March Madness!!!

The day has finally come folks–the culmination of a season’s worth of college basketball trials and tribulations begin today. There has been A LOT going on in sports lately (the NFL is officially locked out, the Bulls are on fiya, baseball is around the corner, Serena Williams almost died, lacrosse season is in full swing¬†and Sidney Crosby skated for the first time since his concussion to name a few) and we know we have a good Sports Digest in us for later this week. But we won’t delay in what is the most important–March Madness, which, if you haven’t picked up on, kicks off todayūüėÄ I for one, couldn’t be more ecstatic (especially since I don’t work on Friday and can be glued to the madness and importantly, the¬†Syracuse game!)

I usually fare pretty well in my bracket selections and am confident in this group of winners¬†(I would be lying though if I said I wasn’t nervous about that pesky SouthEast bracket.) So below, before tip-off I’m inking my picks in the blogosphere. For those of you that don’t know, I fill out one bracket every year. ONE. and I enter it in every pool, for fun, for money, for beer etc. So believe it or not, there is a method to my madness–and I smell a crazy year of upsets. ¬†So here goes:

My theory this year is that the Big East tends¬†to disappoint in the tourney–they always seem to take it out of each other in the Big East¬†tournament and it wouldn’t be March Madness without a few Cinderellas.¬†¬†So before you ask, I’m taking Penn State and Talor¬†Battle¬†over Temple (Let’s Go State!), Utah State over K-State and Richmond over Vandy in the first round Crazy? Maybe. But there’s just something SO annoying about people taking all four one seeds to the Final Four.

Elite Eight

OSU, Washington, Texas, San Diego State, Kansas, Texas A&M, Old Dominion, BYU

¬†Old Dominion (Or Butler, 50/50 on that one) will take out Pitt in the second round. Pitt is a perennial choke artist and I expect them to over look their second round opponent. I’m taking Washington in a shocking second round upset over UNC. I think BYU will have a difficult road but will make it to far, given the fact that I expect these strong lower-seeded teams to make a statement and knock out some power houses.

Final Four:

BYU, Texas, OSU, Kansas

It may be insane to take BYU this far, especially with the loss of a key player, but as I mentioned, the team will have some help from a few Cinderella stories, as well as time to regroup and focus on opponents.

National Champion


Yes, OSU¬†is the favorite, but Kansas is steady and hasn’t forgotten the loss to UNI and Faroukmanesh last year. They will enter the tourney with additional focus and drive and are poised to win another championship.

What are your first round upsets? Whose your final four? What is your method of picking brackets?

Buckle up folks, it’s going to be a wild ride!ūüôā



Chicago Sports Challenge: Da’ Bears

Below is Laura’s post on her first Bears game–check out the Chicago Sports Challenge here:

The Inaugural Bears Experience

Born in 1985 and having lived in Chicago for all of my 25 years, it‚Äôs about time that I attended my first Bears game. I know this post is a few months behind the ball as the Bears vs. Jets game that was my first Soldier Field experience was months ago but I still believe my experience and emotions concerning this important ‚Äėfirst‚Äô are still worth sharing.

Home of Da' bears

Gameday was cold and snowy, just as it should¬† be. But I didn‚Äôt really feel the cold the entire game. The atmosphere is electric, the fans, incredible. Being at the game really gives¬† you this sense that Chicagoans are a passionate, tough and resilient bunch (yes, some of us fit the super fan stereotype, I‚Äôll even cop to enjoying an Italian sausage while at the game )‚Äď but we‚Äôre so much more. Being there made you feel like the players were actually playing for the city and watching Matt Forte score the first TD of the game, I felt oddly connected to him just by being in the stadium. One thing is for sure, actually being there intensifies everything, every ¬†completed pass thrills and every hard hit chills. Actual scores, forget about it.

I loved being a part of the team for that afternoon and a part of the diehard fan base for life. I’ll always be happy and proud to be a Bears fan and yes, maybe frustrated. Bears fans are not kidding around with their love of the team and the city. Being a part of that for an afternoon was a memorable experience to be sure. And as always, makes me proud to be a part of Chicago.


Super Bowl Wrap Up

So I know I’m definitely behind on my reaction the Super Bowl, but in my defense, I’m a fan in grieving. Before I go into depth, I’d like to make it clear: It’s always good to be a Steelers fan. Always. Especially when they win, but you know what? Even when they lose too.

I wish we had a Super Bowl do-over. Before you knew it, we were in the hole against a great team (like most of our playoff games.) While I never gave up hope that we’d be ok and that Ben could pull out another two-minute drill for the ages, time expired and it just didn’t happen this time. Simply put–we played poorly. Yes, Ben threw costly picks but he also was having trouble hitting people when they were wide open. As much talent as Mike Wallace has–he proved he’s not a big time receiver yet ( paging Santonio.) ¬†What’s perhaps the most telling for me,–the defense was mute. With the exception of Lamar Woodley in the first half, you didn’t hear a peep from Harrison, Farrior, Clark or Polamalu. As we all know, you put yourself in a difficult position to win any game if you cough up the ¬†ball three times which results in 21 points.

What’s encouraging is that, despite the above–we still had a good chance to win the game. Seriously. It came down to the last drive. A drive that Ben makes nine out of ten times. A drive that legends are made of. He’s done it before, there’s no reason he shouldn’t have been able to do it again. It just wasn’t in the cards this time. Playing from behind–which the Steelers did the entire game–never allowed Ben or the offense to settle down and take control ¬†the way they wanted. The Packers did what they had to do to win the game-which is nothing¬†spectacular–they took care of the ball and didn’t make any stupid plays (they DID allow 25 points though). ¬†In this situation they deserved to win the game.

All of that being said, I couldn’t be prouder of the Steelers,¬†a team which most people, outside of fans, had written off this year with Ben out the first four games. We listened to how people predicted the Ravens and Bengals (REALLY?) as their AFC North pick. After the Steelers went (an unsurprising) 3-1 without Ben, we still listened to how we weren’t a good team–even with the number one defense in the league. We were supposed to lose to the Ravens and the Jets at home. We weren’t supposed to make a game out of it down 11 points at half time. We just couldn’t pull it out in the end and while I’m not happy about it, I’m ok with it.

I’ll tell you what though. There’s still no other QB I’d rather take than Ben Roethlisberger. For all of his mistakes and poor play, he STILL had us in a position to win that game (I say if it was Holmes and not Wallace we’d have our seventh ring). He doesn’t panic, he doesn’t freak out and he shoulders the appropriate amount of the blame for the loss. I do not expect perfection from Ben (and everyone reading this would say–DUH). I’m optimistic about how our offensive line played–for all the hoopla surrounding the loss of Maurkice Pouncey–Legursky stepped in fine and the offensive line played GREAT only allowing one sack (in which Ben didn’t actually end up on the turf). I’ll take an O-line that plays like that ANY day.

More importantly, I’m proud of the way the Steelers acted as a team this year. Always banding together, rising to the challenge and silencing their critics. While I’m sad, I have NO doubt that we will be back to the Super Bowl (and soon!) and that Pittsburgh will get a seventh ring in the near future. It’s been a fun season and it’s just further proof why it’s always good to be a Pittsburgh fan. Chins up Steelers, your town and your fans love you and we can’t wait for the next journey to begin in September.


Super Bowl 45: A Preview

As I write this post, I am sitting at O’Hare International Airport awaiting my flight to Pittsburgh for the big game. So yes, up front, I’m taking the Steelers to win tomorrow (and feel that I’m remaining as unbiased as possible in that selection). I’ve taken the past two weeks off this sports blog for two reasons: 1) ¬†to try to wrap my head around what is sure to be a legendary Super Bowl and 2) I’ve also started another pr blog with some friends of mine which has required a little more attention (Ok shameless self promotion complete.) Let’s let’s get right down to it:

Steelers 24-20 over the Green Bay Packers.

I’m going to go with Pittsburgh for a few reasons. The first being that this team has experience and has worked together through adversity at various times throughout the year. They scraped together a 3-1 record in their first four wins, had an amazing comeback against the Ravens twice and scooted their way to a 12-4 record. And true, it wasn’t always pretty. The defense has, much like any other year, been the glue that has held the Steelers together–headed by AP Defensive Player of the Year Troy Polamalu. But with a defense like this, you don’t need your offense scoring 30 points a game.

I think that the Steelers will benefit from their multiple offensive weapons–Mendenhall (who has developed into a work-horse for team), Wallace (who is the fastest receiver in the NFL), Ward and Miller (who make huge plays in the clutch–if not as often as they used to) are the¬†usual suspects, but the Steelers have done a great job of incorporating rookies Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders into the mix. These two additions to the offense have proven that they can make the big plays when necessary in play-off games and give Ben two more weapons to utilize on offense–it’s impossible to cover EVERYBODY that Ben may be able to get the ball off to. That is, if he decides to hand the ball off at all. Ben has become an increasingly mobile quarterback (a necessity since our O-line is depleted) and has no problem scrambling for first downs.

And yes, Green Bay is a good team. Aaron Rodgers is a good QB, Clay Matthews is a beast, Tramon¬†Williams is clutch and Jordy¬†Nelson has been on fire lately. In my opinion, the Steelers have a player that matches toe for toe with every one of them (Roethlisberger, Polamalu, Clark and Miller) not to mention Harrison, Woodley, and Wallace.¬†Yes, I worry about our pass protection and our secondary–and Aaron Rodgers has an ungodly amount of 20+ yard completions this post-season. I mean really it’s ridiculous. And¬†yes, I’m¬†slightly uncomfortable about the state of our¬†offensive line–especially with the loss of key center Maurkice¬†Pouncey. But¬†I’m not scared of the¬†Packers in the slightest. I think they are an absolutely beatable team. They beat up on NFC fools and let’s not forget that¬†they couldn’t exactly close out the NFC¬†Championship against a third string QB in Chicago. The ONLY difference in that game was an understandable¬†pick six¬†by an unexpecting¬†BJ¬†Raji¬†to¬†preserve the lead. The Packers struggled against a Bears defense that is similar to Pittsburgh–except that Pittsburgh’s is better. Yes, I expect them to get burned once by the long-ball but I also expect defensive genius Dick Lebeau to be able to adjust.

Roethlisberger has¬†Super Bowl experience and is a proven leader for his team (if you want my personal take on him¬†in general, check out¬†a great read on 15¬†Minutes Blog that¬†features a variety of¬†blogger¬†opinions on the subject)¬†and is unlikely to¬†choke–in fact, I expect this to be his best Super Bowl performance to date (and God help us if it’s worse than his first Super Bowl performance.) I don’t think Aaron Rodgers will choke either–but expect nerves to get to him the first quarter before he settles down.

Let’s not forget either that everyone is picking the sexy pick of the Packers, which undoubtedly adds fuel to the fire. No one ever gives Pittsburgh its due–and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Of the¬†45 analysts at ESPN, 32 picked the¬†Packers to win tomorrow.¬†Lil Wayne puts out ‘Green and Yellow’ a song aimed squarely at Pittsburgh and the Packers are favored by 2.5¬†in Vegas. ¬†See the Steelers have that extra drive to play for now–much like they did in ’09 and ’06 and they’re going to be fired up beyond belief wanting to prove the haters wrong–haven’t people learned yet that its Ben who is proven himself time and time again in the clutch–NOT Aaron?¬† Personally, I’d never bet on the Steelers to lose a game, being a fan aside,¬†more often than not, they¬†manage to find a way to get it done (in the final two minutes to give you a heart attack). Again, I don’t think this is a blow out by any means on either side–both teams can win the game and the victor will need to put together a damn near perfect ball-game to do so. But I give the Steelers the edge because I think their defense will allow for at least seven points off turnovers and that will be the difference in the game.

Who do you have tomorrow—and why??

It’s gonna be fun to watch (except for the Black Eyed Peas at halftime) so everybody enjoy the game and, of course, HERE WE GO STEELERS!!‚̧



Sports Digest 1.17.2011

A little over two weeks into the new year and I am in sports glory–play-off football is great, college basketball is in full swing, the NHL is chugging along and the Australian open is underway.¬†The Steelers are in their 4th AFC Championship game in the past 7 years, Chicago is electric¬†with the¬†NFC¬†Championship game and a huge¬†Blackhawks game this weekend, ¬†Being on this sports cloud-nine–why not dish up our first sports digest of the year?

Syracuse Orange vs. Pitt Panthers

Everyone knows this is going to be a good game. Tonight, you have the unbeaten #3 ranked Orange against perennial Big East powerhouse #5 Pitt. As much as I love the Orange, and as good as they are looking (#1 seed come tourney time) they always struggle against the Panthers, losing the last four meetings. I don’t think that this is going to change tonight–I think that Syracuse has a mental block against Pitt..they just don’t bring their A-game until it’s too late. Add in the loss of lead scorer Kris Joseph for the game tonight and I think it spells extra trouble. Hope I’m wrong and we pull off the W¬† (as Pitt is the only team from the ‘Burgh that I actively root against, and just can’t stand) but¬†the odds aren’t¬†looking good. That’s alright though, we’ll rebound to beat Villanova on Saturday at the Dome with in front of a record crowd.

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Right before the NFL Championship game the NHL’s national game of the week is a rematch of the Stanley Cup last year. The Flyers have had a pretty dominant season and currently hold the #1 power ranking. The Hawks have had a lethargic start to the season but are finally finding their mojo. With a tough game Saturday vs. the Red Wings, look for the Hawks to turn the tide on a national stage and upend the Flyers on home ice.

The Demise of the Patriots

There are few things I enjoy more than watching the Patriots get outplayed. And that’s exactly what happened yesterday. After a shaky first quarter, Mark Sanchez settled down and maintained the tempo of the game and the Jets just, for lack of a better term, laid the smackdown¬†on the Patriots. They got lazy in the fourth quarter and started playing too conservatively, and showed no modicum of class during their on-field celebrations but they got the job done. And I’m pretty sure I saw Tom Brady cry during the game, which just added to my joy. Hard to believe, as Adam Schefter put it, that Tom Brady has now lost three consecutive play-off games. Looking back, it all started going “south” when they lost the Super Bowl in the last seconds to the Giants–(or has it been since his¬†knee injury?)¬†Will Tom ever get another ring? Hard to say, but none of it diminishes that he (in my opinion) is the best QB to play the game..as much as I HATE to admit it. So we’ll have to wait another eight months (or longer) to discuss his Bieber haircut.

The Steelers NOT beating themselves

I’m STILL pumped about that Steelers win on Saturday. The team showed so much resolve coming back to dominate the second half–allowing the Ravens a TOTAL of 28 yards throughout the end of the game. Yes, they had their heads up their asses in the first half, and they won’t be able to play like that again and expect to move on but the determination of the steel curtain defense, as well as some AWESOME play by my boy Big Ben solidified the W. You can say what you want, but Ben Roethlisberger is a top 3 QB in the league (in my opinion two) He has the same number of playoff wins as Peyton Manning (9) with six years less experience. He plays hard, he scrambles, he takes control of the offense, he’s tough¬†and he delivers. As long as there’s time on the clock, if the ball is in Ben’s hands, I honestly think we have a shot to win. Off-field drama aside, I don’t know that there’s another QB I’d take if I could have my pick–Brady gets frazzled–doesn’t seem like Ben does. He’s a great leader and he makes things happen. I like our chances on Sunday.

Are you on as much as a sports high as we have been this week? What’s been the highlight for you?

Let’s us know … we’re always up for a chatūüôā


D-D-Divisonal Showdown

Unfortunately, it’s that time of year where football is drawing to a closeūüė¶ The college season in the books (although I wish it was Oregon hoisting the trophy) and we did much better than with our BCS bowl picks this year than last–going 4-3…it’s a baby step, but it’s a step!ūüôā

Wild Card Weekend was great to CDS–we went 3-1 (all except for that Seahawks¬†snafu). This weekend–the NFL is serving up four delicious divisional match-ups that should be excellent for everyone watching. So without further delay–here’s our picks for this weekend.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Gotta go with the Steelers on this one (DUH!) Not only because I bleed black and gold–but because I really think the Steelers are the better team. It’s not that the Ravens are push-overs…this will be a dog fight for sure, but I see Pittsburgh coming out on top for a few reasons. The first being that since 1970, the Steelers are 8-0 in the playoffs against divisional opponents. These teams are incredibly familiar with each other and both will be prepared but the Steelers have a proven¬†history of getting the job done among these circumstances–the previous two times the teams have met in the playoffs, the Steelers notched the W.

The Steelers have proven to be the tortoise in the AFC North this year–after a string of some UGLY games–they have been on a roll to close out the season. Yes, their final two games were against the Panthers and Browns–but the Steelers easily put together their two most comprehensive games. Add in the fact that of the past 7 regular season¬†meetings, the Steelers have the edge 5-2. Those two Baltimore victories? They were against starting QBs Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch. The Ravens have struggled to find an answer for Ben the past three seasons–and know it.

Another reason? Flacco¬†is garbage. Ok, that may be a little harsh, but he is not anywhere near an elite qb¬†status. While he is getting smarter with his play, he still makes many mistakes and the Steeler¬†D will show no mercy. And don’t even get me started on Troy Polamalu–who is a main reason why we won the last game in Baltimore–his ability to be anywhere and everywhere is the difference maker. Now sure, all streaks come to an end and Baltimore may be due-but I think the Steelers, coming off a¬†bye week have the edge. One thing’s for sure, this physical game is definitely going to take a toll on whoever advances enough to the AFC Championship–and probably enough to keep the victor from the Super Bowl.¬†

Steeeeel Curtain

Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons

Oooooh-weeee¬†is this going to be a GOOD game. I’m going with my gut and taking the Packers (they ARE my NFC SB pick!) even though my head says to give the edge to the Falcons. The Packers effectively shut down the Eagles last week–and though the defense tired¬†in the fourth quarter–they put together a solid 60 minutes of football. This is Aaron Rodgers’ time to shine and he has accepted the challenge in leading his time–first to the playoffs, then in a wild card match-up–beautifully. Clay Matthews is an absolute beat–for all intense and purposes the Polamalu of the NFC and will be hard for the Falcons to get passed.

Ryan has himself has matured into a great little franchise QB in Atlanta and Michael Turner is a force to be reckoned with. I’m not by any means knocking on the Falcons–they’ve had a GREAT season and are completely deserving of their number one seed. But the Packers are on a hot-streak and are the most dangerous team in the NFC, which will lead them to victory at the Georgia Dome on Saturday night.

Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears

I’m taking the Seahawks–and no I’m not jumping on a bandwagon. Having lived in Chi-town for almost two years now (and loving every second!) I am surrounding by the Chicago culture–and I have watched my fair share of Bears games this season. I don’t think the Seahawks are going to win because they’re dominate–hell they’re not even a .500 team–I think they’re going to win because Da Bears just aren’t that great of a football team.

They really aren’t. The biggest scorer on their team is Robbie Gould (yea PSU!). Jay Cutler is spotty–when he’s good he’s good but when he’s bad?…well….he’s AWFUL. The Bears defense also isn’t great–having coughed up 34 points vs the Jets in week 16. Seattle just beat the defending champions–a team that is MUCH better than the Bears–I think they’ll be ready for the challenge and will shock the world by making it to the NFC Championship (much to my chagrin as I am not a Pete Carroll fan).

The Bears do have two things on their side: the weather (it’s FREEZING here) and Devin Hester–and I do hope, in this case, that I’m wrong and they manage to win–but I just don’t think it’s going to happen.

New York Jets vs. New England Patriots

Ok, we get it….these teams hate each other. *yawn* When did this turn into a rivalry for the ages? For some reason I always thought the Dolphins and Jets were the biggest rivals in¬†the AFC East?¬†But I digress…this media circus back and forth is ridiculously unnecessary–and I find it fascinating that it’s started by the Jets everytime…you know..the same Jets that the Patriots bent over their knees and SPANKED during a nationally televised game in December. Yes, Tom Brady is an ass (and a douche, really) but you can’t deny he’s the best quarterback in the game (and if you want my honest–and grudging–opinion, the best to ever play the game).¬† The Pats are the Pats…what else can you say? They’re a great, great ball club.

So I’m taking the Jets. Why? Well, they’re my Super Bowl pick..and I CAN’T bail on them now. Yes, Mark Sanchez is struggling GREATLY, but this is a team that, when they focus, can put together 60 solid minutes of football. The problem is they get distracted by any and everything–bright lights, loud noises and cute cheerleaders to boot. The thing about the Jets is even though they aren’t that great–and yes totally overrated from what we all thought they’d be–they always manage to find a way to win..and that’s something you can’t completely count out. They also did beat the Patriots in week 2–so I know they have it in them and even though it’s unlikely..I’m still taking them. They’re my pick and I ride or die with them until they’re out.

David and Goliath

What are your predictions for this weekend? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

In honor of the Steeler game on Saturday we’ve included our new favorite pre-game pump up song: Wiz Khalifa’s Black and Yellow.



Wild Card Weekend

Football playoffs are upon us-cue all the “win or go home” and “leave it all on the field” clich√©s. The NFL has been so enjoyable to watch this season and, since we don’t exactly know if there’s going to be a 2011 season, CDS is excited to take in the final eleven football games and relish every.single. second. of it. We didn’t do too great with our regular season predictions–correctly predicting TWO conference winners–we did have some insight and hope for many of the teams that did make it in but didn’t do well over all–but mostly importantly, our two teams that we expected to play in the Super Bowl — the Packers and the Jets are still alive.

Below you’ll find our predictions for this week’s games–let’s hope we have some better insight than 17 weeks ago.

New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks

I am not in the camp that the Seahawks¬†shouldn’t be in the playoffs. They won their division, simple as that. Yes, they are an abysmal 7-9 and the Giants and Bucs¬†had better record, but the Seahawks¬†won their division, and the Giants and Bucs¬†lost key games at significant points in the season to keep them from the playoffs. That being said, I think the Saints will have a pretty easy time disposing of the Seahawks on Saturday and will comfortably advance to the divisional round.

New York Jets vs. Indianapolis Colts

I’m going with the Jets on this one–for no other reason that my brain already has the Jets playing the Pats next week (Thanks for pointing it out Mike!) Both teams¬†backed into the playoffs–the Jets have been spotty all year and¬†¬†the Colts have struggled this season¬†with a myraid of injuries. I’d never count out Peyton Manning, but I think this can–and will be–a marquee playoff-win for Sanchez and the Jets and hey, I have to take ’em since they’re my Super Bowl pick.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Kansas City Chiefs

This game seems to be pretty over-looked and I think it is going to be an even-keeled match. The Chiefs have an awful offensive line but the Ravens recorded a franchise-low 27 sacks in 2010. Since his break-out season in New England a few years ago, Cassel has flown fairly under the radar. He’s a solid quarterback that can scramble to make necessary plays. The Ravens are always tough though, and Flacco–who I’ll never be sold on as a quarterback and Ray Rice and his explosive nature–are competent enough to put up enough points against the Chiefs for a W. And then hopefully swing up to Foxboro next week–knock off the Pats and meet Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship. (What a best case scenario for Pittsburgh! ;))

Green Bay Packers vs. Philadelphia Eagles

I’m going to take Green Bay in this one. While Michael Vick had an amazing season and is super fun to watch and the Eagles have what can only be described as an explosive offense (New Meadow Lands Miracle anyone?) but the Eagles have proven that they can be contained–with losses to Bears and Cowboys. The Green Bay Packers have looked sharp the last two weeks of the season, with key wins against the Giants and Bears. I expect Aaron Rodgers to finally take the spotlight and use this post-season to develop into the qb we all know he can be. Add in Clay “The Beast” Matthews and I think the Packers are going to come out on the top of this dog fight.

Who do you have in the games this weekend? Who in the AFC has a shot of stopping the pats? Who do you have in the Super Bowl?

As always, we love to hear your thoughts!ūüôā


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