College Football Playoffs: Not What You Expect

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New Year’s Day 2015 was the first day we have ever witnessed College Football Playoff match-ups between the top four teams, battling it out in the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl to get to the National Championship.

We witnessed the Oregon Ducks and the Florida State Seminoles go at it in the first half of the Rose Bowl. Things got ugly as Oregon humiliated Florida State in the second half, forcing a total of five turnovers—most of which were cashed in for touchdowns. Oregon, known for blowing teams out of the building, did it again last night with Florida State. They scored a Rose Bowl record of 59 points, in part thanks to their defense and a very strong offensive attack.

As Florida State suffered their first loss of the season, they were humbled and the country realized that the Ducks were no joke.

In the Sugar Bowl, Alabama went head to head with Ohio State. It was a back and fourth battle until running back Ezekiel Elliot ran for 85 yards to the house to put the Buckeyes up 40-25. This was eventually capped off by a two-point conversion that put the nail in Alabama’s coffin and sealed the deal for Ohio State.

So, we witnessed two great matchups last night. As these games finish, Ohio State and Oregon prepare for the National Championship that will take place on Monday, January 12th. We should all expect a dogfight until the very end.

Mariota and Oregon’s high-powered offense are a fantastic match for Ohio State’s blood-thirsty defense. On the flip side, Ohio State’s newly found offense knows it’s a big deal when the team scored 42 points against Alabama, a team with one of the best defenses in the nation. The Oregon defense now knows it’s just as tough as the rest, proving so against Jameis Winston’s FSU crew.

The offenses and defenses of both of these teams peaked on New Year’s Day, and both teams will look to eclipse each other’s highs next Monday to take home the gold. I expect a semi-high scoring game. I have watched Oregon and Ohio State play and to me they seem like polar opposites. For every punch they take, they throw another. I believe Ohio State is a more disciplined team and far better than Florida State. It pains me to say this as a Ducks fan, but my prediction is that the Buckeyes led by Urban Meyer will capture the gold, and win this game 43-36.

What’s your prediction? Share it in the comments below. 

About me: I’m Spencer (Alexander) Zied, a 10th grader from New York, New York. I love to play basketball, football and tennis, and am a big fan of the Knicks, Giants, Yankees, Oregon football and North Carolina basketball teams. I’m also a big fan of First Take and Sportscenter on ESPN. You can email me at spencer.zied@gmail.com or connect with me on twitter, on Facebook, or on Instagram (szied713).

NFL Playoffs: Wildcard

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Wow. What a crazy season it has been. Who thought it would turn out this way? I certainly know I didn’t. With the season giving us surprise after surprise, there’s no doubt there will be craziness in the post-season as well.

As week 17 wraps up, the cold, ragged road to the Super Bowl begins. Here is how I believe it will play out.

Wildcard Round

NFC

Cardinals @ Panthers: This one will be a grind-it-out type of game. With two very strong defenses going head to head, we’ll see who packs a bigger punch to seal the deal. Cam Newton will be able to have some fun, but not too much fun as I believe that vaunted Cardinals secondary will definitely impact his decision making, forcing Cam to make mistakes.

Score: Cardinals win 23-16

Lions @ Cowboys: Tony Romo and Demarco Murray have been absolutely phenomenal this season. They have led the Cowboy squad out of the 8-8 doldrums as the seek prosperity for the first time in a long time. Without Ndamukong Suh, the Lions will still have a very strong defense, but with Romo and Murray, the Cowboys attack is too strong. Did I mention Dez Bryant and Jason Witten? Matt Stafford and Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson will certainly do some damage, along with the wildcard wide receiver Golden Tate. This game will be fun to watch.

Score: Cowboys win 34-31

AFC

Ravens @ Steelers: This division rivalry never gets old. If this were 2012, the Ravens defense with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed would be no match for the Steelers newly high-powered offense. However, those Raven players are gone, leaving the team’s  defense weaker. The Steelers have clicked on all cylinders and have been a ‘pick your poison’ offense this season. Joe Flacco will connect with Tory Smith and Steve Smith and will make it interesting.

Score: Steelers win 27-21

Bengals @ Colts: Andrew Luck has been nothing short of amazing this season. The Bengals have never won in the playoffs with Andy Dalton, and that trend will continue this weekend. The Colts struggle on defense, but Andrew Luck can crank it up a notch on offense to solidify a relatively easy victory.

Score: Colts win 31-20

Agree? Disagree? Share your predictions in the comments below. And be sure to check out my Second Take With Spencer A post next week for my divisional, championship, and Super Bowl picks!

Image of Peyton Manning via Sports Illustrated Kids.

About me: I’m Spencer (Alexander) Zied, a 10th grader from New York, New York. I love to play basketball, football and tennis, and am a big fan of the Knicks, Giants, Yankees, Oregon football and North Carolina basketball teams. I’m also a big fan of First Take and Sportscenter on ESPN. You can email me at spencer.zied@gmail.com or connect with me on twitter, on Facebook, or on Instagram (szied713).

Flawed NFL Playoff Format

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This NFL season has been a great one. There have been many surprises and intriguing match-ups so far this year. The question is, is there anything to look forward to? Of course there is! The NFL Playoffs are just around the corner!

The playoffs are sure to be riveting, but the flaws in the system could unfairly put some of the better teams at a disadvantage.

The format of the NFL Playoffs is a simple one. The top four division winners from each conference along with the two remaining teams with the best records will qualify. Then, the top two division winners have a bye week, in which the three seed plays the six seed, and the four seed plays the five seed. Then, the one seed and two seed matchup respectively and battle it out to the Super Bowl.

In my opinion, the current system leaves out some very important things that could contribute to exciting playoffs. The two division winners that play in the first week of the playoffs against the two wildcard teams get a home field advantage, even if their record is worse than the wildcard teams’. A few years back, the 7-9 Seahawks won their dreadful division and played the wildcard Saints who had a better record. The game was in Seattle, and therefore the Seahawks advanced due to their enormous home field advantage. So, the home field advantage should absolutely not be based on whether or not you won your division, it should be based solely on your record.

However, even if that much-wanted change took place, there would still be a gaping hole in the playoff system. If, for example, a division winner is 6-10, and the two wildcard teams have a 10-6 record and an additional team has a 9-7 record and did not win their division, the 9-7 team would be eliminated from the playoffs. If the playoffs began today, the Atlanta Falcons sitting atop the NFC South division at 4-7, would get home field advantage against the Seattle Seahawks at 8-4. Additionally, they would make the playoffs while the Dallas Cowboys (8-4) and the San Fransisco 49ers (7-5) would not. That, in and of itself, seems extremely flawed.

This brings up the question: Should there be home field advantage for division winners? The majority would agree that there should be.

But another lingering question remains: Should the NFL expand the playoffs? One idea by fans would have the NFL adding two teams, making the playoffs eight from a conference as opposed to six, and eliminating the bye weeks. Of course the arguments for or against this could require years before a decision is made.

I believe that the NFL playoff system is extremely flawed. I believe the top six teams should enter the playoffs so it remains a privilege rather than having half of the teams per conference being allowed to enter. I believe the NFL should do away with basing playoff seeds of division winners, and should take the top six teams from each conference and seed them based on records. That seems to be the most logical way to do it!

What do you think? Should the NFL playoffs change?

About Me:

I’m Spencer (Alexander) Zied, a 10th grader from New York, New York. I love to play basketball, football and tennis, and am a big fan of the Knicks, Giants, Yankees, Oregon football and North Carolina basketball teams. I’m also a big fan of First Take and Sportscenter on ESPN. You can email me at spencer.zied@gmail.com or connect with me on twitter, on Facebook, or on Instagram (szied713).

Are New York Sports Teams Going Down the Drain?

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Over the last year, New York sports teams have been a shell of what they once were, causing stress and anger among its fans.

In the MLB, the New York Yankees and New York Mets missed the playoffs this season and it wasn’t pretty. The Yankees lost a lot—Robinson Cano went the Mariners, Alex Rodriguez was suspended, and Mariano Rivera retired. It doesn’t seem like the bleeding for the Yankees will stop anytime soon, especially after they lost their 20-year captain, Derek Jeter.

In the NFL, the New York Giants and the New York Jets have combined for five wins so far this season—that’s as many wins as the Buffalo Bills have achieved this season with Kyle Orton as their starting quarterback. The Giants have had many injuries, especially among their starters including Victor Cruz, Rashad Jennings and Prince Amukamara. The Jets have had a lot of quarterback changes, and have finally sidelined Geno Smith for Michael Vick, who on Sunday led them to their first win in two months. Their secondary is relatively empty and that has hindered the progress of their entire defense. In my opinion, the general manager of the Jets, John Idzik, is mainly to blame due to the fact that he did not go after big name defenders—their biggest weakness.

In the NBA, the New York Knicks haven’t been impressive either. Although they resigned star forward Carmelo Anthony, they still have a void of surrounding talent. With Derek Fisher as its new coach, the Knicks have struggled mightily in the triangle offense, so much that the commissioner even took a shot at their horrendous play. Due to their lack of talent and everything associated with them, they have been awful. They traded for a new point guard in Jose Calderon. However, he has been sidelined with injury and has not played yet. Ironically enough, the Knicks have beaten two hyped up machines—the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Charlotte Hornets. However, they still sit at 2-6 and do not look like they will get any better. As for the Brooklyn Nets, they sit atop the Knicks at 4-2 and have looked relatively good so far. Besides the Bills and Nets, who are a couple of games over .500, New York sports has been an absolute disgrace. Something needs to change quickly! Fans expect more and want what they want when they want it.

As for the Knicks, they need to get Calderon back, and need to acquire a good interior defender who can also help out on offense such as Marc Gasol. They also need to shop J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway, Jr.,, and Iman Shumpert in order to find value that we can use because all three shooting guards have similar strengths and weaknesses. They also need to develop Cleanthony Early into a productive NBA player.

The Giants need to fire their defensive coordinator and acquire new, young talent on defense. At the end of the season, they also need to fire Tom Coughlin and acquire at least two new good offensive linemen.

I’m still a fan of New York sports teams, especially the Knicks and the Giants. But I hope things change for the better, and soon, because it’s gotten ugly and painful and I’m not sure how much more I can take.

Who’s to blame for the poor performance of (most) New York sports teams? Owners? Coaches? Players? Fans? Media? Weather?

Check out some of my recent Second Take With Spencer A posts here.

About Me:

I’m Spencer (Alexander) Zied, a 10th grader from New York, New York. I love to play basketball, football and tennis, and am a big fan of the Knicks, Giants, Yankees, Oregon football and North Carolina basketball teams. I’m also a big fan of First Take and Sportscenter on ESPN. You can email me at spencer.zied@gmail.com or connect with me on twitter, on Facebook, or on Instagram (szied713).

NBA Preview

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This off-season was full of excitement. With Lebron James returning home to Cleveland to join Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in exchange for number one pick Andrew Wiggins, Lance Stephenson joining the Hornets, Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler joining the Mavericks, Loul Deng joining Wade and Bosh in Miami, Paul George sidelined for the season with a broken leg, Bradley Beal and Kevin Durant also out for six to eight weeks with injuries, and the Knicks resigning Carmelo Anthony and adding a new head coach, Derek Fisher, are all big and crucial moves that will impact the NBA season.

Here are my predictions:

Eastern Conference Playoff Standings:

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers (58-22)
  2. Chicago Bulls (56-24)
  3. Miami Heat (53-29)
  4. Washington Wizards (51-31)
  5. Charlotte Hornets (50-32)
  6. New York Knicks (47-35)
  7. Toronto Raptors (44-38)
  8. Boston Celtics (41-41)

Western Conference Playoff Standings:

  1. San Antonio Spurs (62-20)
  2. Los Angeles Clippers (53-29)
  3. Oklahoma City Thunder (53-29)
  4. Dallas Mavericks (51-31)
  5. Golden State Warriors (50-32)
  6. Portland Trail Blazers (47-35)
  7. Houston Rockets (46-36)
  8. Los Angeles Lakers (45-37)

NBA MVP: Blake Griffin; Projected Stats: 24 PPG, 12 RPG, 5 APG, 2 BPG, 1 SPG , 55% FG, 36% 3pt FG

With the additions to the Cavaliers, Lebron James will be dominant. However, he will share dominance with Kyrie Irving. As for reigning MVP Kevin Durant, he will miss the first six to eight weeks of the season and it will take him a while to get back into the flow. I predict Blake Griffin will win MVP since he has shown major improvements in the last three seasons and has taken his game to another level, adding an effective three-point shot to his loaded arsenal.

Eastern Conference Finals: Cavaliers over Bulls in 7

Western Conference Finals: Spurs over Warriors in 6

NBA Finals: Spurs over Cavaliers in 6

NBA Finals MVP: Tim Duncan

The old, boring and slow San Antonio Spurs will find a way to yet again reach the NBA Finals for a third straight year. They share the ball like nobody else and have fantastic team chemistry. The Spurs cannot be stopped, and will repeat as NBA Champions.

What are your predictions for this upcoming NBA season?

About Me:

I’m Spencer (Alexander) Zied, a 10th grader from New York, New York. I love to play basketball, football and tennis, and am a big fan of the Knicks, Giants, Yankees, Oregon football and North Carolina basketball teams. I’m also a big fan of First Take and Sportscenter on ESPN. You can email me at spencer.zied@gmail.com or connect with me on twitter, on Facebook, or on Instagram (szied713).

20 Questions with Jason Gay

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I had the privilege of interviewing Wall Street Journal sports writer Jason Gay. He’s not only a great writer, but he’s very funny. For example, in his recent article, “Last-Minute Gift Shopping for Derek Jeter,” he said, “I’m a terrible procrastinator. Jeter is days away from retirement and I still haven’t bought the dude a gift. Have you?” I was excited when he agreed to respond to 20 questions for my blog, so here goes.

True or False Questions

Q: The Seattle Seahawks will repeat as Super Bowl champions.

A: True. They will win Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, Best Supporting Actor and Employee of the Month at Panera.

Q: The New York Knicks will advance past the first round of the playoffs.

A: False. They will also lose in first round of the Australian Open.

Q: A non-QB will receive NFL MVP this season.

A: Rachel Nichols seems to be the leader at moment and she isn’t a quarterback.

Q: The Spurs will return to the NBA finals this season.

A: Yes but don’t hassle them, they’re 74 and napping.

Q: At least one rookie QB from this recent class will make a Pro Bowl.

A: The Pro Bowl was discontinued in 1982.

Q: Oregon will win the college football playoffs.

A: Don’t be insane, there are no playoffs in college football, have you lost your mind?

Q: Michael Crabtree is a mediocre wide receiver.

A: This question feels left over from a January episode of First Take.

Q: Kevin Durant will leave Oklahoma City when he becomes a free agent in 2016.

A: I think Kevin Durant will leave Oklahoma City in 2014. Do you just want him to stay in the city limits his entire life? What happens when they play the Mavericks?

Other questions

Q: Who will be remembered in a more positive way? Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter?

A: Yogi Berra.

Q: Will Lebron James be able to win four or more titles with his new team in Cleveland to tie Michael Jordan with six total rings?

A: Who needs six rings?

Q: How do you think the Jameis Winston fiasco involving all his troubles be 

handled? Is the media overreacting, or are we underreacting?

A: We’re reacting.

Q: How far can Johnny Manziel go in his career? Will he be successful in the NFL?

A: He will win somewhere between zero and 20 Super Bowls. Book it.

Q: What do you think the NFL should do about the domestic violence rampage?

A: Join the 21st century?

Q: Who is your pick to win the World Series?

A: Maple Leafs.

Q: When will you get back to watching football?

A: Did already, if you consider the Jets football.

Q: Favorite time of day to write.

A: Deadline.

Q: Favorite place to write.

A: Tie: top of the Empire State Building or back of Larry Ellison’s mega yacht.

Q: Favorite all-time athlete.

A: Vin Diesel.

Q: Favorite article you’ve ever written for the Wall Street Journal.

A: Vin Diesel Has a Cold.

Q: Hardest thing about writing for a living.

A: Trick question! Nothing.

What would you ask Jason Gay?

You can read Jason Gay’s Wall Street Journal articles here or follow him on twitter at @JasonWSJ.

About Me:

I’m Spencer (Alexander) Zied, a 10th grader from New York, New York. I love to play basketball, football and tennis, and am a big fan of the Knicks, Giants, Yankees, Oregon football and North Carolina basketball teams. I’m also a big fan of First Take and Sportscenter on ESPN. You can email me at spencer.zied@gmail.com or connect with me on twitter, on Facebook, or on Instagram (szied713).

NFL Not So GOODell

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Throughout the last couple of weeks, multiple NFL players have gotten into trouble. Yes, every year NFL players get into trouble before, during or after the season. But this year, in just the first couple of weeks of the new season, several NFL players have been accused of or arrested for domestic violence.

The tape of Ray Rice’s assault of his then fiancé (and current wife) was seen for the first time by the NFL (yeah right), which led to Rice being cut from the Ravens. Unfortunately, his wife dropped the charges against him. Still, Rice has been suspended indefinitely and is now a free agent.

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was put in jail and released on bail for abusing his four-year-old child. At first, the NFL reinstated him, but after powerful negative reactions, mainly by the governor of Minnesota, Peterson was placed on the exempt list and will not be allowed to play until things are figured out. If he’s found guilty of the charges against him, he could serve a maximum of two years in prison.

The Panthers defensive lineman Greg Hardy was arrested for assaulting his ex-girlfriend during the summer. Like Peterson, he has been placed on the exempt list.

The 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald, accused of felony domestic violence, has not been charge with the crime. He has played all three games so far this season and has not missed any practices. Although he hasn’t been formally charged with the crime, it seems that it’s still being investigated.

According to the police, Cardinals running back John Dwyer was arrested a few nights ago for domestic assault against his wife and his son. While he has been deactivated, no charges have yet been filed. He will most likely be suspended indefinitely, if not eventually put in jail.

The NFL and Roger Goodell have been under a lot of scrutiny for their selective harshness towards certain cases or players and their laid back attitude towards others. Although the NFL has had a lot to do and the media and fans are not happy, team owners remain in support of Goodell. Although the NFL has its policies, not all of them are fair or necessarily fit the crime.

I feel that the NFL should create firm guidelines and rules for the following. If you are a first offender to DWI you should pay a $15,000 fine, then a $30,000 fine, then a $60,000 fine. For domestic violence you should be dealt with by law enforcement and suspended indefinitely. For a drug violation you should serve a one-game suspension for the first offense, a two-game suspension for the second offense, a four-game suspension for the third offense, an eight-game suspension for the fourth offense and banned for the season for the fifth offense. If a player is arrested, he should automatically serve a two-game suspension and pay a $15,000 fine. That cannot be tolerated. Any other violation of the law should be dealt with only by law enforcement. The NFL should not have a say in its players’ personal lives based on it thinks, and its rules should be based on laws.

As for the continuing trend of NFL players getting into trouble, there is truly nothing the NFL can do to stop it. However, it can make clear guidelines for everyone to follow so that players know what their punishments will be ahead of time. Hopefully the NFL and Goodell will figure out how to deal with this whole mess soon.

How do you think the NFL should handle these situations in the future? 

About me:

I’m Spencer (Alexander) Zied, a 10th grader from New York, New York. I love to play basketball, football and tennis, and am a big fan of the Knicks, Giants, Yankees, Oregon football and North Carolina basketball teams. I’m also a big fan of First Take and Sportscenter on ESPN. You can email me at spencer.zied@gmail.com or connect with me on twitter, on Facebook, or on Instagram (szied713).

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