December 31, 2012

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2013 PGA TOUR PREVIEW: 5 Players To Watch

By: Tyler Vespa

With the 2013 PGA Tour season less than a week away, there has finally been a changing of the guard in golf. Rory McIlory has had the number 1 ranking for the last 21 weeks. Tiger Woods has dropped down to No. 3 in the world after Luke Donald’s win in Japan. Will anyone be able to end McIlroy’s reign at the top? That remains to be seen, but I believe there are 5 players who can challenge for the top spot.

The PGA Tour regular season will begin with Steve Stricker defending his Hyundai Tournament of Champions title on January 4th.

So without further ado, here are those 5 players:

1. Tiger Woods- 3 wins in 2012. His short game is back. His scoring average of 68.9 is proof of that. I see two majors for Tiger in 2013, ending a near 5-year drought. He will regain world-number 1 on April 14th after winning his fifth green jacket.

2. Brandt Snedeker- 2 victories in 2012. He was good from start to finish winning in January at the Farmers Insurance Open and in September at the Tour Championship to win the FedEx Cup. He had 7 other top 10’s and led the tour in strokes gained putting.

3. Jason Dufner- 2 wins in 2012 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and the HP Byron Nelson Championship. He was 4th on tour in scoring average and had 8 top 10’s.

4. Zach Johnson- 2 victories in 2012 at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and the John Deere Classic. He also had 6 top 10’s and was 8th in strokes gained-putting.

5. Webb Simpson- His lone victory came at golf’s toughest test, the U.S. Open. He also finished the year with 7 top 10’s and was 2nd on tour in par breakers, or percentage of holes played under par.

December 28, 2012

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

For the majority of NFL teams, there is just one game left in the season. Some of them know who they are. I’m talking to you Kansas City and Jacksonville. Others enter week 17 in do or die mode. You hear me Washington and Dallas? No matter who you are rooting for, this post season is setting up to be a great one. Now on to the rankings.

A Vikings win over Green Bay could set-up a rematch in the first round of the playoffs.

1 Atlanta Falcons (13-2) — The Falcons have clinched the top seed in the NFC and won’t have to play outside again until next season. Let’s see how they handle three weeks between meaningful games.

2 New England Patriots (11-4)Tom Brady was a big part of my fantasy championship winning team. You don’t care. Neither does he.

3 San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1) — You think the Cardinals are excited about facing an angry 49ers team that was completely embarrassed in Seattle? I think not.

4 Denver Broncos (12-3)Peyton Manning and Von Miller have the Broncos ready for a Super Bowl run. They haven’t lost since Oct. 7 and just need to beat the Chiefs to get a bye.

5 Green Bay Packers (11-4) — The Packers will have a bye if they beat the Vikings on Sunday. If they lose, they could get the Vikings again in the first round.

6 Houston Texans (12-3)Houston needs a win in Indy to claim the AFC’s top seed. Otherwise they will probably host the Bengals in the first round.

7 Seattle Seahawks (10-5) — Pete Carroll’s squad could still win the NFC West, but they are probably headed to Washington or Dallas in the first round of the playoffs.

8 Baltimore Ravens (10-5) — Are the Ravens back? They looked very good against the reeling Giants and will host the Colts or Bengals in the first round.

9 Washington Redskins (9-6) — The Skins are 6-0 since they had their bye week but it’s going to have to be 7-0 for them to win the NFC East.

10 Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)Andy Dalton finally got his first win against the Steelers. The Bengals will be the No. 6 seed and play at Houston, Denver, New England or Baltimore in the first round.

11 Dallas Cowboys (8-7) — Once again the Cowboys head into week 17 with everything on the line. You can bet this will come down to the fourth quarter.

12 Indianapolis Colts (10-5) — The turnaround of the Colts is one of the most impressive stories in the NFL. They are here to stay too.

13 Minnesota Vikings (9-6) — Wins over the Bears, Rams and Texans have the Vikings in control of their destiny. A win over the Packers would get them a playoff rematch in Green Bay.

14 New Orleans Saints (7-8) — Finishing at .500 would be pretty impressive considering all the drama in New Orleans this season.

15 Chicago Bears (9-6) — The Bears need to beat the reeling Lions and then root for Green Bay to knock off the Vikings.

16 New York Giants (8-7) — The defending champs have lost five of seven and need lots of help on Sunday to sneak into the playoffs.

17 Miami Dolphins (7-8) — If the season was 18 games like the commissioner wanted, the Dolphins would have a good shot to get in with the way they are playing.

18 St. Louis Rams (7-7-1) — After finishing 2-14 last season, the Rams are one of the most improved teams in 2012.

19 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) — Five losses in six games is not how the Steelers saw the stretch run going and they are out of the playoff hunt.

20 Carolina Panthers (6-9) — The Panthers waited too long to get hot. They have been one of the better teams after starting 2-8.

21 Tennessee Titans (5-10) — Clearly they are ready for the offseason. Nobody likes going to Green Bay in December but losing 55-7 is as bad as it gets.

22 New York Jets (6-9) — Looks like the Jets could go three for three on getting rid of quarterbacks this offseason. Should be interesting.

23 San Diego Chargers (6-9) — Beating the Raiders would give the Chargers a 3-1 finish but it won’t be good enough to save everybody’s jobs. Changes are coming.

24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9) — The Bucs won four straight to climb into the playoff hunt…then lost five in a row to fall out of it.

25 Arizona Cardinals (5-10) — It doesn’t appear that the Cardinals know who their quarterback is. But have they at least figured out who their quarterback isn’t?

26 Detroit Lions (4-11) — Were these guys really in the playoffs last year? What happened?

27 Cleveland Browns (5-10) — The Browns are making progress. Winning in Pittsburgh on Sunday would be another step forward.

28 Buffalo Bills (5-10) — Will either team show up when the Bills and Jets meet in the season finale?

29 Oakland Raiders (4-11) — If it wasn’t for beating the Chiefs twice, the Raiders could have the worst record in the league.

30 Philadelphia Eagles (4-11) — Will the Eagles knock the defending champs out of the hunt or improve their draft position?

31 Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13) — The Jags already beat Tennessee once. If they do it again, it could cost them the first pick in the draft.

32 Kansas City Chiefs (2-13) — Don’t expect the Chiefs to finish with a win in Denver against the hottest team in the league.

December 27, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Tim Tebow reportedly asks out of Wildcat packages: Many news outlets reported over the weekend that New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow asked not to be utilized in the team’s wildcat package on offense for this weekend’s game. According to the report, Tebow has been disappointed at not being named as the starter after Mark Sanchez was benched. His frustration can be understood to a degree as the Jets went with unproven rookie Greg McElroy, but if the reports are true, that’s a bad move on his part. Above all else, Tebow has to be a reliable member of the team and play as requested by the coaches – even if he doesn’t feel he’s being utilized properly. If he feels he’s being treated unfairly, he can always ask for a way out. But as long as he’s being paid by the franchise and is a member of the team, Tebow should participate in any way the coaches see fit.

Since benching Mark Sanchez, the quarterback situation for the New York Jets has gotten even cloudier.

Cleveland Indians sign Nick Swisher: The Cleveland Indians made a bit of a splash in MLB free agency by signing outfielder Nick Swisher away from the Yankees. Swisher hit 24 home runs and drove in nearly 100 runs in New York last year and will provide a boost to the Cleveland offense. The move is especially helpful for the Tribe as they recently traded away Shin-Soo Choo. And at 32 having had a pretty healthy career, Swisher should still have a few more years left in the tank.

Jabari Parker commits to Duke, reports backlash: High School basketball sensation Jabari Parker, widely regarded as one of the top two recruits in the class of 2013 committed to Duke last week. Afterwards, he reported being harassed on Twitter. He responded by saying he’s ‘just a kid’, but the fact is that it’s just something he’ll have to learn to deal with. Having a Twitter account is one thing athletes use to connect better with fans, but the flipside is that not everyone will be thrilled with what they do or say. I’m not condoning harassment of athletes on the social media site (particularly ones still in high school), but Parker will need to realize it’s only going to get worse as he advances to college and, presumably, the NBA.

Indianapolis Colts clinch playoff berth: The Colts did the unthinkable this weekend by making the NFL playoffs with rookie quarterback Andrew Luck at the helm. When the Colts decided to make the difficult move to transition away from Peyton Manning, most figured it would take a few years to get back to the postseason. But Luck not only had a monster rookie campaign, breaking Cam Newton’s rookie season passing record, he’s led Indianapolis to an unthinkable ten wins so far. The Colts’ management has to be absolutely pleased with the way things have worked out under Luck. He was expected to be a star in the league, but few could have seen this much success in only his first year.

DeMarcus Cousins in trouble … again: Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins was recently suspended indefinitely by the team for conduct detrimental to the team. The exact reason hasn’t been specified, but Cousins and coach Keith Smart reportedly argued in the locker room at halftime of a recent game and the player was benched in the second half. Cousins wasn’t even permitted to leave the locker room during the benching. Even worse was the fact that this isn’t his first brush with trouble this season. Cousins was suspended for a game after striking the Dallas MavericksO.J. Mayo in the groin earlier this month. He was also suspended by the league for two games after an incident with San Antonio Spurs’ announcer and former player Sean Elliott back in November. For his part in the locker room incident with Smart, Cousins has since admitted he was wrong. But the Kings may be fed up with his actions lately and the indefinite suspension could last a while. If so, you have to applaud management since Cousins is the team leader in points, rebounds, and steals, and one of the few attractions the franchise has.

Texas’ Myck Kabongo has season-long suspension cut: Texas guard Myck Kabongo was recently suspended by the NCAA for the rest of this season, but last week had it cut to 23 games. Kabongo reportedly lied to the school about receiving improper gifts, but was found to have not lied to the NCAA. More alarming for me, though, was Texas coach Rick Barnes who said his thoughts are with Myck and his family and that he ‘feels’ for him. So let’s get this straight – a player lies to the school that provides him with a free education and a place to display his athletic talents, but is then treated as if he did nothing wrong and is virtually being tortured. Got it. I don’t deny that everyone makes mistakes, but Kabongo deserves to sit this time out. Instead of feeling bad for him, Barnes would sound much more credible if he said he was disappointed in his actions.

December 19, 2012

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Why the NFC East is the Best Division in All of Sports

By: Matt Bowen

Excitement and suspense fills our NFL imagination’s as the 2012 season once again comes down to the wire. With so much at stake during the final two weeks across the league, the tightest playoff race belongs to the tumultuous NFC East.

Last season, the NFC East winner was decided in a Week 17 matchup between the Cowboys and Giants.

Every sports fan, whether they like it or not, knows the NFL is No. 1 when it comes to media coverage and generated revenue. At the top of the food chain is the NFC East, a division that holds four of the most popular teams in all of sports. It may seem odd that the Dallas Cowboys belong to a division with three east coast teams, but the Cowboys are larger than life—a smaller media market simply wouldn’t suffice for Dallas. Joining the biggest thing in Texas are the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.

Like last season, this year will be decided in Week 17. The Cowboys and Giants met in 2011’s final week for a winner-take-all showdown which crowned the victor the divisional champion and granted them a ticket to the playoffs. History tells the rest of the story as the Giants took the game and eventually the Super Bowl.

This season has been no different as the Redskins, Cowboys and Giants all have an 8-6 record heading into Week 16. The Eagles may be out of the running, but Philly fans are as faithless as they come. At the moment, the Redskins are on top, but there’s plenty of football left to be played.

Heading into this season, the defending Super Bowl champion Giants were the runaway favorite, the Cowboys were in a must-win situation and the Redskins weren’t expected to win the division, but were optimistic thanks to the acquisition of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Now, the Giants are coming off a 34-0 drubbing by the Atlanta Falcons, the Cowboys have won 5-of-6 and the Redskins, led by not one but two rookie quarterbacks(Kirk Cousins being the other) have won five straight and control their own destiny.

Week 16 pits the Redskins against the Eagles, who would like nothing more than to spoil the party. The Cowboys go up against the New Orleans Saints, who are only 6-8, but thanks to quarterback Drew Brees are as dangerous as they come. And finally, the Giants face the Baltimore Ravens, which is a desperate game for both sides.

If both the Redskins and Cowboys win in Week 16, this would set up a virtual win-and-in situation in Week 17.  Nothing screams playoff football like a playoff game in the final week of the regular season. Like last season, every football fan in the world will be glued to their television to see who exactly makes it to the postseason party.

This is why the NFC East is the best division in sports. As much as every sports fan may dislike that this division seems to get all of the attention, they sure do put on a good show. Enjoy the theatrics as sports history unfolds before our very eyes.

December 18, 2012

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

A lot changed in the NFL in Week 15. Fans in Washington, Minnesota and Dallas saw their playoff hopes improve dramatically. And if you are rooting for Baltimore, Tampa Bay, New York Giants, St. Louis, Chicago, Pittsburgh or the New York Jets…your hopes either took a major hit and/or are gone all together. Here’s how I have them ranked with two games to go.

1 San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) — As the Nature Boy Ric Flair always said, “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” The Patriots were at the top last week and the 49ers went into New England and won. San Fransisco is now “The Man.”

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers haven't given up on this season.

2 Atlanta Falcons (12-2) — Talk about making a statement. If anybody wants to get to New Orleans, they are going to have to go through Atlanta.

3 New England Patriots (10-4)Tom Brady was on the verge of one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history. But the Patriots couldn’t finish it off and likely cost themselves a playoff bye.

4 Houston Texans (12-2)
— One more win ought to be enough to lock up home-field advantage in the AFC. It won’t be easy with the Vikings and Colts both fighting for wild card spots.

5 Denver Broncos (11-3)
– The Broncos may be the biggest winner of week 15. Home wins over the Browns and Chiefs will clinch the No. 2 seed and a first round bye.

6 Green Bay Packers (10-4) – The NFC North champs have won eight of nine and have their sights set on the NFC’s No. 2 seed and a first round bye.

7 Seattle Seahawks (9-5) – After putting up 108 points in the last two weeks the Seahawks are one win away from getting into the playoffs (probably) and have an outside shot of stealing the NFC West from San Fransisco.

8 Dallas Cowboys (8-6) – Somehow the Cowboys got off the mat and won five of six. If they can make it seven of eight they should be NFC East champs.

9 Baltimore Ravens (9-5) — Remember when the Ravens were on the verge of earning a bye in the first round of the playoffs? A desperate New York Giant team could give them a fourth straight loss and make the Ravens at Bengals in week 17 for the division title.

10 Washington Redskins (8-6) – Five straight wins have the Redkins at the top of the NFC East. A win at Philly this week will set up a huge week 17 showdown with the Cowboys.

11 Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) – The Bengals can make the playoffs with a win in Pittsburgh. A loss makes things very interesting.

12 New York Giants (8-6) – Did the Giants just sneak in an extra bye week? Sunday’s game in Baltimore is a must win.

13 Indianapolis Colts (9-5) – The Colts should have no trouble with the Chiefs this week. A win should keep them from having to go to New England in the first round.

14 Minnesota Vikings (8-6) – If the playoffs started today….with Houston and Green Bay left on the schedule, they have started for the Vikings.

15 Chicago Bears (8-6) — Wins in Arizona and Detroit won’t be enough to get the Bears in the playoffs. They need help.

16 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7) – Despite losing four of five, the Steelers can make the playoffs by winning the last two games. Their reward for doing so? Probably the Patriots.

17 New Orleans Saints (6-8) – This season cannot end fast enough for the Saints now that they are out of playoff contention.

18 Carolina Panthers (5-9) –  Don’t be surprised if the Panthers finish 7-9. This is one team that hasn’t quit.

19 St. Louis Rams (6-7-1) – If everyone in front of them loses, a win would give the Rams something to play for in week 17.

20 Miami Dolphins (6-8) – Surprisingly, the Dolphins still have hope. They must beat Buffalo and hope the Steelers beat the Bengals to go into week 17 with a chance.

21 Tennessee Titans (5-9) – Is Jake Locker the future for the Titans? I’m not sure they know the answer.

22 New York Jets (6-8) – The Jets looked more like a team playing for the top pick in the draft than a playoff spot on Monday night.

23 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8)
– That 41-0 beat down ensured the Bucs won’t have to worry about making a trip to the frozen tundra in January.

24 Arizona Cardinals (5-9) – Nice win for the Cards. With the Bears and 49ers coming up, they were looking at a 12-game losing streak to finish the season.

25 Detroit Lions (4-10) – The Lions are a candidate for most disappointing team of 2012. They could lose their last eight games.

26 Cleveland Browns (5-9) – You heard it here first. Cleveland makes the playoffs in 2013.

27 Buffalo Bills (5-9) – Maybe the Bills are the new Redskins? Let’s see if they try to win the off-season for the second year in a row.

28 San Diego Chargers (5-9)
– The window in San Diego is officially closed. Time to rebuild.

29 Oakland Raiders (4-10) – The Raiders haven’t allowed a point in five quarters.

30 Philadelphia Eagles (4-10) – Eagles are headed for 4-12 with two playoff hungry opponents remaining but they would love to knock the Redskins and Giants out of the race.

31 Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12) – GM, Head Coach, quarterback and even franchise location are question marks? That’s not good.

32 Kansas City Chiefs (2-12) – The Chiefs appear to be a lock for 2-14 and the first pick in the draft.