2015 Conference Championship Predictions

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are just one step away from another Super Bowl appearance (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images North America)
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are just one step away from another Super Bowl appearance (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images North America)

2015 Conference Championship Predictions

We sit just two football games away from knowing which two teams will be squaring off in Super Bowl XLIX. The first game will feature the Green Bay Packers at the Seattle Seahawks. The second game is the Indianapolis Colts at the New England Patriots. The Wild Card was good with a 3-1 record based on the predictions made here. The Divisional round was a perfect 4-0 based on the predictions made last week. Let’s make it 2-0 again this week.

Green Bay Packers (13-4) at Seattle Seahawks (13-4) – 3:05 PM ET Saturday on FOX

The Packers escaped last week at home against the Dallas Cowboys with a 26-21 victory. That game, of course, was marred by the controversial call regarding Dez Bryant’s catch near the end zone. That would prove to be the difference.

Now the Packers have to contend with the Legion of Boom while Aaron Rodgers still has an injured calf. In last week’s game it was apparent that Rodgers was till feeling the effects of his calf tear. Rodgers went 24 of 35 for 316 yards with 3 touchdowns and no picks. Most impressive was his 13 yard touchdown strike to Richard Rodgers with 9:10 remaining in the game, which was a pinpoint throw between two defenders.

The Seahawks defeated Carolina 31-17 last week with a ridiculously impressive performance from Kam Chancellor. Chancellor was all over the field on Saturday night making tackles, nearly blocking field goals, and his 90 yard pick-six that sealed the victory.

Rodgers and the Packers will be up against the stingy Seattle defense and the rowdy crowd. They were crushed in week 1 when Seattle held the Packers to 255 yards of offense in a 36-16 win for the Seahawks. Marshawn Lynch had 110 yards and 2 touchdowns on 20 carries.

Prediction: Seattle’s defense, led by Chancellor and the Legion of Boom, will defeat the Packers 23-14.

 

Indianapolis Colts (13-5) at New England Patriots (13-4) – 6:40 PM ET Saturday on CBS

The second conference championship will feature the red-hot Indianapolis Colts taking on the New England Patriots.

The Colts are coming of back-to-back wins against Cincinnati and at Denver. More impressively, the defense stepped and confused Peyton Manning. Manning went 26 of 46 for 211 yards and only 1 touchdown. Andrew Luck has shown he was well worth the 2-14 season the Indianapolis fans endured in 2011. He has made nearly every throw and can beat teams with his feet as well.

Next up for the Colts is Tom Brady. Brady went 33 of 50 for 367 yards with 3 touchdowns and one interception last week against the Ravens. He also scrambled for a touchdown. All of this was done with the Patriots gaining only 14 yards on 13 carries as a team for the entire game.

Of course, many will point to the week 11 meeting in which the Patriots ran all over the Colts in a 42-20 win. Jonas Gray had his breakout game with 201 yards and 4 rushing touchdowns, as the Patriots piled up 503 yards of offense. However, Sunday’s game will be a bit different. Gray has not featured much in the offense during the latter portion of the season for the Patriots while the Colts have surrendered only 99 yards a game in their two playoff games.

Prediction: Andrew Luck has struggled against the Patriots with 6 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in three games. The Colts have been crushed in all three games including the Divisional playoff game last year. Luck has thrown for over 300 yards in each game, but will need to take better care of the ball if the Colts are to reach the Super Bowl.

Despite how impressive Andrew Luck has been in his short career, this game feels like it will be another New England victory and appearance in the Super Bowl. The Patriots come out on top 38-28.

 

Super Bowl XLIX

Based on the predictions above, Super Bowl XLIX will be between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots.

International Star Rallies To Win Lecomte Stakes

Internatonal Star Won the Lecomte Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths (Photo by Lou Hodges Jr.)
International Star Won the Lecomte Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths (Photo by Lou Hodges Jr.)

International Star Rallies To Win Lecomte Stakes

For most of the race, International Star was able to save ground, but trouble forced him to the outside. That was of little consequence as he went to the outside and stormed past the two leaders to win by 2 1/2 lengths in the end. The Lecomte was his first win on dirt.

The race began with a sharp break from Hero of Humor as he went to the lead. Right behind him was Tiznow R J with Another Lemon Drop three lengths off the lead in third. Runhappy was fourth in the very early stages after a bit of a slow break with International Star, War Story, and Four Leaf Chief behind him. The last four horses were Eagle, Savoy Stomp, Dekabrist, and Killingit.

The race changed quickly with Runhappy tugging his way to the lead while racing greenly. He led until the far turn where he began to falter. The lead was contested by a trio of horses; Hero of Humor, Tiznow R J, and Another Lemon Drop. However, there was another trio of horses behind them that were in contention. Those three were International Star, Eagle, and Savoy Stomp.

In the stretch, the duo of War Story and Tiznow R J pulled clear from the main group, but International Star a length behind. With a furlong to run, he made his outside move to the lead and pulled clear to win by 2 1/2 lengths. The battle for second was won by War Story finishing a head in front of Tiznow R J. Another Lemon Drop finished fourth by 5 lengths.

The final order of finish behind the top four was Savoy Stomp, Hero of Humor, Eagle, Dekabrist, Runhappy, Killingit, and Four Leaf Chief.

International Star paid $20.40 to win, $8.80 to place, and $5.20 to show. He ran the one mile and 70 yards in 1:43.62 while being ridden by Miguel Mena. He is trained by Mike Maker and owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

International Star is by Fusaichi Pegasus out of the French Deputy mare Parlez.

With the victory International Star moves into a tie for first place on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard at 21 points with El Kabeir. War Story claimed his first 4 points, Tiznow R J has 2 points, and Another Lemon Drop has 1 point.

The next race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby is Monday, January 19 with the Smart Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

2015 Lecomte Stakes Preview

2015 Lecomte Stakes Preview

The only Kentucky Derby prep race on Saturday will be the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds. A field of 11 will run 1 mile and 70 yards over the main track dirt surface. The 11 horses will be battling out for up to 10 points towards the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard. The race is scheduled to go off at 6:24 PM Eastern Time with partly cloudy skies expected. Below is a look at each of the horses starting in the Lecomte.

1. International Star (8-1 Morning Line) – He has not run since November 29 when he finished fourth in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club. He lost that race to El Kabeir, who came back to win the Jerome two weeks ago. He has worked decently in the interim, but of more concern is his 0 for 2 record on  dirt despite being by Fusaichi Pegasus. The jury is still out whether he can run at this level on dirt. Wait and see on him in this spot.

2. Tiznow R J (5-1 ML) – It took him to his third start to break his maiden, but he did so in style here at the Fair Grounds. He won by 13 lengths five weeks ago while going gate-to-wire. He has worked well since that win and should be the controlling speed in this race from the inside post. He certainly has a chance in this race.

3. Four Leaf Chief (10-1 ML) – He owns a 3 for 5 record, however, all of his races have been at lower levels. To be fair, he does sport 2 Louisiana-bred Stakes wins at two different tracks (Delta Downs and Louisiana Downs). Last out he came from way back to grab third, but was well beaten by War Story. His deep closing style will not do him any favors as there does not appear to help his cause.

4. War Story (9-2 ML) – This guy is two for two in his career while employing different tactics in those races. In his debut race he came from nearly 10 lengths back to win by 2 3/4 lengths. In the latest race he was far closer to the pace and took over in the stretch to win by the same 2 3/4 lengths margin. He should be in great position in this race as well and deserves a long look.

5. Hero of Humor (50-1 ML) – He broke his maiden in his second start at Churchill before running 2nd in an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park West on Halloween. However, the last two starts have been dismal in stakes competition. He has been beaten a combined 53 lengths in the last two starts and has beaten only 1 horse. Pass on this guy here.

6. Savoy Stomp (8-1 ML) – After breaking his maiden in his debut at Belmont, he was crushed by 21 lengths in the Grade 2 Nashua at Aqueduct on November 2. His last start was at 1 mile at Gulfstream Park where he finished third beaten 7 1/4 lengths. He adds lasix for this and may improve second off the layoff. In this spot, it may be best to take a wait and see approach, but he could surprise here as well. Tough to decipher…

7. Runhappy (8-1 ML) – He broke his maiden impressively last time out in his debut at Turfway Park. Going six and a half furlongs he took over on the backstretch and powered his way to a 8 1/4 lengths win. The connections feel this son of Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver deserves a chance in the road to the Derby. He is an interesting horse here, but there are more likely contenders as well.

8. Killingit (15-1 ML) – He has ran in four career races with a win, a second, and a third to his credit. Those three finishers, however, came in maiden races. His last start was an Optional Claimer $50,000 where he finished 6th beaten 4 1/2 lengths at one mile. That does not bode well for him in this spot. Pass on him in the Lecomte.

9. Dekabrist (30-1 ML) – The most experienced runner in the field has run 9 times with 2 wins. Those two wins were in his first two career starts at 4.5 and 5.5 furlongs respectively. Since the last win he has not hit the board, nor has he been defeated by less than 11 lengths. Pass on him.

10. Another Lemon Drop (6-1 ML) – He broke his maiden in his second start on turf by 2 lengths before running his last two races on dirt. His latest race was run in the slop here at the Fair Grounds and he won by 5 lengths in an Optional Claimer $50,000. He has come from off the pace in each of his career starts and he does have an outside post here. Both of those are concerns, but he definitely figures underneath in this race.

11. Eagle (3-1 ML) – The morning line favorite has the outside post in this race. He broke his maiden in his debut race on July 5 at Ellis Park by a length before going on 2 1/2 month break. He returned from that break to finish second before his following race at Keeneland provided him his second win. His latest race was the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes where he finished 3rd beaten only three-quarters of a length. If he can get a good spot before they hit the first turn, he will definitely be there at the wire.

 

Picks

1. Tiznow R J

2. War Story

3. Eagle

4. Another Lemon Drop