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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

King of the NFL Pick 'Em

Jerry Wetzel with one of his many fantasy football trophies
The NFL regular season has come to an end.  That also signaled the end of the Banshee Sports NFL Pick 'Em Competition.  The champion for 2014 is none other than Jerry Wetzel.  If that name sounds familiar, that may because Jerry also won second place in the 2013 March Madness contest.  Or, it could be because Jerry Wetzel is my father.

The Banshee Sports NFL Pick 'Em Competition involved straight up picks (no point spread involved) with assigned confidence points.  On his way to victory, Jerry posted a record of 170-85.  The second place entry was Art Guthman with a record of 168-87.  Interestingly, J.B. Errico also posted a record of 170-85 but finished in third place due to confidence point allocations.

As a reward for his excellent prognostications throughout the NFL season, Jerry has won a six-month subscription to the barbecue sauce of the month club.  Trust me, Jerry Wetzel is not always as smug as he looks in this picture, so if he invites you over to share the fruits of his labors on the grill, you should accept.

All in all, the inaugural Banshee Sports NFL Pick 'Em competition was a resounding success.  If you want to make sure you are part of the fun next year, leave a comment or drop me a line.

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NFL Prediction Final Report Card

The NFL regular season is over.  No more what-if scenarios.  No more scoreboard watching.  The playoff field is set.  It's time to hand out the final grades for Wild Banshee's preseason predictions.  And, this is not going to be pretty.

AFC East:  I picked the New England Patriots to win the AFC East.  Not only did the Pats accomplish that, they also clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  As I stated in the preview, Belichick's defense finally has the dynamic personnel to be worthy of sharing a locker room with their offensive counterparts.  In hindsight, this might look like an easy prediction, but predicting division winners, even when they have elite quarterbacks, is not automatic.  My misplaced faith in the Jets prevents a perfect A+ in this division, but I still give myself an A.     First Quarter Grade: A     Midterm Grade: A     Third Quarter Grade: A     Final Grade: A

AFC North:  In the preseason, I predicted that the AFC North would be an incredibly competitive division.  However, I thought that in the end only the Bengals would make the playoffs.  The Bengals did make the playoffs, but they were one of three playoff teams from this division.  In the end, the Pittsburgh Steelers posted eleven wins and won the division by beating the Bengals on the last night of the season.  The Raven also earned a wildcard.  Thanks to the faltering of the Bengals, my grade in this division took a serious nosedive in the last couple weeks of the season.  Kind of like my Spanish grade in the last few weeks of my senior year, but, I digress.  First Quarter Grade: A     Midterm Grade: A-     Third Quarter Grade: A     Final Grade:  B-

AFC South:  When I picked the Houston Texans to win the AFC South, I knew I was going out on a limb.  Turns out, the division race wasn't particularly close, despite some ugly outings, it was the Colts who cruised to a comfortable division championship.  Meanwhile, the Texans got to start their winter vacation before the new year.  Since I did correctly predict that the Colts would qualify for the postseason, I do not get a failing grade for the division.  If a few things had gone differently on the final Sunday of the regular season, the Texans would have made the playoffs and I would have smugly given myself a high grade.  But, when your pick for division champ fails to make the playoffs, you gotta take your medicine like a big girl.  First Quarter Grade: A-     Midterm Grade: C     Third Quarter Grade: C+     Final Grade: C-
(Abrams/USA Today)

AFC West:  At the start of the season, I predicted that the Denver Broncos would win the division and that the San Diego Chargers would earn a playoff spot as a wildcard.  Through the three-quarters mark of the season, I was feeling pretty proud of myself.  The Broncos did win the division by a wide margin, but the Chargers went into a late season swoon that left them on the outside looking in when the playoff spots were finalized.  I have nothing to be embarrassed about here, but I cannot get a full A if one of my playoff predictions fails to make the postseason.  First Quarter Grade: A-     Midterm Grade: A-     Third Quarter Grade: A+     Final Grade: A-

NFC East:  It is always hard to make predictions in your favorite team's division.  Although I picked the Eagles to win the division, I admit that I viewed things in the preseason through burgundy colored glasses.  In reality, the Cowboys won the division and they did it in convincing fashion.  The Cowboys' 12-4 record includes a road win at Seattle and a trouncing of Indianapolis in Week 16.  Meanwhile, the Eagles posted a respectable ten wins but failed to make the postseason.  And the Redskins ... well we shall never speak of this horror again.  First Quarter Grade: B     Midterm Grade: B+     Third Quarter Grade: B     Final Grade: F

NFC North:  Based on my predictions in this division, it is fair to wonder if I have ever watched a football game in my life.  On previous report cards, I tried to blame this predictions on delicious indulgence in Big Ron's Rum Punch.  However, as an adult, I know that I need to take responsibility for my actions regardless of how much Malibu may be involved.  I do not give myself a failing grade in this division because the Packers did make the playoffs.  However, since the Packers won the division and secured a first round bye, I certainly do not get any bonus points for this pick.  I have learned my lesson, though.  I will think long and hard before ever again predicting success for a Cutler-led team.  First Quarter Grade: B-     Midterm Grade: C     Third Quarter Grade: D     Final Grade: D

NFC South:  Writing this column has not good for my self esteem, and it's not getting any better as we move to the NFC South.  In the preseason, I predicted that the Saints and the Falcons would both make the playoffs.  Nope!  The Carolina Panthers "won" the division.  I put that in quotation marks because a team with a losing record didn't "win" much of anything.  However, the Panthers will be playing in the postseason.  No one else in this historically terrible division got even a sniff at a wildcard.  And, the Falcons fired their coach.  Never a sign of a successful season.  My predictions really are worthy of a suspension from this blog.  However, since Banshee Sports is a one person operation, the worst that I can do is give myself another F.  First Quarter Grade: C     Midterm Grade: C     Third Quarter Grade: C     Final Grade: F

NFC West:  In the preseason, I picked the Seahawks to win the division.  I also predicted that Seattle would be the only team to make the playoffs from the NFC West.  I elaborated on that prediction by stating that if a second team did qualify from the NFC West, it would be the Cardinals and not the Forty Niners.  When the dust settled, the Seahawks won the division and clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and the Cardinals won a wildcard berth.  I can't get too chippy and gloaty about this, though, since I didn't have the courage to actually declare that the Cards would win the wildcard.  But, as I've demonstrated in the rest of the NFC portion of this column, picking the correct order of finish in a division is not easy.  Perhaps self-pity from the rest of this column is weighing in here, but I am giving myself an A for foreseeing the demise of the Niners and the strength of the Cardinals.  First Quarter Grade: B+     Midterm Grade: B+     Third Quarter Grade: B+     Final Grade: A

Overall Grade:  After plugging in the numbers, my NFL Prediction GPA comes to a 2.13.  That is an ugly drop off from the rest of the season, but it's right back to where I was in 2013.  My lesson from this is that predictions are hard.  If they were not, we would all move to Vegas.  First Quarter Grade:  B+     Midterm Grade: B     Third Quarter Grade: B     Final Grade: C

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Cooking with Banshee: Ward 8

The Ward 8 holds a special place in the history of the Banshee Lair.  The Lair's first real party was on December 31, 2011.  My baby sister played bartender that night and ran across the recipe for the Ward 8 in my bartending book.  What followed was a night that will live in infamy.  What I'm trying to say is this drink is smooth and tasty, but it wallops you with a sucker punch if you are not careful.  Enjoy.  But don't say I didn't warn you.

Ward 8

2 oz bourbon or Tennessee whiskey
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz orange juice
Splash of grenadine

Combine all ingredients in a shaker full of ice.  Shake to mix.  Strain the liquid into a glass filled with ice.  Enjoy!

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Temper Temper: Sports Tantrums of Fall

As autumn came and went, the warmth of summer gave way to the cold of winter.  But, in the sports world, the cooling of the temperatures did not correlate to the cooling of tempers.  It's time to look back on the best sports tantrums of fall.

1.  Sticks and Stones.  Every team has a few crazy fans, but it seems like Alabama football might have the market cornered on crazy middle aged women.  The winter edition of Temper Temper for 2014 included a mother of three going all WWE on a young Oklahoma fan at the Sugar Bowl.  After an October loss to Ole Miss this fall, this old-sounding lady lit into Paul Finebaum on the radio.  I'm not sure what Paawwwl said to provoke this, but clearly Phyllis from Mulga thought it was fightin' words.

2.  Stealth Mode.  When NASCAR changed their postseason format this year, the goal was to ratchet up the intensity on the track.  Mission accomplished.  But, when the engines were turned off at the end of the races, the tempers were just getting fired up.  After the October night race in Charlotte, things got a bit carried away in the garage area.  This clip starts with a little bit of bumper cars.  Then there is some pushing and shoving and shouting between the #2 team and the #11 team.  Just when things appeared to have cooled down, Matt Kenneth unleashes a stealth attack on Brad Keselowski.  And, yes, these guys are both former series champions.

3.  Haymakers and Hans Devices.  Less than a month after the fracas in Charlotte, Brad Keselowski found himself in the middle of another brawl.  This fight starts in earnest when Kevin Harvick pushes Keselowski from behind into a group of Jeff Gordon's crew members.  Then it's on.  My favorite part of this clip is the crowd noise.  I don't know if this was broadcast on the big screen displays at Texas Motor Speedway or if the fans could actually see the action from their seats.  Either way, it sounds like a WWE event.

4.  Tell Us How You Really Feel.  Despite never having won fewer than nine games in a season, Bo Pelini was fired as head football coach of Nebraska.  On his way out the door, Pelini told his players exactly how he felt about the university administration.  And, it wasn't pretty.  This was supposed to be a private meeting, but the audio leaked.  This speech goes on for quite a while, but you get the gist in the first five minutes.  Another gem comes around the 16:45 mark when Pelini says, "This stays here."  Warning: this clip is NSFW.

5.  Don't Tug on Superman's Cape.  The NFC South has been so dismal, this fight is the best thing that happened in this division all season long.  I'm not a big fan of the Superman celebration, but I am a big fan of backing it up if you're going to do it.  In this video, Cam Newton gets in the face of the Saints defenders who took umbrage to his antics.  Then a fight breaks out that spills into the hallway of the Super Dome.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

NFL Prediction Third Quarter Report Card

Every NFL team has played thirteen games and has three to go.  That means that the intensity is heating up and the playoff picture is coming into focus.  It also means that it is time for another look at Wild Banshee's preseason predictions and to hand out some grades.  It's time for the Third Quarter Report Card.

AFC East:  Like everyone else with half a brain, I picked the New England Patriots to win the AFC East.  As we near the final stretch of the season, the Patriots early season struggles are a distant memory.  Despite a Week 13 loss at Green Bay, the Patriots are tied for the best record in the AFC.  However, my ridiculous overestimation of the New York Jets prevents me from getting a perfect A+ for this division.  First Quarter Grade: A     Midterm Grade: A     Third Quarter Grade: A

AFC North:  Prior to the season, it was fashionable to predict the demise of Cincinnati.  Despite the departure of both their offensive and defensive coordinators to head coaching jobs, I stuck with the Bengals and picked them to win a highly competitive division.   At this point in the season, all four teams can still win the division, but the Bengals hold a slight statistical lead.  I'm giving myself credit for picking the Bengals and for predicting that the Browns had a legit chance to win the division.  First Quarter Grade: A     Midterm Grade: A-     Third Quarter Grade: A

AFC South:  In the preseason, I predicted that the Texans would win the division and that the Colts would make the playoffs as a wild card.  Although the Texans are still in contention for a wild card, it appears that I overestimated the magic of Bill O'Brien as head coach.  It is the Colts who have a two-game lead in the division.  Picking playoff participants is hard.  Since I still have 2 in the running in this division after 14 weeks of play, I get a passing grade for this division.  First Quarter Grade: A-     Midterm Grade: C     Third Quarter Grade: C+

AFC West:  At the start of the season, I predicted that the Denver Broncos would win the division and that the San Diego Chargers would earn a playoff spot as a wild card.  Despite a little midseason swoon by the Chargers, that is exactly how things stand after Week 14.  Picking first and second place in a division is a solid achievement, so I deserve a pretty outstanding grade.  First Quarter Grade: A-     Midterm Grade: A-     Third Quarter Grade: A+

NFC East:  In the preseason, I picked the Eagles to win this division and be the only team from this division to make the playoffs.  After Week 14, the Eagles and Cowboys are tied for first place at 9-4.  As things stand right now, the Cowboys would lose the tie breaker to both the Eagles and the other wild card contenders.  The problem for me is that I thought it would be the Redskins competing with the Eagles down the stretch.  The Redskins are nothing short of horrendous, and the Cowboys appear to be in this race for the long haul.  Despite what I said at the Midterm Report Card, my grade is no longer trending in the right direction in the NFC East.  First Quarter Grade: B     Midterm Grade: B+     Third Quarter Grade: B

NFC North:  During the Midterm Report Card, I referenced the fact that I might have been indulging in Big Ron's Rum Punch when I wrote my preseason predictions.  As the season progresses, it seems appropriate to admit that there were actually copious amounts of Big Ron's Rum Punch consumed during the writing of NFC North portion of the column.  I'm not even going to get into what I predicted.  Suffice it to say that my faith in the Bears was idiotic.  My lack of faith in the Packers was equally stupid, and my dismissal of the Lions was downright moronic.  First Quarter Grade: B-     Midterm Grade: C     Third Quarter Grade: D

NFC South:  In the preseason, I predicted that two teams would make the playoffs from this division.  Boy, was I wrong!  This is quite possibly the worst division in the history of the NFL.  Maybe in the history of sports.  Every team in this division already has at least eight losses.  That means that the division winner will be at best a .500 team.  Thing is, I might have picked the correct division winner.  Right now, the Saints are tied for the top slot in this terrible division.  It's hard to grade a mess like this, but I do get some credit for having the right teams in the right order.  First Quarter Grade: C     Midterm Grade: C     Third Quarter Grade: C

(Getty Images)
NFC West:  At the start of the season, I predicted that only one team in the NFC West would make the playoffs.  I thought that if a second team made it, it would be the Cardinals.  After Week 14, the Cardinals are in the driver's seat to win the division outright, but the Seahawks are surging at just the right time.  The way things are trending, it looks like both of those teams will make the postseason.  It also looks like the 49ers will have time for golfing in January.  Predicting the correct directions of San Francisco and Arizona franchises deserves some credit, but I cannot give myself an A of any sort if I don't pick the correct division winner.  First Quarter Grade: B+     Midterm Grade: B+     Third Quarter Grade: B+

Overall Grade:  I did the math, and my GPA comes to a 3.0.  That keeps me holding steady at a B average after Week 14.  First Quarter Grade:  B+     Midterm Grade: B     Third Quarter Grade: B

Think I was too lenient?  Want to make some predictions of your own?  Then, by all means, leave a comment and let me know.

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