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Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

NFC’s A Crowd

In NFL on December 17, 2009 at 5:05 pm

In contrast to the cluttered AFC picture, the NFC playoff standings are far more straightforward, with 9 teams in contention, and two of those about to drop out of the running.

Dominating the race are the 13-0 New Orleans Saints, who have pulled off a couple of miraculous escapes in the last few weeks to stay perfect. Far from shaking their confidence, these remarkable wins have only fuelled the sense of destiny which is growing in the city, and they have been installed as favourites by most pundits.

They look like a solid pick too. It would take an equally gobsmacking collapse for them to lose the top seed, and one more win would allow them the luxury of resting their starters ahead of the playoffs.

Their opponents on Saturday, the Dallas Cowboys, are in an altogether more sticky situation. Three straight losses for Tony Romo’s club have seen them forfeit a comfortable lead in the NFC East, and they are now faced with a desperate scramble to save their season.

This year was meant to be different for the Cowboys, and everything was going perfectly until they were hit by those familiar December jitters. Now instead of collecting plaudits, they are ducking brickbats as coach Wade Phillips and his team once again face serious questions over their toughness and bottle.

Their season could well rest on the final game showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles, who have flourished as the season progressed.

Donovan McNabb’s side have hit their stride in recent weeks, and become a nice sleeper pick for the Superbowl. They have dealt manfully with the loss of star running back Brian Westbrook, with rookie LeSean McCoy and veteran Leonard Weaver giving them good options on the ground.

They’ve always been a pass-happy offence, and with DeSean Jackson evolving into one of the league’s premier deep threats and the gradual integration of Michael Vick, they can score early and often against any defence. Read the rest of this entry »

Race For The Prize

In NFL on December 16, 2009 at 6:14 pm

The AFC playoff race is currently more complicated than a Stephen Hawking treatise, with 12 out of 16 teams still in the shake-up for a post-season spot. Things should look a lot clearer after this weekend though, as all four Divisions could conceivably be tied up and another few teams dropped from the conversation.

The first key game of a potentially classic weekend will see the 13-0 Indianapolis Colts take on the 7-6 Jacksonville Jaguars, who are just about clinging on to the second wild card spot thanks to their conference record. The chasing pack will be desperately hoping the Colts will continue to play their starters as they chase the perfect 16-0 season, and it’s more than likely that they will.

No team wants to lose to a divisional rival, and it’s a bit early in the season to be worrying about the post-season. It’s far more likely that a month of inactivity would be more damaging to Peyton Manning et al than a few bumps and bruises in mid-December.

Having said that, they won’t be risking any borderline injuries, and reports are already emerging that Pro-Bowl defensive ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney may not start. This will give the Jags a big boost, but they will still be underdogs on Thursday night, and have an uphill battle to reach the playoffs.

Lying 2nd in the AFC race at 10-3, the San Diego Chargers are on a tear, with eight wins in a row. They badly need a win against the 9-4 Bengals on Sunday night if they want to secure home advantage for their Divisional play-off game though, as a win for the Bengals would put them into 2nd by virtue of their Northern sweep.

Coming off a disappointing collapse against the vengeful Vikings last week, the Cincinnati Bengals will probably have to wait until next week’s game in Kansas to clinch the AFC North, and a likely loss in San Diego could leave them looking over their shoulder as they stretch to hang on to their 3rd seed. Read the rest of this entry »

UFC 107 Round-Up

In MMA on December 15, 2009 at 1:30 am

The UFC made its debut in Memphis, Tennessee last Saturday night as BJ Penn put his lightweight title on the line against top contender Diego Sanchez. Onestopsports managed to get 9 out of 11 predictions right, but don’t start rushing to the bookies yet. It was probably a fluke!

Here’s what happened:

Main Event: BJ Penn bt Diego Sanchez (TKO, 5th)

Diego Sanchez was supposed to give the Prodigy a challenge.

Unfortunately for the ‘Nightmare’, what we saw on Saturday was confirmation, if it was needed, that BJ Penn is the most talented lightweight fighter on the planet, and one of the sport’s pound for pound kings.

I expected Penn to win, but I thought Sanchez’ relentless style and bottomless gas tank would at least cause him a few hairy moments. Instead, we were treated to an exhibition of mixed martial arts at its most inspiring, and in the words of Dana White, ‘the worst beating ever in the octagon’.

As early as the opening minute, the outcome was all but decided, as Penn dropped the challenger with a beautiful counter right hook and swarmed all over him with a blurring barrage of flying fists in search of the finish. Sanchez showed incredible heart to survive that onslaught, but it had clearly taken its toll. He looked slightly wobbly on the feet, and never really recovered.

BJ Penn put on a boxing exhibition as he retained the lightweight belt

Read the rest of this entry »

England In South Africa – Test Preview

In Cricket on December 14, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Recent Test series’ between these two teams have been as tight as my Christmas budget with only one match separating the sides in each of the last seven tussles, and the 2009 clash between the 2nd and 5th ranked teams in the world should be no different. England have the momentum after their one day series victory, but South Africa will have home advantage.

Jonathan Trott has had a bright start to his England career

England haven’t played a Test since their morale-boosting Ashes win in August, but that series was hugely significant for them. They uncovered a real Test prospect in Jonathan Trott, who can fill a problem position for them at no.3 in the batting order, and they proved that they can produce against the best when the chips are down. With Ravi Bopara being given some much needed time to develop his game, Trott stepped in and played a pivotal role in England’s fifth Test win in the Ashes. Their batting order now has a formidable look to it.

The question marks will be over Alistair Cook’s form and Kevin Pietersen’s match fitness, and England fans will be hoping Cook can score some early runs to settle him into the series. He’s under pressure for his place after a very poor Ashes. There aren’t many options at the top of the order though, and unless the selectors want to move Trott in to open and push the fragile Ian Bell into the firing line, they may have to stick with him. Read the rest of this entry »

Burned In Munster

In Rugby Union on December 11, 2009 at 10:35 pm

Munster 24-23 Perpignan

Well, that was close.

Munster turned in a disjointed and erratic performance in Thomond Park on Friday evening, but managed to escape with a one point win over a game and gutsy Perpignan side. Ronan O’Gara earned the man of the match award with his 24 points, but it could so easily have been a very different story.

The men in red looked to have laid down a marker early on when they set up camp in the Perpignan 22 after a series of forward drives, which resulted in O’Gara opening his account with a straight-forward penalty. It looked as though they would dispose of an under-strength French outfit with minimum fuss, and thoughts of a bonus point were already beginning to take shape in the minds of the ever optimistic Thomond faithful.

Man of the match Ronan O'Gara lands a crucial drop goal

Something obviously distracted their team too though, as some sloppy work at a lineout allowed flanker Vivalda to burst onto a loose ball and canter to the line without anyone laying a finger on him. Ok, a minor blip, we thought, and began to relax once more when O’Gara slotted another penalty to put his side back in the lead.

But with just 12 minutes on the clock, lightning struck for a second time as Munster were burned by a simple pick and go which released scrum half Durand up the sideline. He left Dougie Howlett for dead with a simple jink inside, and brows were furrowed all over Limerick. Read the rest of this entry »

A Sporting Cult Moves Into The Mainstream

In MMA on December 11, 2009 at 6:15 pm

Of all the titanic battles which have taken place in MMA, the ongoing fight for respect and acceptance among the public has been the toughest. It could finally be nearing an end though, as MMA blossoms from its beginnings as a cult freakshow to its current status as a legitimate and well-respected sport.

As it stands, professional events are being hosted in front of enthusiastic crowds all over the world, television networks are beaming events into living rooms free of charge, and fighters are being recognised by mainstream journalists as the dedicated athletes they are.

While some will always be repulsed by the physical and sometimes brutal nature of MMA, the number of people who were once so quick to dismiss it out of hand are rapidly dwindling.

Royce Gracie gets to grips with the 484lb Akebono

As the sport outgrew its original teething problems and began to evolve throughout the 90s, regulations were necessarily put in place. The days of seeing a 180 pound Royce Gracie taking on someone twice his size at the first few UFC events were necessarily ended and the official Unified Rules were introduced in 2000. These rules were recognised by various State Athletic Commissions and allowed the UFC and other organisations to market themselves as a ‘real’ sport.

As MMA began to find its footing and establish itself in America and elsewhere, the setup became more and more professional. Top class referees like John McCarthy, who trained and understood the fight game, were brought in to ensure the fighters’ safety. Rather than being a bloodthirsty, no-holds barred brawl featuring street fighters with minimal formal training, MMA became a true test of skill and athleticism. Read the rest of this entry »

NFL Week 13 Review

In NFL on December 10, 2009 at 10:22 pm
It’s the business end of the season in the National Football League, and every weekend from now until January will see more teams’ playoff hopes fade.

AFC

The first game of the week saw the New York Jets stay alive in the AFC East with a crucial division win over the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have had a hugely disappointing season so far, and have fallen out of contention at 4-8. The Jets though, have recovered from a 4-6 start to even up their record and keep themselves right in the mix.

On Sunday, the Miami Dolphins made it a perfect weekend for the Jets, when they pipped the suddenly fragile New England Patriots. Just a month ago, the Pats were sitting pretty at the top of the division and just a few cool heads away from a morale-boosting win over their arch rivals the Colts. Instead, Belichick’s blunder handed Peyton Manning a gift, and it looks as though that 4th down failure will be the defining moment of New England’s season.

Tom Brady's Patriots are having a tough season

Their once impregnable defence has looked worryingly leaky in recent weeks, and while Tom Brady has been slowly getting back to his vintage best, he can’t play D. The 2005 Superbowl champs are now being hounded by the hard-running Dolphins and the rejuvenated Jets, and a slip-up against Carolina this weekend could see them in a 3-way tie for the Division.

Read the rest of this entry »

UFC 107 Preview

In MMA on December 10, 2009 at 9:54 pm

UFC 107

The UFC roadshow is in Tennessee this Saturday for what should have been the long awaited showdown between TUF 10 coaches Rashad Evans and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. With Jackson otherwise engaged with his acting career however, the lightweights take centre stage.

UFC lightweight champ BJ 'The Prodigy' Penn

 

BJ Penn vs Diego Sanchez

The lightweight belt is on the line with BJ Penn taking on no.1 challenger Diego ‘Nightmare’ Sanchez. Penn is one of the pound for pound greats the sport of MMA has produced, but his insistence on ballooning up in weight and challenging giant welterweights like Georges St Pierre and Matt Hughes (not to mention 205 pounder Lyoto Machida) has left many onlookers frustrated with his apparent disdain for his rightful division.

His brutal loss to St Pierre at UFC 94 may have left Penn suitably chastened though, and hopefully he can now focus his efforts on dominating his fellow 155ers and building the legacy his skills demand. When he is focussed and motivated, he is easily the most talented lightweight fighter on the UFC roster, and probably the world. Read the rest of this entry »

OneStopSports

In Info on December 8, 2009 at 4:11 am

Welcome to my blog, which is just an excuse for me to write about any and every sport I watch and love. I’m passionate about all the sports I write on, although my favourites are Rugby, Football, American Football, Basketball, MMA, Cricket…

Well, you get the idea!

I hope you find something inside which entertains or informs you,  and if you don’t then feel free to let me know why. I’m currently working as a sports journalist in radio, but would ideally like to move back to print, so again, feel free to leave me any comments or advice which you think would improve my writing or the presentation of this blog