This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 11/10/2008
A - Amare Stoudemire. I have a good feeling about this season for Phoenix's impressive power forward. His knee problems were certainly a setback for his career, but he's giving indications that he's every bit as good as he was before it happened. On Wednesday he scored 49 points and added 11 rebounds. That was the second night of two games in two nights, too, so he obviously is feeling good. He's already a big star, but he could shine brighter this year.
B - Brandon Roy. The former Rookie of the Year had a crazy game on Thursday night. It was a roller coaster of emotions. With just seconds remaining in overtime Roy hit a jumper to put the Blazers up by two over the Rockets. But then, with 0.8 seconds left, he committed a bone-headed foul against Yao Ming to give away the lead. It seemed like he might have had to wait until next game to seek redemption, but Roy wasn't that patient. Instead, he used the last milliseconds to drain a winning three pointer. The clock may have been suspiciously slow starting on the last play, but it was still an impressive trip from zero to hero.
C - Calzaghe, Joe. Hopefully Calzaghe has done what no one before him has managed - putting the embarrassingly past-his-prime Roy Jones, Jr. into retirement. Calzaghe moved to 46-0 by badly beating up on Jones and earning a lopsided decision. Calzaghe was knocked down in the first round, but won every round afterwards, and badly bloodied Jones. Calzaghe claims he is retired after beating Jones and Bernard Hopkins this year, but this is one retirement I hope doesn't last - Calzaghe is too good to do without.
D - Damn. I hate, hate, hate the Colts, so I was reveling in the fact that their season was quickly becoming lost. So, needless to say, I feel deeply saddened by the fact that they suddenly seem to be in good position to make the playoffs. They beat a good Pittsburgh team, though one with a limited Ben Roethlisberger, to move to 5-4. That puts them just one game out of the wild card with only two teams ahead of them. They only have to pass one in the next seven weeks.
E - Exemption. It would have been easy to assume that Davis Love III had fallen off the face of the earth. He hadn't won forever, and he was coming back from an ankle injury that had cost him much of last season. He got a win this weekend, though, and it was a big one. By winning at Disney World, Love secured his 20th career win at age 44. That's a crucial number - 20-tournament winners have a lifetime exemption on the tour. That's a handy thing for a guy who has six years to kill before the senior tour.
F - Fulmer, Phil. Just months after signing a seven-year extension, Fulmer has been forced out at Tennessee. He'll finish out the season, but the school doesn't believe that he has what it takes to turn around a badly flailing team. Don't cry for Fulmer, though - the extension included a $6 million buyout. The players were reportedly angry with the decision, and they showed their displeasure by completely quitting against Wyoming. That puts them at a truly embarrassing 3-7, and makes the head coach gig one that some people just won't want.
G - Golden Gophers. Just last week I said that I wouldn't write about my beloved Michigan anymore this year. When they unexpectedly and decisively beat my wife's favorite team, though, I have to break my own rule. Michigan traveled to the land of all those lakes to defend the Little Brown Jug against the suddenly struggling Gophers. It wasn't pretty, but the 29-6 score made it look like we actually knew what we are doing, and it poured a bit of gas on to the barely burning fires of hope.
H - Hinrich, Kirk. The Bulls suffered a pretty huge setback thanks to Kirk Hinrich's thumb. A torn ligament in his right thumb will keep Chicago's backup point guard out of action for three months. That's a problem - Derrick Rose is superhuman but only a rookie, and they don't have another guy who can really play the point on the roster. That leaves somewhere between eight and 13 minutes a game when the team will have a glaring weakness. Larry Hughes will be back in action soon, but he's only a time filler, not a great answer.
I - Iverson, Allen. It didn't take long for the NBA season to get truly interesting. The Pistons shook things up in an unexpected way this week by sending Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess to Denver for the brilliant but controversial Allen Iverson. The move is a risk, but an obvious effort to shake up a team that is clearly good, but repeatedly hasn't been good enough to win it all. Iverson's debut as a Piston showed some promise, but made it clear that there will be a period of adjustment for both the player and the team.
J - Jaguars. Jacksonville had been one of the biggest disappointments of the NFL season so far - they have played lethargically, and their offense has been virtually non-existent. They discovered the virtually foolproof way of shedding their problems, though - they played the Lions. The team could finally run, David Garrard looked much more like last year than this year, and the team had a confident aggression that has been clearly missing all year. If only they could play Detroit every week.
K - Kansas City. The Chiefs aren't a good team, but they keep finding ways to make it closer than they probably should. They lost to the Chargers by just one, and that's because Herm Edwards gambled with a two-point conversion at the buzzer to try to win instead of head to overtime. The team has now covered three straight, and a big part of the reason s the emergence of QB Tyler Thigpen. I thought he was a lost cause at the start of the year, but he's playing with confidence and presence that is especially impressive given the lack of talent surrounding him.
L - LSU. The Tigers, and especially their fans, would have liked nothing more than to beat Alabama and knock Nick Saban from the ranks of the undefeated. They almost got their way - Alabama needed overtime to squeak out a win. A couple of things came out of watching Alabama's win - Julio Jones is a freaking athletic genius, but I have serious doubts about this team's chances of getting the four more wins that stand between them and a national championship.
M - Matt Ryan. The unlikely story that is Matt Ryan and the Falcons just keeps holding up and finding ways to win. They were helped this week, though, by a pretty sloppy showing from Drew Brees. Brees piled up 422 passing yards, but that was tempered by the three interceptions he tossed. Ryan threw for almost 200 fewer yards, but he avoided the mistakes and was much more accurate, and the results showed on the scoreboard.
N - Nittany Lions. So much for that last shot at glory for Joe Paterno. Penn State had a likely shot at the national title evaporate thanks to Shonn Greene and the Iowa Hawkeyes. They had a solid lead heading into the final quarter, but 10 unanswered points from Iowa ruined everything. It was an inexplicable setback, but it's probably a good thing for the conference - they won't have to get crushed for a third straight year in the big game.
O - Ohio State. There were some questions how Terrelle Pryor would bounce back. After all, his team had lost to Penn State thanks in large part to his weak play and a key fumble. Since then he'd had a week off to get in his head and mess himself up. There was no need to worry, though. Pryor was efficient and effective, tossing three TDs as the Buckeyes rolled all over Northwestern. Jim Tressel had to be relieved that Beanie Wells finally looked like Beanie Wells in the game.
P - Paul, Chris. Here's a news flash - Chris Paul is pretty good. He had his sixth straight double-double on Saturday night against Miami. That's impressive by itself, but especially so when you consider that no other player has ever opened their season in the same way. Paul's efforts have his team at 4-2. That's a solid record, but losses to Atlanta and especially Charlotte show that the team isn't quite yet firing on all cylinders.
Q - Quinn, Brady. The Quinn era finally started, but Cleveland fans didn't end the night as happy as they started it. Quinn looked like a guy who hasn't played much, but he definitely showed promise. There were even a couple of moments of brilliance. There were two problems, though - Jay Cutler was much better than Quinn, and Kellen Winslow was as bad in the second half as a player can be. Those factors conspired to give the Broncos a comeback win and make the Browns' season seem even more dismal.
R - Red Raiders. Wow. Not much else to say. Graham Harrel and company showed that they had game when they beat Texas, but they made sure that people were paying attention by crushing Oklahoma State. Texas Tech was clearly favored to win - they were at home, and they had beaten Texas while the Cowboys hadn't. Still, no one expected something this one sided. Harrell was incredible, and the Heisman is certainly his to lose at this point. The team has a huge game at Oklahoma looming now. Win that and a likely national title berth awaits. Impressive for Lubbock.
S - Seahawks. Few teams have ever needed a season to end as badly as Seattle does. This was supposed to be a cakewalk to yet another division title, but instead it has turned into a hopeless nightmare. Yet again they traveled to the Eastern Time Zone and lost, but at least this game against Miami was close. The win by Miami moves the team that won just once last year to above .500. Hopefully the Seahawks paid attention to that and started getting ready for a brighter time next year.
T - Tony Parker. The Spurs just can't catch a break. They were already dealing with life without Manu Ginobli, and now they have a month or so in which they won't have Parker in the backcourt making sure everything runs smoothly. Parker has been playing very well this year. Given that few others on the squad can say the same thing, it could be an ugly November for the most boringly effective team in sports.
U - Utah. A berth in the BCS is there for the taking for the Utes. They played a very tough game against TCU this week, and for a long time it didn't look like they were going to escape the tough defensive battle with a win. They pulled it out in the end, though, and they remain undefeated. Their massive rivalry game against BYU is the biggest hurdle remaining. If they win that then they should be in the party - the team is ahead of Boise State in the standings, and there is no likely way for the Broncos to get past them.
V - Vikings. Minnesota looks like they may actually be saving their season. They won a big division game against the hated Packers, and that moved them into a tie upon the NFC North. The game was won in an entirely unsurprising way - Adrian Peterson ran for almost 200 yards and a touchdown. The Packers have won four of five, and the terrible start to the year is fast becoming just a bad memory. The team still has the components to be competitive. They just have to use them effectively. The next three games - Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Chicago - will be a good test of whether they are for real.
W - Winning. The Giants just keep getting it done. New York proved that they are undoubtedly the kings of the NFC East by dispatching the Eagles on Sunday night. It was a close game - the Giants won by just five, and to do so they had to stop Brian Westbrook on fourth-and-one in the final minutes. It still counts, though, and it puts the team securely on top of the division. The game also reinforced just how impressively dominant Brandon Jacobs is in the right circumstances.
X - uneXpected. Baltimore came into the year looking like a team mired in a rebuilding period. They had a promising but inexperienced young QB and an aging defense. It seems like the team had no interest in a wasted year, though. The team has won four straight games, and they are doing it by scoring - 27 points a game over those last four - in a way that the team hasn't done for years. Joe Flacco is developing rapidly, and Ray Lewis looks like a young man again.
Y - Yikes. Jake Delhomme was so incredibly bad on Sunday that he would have cost his team a win if he was playing an NFL team. Luckily, he was only playing the Raiders. Delhomme completed just 26 percent of his passes and threw four interceptions. No QB has won since 1975 while playing so badly, but the Panthers still won by 11. Part of the reason for success was how often the Raiders had to punt because of their nonexistent offense - their 556 yards of punts was the third highest total since the merger.
Z - Zia Park. Until this year, no thoroughbred had ever won more than 16 straight races. A couple of impressive ones had done that, including Citation and Cigar. The record was beat this year by Peppers Pride, and she seems determined to put it out of reach. The five-year-old mare won her 18th straight race on Saturday at Zia Park in New Mexico. She has only run against state-bred competition over the course of the streak, but it's still incredibly impressive. She has one more race this year, then she will likely retire and New Mexico bettors will actually have to start handicapping races again instead of just picking her.