Recapping my NFL playoff picks midway-ish through the season

Now that we’re just past the halfway point of the NFL season — most teams have played nine games to this point — I figured it was a good time to see how my playoff predictions are going, based on what’s happened since the season started.

Starting in the AFC, my picks were:

  1. Denver Broncos
  2. New England Patriots
  3. Cincinnati Bengals
  4. Indianapolis Colts
  5. Baltimore Ravens
  6. Kansas City Chiefs

If the season ended today, the actual seeding would be:

  1. New England Patriots
  2. Denver Broncos
  3. Indianapolis Colts
  4. Cleveland Browns
  5. Kansas City Chiefs
  6. Cincinnati Bengals

While the seeding doesn’t match up, five of the six teams I picked are in the playoffs as of today and the sixth team, well, not many people expected the Browns to be leading the AFC North after week 10. It looks like New England, Denver and Indy are pretty much locks to make the playoffs. Those last three teams, though, don’t appear to be locked in to their spots. In particular, the four seed, which will likely be the AFC North winner, appears to be up for grabs because it’s the only division in which every team is above .500. Despite losing to the Jets in week 10, the Steelers look like they could be the best team in the division, and they’re currently the first team out of the playoffs. Both wild cards are also far from being decided, but the second-place finisher in the North seems to have a good shot at getting one of the wild cards, with the other wild card likely going to the team that finishes behind the Broncos in the West.

Going over to the NFC, my preseason picks were:

  1. Seattle Seahawks
  2. New Orleans Saints
  3. Green Bay Packers
  4. Philadelphia Eagles
  5. Chicago Bears
  6. Arizona Cardinals

The playoff teams, as of today, would be:

  1. Arizona Cardinals
  2. Detroit Lions
  3. Philadelphia Eagles
  4. New Orleans Saints
  5. Dallas Cowboys
  6. Seattle Seahawks

So I’m four out of six in the NFC, based on current seedings, but I still think the Packers are one of the best teams in the conference and will end up in the playoffs, possibly as their division winner. But what team would they push out of the top six? It won’t be the 4-5 Saints because, despite their record, they’re going to win their division by default, basically, and stay in the four seed. I think one of the NFC East teams is going to fall out of the playoffs. I don’t think the Cowboys defense is as good as it’s been playing and may regress to the mean over the rest of the season. If Mark Sanchez keeps playing the way he played on Monday, I still think the Eagles will win the division. Despite Carson Palmer’s season-ending ACL injury, I don’t see the Cardinals falling out of the top six. They’re 8-1, and Drew Stanton went 2-1 filling in for Palmer earlier in the season. They’d basically have to lose out the rest of the way to miss the playoffs, and I don’t see that happening.

As for my Super Bowl pick of the Patriots over the Seahawks, I still like the Pats to come out of the AFC — despite a slow start — but I’m not as confident with the Seahawks making it that far. If I had to pick an NFC team today to make it to the Super Bowl, I might go with the Packers. There’s still several weeks left in the season, though, so we’ll see what happens after week 17 and into the playoffs.

Google announces new Nexus devices and Android 5.0 Lollipop

October is usually when Google announces the latest phone in its Nexus line of devices. Today was the day for the introduction for the biggest phone to join Google’s device lineup, Nexus 6, as well as its latest tablet, Nexus 9. The tech giant also officially announced the name for the latest version of its Android operating system, Lollipop.

Motorola Nexus 6 Google leak

The Motorola-made Nexus 6 phablet comes in at a large 5.92″, bigger even than Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 – the latest in the Note line that launched the phablet concept — and nearly an inch bigger than its predecessor, last year’s 4.95″ Nexus 5. In addition to its large QuadHD display, the device sports top-of-the-line specs. It is powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor, comes with 3GB of RAM and a choice of 32 or 64GB of storage, and has a 13MP rear camera with optical image stabilization and a 2MP front camera. It comes with the usual connectivity, including the latest Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios and LTE bands that cover all the major U.S. carriers (a global model is also available internationally. The phone also features water resistance and comes in a choice of colors: midnight blue or cloud white. With the high-end specs, however, comes a high-end price, which is a departure from previous members of the Nexus family. The 32GB model retails for $649 with an additional $50 added, $699, for the 64GB model. The Nexus 6 can be pre-ordered from Google Play later this month and will be available at retail in November.
Fan of Nexus 9 tabletsThe Nexus 9, made by HTC, is Google’s first 9″ tablet. It is equipped with an 8.9″ IPS LCD display, 64-bit NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor, 2GB of RAM and comes in two storage options: 16 or 32GB. Like the Nexus 6, it includes Wi-FI, Bluetooth and NFC connectivity, and has an LTE option available in the 32GB version only. The rear camera is 8MP with a 1.7MP shooter on the front of the device, which features the dual front-facing BoomSound speakers HTC has become known for on its high-end devices. Color options include indigo black, lunar white and sand. The rest of the tablet’s specs can be found here. The 16GB version retails for $399 while the 32GB version costs $479 or $599 for the LTE-equipped version.

Google also officially introduced the latest version of Android, Android 5.0 Lollipop. It will be pre-installed on the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 and will be available as an update to all Nexus phones and tablets that have been released since 2012 in the coming weeks. Most major manufacturers — including Motorola, Samsung, HTC and LG — will also update their recent high-end devices to Lollipop in the coming weeks and months. Among the top features of the latest version of the mobile operating system are multi-device syncing, extended battery life and more ways to secure your devices.

Play ball: 2014 MLB postseason predictions

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Now that the Wild Card games are over and the division series are set, time to predict what’s going to happen in the playoffs.

American League
                                 Division Series
Tigers beat Orioles in 4 games
Angels sweep Royals in 3 games

Championship Series
Tigers beat Angels in 6 games

National League
Division Series
Dodgers beat Cardinals in 4 games
Nationals beat Giants in 4 games

Championship Series
Dodgers beat Nationals in 7 games

World Series

image

beat

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in 6 games

swype

Swype your way to easier typing on iOS 8

One of the features that Android users have been able to take advantage of for years that iOS users have been missing is the ability to use third-party keyboards rather than the stock keyboard that comes pre-installed on most devices. The recent release of iOS 8 adds the ability for iOS users to finally utilize third-party keyboards. In my opinion, the best option is Swype, which I’ve been using on my Android phones and tablets since 2009, and it is the first app I download whenever I get a new device.

The main functionality of Swype has been copied by many other Android keyboards, but Swype was the first to implement it and, in my experience, is still the best at it. Rather than having to click on each letter in the word, you can just draw a trail through each letter you want in one continuous motion without having to lift your finger off of the screen, other than to make a space between words. Here’s a demo of the Android version in action:

In my limited experience of using the iOS keyboard on other people’s iPhones, it leaves something to be desired as far as a touchscreen input method so Apple finally giving its users choices and allowing third-party keyboards to be used is definitely a step in the right direction and iPhone and iPad users should take advantage of it. I paid 99 cents for it when it was first added to Google Play and think it’s the best 99 cents I’ve ever spent in the Play store. At the time of writing, it is available for the same price in the iTunes store. You use the keyboard virtually every time you use your phone, so why not spend $1 on a keyboard that is a vast improvement over Apple’s default keyboard? I think Swype should be on all Android and, now, iOS devices.

Maybe size does matter: Apple introduces bigger iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch

it’s an annual tradition in the tech world that takes up all the headlines: the day Apple announces the new iPhone. The hype for this year’s keynote was even bigger than usual because of the anticipated bigger-screen devices Apple was expected to announce. Those expectations were met, with the introduction of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. The company also announced its first entry into the wearables market, the Apple Watch.

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus - announced by Apple chief executive Tim Cook

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company finally embraced what most Android manufacturers have embraced over the past several years: that consumers want bigger screens on their phones, or “phablets,” as they’re sometimes called. So the bigger screens are the big deal on the new phones. Both versions of the iPhone 6 feature a new 64-bit A8 processor, 8MP rear camera and 1.2MP front camera (though only the Plus has optical image stabilization on the rear camera), and the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Full specs for both models (along with the other iPhone models currently available) can be found here.

Apple is playing catch-up to Android phones with the bigger screens, but that’s not the only area where Apple is finally adding things that Android phones have had for years. Other features that fit into that category are NFC payments, which the company is calling Apple Pay — and Voice over LTE (VoLTE) capability.

Both the iPhone 6 models will be available in silver, gold and space gray beginning September 19 at all the major U.S. carriers, starting at $199 for the 16GB iPhone 6 and starting at $299 for the 16GB iPhone 6 Plus. Unlike with previous models, there is no 32GB model; the larger storage capacities for the iPhone 6 models are 64GB and 128GB.

Then there’s the Apple Watch, the company’s answer to Motorola’s moto 360 and Android Wear devices from other manufacturers, like Samsung and LG. The Apple Watch, which is expected to be released in early 2015, features all of the basic functions you would expect from a smartwatch, including notifications for text messages, emails and phone calls, but also includes features that Apple says allows the watch to be used as an all-day fitness tracker. The Apple Watch comes in two sizes, 38mm and 42mm, both of which feature a sapphire crystal and 316L stainless steel case. Because of the typical “Apple tax,” the Apple Watch starts at $349, $100-150 more than comparable Android Wear watches.

Pre-iPhone 6 announcement catch-up: Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note Edge announcement

During last week’s IFA conference, Samsung announced the latest version of its Galaxy Note “phablet” series, the Galaxy Note 4, along with a new entrant in the Note series, the Galaxy Note Edge, which features a wraparound screen. The big-screen Note line has become a big seller for the Korean company in recent years and the Note 4 is expected to follow that pattern, but the Note Edge is a little less conventional and probably won’t be as mainstream.

As far as specs go, most of the Note 4’s improvements over the previous-generation Note 3 come inside the device, as both phones feature a 5.7″ screen, though the 4 ups the resolution from 1080p to quad HD. Other specs for the Note 4 include 3GB RAM, internal storage starting at 32GB (with microSD slot), 16MP rear camera with optical image stabilization, 3.7MP front camera, a 3220 mAh battery and Android 4.4.4. Of course a staple of the Note series is the S-Pen input tool that allows users to more precisely write and draw on the touchscreen as well as utilize the S-Pen for other functions with the device.

The screen on the Note Edge measures 5.6″ and comes with a slightly smaller battery than the Note 4, at 3000 mAh, but many of the other specs are the same between the two devices. The Note Edge also comes with a S-Pen. The biggest differentiator with the Edge is its curved screen, which wraps around one edge of the device to allow slightly more room for easier access to such features as notifications.

Both devices are expected to be available through all four major U.S. carriers beginning in October. The Note 4 will likely face more competition than its predecessors have in the past as Apple is expected to announce its own 5.5″ (and 4.7″) iPhone today.

Fire sale: Amazon phone drops to 99 cents

Less than a week after reports surfaced that Amazon’s Fire Phone sold “no more” than 35,000 units since being released in July, the latest move by the e-tailer and its exclusive carrier partner, AT&T, suggests that the data used to estimate the sales numbers may be pretty accurate. Amazon announced today that the phone’s on-contract price has been slashed from the original $199 cost to a mere 99 cents with a two-year agreement with AT&T.

At its original price, the mid-range specs and a gimmicky 3-D feature couldn’t compete with other manufacturers’ flagship phones consumers could buy for the same price or even less at Amazon itself. Sure some more phones may be sold now that it’s essentially free on a contract, but at this point it’s just about getting rid of inventory to cut the losses on the product. On the bright side, the Fire Phone lasted (slightly) longer than HTC’s Facebook-centric First did on AT&T before its price was cut to 99 cents before being discontinued earlier this year.

Maybe Amazon should stick to selling its successful KIndle Fire line of tablets and leave the phones to companies like Samsung and Apple that sell millions of units of their phones. I guess you can chalk this up to a failed experiment for Amazon, though I can’t really say I’m surprised by this outcome.