The year in preview

In the sports world, a lot can happen in just one year. Unexpected teams can win championships, the fates of franchises and even cities can change on one tipped ball or home run and unknown players can solidify themselves as household names. The question remains what this year’s obscure and amazing occurrence will be.

No one can predict the future, but we can try. Take the National Football League, for example. First and foremost, the Indianapolis Colts will complete this season undefeated, defeating Shaun Alexander and the Seahawks in an exceptionally competitive Super Bowl XL.

The Colts are just too versatile for the unproven Seahawks, with their potent offense and dominant defense the Colts will walk away with an impressive 35- 31 victory. Peyton Manning will rise to the occasion to have an excellent game and be recognized as the game’s MVP in an offensive outburst.

Once the Super Bowl concludes the off-season will begin, which means free agent acquisitions and everyone football fan’s second favorite day, behind Super Bowl Sunday of course, draft day. The lowly Houston Texans will be granted the first overall pick and should select Southern California’s Mr. Everything, Reggie Bush, who is capable of playing almost every position on the field.

Also look for a Heisman Trophy-winning Trojan sweep in the first two selections, Matt Leinhart will be picked with the second selection. It is most likely that a team in search of Quarterback like the Cleveland Browns or Baltimore Ravens may trade up to choose Leinhart with the second choice because currently these teams won’t appear to receive the second spot. One of these former Trojans should earn the Rookie of the Year award, probably Bush due to the fact that he will receive more opportunities to display his greatness being a natural talent and possessing the ability to play numerous positions.

Everyone wants to know which team the combative wide receiver Terrell Owens will end up with. Although a perfect fit doesn’t currently exist a general manager will take a chance to snatch this talent and his overbearing ego. In the end, the Denver Broncos make the most sense – a good team with veteran influence and an obvious need for a big play wide receiver, especially since Rod Smith can’t play forever.

Next, lets talk some NBA basketball. So far in this young NBA season there haven’t been any major surprises. For the most part teams expected to be good have been very successful and teams expected to do poorly have been unsuccessful. However this can all change very quickly.

Once Shaquille O’Neal returns from injury for the Miami Heat they should turn their mediocre record upside-down and become a contender again. A similar squad is the Los Angeles Lakers, who are currently underachieving but should right the ship once they make some adjustments. The Lakers will definitely be a contender once playoff time nears, but just how much of a contender depends on how quickly Kobe and Phil let go of the Pacific Division’s anchor and play some much-improved basketball.

With a strong start to the season, LeBron James should earn MVP honors. This is the season that all of the comparisons to Jordan will finally be answered and James should be recognized as the games most complete player. King James possesses too many tantalizing qualities to be denied the crown as the best player this season.

Give LeBron and company a few years to solidify themselves as one of the league’s premier teams and they will certainly be competing for a championship at the highest stage. Miami is another story. This season will offer one of their finest opportunities to win the title, if Shaq returns at full strength and Wade plays to his potential they will be a formidable force in the East and have the potential to win it all.

Just who will win it all? A finals meeting between the Spurs and Heat will spawn a new champion, with the Heat’s athleticism and Shaq’s interior presence proving too much for the drained Spurs. The series should last a full seven games due to the equality between these squads, this will be advantageous for the Heat who have the luxury of competing in a more feasible and beatable Eastern Conference, coming into the finals far less exhausted than a squad making the trek through the difficult Western Conference.

Baseball has already had a very active off-season, with several teams making blockbuster deals in the past few days. The Red Sox’s acquisitions Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell are huge and will be far more significant down the stretch and into the playoffs. Sorry White Sox’s fans but Chicago isn’t repeating, with the addition of Jim Thome or not.

This year one of the leagues better-known teams will take home the gold. Look for the Red Sox and Yankees to reload during the winter, acquiring players that will make their attempts for the World Series much easier than years past. Boston has already begun and New York should begin to add to their repertoire in the near future. Center fielder Johnny Damon has showed interest in the Yankees but will certainly be a predominant figure in the Sox clubhouse next season.

With the return of Giants slugger Barry Bonds the path to the National League MVP will be more challenging for players such as Derek Lee, Andruw Jones and Albert Pujols. However Jones will triumph and win the award, after a season that placed him in the upper echelon of the league. He has the most potential and is capable of hitting 50 plus homeruns, winning a gold glove and hitting for better than .330.

In the American League it will once again come down to the Yanks and the Sox. In 2006 Manny Ramirez will substitute in place of David Ortiz, while Alex Rodriguez is still in contention for the MVP award. Although, at the conclusion of the season the perennial All-Star slugger Manny Ramirez will walk away with the recognition of being the best player in the league.

The World Series will be a dandy. After what seems like an eternity of winning the NL East, the Braves will reach the World Series this season. The Braves have some up and coming stars that received an abundance of playing time least season, this additional experience should bode well for them in their pursuit for the title. They are already the most complete team in the National League, possessing remarkable young hitters that possess the aptitude to be distinguished major leaguers.

The aspect that sets the Braves ahead of the rest of the contenders is their combination of veteran leadership on their pitching staff and a couple of young pitchers. Who exactly will the Braves face in the World Series? Well, it has to be one of the AL East powers because many teams that have been in contention in recent years have severely diminished their capability of winning it all because of a lack of new acquisitions and players becoming older and older. Ultimately the Red Sox are the most appealing team. They have assembled the best group of hitters in baseball and with an improved pitching staff they could become unbeatable.

However the Braves will be the team gloriously hoisting the World Series trophy at the end of the season, due to a group of veterans that have consistently made it to the playoffs year after year. Persistence will pay off and Chipper, Andruw and Smoltz will celebrate their World Series title.

In the next year the whole landscape of sports, as we know it will be transcended, records will fall, titles will be won and marquee players will be established. That much we know. Who they will be ultimately is yet to be decided. That, as the cliche goes, is why they play the games.