GREG GAMBLE’S 2008-09 HARDWOOD Picks: 35-30 ats…54%
NBA 21-20 - NCAA 8-8 - Teasers 6-2 - Church League 69-0
GREG GAMBLE’S 2008-09 PIGSKIN Picks: 63-44 ats...59%
NFL 23-19 - NCAA 20-15 - Teasers 20-10 - Lovely Ladies 69-0
Just like the inevitable “Charlie Sheen is caught partying with a relaxation therapist and his significant other is shocked”-annual event, the Robin Hood of the handicapping hardwood is amidst his first major losing streak of this long season. Obviously, your disappointment and inability to purchase top-shelf Tequila this week pains me to no end, but instead of kissing the area that makes Miranda Kerr seem like an angel, like Kellen “crotch-rocket” Winslow... “I’m a MFin Warrior!” If anything, take solace in the fact my record is still above .500 and overdue for one of those win-streaks that makes those new to Insideplays think I used to be in intern for Sam “Ace” Rothstein. But before we hit-up the limited hoops docket tonight, I think it’s time to break out the first addition of my Super Bowl Sunday thoughts.
First thought, the limited use of the Edge & Fast Willie during the season is one of the biggest reasons these teams are playing in Raymond James Stadium. Unlike the Skins & Cowboys who overused their RBs early in the year and saw them breakdown late, James & Parker entered the postseason fresher than ever. For the Cardinals, during the first 16 weeks of the season Edgerrin carried the ball an average of eight times per game for a total of 414 yards. From the season finale thru the playoffs, the former Hurricane has doubled his amount of carries (16.5 per/gm) for 303 yards. On the Steelers side, from week four thru week 15, Parker averaged just over nine runs/gm, but in his last five the speedster has averaged over 23 touches/gm. While injuries had something to do with this, the end result is the same, fresh tailbacks come December is what you need to survive.
As for what direction I’m going, if the game was played tonight I’d be placing my rapidly shrinking bankroll on the Cardinals getting a Tuddie. And just like the number of reasons Hugh Hefner had to get out of bed over the last couple years, I have three gems for ya:
CHANGE IN VENUE & WEATHER
Since Week Six, the farthest south the Steelers have traveled is Tennessee, with nearly every other recent contest in terrible conditions and/or at home. While I’d be more idiotic than John Paxson thinking he should corner the market on overrated guards to knock Pitt's aggressive D, am I that crazy to think their dominance might have had a little to do with snow flakes & frozen fields? And with the exception of San Diego two weeks ago, the teams they’ve played of late have been one-dimensional rushing attacks with no weapons on the outside…and even against SD, it was in the low 20s with snow flurries at home. On the Cardinals side, considering all their home-games had tailgaters wearing bikinis, and more specifically, the last four weeks they’ve played three in Phoenix and one in Carolina, I’m guessing their aerial attack is happy this game is in Florida instead of Pittsburgh.
SPREAD CARDINAL…cousin of the Spread Eagle w/ xtra legs
As mentioned, besides playing Phillip in shitty weather, Pitt has been able to load-up the box to stop the run and blitz from anywhere against limited passing attacks. But on Super Bowl Sunday, they’ll face an accurate veteran QB who’s seen every blitz, defense, and has NBA-sized playmakers on the outside (Fitz, Boldin, & Breaston). While skeptics will tell you Warner doesn’t have the speed to avoid Dick LeBeau’s rush, with the cushion his corners usually leave, look for Zona to spread three-wide and for Kurt to quickly release to his ridiculously athletic WRs to do what they do best…gash the opponent with yards after contact. Especially with the balance the Cards have established of late with a fresh Edge, the downhill thunder from Tim “I’d run the other way if I saw him in an alley” Hightower, and the dump-offs to the speedy J.J Arrington, I expect the Cardinals to control the clock more than the Steelers next Sunday.
A COACH & SUPERSTARS W/ A CHIP ON THEIR SHOULDERS
No, I’m not talking about Jenna Jameson & her girlfriends in “Where the Boys Aren’t 16: Dark Angels”, I’m talking bout MFin Zona. Widely regarded as the worst team to ever make the playoffs and led by a coach full of Steeler knowledge and stars with a passionate agenda. First off, I love that Anquan was so fired-up last week and now has two weeks to rest his hammy and continue to fester with disciplined passion. Secondly, I love Edge rested and itching to prove he’s still an elite back in the NFL. But most importantly, I love the moxy & confidence of Ken Whisenhunt, not to mention the six years he spent with the Terrible Towels. While everybody jumped on the Cards for playing like shiznit after clinching early, the wise Whisenhunt insured his players were rested & healthy for the postseason, didn’t show the league anything to scout over the last few weeks, and built a “us against the world” mentality to take them over the top. As a result, it’s gonna take some magic from my insiders to convince me not to take the Cards straight-up as well!
BOSTON CELTICS @ ORLANDO MAGIC (-4.5)
While the Celts have rebounded from a mild-slump with a six-game winning streak, the veteran squad will be playing their fourth game in six nights and coming off a back-to-back. On the flipside, the even hotter Magic (seven straight and 15 of last 17 overall) haven’t played since last Saturday and understand the stage is set tonight to prove to the league they’re the Beast of the East. Speaking of the Beast, D-Howard has been absolutely dominate of late (last four games: 22 ppg, 17 rpg, 3 bpg) and will be squaring off against the a 280 lb 6-10 center coming off a shoulder injury that played his first game in two weeks last night (23 min, 2 pts, 7 reb, & 1 blk).
Throw-in the somewhat plumpish Paulie still working off the post-Finals party buffets facing the a duo of 6-10 sharpshooters (Rashard Lewis 19 ppg, 42 3pt% - Hedu’s last 5 games: 21 ppg, 61-3pt%), and the emergence of Orlando’s newfound dominate backcourt of Jameer Nelson (last 5 games: 22 ppg, 8 apg, 61-3pt% ) & Courtney Lee (last 6 games: 11 ppg, 57-3pt%) and the reemergence of the most hated Dukie of all time J.J. Redick (last 8 games: 18 for 29 from behind the arc)…not counting Chicago’s vote of Soft Luol Deng or Motorcycle Jay Williams. Seriously, did you check out those numbers…that’s the most amazing group of D-Howard floor spacers I’ve ever seen! And I haven’t even mentioned the distractions the Celtics had yesterday in South Beach or the game-planning they’ll being doing for tonight’s parties in Orlando! MAGIC ROLL AS BOSTON CALLS IT QUITS EARLY 2NIGHT
UW-GREEN BAY PHOENIX (+10) @ BUTLER BULLDOGS
Hey Homeboys...TOUCH ME HERE TO FIND OUT WHY!!!
UW-GREEN BAY PHOENIX (+10) @ BUTLER BULLDOGS
The (16-5) Phoenix have quietly become my ATS sleeper team of the year. With the sharp-shooting senior trio of 6-8 Ryan Tillema, 6-9 Mark Schachtner, & 6-5 Terry Evans (37 ppg, 15 rpg, 39-3pt%), an athletic and disciplined backcourt (Jr. Troy Cotton & So. Rahmon Fletcher - 21 ppg, 6 rpg 5 apg, 38-3pt%), and frontcourt body to do the dirty work 6-9 Jr. Randy Berry (27 mpg, 7 ppg, 6 rpg), if they can somehow make the dance I bet they cause some trouble.
As for (15-1) Butler, while it’s amazing they’ve been this successful after the loss of four of their top five scorers from last year, I’m expected this young team to hit somewhat of a wall in the second half and give veteran teams like UW-Green Bay an opportunity to close some ground in the Horizon. In the Bulldogs last home-game we may started to see some of those signs as they barely squeeked out a win against 4-12 Detroit…PHOENIX KEEP IT CLOSE BUT LOSE LATE!