Princeton Times

Sports

January 12, 2013

Jeff's Sports Corner: NFL moves toward Super Bowl

PRINCETON — There have been some changes in the WVU football coaching staff since the bowl game. Most notably, the last holdover from the Don Nehlen era, Steve Dunlap, has been fired. Considering that Nehlen’s teams, as a rule, played at least decent defense, it just seems like a power play.

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As for the basketball teams, both teams have had their baptisms of fire in the Big XII by now. The women barely lost, and the men lost a lead by going cold in the second half. I think the women will fare better in-conference than the men, given that they are more experienced.

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I forgot to include a couple of summations in my informal “year-in-review” column two weeks ago. First in NASCAR, long-time car owner Roger Penske, a dominant figure in Indy-car racing, won his first NASCAR title, as 28-year-old third-year driver Brad Keselowski finished ahead of five-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

In tennis, the men’s game was dominated by four men: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, while Serena Williams bounced back from an injury-plagued year to dominate the women’s game, although she still finished third somehow in the women’s year-end rankings. As for the men, Murray broke through to win the U.S. Open, the first major by a British male since 1936 and Nadal missed a lot of time due to a recurring leg injury.

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As for the NFL playoffs, Saturday’s wild-card games left a lot to be desired with the Houston Texans defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in a game with only two offensive touchdowns and the Green Bay Packers defeating the Minnesota Vikings by stopping Adrian Peterson from running all over them.

Houston goes to New England next week with hopes of not repeating the one-sided loss from earlier in the season. Based on Saturday’s performance, I’m not so sure. New England has been on a roll, with only one loss since mid-season, and has its defense in as good a shape as it has been all year. I’m going with the home team here.

Green Bay goes to San Francisco and faces one of the better defenses it has faced all year. Aaron Rodgers is the better quarterback in this game, and he seems to have his weapons all ready to go. The Packers have good players on defense, but not just as many as the 49ers. I’m going with Green Bay on this one.

As for Sunday’s games, the Colts have more than just emotion going for them. I don’t think Andrew Luck has been as good as fellow rookies Robert Griffin III or Russell Wilson, but he’s been good enough. The defense is also improved from last year’s. Their opposition, the Ravens, struggled going into the playoffs, thanks to some confused-at-best play-calling and a defense that got old.

The Ravens won, and they face the Broncos, who combined a good defense and Peyton Manning’s comeback from a neck injury to get the AFC’s best record. I think the Ravens season and Ray Lewis’ career ends in Denver.

The Washington Redskins faced the Seattle Seahawks and lost the game due to Griffin’s knee injury and Mike Shanahan’s reluctance to pull him. Seattle led the NFL in fewest points allowed and an offense based on Marshawn Lynch’s power-running and Wilson’s passing.

Seattle won and faces NFC top-seed Atlanta in a game that may turn into a defensive struggle. Matt Ryan has three excellent targets in Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White and the defense is one of the better ones in terms of points allowed. I pick Atlanta in a squeaker.

I can be reached c/o Jeff’s Sports Corner, P.O. Box 1199, Princeton, WV, 24740. I can also be reached at delimartman@yahoo.com or jharvey1@frontiernet.net or on Facebook.

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