The Reuters global sports blog
Record: 7-5. Last week 2-4; Pick of the Week: 2-0
PICK OF THE WEEK
Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) at San Diego Chargers (1-1)
(Line: Chargers minus-14.5)
The Chargers usually play with about as much energy as a dead battery early in the season but I am not expecting the Bolts will need to dig deep to blow out the dreadful Chiefs, who have been outscored 89-10 in their opening two games.
Even on a good day, the Chiefs have not fared well at Qualcomm Stadium, recording just one win in their last seven visits, including a 31-0 pummeling last season.
All signs point to another thrashing.
A bad season just keeps getting worse for KC, who have already lost All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles and safety Eric Berry to season ending injuries.
The Chiefs have been a turnover machine handing over the ball nine times in two games and sit last in scoring and rushing.
The Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford and St. Louis Rams’ Sam Bradford each shredded the Chiefs secondary for four touchdown passes and now face a quality Chargers offence led by Philip Rivers.
The Chargers laboured to a win over the Minnesota Vikings at home in their opener and then turned in a sloppy effort losing to the Patriots but only Tom Brady and super-rookie Cam Newton have tossed for more yards through the first two weeks.
The Chargers also tend to play better at home going 12-2 in their last 14 regular season games and I love those powder blue uniforms.
Unless Southern California slips into the Pacific this one is a lock.
Lightning strikes. Take the Bolts and give up the 14.5.
- – - -
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) at Carolina Panthers (0-2)
(Line: Panthers minus-3.5)
Panthers super rookie Cam Newton could pass for a gazillion yards this season but it will not mean much unless he can produce a few wins.
The Panthers triggerman, who has indeed impressed tossing for a rookie record 854 yards in his first two contests, will get a chance on Sunday to prove there is some steak to go along with that sizzle.
Newton has played in just two games but compared to Jaguars rookie pivot Blaine Gabbert, who will be making his first career start, he is a grizzled veteran.
That stench coming out of Jacksonville is the smell of desperation as coach Jack Del Rio searches for a quarterback.
After cutting loose incumbent QB David Garrard just before the season opener, Del Rio needed only two weeks to decide Luke McCown was not the answer.
Jacksonville ranks 30th in passing after two games, McCown getting the hook after tossing four interceptions in a 32-3 loss to the New York Jets.
The Jaguars have a quality running back Maurice Jones-Drew and … umm, well let us leave it at that.
The Panthers have the NFL’s second ranked offense and second ranked passing attack. Wide receiver Steve Smith leads the league in receiving yards with 334.
While Newton’s aerial show has been grabbing the headlines, look for the Panthers to try for a more balanced attack with running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart getting work.
Playing at home and with Chicago, New Orleans and Atlanta in the on deck circle, I’ve got to believe this is a game the Panthers have had circled for a while.
This looks like a purrr-fect spot for Panthers win.
Take the Panthers give up the 3.5.
- – - -
Detroit Lions (2-0) at Minnesota Vikings (0-2)
(Line: Lions minus-3.5)
Having lived in Detroit the previous four years, including that miserable 0-16 season, I have been slow to jump on the Lions bandwagon.
The vibe has not been this upbeat in the Motown since Stevie Wonder and the Supremes were churning out gold records.
But now it Ndamukong Suh recording the hits as the Lions bid for their first 3-0 start since 1980.
Counting last season and the pre-season games, the Lions are on a nine-game winning streak, including a 48-3 thrashing of the Kansas City Chiefs, and I can see no reason for it to end at the Mall of the Americas.
Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson are as good as any pass-catch combo in the league.
The Lions finally have an offense that has teeth, ranking second in league scoring while Johnson is tied for the lead in touchdown catches with four.
Led by Suh, the Lions defence has shown some bite with eight takeaways.
About the only thing the Vikings have going for them is the running of Adrian Peterson and history.
Peterson ranks fourth in rushing with 218 yards in two games while the Lions have not won in Minny since 1997, a run of 13 straight losses.
Fire up the bandwagon – I’m in.
Take the Lions and give up the 3.5.
- – - -
Baltimore Ravens (1-1) at St. Louis Rams (0-2)
(Line: Ravens minus-3.5)
Of all the letdowns last week this is the one that confused me the most.
The Ravens looked liked Super Bowl champs crushing the Steelers in their opener then were just plain Super Bad against a very ordinary Tennessee Titans team. You do not expect that type of letdown from Ray Lewis and company.
For that reason alone I am looking for a big bounce back this week from the Ravens when they visit the injury-ravaged Rams.
After a big step forward last season the Rams will be desperate to avoid starting the season 0-3 but with workhorse running back Steven Jackson on the limp, gaining mileage against a tough Ravens run defence will be difficult.
Baltimore held Tennessee’s Chris Johnson to a measly 53 yards last week but the problem was a leaky pass defence that Matt Hasselbeck was able to exploit.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco has been doing a good Jekyll and Hyde impression, throwing for three touchdowns against the Steelers then serving up two interceptions to the Titans.
Bottom line. Losing does not sit well with the Ravens.
After their last eight defeats, the Ravens have responded with eight big wins. Make that nine.
Take the Ravens and give up the 3.5.
- – - -
New York Giants (1-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)
(Line: Eagles minus-7.5)
Ok, the $100 million question hanging over this one is will concussed Eagles quarterback Michael Vick play? Nothing has been confirmed but all signs point to Vick being under centre on Sunday when the Giants pay a visit.
While the football world has been focused on Vick’s headache, the New Yorkers have bigger problems with an injury list that includes wide receiver Mario Manningham (concussion), receiver and return specialist Domenik Hixon (torn knee ligaments), defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee), first-round draft pick Prince Amukamara (foot) and tight end Travis Beckum (hamstring).
Already out for the season with torn knee ligaments are starting middle linebacker Jonathan Goff, cornerback Terrell Thomas and reserves Clint Sintim and Brian Witherspoon.
Second-round draft choice Marvin Austin (torn pectoral muscle), cornerback Bruce Johnson (Achilles) and backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels (illness) are also on injured reserve.
If Vick is unable to go Mike (who is this gu?y) Kafka is expected to get the start.
While Kafka represents a serious drop-off, he will have a full complement of weapons to choose from including big play threats DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin.
Eagles wide receiver Steve Smith, who caught passes for the Giants the last four seasons, gets his first crack at his former team.
The Giants may have some success running the ball but Eli Manning could be in for a long day against a five-star Eagles pass rush and secondary.
The New Yorkers have lost the last six meetings between the longtime rivals and are still stinking from last year’s humiliating defeat when they coughed up 28 points in the last eight minutes allowing the Eagles to comeback and claim an unlikely 38-31 win.
Vick or no Vick, the Giants are too banged up to pose too much of problem to the Eagles, who will be looking to bounce back from a tough loss to the Atlanta Falcons last week.
The Eagles have landed. Take the Eagles and give up the 7.5.
- – - -
Atlanta Falcons (1-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)
(Line: Falcons plus 1.5)
The Falcons were tipped by a lot of people as Super Bowl material but have yet to display a champions pedigree after being demolished by the Bears in Week 1 and then squeaking past the Eagles in Week 2.
It is only Week 3 but it is crunch time for the Falcons as they fly south to take on NFL South rivals Tampa in a key early-season clash.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan finally looked in sync last week firing a career-high four touchdown passes in a comeback win over Philly but success in Tampa is likely to hinge on running back Michael Turner.
Only the St. Louis Rams have a worse run defence than the Buccaneers who are giving up an average of 156 yards a game on the ground.
Turner is among the NFL’s early rushing leaders ranking sixth with 214 yards.
Tampa QB Josh Freeman is the master of the comebacks and did it again last week rallying the Bucs to a win over the Vikings.
The Falcons are chasing their fifth straight win at Raymond James Stadium.
Games between these two NFC rivals have been traditionally close with the Falcons coming out on top. Getting points is a bonus.
The Bucs stop here.
Take the Falcons and the 1.5.
Record: 5-1. Last week 0-0; Pick of the Week: 1-0
PICK OF THE WEEK
Houston Texans (1-0) at Miami Dolphins (0-1) (Line Texans minus-2.5)
The U.S. Open final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was one of the most physical battles ever seen on a tennis court.
The sheer speed of their groundstrokes and length of the rallies were incredible. Djokovic dominated Nadal in the first two sets, to win them 6-2 6-4. He was on top of the baseline forcing Nadal to play well behind the baseline and not allowing him to play inside the court and dictate. Nadal though is tenacious and was down a break three times in the third set and broke Djokovic while serving for the match to end up winning the third set in a tiebreaker. Unfortunately, Nadal had nothing left in the fourth set.
Week two of the U.S. Open had many stories. Would the weather destroy the momentum of the event? How would the courts hold up? Will the U.S. Open finally make plans to build a roof? Who would be the men’s and woman’s U.S. Open champions?
On the woman’s side Serena Williams made the finals easily and was the big favorite to win the title against Sam Stosur. Stosur had the longest match in US Open history and played the longest tie breaker in U.S. open history as well, to make the finals. Nobody except Sam Stosur thought she would win. If she won, she would become the first Australian woman to win a major since 1980. She played the match of her life and won 6-2 6-3.
from Reuters Soccer Blog:
The easy answer is no.
They were so strong last season that even the final against a good Manchester United side was a stroll.
This term Pep Guardiola's men have strengthened, if that was possible, with the additions of Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez so it is hard to look past them and their silky skills.
The first week of the US Open is always interesting. It’s easy to get a sense of what is going to happen, who is playing well and who is struggling. The weather conditions have been warm but not as humid and hot as last year, no major issues for the players – with the exception of Rafael Nadal and his cramps post match during his press conference.
On the men’s side Novak Djokovic has been sensational and has appeared to have had no issues with his shoulder that was worrying him in Cincinnati. Djokovic still looks like the favorite and is hitting the ball better than anyone in the tournament. Roger Federer has looked good as well, but had his first test against Mario Cilic. The big question mark around Federer is how will he play the big points if he plays Djokovic in the semi-finals but before getting there he has a tough section.
According to International Cricket Council statistician David Kendix’s calculations, three England sides before Andrew Strauss’s present team would have topped the test world rankings too if the current format had existed.
In reverse chronological order, they are Mike Brearley’s side of 1979-80, Ray Illingworth’s 1970-3 team and the 1955-9 squad led first by Len Hutton then Peter May.
The men’s side of this year’s US Open is going to be very interesting.
Will Novak Djokovic’s shoulder hold up and can he win his third major of the year? Will Roger Federer win another major with one of the toughest sections of the draw? Can Rafael Nadal get his form back to defend the title? Will Andy Murray win his first major? And finally, who are the dark horses?
Djokovic’s first two rounds look comfortable, then his route gets interesting with a possible match up against Nikolay Davydenko in the third, Richard Gasquet in the fourth and Tomas Berdych in the quarters before he most likely meets Federer in the semi-finals, if Federer gets there! Berdych could be the danger man in the section if his shoulder recovers from Cincinnati.
from Business Traveller:
By Phil Vickery
Vickery visited New Zealand for the first time as an actual tourist in June. Poised to return as part of the ITV commentary team, he reflects here on his summer trip when he took a helicopter tour over Auckland, got up close to wildlife on the Otago Peninsula and soaked up the sights, sounds and great coffee of the world’s coolest little capital – Wellington.
I love New Zealand but never really got chance to enjoy it as a tourist when I toured there with England. I was always there to do a job and it was non-stop training.