going all the way (the streak will reach 99 years), but they’re a historic team with great fans and it’s good for baseball when they do well.
LK: Carlos Lee will be pretty beneficial to his team because the Astros couldn’t hit last year and Lee can offer 30+ home runs with a decent average, definitely an upgrade. Soriano won’t be too far behind because he will have less pressure on him because of his surrounding teammates like Aramis Ramirez. I wouldn’t look past Adam Eaton with the Phils though, because he is looking to prove himself and may give the Phils a boost next season … but maybe I’m just being hopeful. Oh well, a girl can dream.
GM: Once again, Jimmy and Andrew provide similar answers with the Cubs and Soriano. Will that break the curse of the Steve Bartmann/Billy Goat/Lovable Loser that has plagued them for almost a century? Probably not. Still, I applaud the signing and both answers, giving a split – 2.5 for Andrew (the knowledge of lineup and mention of Piniella) and Jimmy (the statistics, you know me too well). Lauren, I like the Carlos Lee pickup too, but Adam Eaton? Come on, you gotta do better than that. Sorry, but that’s a 1 point effort.
3) In the NBA, the Eastern Conference has only three teams above .500 while the Western Conference, considered the better of the two at the beginning of the season, has eight teams (more than half of the conference). Is the Western Conference that much better than the East or is the East simply the worst collection of franchises in sports history?
JQ: The problem with the Eastern Conference is that all of its perennial contenders are one or two players short of being serious threats. The Nets lack a power forward, while Miami has an overweight Shaquille O’Neal and an aging Alonzo Mourning rotating in and out at center. The Cavaliers are still too dependent on LeBron James. The Pistons’ starting lineup is a viable threat no matter who they play, but Richard Hamilton is scoring more points per game than any four of the players on their bench combined. To be successful in the NBA, you need a team that consists of solid role players who are guided by one or two superstars. Unfortunately for the Eastern Conference, I don’t see any updated versions of Willis Reed or Larry Bird in their collective future. Every team has a superstar or a supporting cast, but neither has both. When the East starts to form complete teams akin to the Mavericks and Spurs out west, they will have a shot to compete again, but no sooner.
AG: Face it: The Eastern Conference is dreadful because the Knicks – who probably can be beaten by a handful of college teams – are less than five games out of a playoff spot. No team in the Atlantic Division is at or above .500. The only teams worth watching are Detroit, which is not the power it once was, Cleveland, which still needs a better supporting cast to complement LeBron James, and Orlando, which needs to keep up its strong play before it can be taken seriously. Last year, the Milwaukee Bucks made the playoffs with a 40-42 record. At this point, it looks like as many as five teams could make the playoffs in the East with more losses than wins. Let’s not forget that the defending champions represent the Eastern Conference, and it wouldn’t be a total surprise if it happened again this season. But for now, fans will have to suffer through some lousy games in the East.
LK: Because the East has sucked far worse than the West as far as I can remember, I would have to say that it must be a worse collection of teams. I can never figure out why exactly, though I have to admit: The West has had the latter dynasties like the Lakers, the Suns and the Spurs, whereas the East has not had a great dynasty since the Celtics won eight straight. Without checking I believe that lasted into the early ’80s, not exactly recent. Sure, the Pistons have been semi-dominant in recent history, but they are one of the more Western-most teams geographically in the Eastern Conference. I don’t think anyone will really ever figure out exactly why the West dominates like they do. All we can do now is hope for the best and pray that Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James don’t decide to become full-time actors.
GM: Jimmy, I agree that the East lacks that “complete team mentality” that teams like the Mavs, Suns and Spurs have. That being said, D-Wade almost single-handedly won the NBA Finals last year, while the Suns and Spurs sat at home watching them on TV. Still, your argument was the most sound and 3 points goes to you for having the best answer. Andrew, your answer gets 2 points. I loved the Knicks comment simply because Florida, Ohio State, Kansas and UNC would completely air them out on any given night. That being said, I think three teams is a little low for plus .500 teams since sheer numbers mean at least four or five East teams have to win some of the games. Lauren, I’m not doing this to be mean, but does the name Michael Jordan mean anything to you? I only say that because MJ and the Bulls OWNED the 1990s and, if he hadn’t gone on to play baseball, probably would have won at least eight straight. 1 point Lauren, please don’t hate me.