Saturday, January 17, 2015

2015 NFL Conference Championships

Last week I was wrong on both AFC games, going .500 for an overall record of 12-7. With three games left it’s time to talk about who I think will make the trip to Arizona.

Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks
3:05pm on Fox

Like last week the main focus in this game has to be Aaron Rodgers’ health. The Seahawks will make him move around, testing that leg. Can the Packers’ offensive line keep Rodgers clean in the pocket? I think this will be a close game but I am not sure Rodgers will be able to carry his team this time. In the end the defending champions bring just a little bit more to the table with a decent offense and one of the best defenses. The Seahawks go to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row.

Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots
6:40pm on CBS

I did not think the Colts had enough parts in place to make it this far. I was wrong, making it hard to pick against them in this conference championship. But with Tom Brady stepping across the other sideline and with Bill Belichick holding a clipboard, I think the Colts’ run will come to an end. With home field advantage and experience on their side the Pats are the obvious pick. I also think the Patriots have more championship caliber parts in place. This will be good experience for a young Colts team but in the end the Patriots return to the Super Bowl.

What do you think?

Friday, January 9, 2015

2015 NFL Divisional Playoffs

I picked three out of four last week bringing my record to 10-5. While I did well picking who would win, my prediction of having four very competitive games fell way short. No such predictions this week as I fear we may be in for two maybe three clunkers. This weekend will serve as a sort of weeding out setting up two good matchups during the conference finals. But before we get ahead of ourselves, here is who I think will win this weekend.

Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots
Saturday 4:35pm on NBC

I have heard analyst after analyst say the Ravens are the one team the Patriots do not want to see. I have to agree. This might be the best matchup of the weekend. The question is, which Joe Flacco will show up? If the one who showed up in Pittsburg last week makes the trip to Foxborough, the Ravens will control from start to finish. True it is hard to count the Patriots out in any post season but I think the Ravens are ready. The Ravens will pressure Brady, helping to protect a vulnerable secondary. I did not pick the Ravens last week but I do think they will move forward to the AFC championship.

Carolina Panthers vs. Seattle Seahawks
Saturday 8:15pm on Fox

Cam Newton has endured quite a bit so far this season in getting the Panthers to this point. He may endure more in this one game than he has in the seventeen previous. The Seahawks defense is healthy, which they were not when the two teams met earlier. On offense, the Seahawks will not turn the ball over like the Cardinals. The Panthers will have their opportunities to score but there is just not enough on the table for them to beat the Seahawks. The defending champs move on in a game that might be over by halftime.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay Packers
Sunday 1:05pm on Fox

There was a lot of talk about last week’s pass interference that wasn’t. The officiating in that game was uneven, making a great argument for keeping teams of referees together to work the playoffs. But now it is time to move on and the Cowboys will try to do just that. With their running game the Cowboys are geared for the cold of Lambeau Field. However after last week there are questions about the offensive line. Expect the Packers to take advantage of lessons learned. An even bigger question is the health of Aaron Rodgers. The answer to this question will have a lot to do with who wins the game. If Aaron cannot go, this game will be close with the visiting team very likely to walk away with the victory. The Packers seem confident Rodgers will play. If he does he will be a nightmare for the Cowboys’ secondary. Even in the cold the Packers will pass the ball and will move on to face Seattle in the NFC championship.

Indianapolis Colts vs. Denver Broncos
Sunday 4:40pm on CBS

Last week I said Andrew Luck would carry the Colts to victory. This week Luck will not be enough. The Broncos have worked on their running game this season and I think that will be the difference against the Colts. With the running game working and with Manning behind center the Colts will have a long day on defense. Meanwhile the Broncos defense will do just enough. The Colts will move on to face the Ravens.

I am not sure if the games, other than the Ravens/Patriots will be competitive but you never know what might happen on the field.

What do you think?

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Leaky Roof and God's View of His Children

It was not what I wanted to come home to: Not one but two leaks! And as it turns out with some leaks water is not visible until damage has already been done, as evidence by the buckling ceiling in one room. Meanwhile, the leak where I could see water was causing a wall to crumble before my eyes. For the record, praising the Lord is not an easy task when it is raining inside the house. With a major repair looming over the horizon I began to pray, trying my best not to give in to the temptation to shake my fist up at heaven. That's when God showed me something far beyond my current problems.

Where I could only see water, God revealed a fresh start. Where I saw a problem, God revealed potential. Above all, where I could only see crumbling drywall God revealed the finished product of a total renovation: one that was overdue even before the rain came in. It is in the vision of this finished product that I saw how God sees his children.

When God looks at his children he sees the finished product. Yes, He knows we each fall way short of the mark. He is familiar with our struggles and knows we often do just the opposite of what he requires. He also knows that when he made us his temple he took the deed to a handy man's special. With all this he sees the end product and is able to rejoice.

As I said amen I found I had two reasons to praise God (one for each leak). Through God's eyes I saw both the work He will do on my house and the work he will do on my character. In both cases the end product is filled with promise. It took a leaky roof for me to better understand what God is doing. With eyes wide open I am excited about the future.

Are you a fixer upper who is excited about the work God is doing in your life?

Friday, January 2, 2015

2015 NFL Wild Card Weekend

It’s that time again. The NFL’s second season starts this weekend with the Wild Card playoffs. With off field incidents holding so much of the spotlight during the regular season I am glad we enter the post season able to enjoy some good on field matchups. Here are the teams I think will move on to the divisional playoff round.

Arizona Cardinals vs. Carolina Panthers
Saturday 4:30pm on ESPN

It’s hard to overlook the fact that the Panthers enter this weekend with a losing record. However, at least for this wild card game we must do just that. The Panthers have played their best football of the season at just the right time. Meanwhile major injuries are catching up to the Cardinals. The matchup at QB with a third stringer starting for the Cardinals vs. Cam Newton will be the key to who wins this game. Newton’s accident seems to have served as a wakeup call. I expect him to outplay his counterpart. I also expect Carolina to successfully run the football. The Panthers at home present too big a hurdle for the Cardinals to overcome. The Panthers will move on showing they belong, despite my objections to having a team with a losing record in the playoffs.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburg Steelers
Saturday 8:15pm on NBC

With two division rivals who split their season series, this just might be the best game of the weekend. Le’Veon Bell is out. If he were 100% and available the Steelers would be an easy pick. Still, with more falling on the arm of the QB I expect Roethlisberger to get his team into the end zone, leading to a Pittsburg win.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Indianapolis Colts
Sunday 1:05pm on CBS

Let me say upfront that the Bengals are the more balanced of these two teams. However going to Indianapolis I am not sure if this balance will do any good. A lot will rest on Andrew Luck’s shoulders and I think he will successfully carry the load. This game has the potential to get out of hand by the fourth quarter. The Bengals will keep it close until then but I expect them to wear down in the face of the Colts passing game. Andrew Luck will lead the Colts to the next round.

Detroit Lions vs. Dallas Cowboys
Sunday 4:40pm on Fox

It’s unusual to say Dallas did everything right in December. I expect them to continue to show up this weekend. Having Ndamukong Suh (available after having his suspension reduced) will help the Lions but this will not be enough against Dallas’ offensive line. DeMarco Murray is key to keeping Matthew Stafford on the sideline. With less pressure on the arm of Tony Romo, the QB is in position to have a good game. I think Dallas has too much for the Lions to overcome. Dallas will move forward giving Romo his second playoff win.

Last year I was 7-4 with my playoff picks. I look forward to moving into double digits in wins with this weekend’s games. I know the odds are against it but I think these matchups lend themselves to a home sweep.

What do you think?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year’s Day: One of the Planet’s Oldest Holidays

 By User: Ranveig [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
{Originally Posted at Fire and Hammer blog}

As a child I enjoyed a New Year’s Eve tradition involving Duck Soup. No not that kind of soup, I ended every year watching the 1933 movie staring the Marx Brothers. Back then WGN television out of Chicago broadcasted the movie as a part of its regular New Year’s Eve schedule. I watched this and a number of other old classics, taking a break as the clock approached 11pm. With New York in a different time zone, the ball at Times Square would drop marking the start of the New Year an hour before we celebrated in the Chicago area. To be honest after watching the festivities in New York our local celebration always seemed a bit anticlimactic.

According to one million people visit Times Square on December 31st. Billions more watch around the world as the descent of a Waterford Crystal ball marks both the end and a new beginning. In just over a century the Times Square celebration has become the evening’s star attraction but celebrating the start of a New Year dates back to a time long before Peter Minuite traded $24 worth of beads for Manhattan Island.

Babylonian Akitu Celebrations
Akitu (or Barley) was a Babylonian religious festival celebrated during the vernal equinox in the month of Nisannu (Nisan on the Jewish calendar; March/April on today’s calendar). The date marked the start of the New Year as well as the beginning of the growing season and the sowing of barley. Just over a week long, the celebration included a number of rituals mostly geared towards honoring the Babylonian gods. During the festival a sitting king would do penitence for his sins. If needed the country would crown a new king to start the year. Similar festivals were celebrated by other cultures, usually with heavy religious significance.

New Year’s on a Solar Calendar

Where most cultures used calendars based on a lunar year, Rome moved to a solar year sometime around 45BC.  Both calendars were designed to track growing seasons, however lunar calendars did not accurately reflect the realities of earth’s 365 day year. As a result governments randomly added and removed months in order to bring their lunar calendars back in sync with nature. In instating what would be known as the Julian calendar Julius Caesar established a calendar that was a close reflection of the growing seasons. He also established January 1st as the start of the year.

January was chosen as the first month of the year in order to honor the Roman god Janus, the god of beginnings. Janus was said to have two faces, one looking forward and one looking back making the New Year’s celebration a perfect reflection of the nature of this Roman deity. But while the Julian calendar gave a new anchor for the timing of the New Year’s celebration, it was also off by eleven minutes per year. By the 1500’s the calendar was a full ten days off from the natural growing seasons.

In response the Catholic Church, under direction by Pope Gregory XIII, set out to establish a new and more accurate calendar. Initially the church looked for other days on which to start the year for the new Gregorian Calendar. Eventually church leaders settled for continuing the practice of celebrating January 1st. Using the system common in southern Europe in which December 25th was counted as day 1, January 1st fell exactly eight days from the celebrated birth date for Jesus. By Jewish tradition this eighth day would have been when Jesus was circumcised. Thus the church had a built in explanation as to why it continued celebrating the start of the year on a date once used to honor a pagan god.

New Year’s Celebration Comes to New York

By linking the New Year’s celebration with the circumcision of Christ, Christians around the world had reason to celebrate. In New York during the 1800’s this celebration took place outside Lower Manhattan’s Trinity Church. Each year large crowds gathered in anticipation of hearing the church bells ring in the New Year. This tradition continued until 1904 when Alfred Ochs, owner of the New York Times, chose New Year’s Eve as the day to celebrate the newspaper’s move into its new home on a triangular shaped plot of land where Broadway, Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street meet.

Ochs’ celebration was an all day event, with a festival leading up to fireworks at midnight. The crowds returned on New Year’s Eve the next year to once again see fireworks. From there the celebration at Times Square was established. Eventually a ban on the use of fireworks during the celebration forced Ochs to come up with something new leading to the lowering of a large ball, a custom that continues today. The New York Times is no longer headquartered at One Times Square but the annual New Year’s celebration continues.

What is your New Year’s Tradition?

Whether you watched the ball drop or spent the evening watching old movies I wish you a Happy New Year as we celebrate one of our planet’s oldest holidays. May your 2015 be blessed.

For more on the history of New Years see:

For information on “Duck Soup” by the Marxs Bros. see