A couple of great NFL games on tap
Monday musings: Brady versus Manning in one game and another Seahawks-49ers battle in The other
In honour of the weekend's weather, here's something else that's dull and drab, the Monday morning musings and meditations on the world of sports.
It's not like the NFL needs help selling it's conference championships, but it's still hard to imagine two more compelling matchups for next weekend.
In the AFC you've got The Battle of the Immortals between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. In the NFC you've got the Seahawks and the 49ers, which might as well be The Bloods versus The Crips. The Dark Star, of course, could trot out the Canton Bulldogs and Frankford Yellow Jackets and still own the hearts and minds of America's sports fans.
As it is, these two games don't need any extra hype.
Manning can barely throw the ball 25 yards but it was still fascinating to watch him beat a very good Chargers defence on Sunday. Manning's smarts, the Broncos' defence and the home-field advantage will be enough to get Denver to the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks, for their part, have owned the 49ers in their last two meetings at Century Link but looked vulnerable against the Saints on Saturday. The elements had a lot to do with that but they're going to need more from quarterback Russell Wilson than he's offered in the last month.
Don't know what's going to happen in Seattle next weekend. Do know the Seahawks aren't going to win by 26.
Look at the Olympic commitment of the NHL's top teams and it seems the San Jose Sharks are going to have an advantage over the final six weeks of the regular season.
The Sharks are sending just four players to Sochi: Patrick Marleau, Marc-Eduoard Vlasic, Joe Pavelski and Antti Niemi. By way of comparison, the Blackhawks are sending 10, St. Louis and Montreal eight, Anaheim and Pittsburgh seven, Los Angeles six and Boston five. We are conveniently ignoring Tampa with five and Colorado with four because
their credentials as a top team are a tad suspect.
Pavelski is also the only one of the Sharks' Olympians who'll play a significant role in Sochi and the team's best players - Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, Logan Couture and Brent Burns - will all get a two-week break before the stretch drive.
This doesn't mean the Sharks should be planning their parade route. It's just something to keep in mind in April.
After 46 games under John Tortorella this season, the Canucks are 24-13-9 for 57 points while scoring 123 goals and allowing 114.
In 48 games under Alain Vigneault last season, the Canucks were 26-15-7 for 59 points while scoring 127 goals and allowing 121.
Vigneault benefited from playing in the Northwest Division but he also went through most of those 48 games without a second-or thirdline centre. Tortorella has had a much tougher schedule but he's had a healthy Ryan Kesler this season.
Just putting that out there. You can decide for yourself if Torts has made a big difference on this team.
The Winnipeg Jets have been your basic enigma wrapped up in a question mark this season. On the surface, they have the talent to compete in the West. But they're again in a lottery position and some of the problems that plagued the Jets in their first incarnation are starting to appear again.
For starters, it will be almost impossible for the Jets to attract a top free agent and they've had to overpay to keep their own players. There's also an ongoing problem with Evander Kane, who should be their best player and leader. And Dustin Byfuglien is just too erratic to be playing 26 minutes a game.
It now falls to Paul Maurice to establish some structure in this team, which is something the dearly departed Claude Noel couldn't do. Maurice is a good man but his last significant success as a head coach came in 2002 when he took the Hurricanes to the Cup final.
It was a great story when the Jets were restored to Winnipeg in the fall of 2011. You'd just like to see it continue.
On Friday, the U.S. State Department sent out a warning to Americans travelling to Sochi next month. Among other things it noted Olympic visitors could face a fine of up to 100,000 rubles (OK, it's $3,100) and 14 days in jail for violating Russia's enlightened law against promoting LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) equality in public.
It further noted Russian authorities have "indicated a broad interpretation of what constitutes LGBT propaganda."
Perfect. Here is your Olympic movement and the high-minded principles it espouses. It's going to a country where it's a crime to promote equality among some segments of the population. It's going to a country that has spent upwards of $40 billion on these Games, the bulk of which will go toward venues that will have little use after the circus leaves town.
On the positive side, Sochi is making Vancouver look like a dream Olympics. On the not-so-positive side, the upcoming Games are shaping up to be the antithesis of the Olympic spirit.
Sochi will provide a marvellous TV show and we will justly celebrate our young athletes as they pursue their dreams. But the Olympics are supposed to represent something bigger than a sports competition. Let's just say they are falling far short of that ideal in Russia.
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