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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Change is in the Air

Banshee Sports was born on November 4, 2011 with this introductory post.  Since that day, this blog has gone through a few changes.  There has been a learning curve with photos.  I've experimented with formats, and I spent some coin on a graphic designer and some advertising.  Still, after fifteen months, this blog is still very much a work in progress.  Any decent blogger knows that bells and whistles are nice.  But it's content that creates success.  With that in mind, I'm excited to announce a few changes to Banshee Sports.

Banshee's Best:  Back in May, I decided that Banshee Sports needed a weekly feature.  So, This Week in Sports was born.  Turns out, this column was time consuming and tedious to write.  So this month, I took a poll on the Banshee Sports Facebook page about whether this weekly post should continue.  Based on the poll results and the comments, it seems some change is in order.  So, from this point forward, there will be a new weekly feature on Banshee Sports.  It will be called "Banshee's Best."  The word "best" is just in the title for alliteration.  The topic of the post will be Wild Banshee's favorite or most intriguing sports story.  Basically, just whatever captured my fancy during the week.  The post will be a Sunday evening feature.

Recurring Features:  What I'm learning is that every successful blog needs consistency and its own niche.  With that in mind, Banshee Sports will renew its commitment to some past features that have been fan favorites.  Temper, Temper, a quarterly feature highlighting the most outrageous sports meltdowns during the calendar year will continue.  Since, I am a girl and all, Banshee Sports will return to spending significant time on sports fashion.  The last Sports Fashionista column was published way back in June.  Moving forward, Sports Fashionista will be a monthly feature.  Although the primary focus of Banshee Sports is, of course, sports, we all know that food and drink are an important part of a game day gathering.  So, it should come as no surprise that Cooking with Banshee posts have always been amongst the most popular posts on this blog.  The new goal is to make sure that at least one food recipe and at least one drink recipe get posted each month.

Banshee Rant:  Over the summer, Banshee Sports decided to dip its toes into the world of podcasting.  The Banshee Rant was fun and popular, but short lived.  A couple of things have changed in Wild Banshee's life, so the plan is to bring the monthly podcast back.  Y'all can look forward to a renewal of the Rant to be released before the Super Bowl.

Collaborative Effort:  The beauty of the Internet is that it allows for a free flow of ideas and information.  For the first fifteen months, Banshee Sports has been pretty much a solo effort.  But, I always envisioned this site as more of a sports community than a sports soap box.  So, if any of you have written something that you think would fit well on this site, please send it along.  And, by all means, if you have ideas or requests for future posts, drop me a line.  Also, check out Banshee Sports on Facebook.  "Like" it if you like it and join in the fun.  And be sure to follow Wild Banshee on Twitter.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cooking with Banshee: Party Punch Sangria

I recently conducted a poll about this blog's content on the Banshee Sports Facebook page.  While the final results require a little deeper analysis, one thing was clear.  The readers like Cooking with Banshee posts.  I strive to give the public what they want, so here is a little something I whipped up over the holidays.

My mom does not really fancy the taste of alcohol, so for New Years Eve, I decided to go with this sweet and festive beverage.  This drink isn't just tasty.  It's also pretty.  And, yes, I realize that adding the word "punch" to a sangria recipe is redundant, but it just seemed more fun that way.

Party Punch Sangria.

1 bottle Shiraz
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 orange, cut into wedges
2 Tbs sugar
Splash of orange juice
4 shots triple sec
1 small can of diced pineapples with juice
1 cup frozen strawberries
4 cups ginger ale

You need a very large pitcher for this.  Pour the wine into the pitcher.  Squeeze the juice from all the fruit wedges into the pitcher.  Drop the wedges in.  Try to keep out the seeds.  Add the sugar, orange juice, triple sec and can of pineapples.  Stir.  Chill overnight.  Just before serving, add the ginger ale and frozen strawberries.  Serve over ice.


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Sunday, January 20, 2013

NFL Conference Championship Predictions

In the Divisional Round, Wild Banshee went 3-1 on her predictions.  I felt very strongly about those picks.  Of course, I should have felt a little less strongly about the Broncos.  This week seems a lot less clear cut.  Despite the relatively large point spreads established by Vegas, I think both of these games are toss-ups.  As I was preparing for this column, I came up with arguments for all four teams to come out victorious.  So, after much internal debate, here are Wild Banshee's Conference Championship predictions.

San Francisco at Atlanta.  Sunday at 3:00 p.m. EST on FOX.  The Falcons are the #1 seed.  This game is being played in Atlanta because they went 13-3 in the regular season.  And yet, the Falcons are a 4.5 point underdog at home.  I am not part of the Falcon bashing crowd.  The Falcons are a very good team.  However, the San Francisco 49ers are a bad matchup for them.  Tony Gonzalez normally presents huge matchup problems for Falcons' opponents.  No so with the 49ers.  The Niners' scheme in the nickel package and the athleticism of their linebackers will allow them to contain Gonzalez.  On the other side of the ball, I do expect the young Kaepernick to struggle at times in the loud Georgia Dome.  But, in the end, I believe that the Niners' physical offensive line will eventually wear down the Falcons in the second half.  I expect this game to be competitive throughout, but the 49ers will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

Baltimore at New England.  Sunday at 6:30 p.m. EST on CBS.  The AFC Championship game features two veteran teams whose players and coaches have been in this big spot before.  Vegas has the Patriots favored by more than a touchdown.  That's a lot in a conference championship game.  Any team with Tom Brady at quarterback is capable of an offensive explosion that leads to a blowout.  However, I do not believe that will happen in New England today.  In fact, I do not believe the Patriots will win at all.  The Patriots are playing this game without TE Rob Gronkowski due to a broken arm.  The Patriots played five games in the regular season without Gronkowski.  Statistically, it looks like the Pats didn't miss Gronk very much.  But, four of those five games were against the Jets, Dolphins, Jaguars and the declining Texans.  The Ravens are a cut above that group.  Both teams had defenses that were in the middle of the pack in the regular season.  But, the Patriots primary weakness lines up with the Ravens primary strength.  Although the Patriots have improved lately, their primary weakness has been against the deep pass.  And the Ravens excel at the deep pass.  I expect Flacco to hit Jones and Smith for a couple of game-changing plays.  And I expect those plays will be enough for the Ravens to win a nail biter, thus setting up the Harbowl in New Orleans.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

NFL Playoff Predictions: Divisional Round

I was a slacker last weekend and did not write a column.  But, for those of you who are interested, I was 3-1 in my official contest picks for the first round of the playoffs.  My only hiccup was misplaced faith in the Cincinnati Bengals.  This week, I'm back to posting.  Here are my predictions in the order that the games will be played.

Baltimore at Denver:  Saturday at 4:30 p.m. EST on CBS.  The Baltimore Ravens won an emotional game over the Colts last week to open the playoffs.  Ray Lewis announced his retirement earlier in the week and danced and screamed his way to victory.  Meanwhile, Peyton Manning and company were resting up.  All week, we've been hearing that Manning has struggled in cold weather playoff games.  According to the Weather Channel, the high today in the Mile High city is going to be 15 degrees.  Yikes!  It's going to be hard for anyone to throw the ball in that weather.  And, although the national focus this year has rightfully been on the resurgance of Peyton Manning, the Broncos have actually run the ball for almost as many yards as the Ravens.  So, both teams will have to respect the run.  In the end, I believe it will be the defenses that decide this game.  And, as weird as it feels to type this, I believe that edge goes to the Denver Broncos.  The Broncos were fourth in the NFL in scoring defense, and that is better than the Ravens mark.  Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are great players, but time waits for no man ... especially when trying to tackle NFL running backs.  I think this game will be competitive throughout but that the Broncos will eventually win by a comfortable margin.

Green Bay at San Francisco:  Saturday at 8:00 p.m. EST on FOX.  This is a rematch from Week 1.  San Francisco won that game 30-22 in Green Bay.  And, in that game, the 49ers were clearly the more physical team.  Things have changed some since the start of the season.  Most notably, the 49ers no longer have the steady hand of Alex Smith at the helm.  Instead, they have the potentially more explosive but clearly more unpredictable Colin Kaepernick.  But the thing that has remained the same is the 49ers defense and running game, especially with the return this week of Pro Bowl DE Justin Smith.  Last week's respectable performance against Adrian Peterson notwithstanding, the Packers have been a bit porous against the run.  That will eventually cost the Packers this week.  The 49ers will be able to chew up enough clock and keep Aaron Rogers off the field just long enough to pull out a close victory.

Seattle at Atlanta:  Sunday at 1:00 p.m. on FOX.  Right now the Seattle Seahawks are darlings of the national media.  And it's easy to see why.  They have a quarterback in Russell Wilson who is easy to root for. We all got to see the 'Hawks throttle the 49ers on NBC on a Sunday night in late December.  And, Seattle's strong defense and running game should travel well.  But, let me remind you that the Atlanta Falcons are the #1 seed in the NFC.  The Falcons finished the season with a record of 13-3.  That kind of record is not a fluke.  And while the Seahawks have showed defensive dominance in the last month over the likes of the 49ers and the Redskins, they have not faced a receiving corps anywhere near the caliber of the Falcons'.  I am not saying that the Falcons will fly up and down the field.  But, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzales will get the Falcons some points.  The other factor is that Seattle is coming from the West Coast for a 1:00 p.m. EST kickoff.  Gamblers will tell you that West Coast teams with early kickoffs on the East Coast consistently struggle.  Add to that the fact that the Seahawks are making their second trip to the East Coast in as many weeks.  That is a lot for a young team to overcome.  Mattie Ice and the Falcons will come out of the gates fast.  The Seahawks will eventually regroup and perform respectably, but they will not be able to overcome the Falcons' explosion to start the game.

Houston at New England:  Sunday at 4:30 on CBS.  We saw this game a month ago.  On December 10, the Patriots annihilated the Texans 42-14.  I understand that both teams enter the game with identical records of 12-4.  But, they are clearly trending in different directions.  The Texans lost 3 of their final 4 games heading into the playoffs.  The Patriots only loss since Week 6 came against San Francisco.  Not too shabby.  I do not expect this game to be competitive.  I don't know if the Patriots can repeat their 42-point performance, but I do expect Brady and the boys to win by at least three touchdowns.

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Monday, January 7, 2013

NFL Prediction Report Card: Final Grades

The regular season is done and the playoffs are underway.  So, it is time for me to look back at my preseason predictions and hand out some grades.

AFC East:  In the preseason predictions, I certainly did not go out on the limb.  I predicted that the Patriots would win the division, and they came through.  In order to give a meaningful final grade, I need to look a little deeper into the predictions.  I was correct that the Jets would take a serious step backwards.  I was also correct that the Dolphins would be respectable but fail to get to .500.  The Patriots finished with a record of 12-4 and secured a first round bye.  The Dolphins finished in second with a losing record of 7-9.  First Quarter Grade: B+     Midterm Grade: A-     Third Quarter Grade: A     Final Grade: A+

AFC North:  The preseason prediction that the Ravens would win the division proved to be accurate, although the Super Bowl aspirations might have been a bit of an over-sell.  But, once again, I have to look beyond the top of the division to give myself an accurate grade.  As predicted, an aging Steelers team took a step backward and missed the playoffs.  Meanwhile, the Bengals are making a return trip o the playoffs.  Not too shabby.  First Quarter Grade: A     Midterm Grade: B     Third Quarter Grade: B+     Final Grade: A+
(Matt Kryger/Indianapolis Star)

AFC South:  It was easy to predict that the Houston Texans would win the division, and that did come true.  But, if I am going to be taking credit for digging deeper in the other divisions, then I have to mark myself down in this division for the same reasons.  After twelve games, the Texans did indeed look like one of the best teams in the NFL.  At that point they were 11-1.  But, the Texans stumbled down the stretch and finished up at 12-4.  In contrast, the Colts far exceeded anyone's expectations.  At 11-5, the Colts finished just one game behind the Texans and made the playoffs as a wild card.  Therefore, my season long slide in grades continues to the final mark.  First Quarter Grade: A+     Midterm Grade: A     Third Quarter Grade: A-     Final Grade: B+

AFC West:  I need to start my evaluation of this division with a heartfelt apology to Peyton Manning.  I underestimated his greatness.  I also underestimated the greatness of the rest of his teammates.  I predicted that the Broncos would have a losing record.  I predicted that the Chiefs would win the division and that the Raiders would be a wild card team.  As it turns out, the Broncos ended the year at 13-3 and tied for the best record in all of football.  The Chiefs and the Raiders combined for just six wins total.  Yikes!  First Quarter Grade: D-     Midterm Grade: F     Third Quarter Grade: F     Final Grade: F

NFC East:  Like the rest of the world, I predicted that the Eagles would win this division.  And, like the rest of the world, I was sorely mistaken.  The Eagles finished 4-12 and tied with the Lions for the worst record in the NFC.  I did predict that the Redskins would take big strides forward this year, but I certainly did not think they would win the division.  The only thing that keeps me from getting another F in this division is that I correctly predicted that the Super Bowl champion New York Giants would not make the playoffs this year.  First Quarter Grade: A     Midterm Grade: C     Third Quarter Grade: D+     Final Grade: D

NFC North:  In the NFC North, I predicted that two teams would make the playoffs.  I was right about that, but I was wrong about who the wild card team would be.  I overestimated the win totals for any of the teams in this division.  The Packers did win the division, but at 11-5, they fell short of the thirteen wins I projected.  Due a tie-break, the Minnesota Vikings edged out the Bears for the wild card spot.  First Quarter Grade: B     Midterm Grade: A-     Third Quarter Grade: A-     Final Grade: B+

NFC South:  The Atlanta Falcons dominated this division ... and most of the rest of the league.  I did accurately predict that the Falcons would win the NFC South, but I certainly did not predict a 13-3 season for the Dirty Birds.  I won't mark myself down for this.  But, I sorely missed the mark with the Saints.  I believed that they would do just fine without Sean Peyton and would still make the playoffs.  After getting off to an 0-4 start, the Saints never really challenged for the division and finished with a losing record.  First Quarter Grade: B     Midterm Grade: A     Third Quarter Grade: A     Final Grade: B

NFC West:  Just as everyone predicted, the San Francisco 49ers repeated as division champions.  I was also correct that the Cardinals would finish last.  The Rams finished at 7-9, right around the .500 mark that I predicted.  However, I greatly underestimated the Seattle Seahawks.  They were not only respectable.  At 11-5, they were downright good and almost won the division.  First Quarter Grade: B     Midterm Grade: A     Third Quarter Grade: A     Final Grade: A-

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