Tuesday, December 31, 2013

NFL Playoffs


San Francisco 49ers vs Green Bay Packers
The 49ers should be able to win this game without problem.  The Green Bay defense is simply too weak to keep up.  Not just the talent on the field but Green Bay will be thoroughly outcoached by Harbaugh and staff.  I don't think even Rodgers can bail them out of this one.    Niners by 4.

New Orleans Saints vs Philadelphia Eagles
I dont think the Saints will have too much problem taking care of the Eagles.   Eagles have the worst passing defense in the league.  Kyle Orton had 65% completion with 358 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 Ints.  Brees should have a field day.  While I don't trust the Saints run-d and their ability to stop McCoy, I'll take the Saints offense over the Eagles offense any day. Saints by 7


Kansas City Chiefs vs Indianapolis Colts
The Colts' success purely depends on the success of the pass-rush.  Their pass-rush is how they were able to beat all the great teams that they did.   If they haven't earned your respect after beating KC, Denver, SF, and Seattle, I don't know what else you want.  Luck is still developing but clearly he has the clutch gene.   I think the linebackers are fast enough to keep up with charles, and I think the pass-rush can obliterate Alex Smith.  I love the KC defense, but I simply don't think Alex Smith has it in him to perform in the clutch.  I think this will be a close game that comes down to the end.  Colts by 2.

San Diego Chargers vs Cincinnati Bengals 
While the Chargers have upset ability, I don't think the Bengals will lay an egg at home.  People love to criticize Dalton but don't realize how good the defense actually is.   5th in the league in rushing defense, 5th in the league in passing defense.   Put Dalton's inconsistency up against the Chargers' 29th ranked passing defense, and he should be okay for this game.  Bengals by 4.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Madden-Dude's Guide to do Well in School

-Study to learn and understand - Comprehension is the most important thing. You should attack every class like, "This is my opportunity to master this subject".  If you follow no other piece of advice, at least follow this one and you'll be okay.

These are the steps I take in trying to master a class:

-Read the syllabus - Know what the teacher expects from the class, know the details of the class, know the resources the teacher recommends and look them up on Amazon reviews.

-Acquire my resources - Look up alternative books and websites I could use. Teachers sometimes recommend horrible overly dense books. Acquire the best possible resources that will work for you. Keep it limited. Ex: Teacher recommended a physiology book, way too much detail, would've taken me forever to read, especially since I'm a slow reader. I was recommended Costanzo - Physiology, read a chapter and loved it, that book got me a solid A in the class. Outside of your class notes, you have Wikipedia, and I think its a good idea to have at least 1 textbook that you would read.

-Plan out how to take notes - Does the teacher use power-point, does he write on the board, does he not give us his power-point presentation, do I want to use my iPad, pen and paper, do I want to go to class or podcast the lecture? All these questions can be answered within the first week of class. Usually I prefer FoxIt reader to annotate PDFs of the lectures on my computer in class. Some classes I prefer to listen to the teacher on podcast. These are all options for you to consider. But I think its important to listen to each lecture at least once. When they aren't reading off the slides, they give their own input and they are, after all, experts in their field. Much can be learned from their side-comments. I noticed when I prepare ahead of time, those side-comments tend to stick with me. When I go into class with no prior exposure, much of what the teacher says is in 1 ear and out the other, with no recall of him mentioning those things.

-Pre-Read - I briefly flip through the lectures for the upcoming week, then I read those topics in my textbook. I use Google/Wikipedia to clarify any questions. Then I read through the class-notes and compare what I just learned to what I need to know, and how that extra information helps fill in the gaps in the lecture slides. Pre-reading is the single best thing I've ever done in any class. You can't be a lazy bum about it. You have to prioritize getting it done. For example: Normally people study throughout the week and use the weekend to fill in the gaps and review what they learned. I used Sat and Sun to get ahead for the upcoming week, then I used Thur and Fri to review that week. I found this to be SO much more efficient.

-Frequent Quality Exposure - I think its good to aim for 5 exposures. My 6 were: 1) Pre-reading the textbook + Wiki 2)Reading class-notes 3) Paying attention in class 4) Reviewing at home on that day, comparing textbook with lecture 5) Reviewing thur/fri 6) Lab(Sometimes). I think equally important to exposure is the quality time you spend learning the thing. I treated each of my exposures as if they were my last and I would take the test the next day. When I pre-read the textbook, I told myself, I have to understand it now, there's no 2nd chance. By the time I even got to class, I pretty much knew everything. #3-6 were really just solidifying it. When you do that, you're able to be that guy who asks brilliant questions in class or that guy who sounds like he did research n this stuff, why does he know everything?!

-Practice Questions - From #4 and #5 in the above paragraph (reviewing at home), much of my reviewing would be doing practice questions. I cannot stress how helpful this really is. When you try to apply your knowledge you understand what you know and what you don't know. It really integrates your understanding with multiple topics. If you don't have practice questions, ask the teacher, or find a question book from Amazon.

-Personal Notes and Diagrams - Each time I sit down to study, I make a diagram or drawing of difficult concepts. I try to map out all the concepts to relate them to each other. This is essentially how I visualize it in my mind and its how I integrate my knowledge. I try to aim for 1 paper per lecture, I map out all the concepts, then I map out all the details. When I go back to study for midterms, or if I want to review the material in a future class, I just have to pull out my diagrams and it all comes back to me. Im super glad I started doing this early on in my education. I have so many diagrams, it keeps all my knowledge fresh. People wonder how I remember stuff in so much detail from so long ago, this is how. I'm a visual learner so this works for me. I don't usually do this until #2 when I'm reading through my class notes for the first time. The purpose is, everything I need to memorize, is mapped out on a piece of paper. It makes memorizing large amounts of information very easy.

-Research above and beyond - Once you know everything, take your knowledge above and beyond with Google, search professional journals, Wikipedia, you should be able to explain the topic for the layman to understand.

-Study for midterms very early - I try to aim to be ready for midterms 1 week before the test day. The last week is purely for review and group studying. I explain stuff to my peers and it really solidifies my understanding for long term.

Summary: The best piece of advice I can give is study to learn and understand. The 2nd best piece of advice I can give is, get ahead and build your foundation of knowledge very early in the class (I used a textbook to do this), that way any discussion, lecture, lab, homework, can all augment your knowledge. You don't be listening to the teacher like, "We don't have to know this." "Ehhh I'll look this up later." "What the heck, when did she teach that."

-Stay focused and study hard - Building "smarts" is much like working out. You cant walk into the weight room on your first day and bench 300 lbs, so don't expect to blaze through your material understanding everything. You might feel dumb at first, needing to read through very slowly just to understand it, and not getting it on your first try. Eventually you'll get so good that everything you learn sticks with you and automatically integrates with what you know.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

San Francisco Gameplan:
-Run the ball non-stop throughout the entire game.   Seattle's 1 weakness is its run defense.  They give up a solid amount of yards-per-carry.  Thats why Seattle's gameplan is to take shots and get ahead early...to make the other team abandon the run.  Thats why Seattle ends up winning in so many blow-outs against good teams.   Seattle is built with speed up front.  Their speed makes for gang-tackles on every play, to make up for their lack of power.  Niners need to lineup in I-form and just pound it.  Use the power and strength of the O-line, dont be intimidated by speed. When they least expect it, take shots, and complete those big passes to Davis or Crabtree that we always see.  But immediately after, go back to the run.  Kaepernick should have 22 attempts, and 70% completion, and half of those should be 15+ yard first down passes.

Seattle Gameplan:
-Make SF play your game, not vice-versa.   Like I said, Seattle forces their game on other teams to cover up their weaknesses.  They look invincible on TV, but they do have weaknesses.

I still think Seattle is the better team because I dont particularly like Kaepernick's passing progression throughout the season.  I dont think Harbaughs done a good job of facilitating it.  If kaepernick got better at the same pace as Russell Wilson, the niners would be the clear number 2 team, borderline number 1, in the NFC.  I think the team is that good.   I also think Gore is not as good as he used to be.  He benefits from huge holes created by his O-line.  I dont think "home field advantage" or "extra effort" will be enough for the niners.  I'm still taking seattle by a large margin lol.

Seattle 28 San Francisco 13

Random thoughts about the game:

-Harbaugh likes to keep it conservative throughout the season, then towards the end he likes to open up the playbook in the passing game.  This does 2 things: It gets Gore fresh for the playoffs, and it doesn't let Pete Carroll to get too much game-film on his playbook.  Guys say he's the most paranoid coach in the NFL, and his biggest paranoia is Seattle.  The point: This IS the superbowl for the niners.  Harbaugh will bring out everything.  The players will be playing like its a playoff game.

-Seattle is cruising to 1st seed.  This game is essentially meaningless in the standings.  But it does two things: San francisco is essentially down right now....they've lost to every good team they've faced.  I can't imagine their confidence being too high.   Seattle has a chance to go for the kill.  If the niners lose this game, I dont see them having enough guts to come back and win again in the playoffs at seattle, I can even imagine a team like Detroit giving them trouble...they wouldnt be able to stop CJ, and the Detroit run-D will be able to shut down gore.    Its also personal for seattle.  But with very little playoff implications for them, I can't imagine seattle treating it like a playoff game, whereas SF will.

-Niners homefield is overrated, lets get that out of the way. Both Indy and Carolina were able to beat them at San Francisco.  But regardless of how dumb the email sounds, I think the fans will come out extra loud...but i just dont see it effecting the seahawks.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

NFL Power Rankings

The season is winding down and at this point, we've seen what most contending teams have to offer.  When making these power-rankings, I think in terms of head-to-head matchups, in other words, 'if both these teams brought their best, who would win'. Other things are balance, leadership, likelihood to advance in the playoffs, talant on the depth chart, injuries, and anything else.

Tier 1

1. Seattle Seahawks - As I've mentioned before, I think this is the best team I've seen in years.  They remind me alot of the super-bowl winning Steelers teams of the recent past.   Dominant defense, dominant running-game, creative playmaking QB.  When this team brings its best, they can beat anyone.   I can list a bunch of stats or I can link you to this article that does it for me.   Its just a matter of watching them play.  Every aspect of the team is balanced and exceptional.  They can win in so many different ways.  Their biggest challenge will be New Orleans.  Beyond that, I think they can convincingly beat Denver in the superbowl.

2.New Orleans Saints - I think there are two teams in the NFL who are elite on both sides of the ball, and both those teams I put at 1 and 2.   In a pass-happy league, they are the 2nd best passing offense and have the 3rd best passing defense.  The key-word is balance.  Head to head I think the difference between the saints and seahawks is the running-games.  I think Lynch would be the difference maker.   I would take the Saints O vs Den D as opposed to Den O vs Saints D.  Its really as simple as that.  People still have the image in their minds that the Saints defense is soft.  They are a completely different team this year.  Last year they were by FAR the worst defense in the league.  They gave up the most rushing yards a game, and 2nd most passing yards a game, as well as the 2nd most points per game.   This year they are the 5th best scoring defense.

3. Denver Broncos - Even though I think this is too much of a 1-sided team, this is one of the best offenses I've ever seen.  Its comparable to the 07 patriots.  But even the 07 patriots fell victim to a great pass-rush.  But the fact is, when trying to beat the broncos, you need to have some degree of luck, hoping that Manning makes mistakes and you play a flawless game.  I think the elite 4-man rush combined with the lock-down defensive backs of the Seahawks can slow the Broncos just enough to let the offense outscore Manning.

Tier 2

4.  Carolina Panthers - One of the best, if not the best defense in the league.  Combined with a solid run game, combined with a nice set of receivers, veteren leadership with the one and only Steve Smith, and a QB who continues to get better.  I'm not a fan of Newton, but I gotta give it to him, he's been playing better and better.   I think this teams weakness is its passing defense.  Brady was able to exploit it, and Brees will be able to as well.  I wouldn't be surprised if the Saints take both games versus Carolina.  But I think their defense will keep em in any game.  They robbed the patriots but what goes around comes around, the Patriots robbed the Saints, Saints robbed the Niners, Niners robbed the Packers.  The Packers' cheap victory is yet to come.  I feel like thats how they'll beat the Lions.

6. San Francisco 49ers - Its as if you have to be a niners homer or niners hater.  It makes no sense.  This is where they deserve to be.  Tier 2 of NFL teams.  A great defense no doubt, a good running game, and banged up receivers who are returning soon.  Davis, Crabtree, Boldin, Manningham should be an effective bunch when all healthy.  I'm not a big Kaepernick fan, I'll post about this later, but I think he's good enough in that offense, with that playcalling to put up more points than most opposing teams.  More points than KC, not as many points as carolina.  I think this is where they belong.

7. New England - Still an elite offense, especially with Gronk back.  The defense is just way too banged up.  They were playing scrubs against carolina.  But the fact is the Belichick and Brady combo is always a threat to win and always a threat in the playoffs.  They got robbed against Carolina, otherwise that would mean they'd have beaten the Saints and Panthers.  Brady's offense made the Panthers defense look weak.  Since about half-way through the 2nd quarter, the Patriot offense looked like they were going to drive at will.

8.  Kansas City Chiefs - Kind of the same reasons as the Panthers, great defense, good rushing attack, good coaching, good receivers, but I would take Newton and Kaepernick over Smith.  Simple as that.  I think Newton and Kaepernick's playmaking abilities would be enough to allow their teams to score points while their defenses hold solid.  I dont think Alex Smith would be able to move the ball effectively on any of the 6 teams above.  I trust the New England offense vs KC def more than I do the KC Offense vs New England D.

Tier 3.

9. Indianapolis Colts
10. Green Bay Packers
11. Cincinnati Bengals
12. Detroit Lions
13. Chicago Bears

Tier 4:

14. Arizona Cardinals
15. New York Giants
16. Philadelphia Eagles
17. Dallas Cowboys

Saturday, November 16, 2013

NFL Futures Predictions

I've recently started checking Bovada for their NFL lines. I think anyone can make bold predictions, but once you suggest putting money on it, people back down.    With the money factor, I realized the way I analyse the game changes.  I put all emotions aside and think as objectively as possible.  I will make a later post discussing what exactly I look for and how I judge outcomes, but for now I'm going to make a few predictions of my own.

Things I would put money on:

1. Giants win the division (+500)

The Giants have been a joke all year, but they've had a dysfunctional defense and the worst run game in the NFL.  As of late, their defense has been playing much better and they look like they've finally found the answer to their running problems in Andre Brown.  Its just a matter of time before the offense gets it together.  I think theres a higher probability of that than the dallas defense coming together.  With the loss of Sean Lee, I think Dallas is done, I believe the team is too one dimensional.  I have the same problem with philly.  Ultimately record and schedule aside, I feel like the Giants are the best team in the division, and thats why I feel like the 5/1 odds of winning the division are worth it.

2. Seahawks win the superbowl (+375)

I started watching the seahawks mid-way through last season and every time I see them bring their A-game, I just think wow, this is one of the best teams I've ever seen.   I dont see anyone beating them when they play their best.  Unfortunately they didn't show up to the falcons playoff game until half-time.   And in that second half, the seahawks scored a TD on every drive except 1.  Since right after that game, I've been picking the Seahawks to win the superbowl this year.  When I see em bring their best, I'm still amazed.  If you take away the garbage time TD with a minute something left, they beat the niners in their last 2 meetings with a combined score of 71-9 forcing a total of 7 turnovers with Wilson scoring 5 TDs and Lynch scoring 3.   Their biggest challenge will be New Orleans, I would guess in the NFC championship.   That will be a game of the ages.  Denver is much too one sided to win the superbowl, but I will talk about them next.

Things I would NOT put money on:

1. Denver winning the superbowl (+333)

They are much too one-sided to win the superbowl.  You absolutely need a balanced team to win it all.  They're so powerful on offense that they can get through the regular season with 3 losses maximum.  But from the NFC they will face teams with elite pass defenses like the Seahawks, Saints, Panthers, all of whom have top 5 pass-defenses. (Which is also the reason I feel the niners can't get through any of those teams, with an already weak passing offense, they are rendered completely inept against those teams.)

An elite pass-rush can take out any pocket quarterback.  That was the formula the Colts used to beat the broncos.  That was the formula the Giants used to beat the Patriots, which looked like one of the greatest offenses ever.   None of those games were flukes.  Bronco fans will be quick to mention the Hillman fumble at the goal-line, but even more fluky was Trent Richardson losing the first fumble of his NFL career right before that drive that gave them the ball.  As great as the offense is, I see too many flaws on defense, I see the loss of Ryan Clady hurting them big-time. Its what allowed Mathis to have 2 sacks and 4 QB hits, its why Mannings has been getting hit alot lately to the point where he's questionable every week now.  Its known that his ankles are weak, one bad hit could put him out for a week or two, which could lose them the division to the chiefs, forcing them to go on the road at Foxborough and Arrowhead.  I honestly believe they split 1-1 with the Chiefs this season.

2. The Niners winning anything important - SB (+1000), NFC (+550), Division(+400), Big Regular Season Games

I absolutely don't believe in the niners, and I absolutely don't believe in Kaepernick as a passing QB.   I need to see them pass the ball effectively before I pick them for anything.  They have a brilliant defense, a declining run-game, a decimated receiving corps, and a poor-vision passer who is as good as the playcalling.   Thats enough to keep them out of the top tier of teams.  I put them in the tier of Carolina with an elite defense and an offense that will dominate weak defenses and struggle against good ones.   I picked the Seahawks and Panthers to beat em, and I'm picking the Saints to beat em as well, and then the Seahawks to beat them again in San Francisco.


Theres a few teams I really believe in, including the Saints, Panthers, Chiefs, and Colts, in that order, to be contenders.   But I'm still weighing out whether its worth putting down the money or not.  Thats the only thing that holds me back.