Saturday, September 17, 2016

Who Are the Cleveland Browns Really?

With only one playoff appearance in their 17 year history, the Cleveland Browns have established themselves as not only the worst franchise in the NFL, but also the worst franchise in all of North America.
This is not something that any fanbase or ownership group wants to be proud of. A .311 winning percentage is one of many epic disasters that have the Cleveland Browns going in every direction but up. In fact, they have only had three seasons where they were in the playoff hunt.
There has only been one season where they started one quarterback the entire season. That happened in 2001 with Tim Couch. With the deflating news that Robert Griffin III was put on injured reserve yesterday, the start of another tragic season is bound to remain the same.
When the Browns traded down and passed on California’s gunslinger Jared Goff, the move would have indicated that they were going a different direction at quarterback. However, Griffin’s banged up shoulder is an insult to injury for the Cleveland Browns franchise that is dying for success.
This week, the Browns are faced with a huge home opener against the Baltimore Ravens. Despite it being only Week Two, it is almost a must-win as Cleveland travels to Miami, Washington, Tennessee, and Cincinnati while hosting New England to close out Week Seven. Yes, while a 1-6 or 2-5 record is the most likely outcome, 0-7 wouldn’t come as a surprise. The Browns are a bad team and being interlocked in a competitive division doesn’t help things one bit.
We are one game into the season. 16 teams are 1-0. The other 16 are 0-1. However, for the Cleveland Browns, the obituary seems like it is already half written. Nothing will change until they have a stable quarterback – RG3 might be the answer, but his health always seems to be in question. They have a reputable running back in Isaiah Crowell, a steady tight end in Gary Barnidge, and an explosive, yet complexing wideout in Josh Gordon.
But something always has to give for Cleveland. They are a disaster from the bottom up. A revival is yearning to happen, but for now it looks bleak as drastic changes must be made. Because the current moves haven’t been working.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Is Canada Soccer this bad?? No...

I'm sitting in the Vancouver Public Library 200 meters away from the scene of  Canadian Men's soccer Team's devastating fatal ending to the Semi Final stage of the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers.

 They won the game 3-1 over El Salvador, but there is a feeling of disappointment. The empty feeling of not being involved in the World Cup for the eighth straight time.

I hinted at it a bit last week on my blog but that the fact that we won on Tuesday and are still disappointed is progress on its own. In fact, Canada is 9W-4T-1L in their last 14 competitive home games. Unluckily, Canada still sits 100th in the world but it would be hard to find another country with that kind of Home record that also sits in the same ballpark as Canada. My guess is you can't, because there likely isn't.

To continue with a positive theme, Canada's attendance is up. After 15,000 in the 2010 Qualifiers and just under 14,000 in the 2014 Qualifiers, the attendance for the 2018 Qualifiers climbed to 22,000 this time around. Yes, the climb was also helped out to the highly anticipated game between regional power Mexico but its not like they have never played Mexico before.

For the first time in awhile, Canada Men's soccer isn't greeted with sarcasm and rolled eyes like it did a decade ago. A decade ago I was rolling my eyes. The sarcasm has ended and people are starting to treat a Men's soccer game as a big deal and that is a crucial first step in respectability. 

More importantly, this was the second straight Qualifying cycle where the chance to advance has come down to the final game. That needs to be the bare minimum standard that Canada has to measure themselves too. You can't expect to make the World Cup every four years. Especially with three really good teams in CONCACAF and only 3.5 berths given out. Canada is missing the "it" factor that the good Central American teams have. We look afraid when we travel to Central America and that has to change.

It's a work in progress, Canada was a bounce or two away. Extremely pleased with the effort Scott Arfield gave to Canada after committing to Canada instead of Scotland. It shows where Canada sits as a country if he thought we had a better chance qualifying for the World Cup than Scotland. We need those players to turn our way like Junior Hoilett and others who decided to play for Canada.

When the opposite happens, the Owen Hargreaves and the Jonathan De Guzman's of the world, play for their families country, Canada will be no more than a laughing stock.

However, the tide is beginning to turn, players like Frasier Arid and Lucas Cavallini to name a few will be likely called up for the 2022 Qualifiers or even next years Gold Cup. If that happens, Canada will exuberate  a load a young new faces that could be the face of Canadian soccer for the next decade. 

Consequently, Canada will not have much to look forward to until the next set of Qualifiers because of the senseless confederation CONCACAF is. The Gold Cup has gotten old and stale quickly and the number of games Canada has a chance to play in is not enough. For instance, it is harder getting out of the Semi Final stage than it is the Hex. In the Semi Final stage, a tie  is a bad result and sometimes fatal ending, Canadians know all about this with their 0-0 tie to Honduras in 2012 and El Salvador in 2015. In contrast, a tie in the Hex is a good result because of 66% of the teams get to either the World Cup or the playoff. With the four extra games the Hex offers compared to the Semi Final stage, there is time to make up those two dropped points. 

That needs to change if it were me, but CONCACAF is so stubborn because they want to protect the Mexico-USA WCQ game. CONCACAF needs to get a brain though, Asia is in some ways a similar confederation with two teams being a powerhouse. (South Korea and Japan) They aren't guaranteed a South Korea - Japan WCQ and that confederation survives. 

With 10 competitive teams before a drop off in quality, having a 12 team phase is unfair as it will always likely produce one group of death and two easier groups. As the draw guru I have always been, I have fought of different ways we could have a great qualifying system that will make the dictate less of the countries fortune. I will talk about other formats that CONCACAF could explore when the time comes. 

Another area where CONCACAF needs to improve on is Gold Cup Qualifying. With 41 teams competing for the Gold Cup Qualifying should be down as a whole. An easy way to do it would be have 10 groups of  4 teams with the group winners and best second place team qualifying for Gold Cup. Adding in the host who qualifies automatically there is your 12 teams. The Gold Cup should be every four years instead of every two years to make the Gold Cup a special tournament. In this system, the Gold Cup would be in July of 2020 2024 and 2028 etc. This would make it to be in the middle of the World Cup years. 

Despite slowly, Canada is turning the page, if the CSA can fix a few things along with CONCACAF getting a brain. I believe Canada will be getting the right things in place eventually.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

TV Guide to Week 1 of NFL

NFL starts tomorrow.  Greatest sport for TV as FOX and CBS do an amazing job capturing the season from 1ET all the way through to the end of the late kickoffs.

Generally speaking, CBS has the rights to the AFC games and FOX takes care of the NFC games. Any inter-conference games are split. For instance, an NFC team will appear on CBS 2-3 times per year and vice-versa.

With NFL Sunday Ticket as popular as it is, People aren't just watching their local broadcasts but also the out of market games as well. I always enjoyed watching the out of market games and will continue to this year with websites such as Firstrowsports and Batmanstream.

The way I watch the games is usually watch is try to find one CBS game and one FOX game going on at the same time for each game slot. (1ET and 4:05-4:25 ET). This gives me a good balance of what teams I watch over the course of the season.

Here are the games I'm interested in for Week one on top of the four National TV games this week:

Browns vs Eagles 1PM CBS

The Browns had a disappointing preseason scoring a mediocre 44 points in their four preseason games. This will be a competitive game though as the Eagles might not be much better. With the NFC East weak however, this is a early must win game for Philadelphia.

Vikings vs Titans 1PM FOX

Vikings looked poised for a date with Arizona in the Divisional round until Blair Walsh missed a field goal most high school kickers would make. They travel to Tennessee to take on Marcus Mariota and the Titans who haven't made the playoffs since 2008.

Dolphins vs Seahawks  4:05PM CBS 

Three letters - LOB! Pretty fun watching Seahawks games these days as their defense will once again be really good. Oh ya, and the crowd gets just a touch loud too sometimes.

Giants vs Cowboys 4:25PN FOX

Giants - Cowboys games are always interesting and once again Sunday will be no exception. With Tony Romo sidelined, we will see how well they do against Eli Manning as he plays his first game without older brother Peyton in the league.

For the cable guide, click here. 

The rest of the schedule is below.  

Thursday, September 8

Sunday, September 11

Monday, September 12


Sunday, September 4, 2016

How Much Will Sweden Miss Ibrahimovic

For 15 years, Zlatan Ibrahimovic spoiled the passionate fans of Sweden with his brilliant dribbling and sensational scoring that recently led them to the Euro Cup for fifth straight time. 

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and Ibrahimovic announced his retirement after the Euro's last June. For the Scandinavian country of 8 Million, the question now becomes, who will score the goals for Sweden? 

On paper, there is on 24 goals named to the roster. To put that in perspective, Ibrahimovic had 62 goals by himself. Marcus Berg is the highest goal scorers on the team with 10, but at the age of 30 everyone has to wonder home many good years he has left. Remember, international soccer is such a tight and intense game, anything over 32 is past your prime. 

Then there comes the secondary answers of John Guidetti and Iasaac Kiese Thelin. Both were part of Sweden's U21 European Championship team that placed first last June. Despite all this, it it will be a tall ask for those two alone to fill the shoes of Swedish's best player all time. 

The duo will be baptized by fire this week when Sweden's 2018 World Cup campaign gets underway in as Sweden hosts Holland on Tuesday which can be seen live on ESPN2. 

The group also includes France, Bulgeria Belarus and Luxembourg. With the home game against the underachieving Dutch side, Tuesday's game is crucial for Sweden to at least get a draw. A loss would be a devastating blow and a uphill climb the rest of the qualifying cycle. 

Odds are against Sweden this time around. It will be very interesting to see how Sweden fairs being the underdog for the first time in awhile. 

That being said, anything is possible. The first Sweden soccer game I ever watched was their first group stage game in the 2006 FIFA World Cup against Trinidad and Tobago. They were heavy favorites that game but couldn't nudge the ball in even when T&T was down to 10 men. The relentless pressure made the game entertaining for someone like me. At the time, I rarely watched soccer but this game kept me glued to the TV. The game finished 0-0 but fortunately were still able to advance to the Round of 16. 

Since then, I have often kept an eye on how Sweden was doing in the qualifying cycles. With the ability to watch games on the computer and the amount of soccer games on TV, I rarely miss a game. 

I am quite interested to see how Sweden responds to such a big hole at striker. Generally, two to three goals over the course of the cycle can be the difference from almost finishing second to finishing fourth. More importantly,  what kind of crowd support Sweden gets and how hostile of place Friends Arena is when the the Netherlands makes the trek north. 

We knew this day was coming when Sweden became a one man team a few years ago. Ibrahimovic is no longer the bandage covering up Sweden's lack of scoring. Tuesday is the day where other players need to step up. Or else, Sweden making World Cups might become a distant memory.