January 29, 2014

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Bold Super Bowl XLVIII Predictions

By: Matt Bowen

Super Bowl XLVIII promises to be historic. Take your pick, offense or defense. If you’re an old-soul and firmly believe that defense wins championships then you’re in the neon green corner with the Seattle Seahawks. If you’re a fan of the explosive modern-day offense then you’re in the bright orange corner with the Denver Broncos.

Super Bowl XLVIII

Which team will leave Super Bowl XLVIII as champions?

When the Seahawks and Broncos square-off on February 2, 2014 the gloves will come off. Seeing that the game is taking place in the media capital of the world only adds fuel to the fire. In the end, the NFL and its fans will be the real winner.

There’s a ton of stats floating out there surrounding this game but here is the only one you should be concerned with right now. This is the first time since the 1990 season that the No. 1 offense has faced the No. 1 defense in the Super Bowl. Last time around the defense of the New York Giants edged out the offense of the Buffalo Bills, 20-19 in Super Bowl XXV. The Broncos scored 606 points in the regular season while the Seahawks only allowed 231. Something has got to give—we’re in for a gem.

Let’s Dig into our Super Bowl XLVIII Bold Predictions

The First Quarter will end with the Broncos Leading, 7-0

This game will start slow due to nerves which is no surprise. With only four players total from both sides with Super Bowl experience plenty of men will be wide-eyed and amped with the opening whistle blows. Both teams will go three-and-out in their opening drive. On their second possession Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will find wide receiver Demaryius Thomas for a 76-yard touchdown. Seahawks faithful everywhere will have sudden doubt about their highly-touted defense against the Broncos offense. Don’t fret—there’s plenty of ballgame left.

Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas Will Have a Game-Changing Sack in the Second Quarter

With the Broncos ahead 7-3 with 11:08 remaining in the second, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas will change the game. With fellow teammate Richard Sherman soaking up most of the attention, Thomas will have his time to shine.  A strip-sack of Manning and recovery by Seattle will flip the script. After all, the Seahawks just kicked a field goal to get on the board. Forcing a turnover and recovering on their 32-yard line will give the Seahawks prime field position. Momentum will now in favor of the Seahawks.

Manning Will Throw for Less Than 250 Yards

Hey, Seattle’s secondary isn’t called the “Legion of Boom” for no reason, there’s a reason they’re feared. The have the No. 1 defense after all and look to make a statement shutting down one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in the Super Bowl. Besides Manning’s bomb to D. Thomas in the first quarter, he’ll be quite silent.  The Seattle defense will steal the show.

Manning’s Final Line: 18-for-28, 243 passing yards, 2 TDs

Marshawn Lynch Will Be MVP

Marshawn Lynch is a different type of running back. He has throwback toughness, game-breaking speed and just doesn’t stop. His nickname is the best in the business and he lives up to it. “Beast Mode” is no joke. He simply punishes his opponents and when they tire in the fourth quarter, he’s just getting started.

Things will be no different in Super Bowl XLVIII—Beast Mode will be out in full force. He’ll carry his team to victory. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson gets plenty of credit, but the team’s success begins and ends with Lynch. He will set the tone for his team on offense.

Lynch’s Final Line: 26 carries, 143 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs, 2 receptions, 23 receiving yards, MVP

Final Score

This will be one of the best Super Bowls we have ever witnessed. The Broncos will strike first, but the Seahawks will take a 10-7 lead into halftime. The second half will be a seesaw affair and one for the ages.  This game will leave fans yearning for anything NFL and dreaming of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Seahawks 27, Broncos 21

January 28, 2014

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NBA All-Star Reserve Picks

By: Joe Williams

I’m taking a day off from the Super Bowl mania so I don’t suffer an overload before the big game. So instead, here’s who I think should be in New Orleans for the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 16.

In the West, the starters are Kevin Durant, Stephan Curry, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and Kobe Bryant. The fans have once again stolen a spot from someone who deserves to be there and voted in a guy who has played only six games this year. It looks like Kobe Bryant will spend the game sitting on the bench while someone like Goran Dragic probably gets left off the team.

Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin will be an All-Star game starter for the West.

Who should be the reserves in the West? (Chris Paul would be a sure thing but I’m assuming he will not play due to his injury).

LaMarcus Aldridge
This guy should be a starter. He’s leading Portland into title contention and putting up 24-12-3. Aldridge is in the MVP discussion.

DeMarcus Cousins
Just because the Kings are terrible doesn’t mean that Cousins shouldn’t be on this team. 22-12-3 tells me he’s one of the top four centers in the league.

Anthony Davis
He’s one of the most valuable players in fantasy basketball. Davis‘ 20-10-3 with his shooting percentage is a big boost for my roster. He’s the best player in the city hosting the game. He has to be on this team.

James Harden
Harden is putting up 24-5-5 per game, has Houston in the hunt in the West and may be sporting the greatest beard in NBA history.

Dwight Howard
He’s the best big man in the game when he wants to be. Howard’s 18-12-3 could be even better if he hit more than 52 percent of his free throws.

Damian Lillard
Along with Aldridge, Damian Lillard has elevated Portland into contender status. He’s hitting 3’s at a crazy rate and giving the Blazers 20-6. And there may not be a better guy with the ball at the end of a game.

Goran Dragic
Didn’t we think the Suns were going to contend for the No. 1 pick in the draft? Not with this guy running the show. 19-6 a night and he has his team at 26-18.

Note: The last spot came down to Dragic or Dirk Nowitzki, who is one of my favorite players. So thanks a lot fans for making me leave Dirk off the team.

In the East, we’ve got LeBron James, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Carmelo Anthony and another guy who doesn’t deserve the spot….Dwyane Wade. Nothing against Wade…he just sits out too much to get that spot in my opinion.

Roy Hibbert
Roy Hibbert is the anchor of the league’s best defense on the league’s best team and averages close to a double-double.

Al Jefferson
Everyone said he left Utah for Charlotte to get paid. Nobody thought it was to make a run at the playoffs, but at 19-27 the Bobcats are currently eighth in the East. (That’s not saying much.)

Kyle Lowry
The Toronto Raptors are in third place in the East. He is a big reason why, averaging 16-7-4.

Paul Millsap
Atlanta is still in the hunt for the three seed, even without the services of Al Horford. Without Millsap’s 17-8-3 a night they would be in trouble.

Joakim Noah
Noah is the best player left on a team that just won’t go away no matter how many of their best players do. He does a little of everything for Chicago.

John Wall
Washington is currently sixth in the East and Wall is leading the conference in assists. I’m putting him on the team and hoping not to see any dance moves.

Arron Afflalo
Yeah, his team is terrible. But it’s not Afflalo’s fault. Just imagine what Orlando would be like without him.

January 27, 2014

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Yanks get Tanaka: The New York Yankees were back to their free-spending ways, landing Japanese superstar pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. Last week, the club signed to a seven-year $155 million deal. Tanaka was an absolute gem in Japan, going 24-0 (as in, undefeated) with a 1.27 ERA last year. Clearly, we don’t know how those numbers will translate to the majors, but he was simply so dominant overseas that it’s hard to believe he won’t be a good pitcher. What we do know, however, is that he’ll be hard-pressed to be worth the $22 million per season he’ll get paid. To be worth that kind of money, he’ll need to be lights out for seven years … and I’m not sure he will be.

Australian Tennis Open Concludes: The Australian Tennis Open wrapped up over the weekend with a pair of unexpected champions. On the men’s side, Stan Wawrinka bested an injured Rafael Nadal in four sets. Li Na knocked off Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets to win the women’s title. Both are considered very good players, but navigating fields that included the world’s best players was a shock and few would have picked either to even reach the final.

Rice 22, Sanders 21: No, that’s not a one-on-one basketball score. Rather, it’s the score of the NFL’s Pro Bowl as Team Jerry Rice defeated Team Deion Sanders this weekend, 22 to 21. The Pro Bowl had already been viewed largely as a laughingstock, but this one really took the cake. In an effort to revamp the game, the NFL legends chose teams, conference affiliations out the window. Not only did it make it incredibly impossible to figure out where your favorite players were, it was just downright odd. Commissioner Roger Goodell previously thought about cancelling the game and frankly, that might have been a better idea. The fantasy draft thing just doesn’t make much sense and gives the game even less meaning. Teammates are even at odds with the new format and it really makes it difficult for fans to choose a side to root for now since their favorite players may be on different teams.

Jim Thome

Jim Thome will have a statue in front of Progressive Field.

Jim Thome to get Statue: The Cleveland Indians announced recently that former All-Star Jim Thome would be immortalized with a statue outside of Progressive Field. Thome was one of the most popular players in recent memory for the team, but a statue just seems a bit odd in this case. For the record, Thome is the team’s all-time leader in home runs with 337 of them. Still, that’s barely half of his 612 dingers and the slugger played only a little more than half of his career with the team. Thome is a Hall of Famer and one of the best players in club history, but statues are generally best reserved for players that played the bulk of their career with a team. You can really even make a case that a player such as Lou Boudreau, who was a Hall of famer, an eight-time All-Star, a former MVP, and a member of the 1948 World Series team is more deserving of the honor than Thome.

Team Shut out … in Basketball: Shutouts are common in sports such as hockey, soccer, baseball, and even football. Basketball? That’s virtually unheard of. But it happened to a girls’ high school team when Leechburg lost to Ford City, PA 56-0. I’m all for competition, but Leechburg’s coach says that Ford City left their starters in the game well into the fourth quarter. If that’s the case, it’s inexcusable. Telling your team not to let up is one thing – and if you’re playing a college team, I think it’s a bit more fair game. In high school, however, you’re talking about kids. Playing your starters into the fourth quarter of a blowout game is akin to bullying. To be fair, Leechburg is bad. Real bad. In three of their prior four games, the team scored a grand total of 18 points. Even their coach admits he has virtually one player who can dribble the ball well. Still, at the high school level, we’re not talking about adults who get paid to do this for a living – we’re talking about kids who are in school. Pulling your starters at halftime with the game already out of control would have been the classier approach.

Carmelo Anthony goes off for 62 Points: It’s been a rough season for the New York Knicks, but star forward Carmelo Anthony gave fans something to cheer for last week. Anthony dropped 62 points on the Charlotte Bobcats in a 125-96 win. The career-high included a half-court shot and he also added 13 rebounds in the effort. Instead of contending for the title they hoped for, the team is struggling just to make the playoffs. In fact, if the season ended today, the Knicks would be on the outside looking in. Fortunately for them, New York is in the Eastern Conference and even their dismal 17-27 record still somehow makes them only a single game from the No. 8 seed. They might need more similar performances from Melo if they want to sneak into the postseason.

Win One Billion Dollars for a Perfect NCAA Bracket: We’ve all seen the contests to win thousands of dollars, or even $1 million, for a perfect NCAA Tournament bracket. Warren Buffet, though, figures he can top that. The billionaire is giving someone the chance to also, well, become a billionaire. If anyone (limited to the first ten million people) fills out a perfect bracket, Quicken Loans with the backing of Buffett, will pay them $1 billion. Still, don’t expect to win the prize. The odds are apparently in the neighborhood of one in nine quintillion – in other words, 1 in 9,000,000,000,000,000,000. Yeah, good luck with that.

January 24, 2014

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Hat Tip to the New York Yankees

By: Matt Bowen

The New York Yankees are back to their old ways. Never mind that Super Bowl Sunday has yet to happen and we’re in the heart of a bitter winter, the Yanks are making a splash this MLB offseason.

Just when fans may have thought the franchise was going into a period of dark ages, think again. The Yankees are the most iconic team in sports history—they win often. With 27 World Series rings to date many have grown too loath the “Evil Empire” but one can’t help but respect them.

Yankee Stadium

Will the Yankees be contenders in 2014?

They last won it all in 2009 and with the passing of legendary owner George Steinbrenner in 2010. Steinbrenner was infamous for going out and acquiring any player he deemed fit to don the famous pinstripes, many times with a hefty payday. Since 2008 when the team spent a massive $441 million during the offseason in free agency, the team only spent a total of $227.8 million combined.

It seemed as if the Yankees have tightened the reins on the checkbook since “The Boss” passed onto baseball heaven.

The team let second baseman Robinson Cano walk via free agency this offseason and head west to the Seattle Mariners. The going price for Cano was only a cool $240 million. Wait. Those were the contracts the Yankees used to acquire and suddenly they were passing.

Was their new philosophy to build from within?

Suddenly baseball fans everywhere began to debate if the Yankees were in decline without Steinbrenner’s robust leadership.

Had they’re buying power lost its punch? Had the Yankees lost their appeal?

Think again.

This offseason, the team has once again emptied its pockets.

But why would the team go back to spending so much?

The answer is simple—they’re the New York Yankees. The have a reputation to maintain.

Since 2010 the Yankees have won 95, 97, 95, and 85 games, respectively.

Many MLB teams may consider 85 wins, the Yankees’ amount in 2013, an acceptable season. Not the Yanks. Couple that with the fact that the despised Boston Red Sox won their third World Series since 2004 and the Yankees had to make a splash this offseason.

Mission accomplished.

Yes, they lost Cano, but they acquired free agents Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka.

Correct—there’s a disturbance in the force. The Yankees have once again drawn a line in the proverbial sand and let it be known that they are the team to beat. Many teams had their hat in the ring for the Tanaka sweepstakes yet the Yankees came out king of the mountain.

Their star-studded lineup is shining a bit brighter at the moment. It’s been proven in sports that money doesn’t always buy championships, but the Yankees have definitely bought themselves some momentum heading into the 2014 MLB season. It may have cost the Yankees $491 million this winter but winning it all is simply priceless.

For better or worse balance has been restored in baseball. Hat tip to the Yankees for being so special.

January 22, 2014

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10 predictions for Super Bowl XLVIII

By: Joe Williams

330 NFL games are in the books. There’s just one game left (I’m not counting the Pro Bowl) and its the biggest of them all. In the two weeks we have to wait for the Super Bowl, we’ll learn more than we ever wanted to know about the teams, players, location and everything else. What we really care about is the game. Here’s 10 predictions for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Super Bowl XLVIII

We give you our 10 predictions for Super Bowl XLVIII.

1. The weather has been the story ever since the location of this game was announced years ago. Sure it will be cold and probably impact a lot of the festivities happening in the area, but it will be no big deal when it comes to the game itself.

2. One thing that we all look forward to during the Super Bowl is the commercials. There are always a couple of great ones but its getting harder and harder for them to live up to the hype. I expect this year’s batch of commercials to be a bit of a let down.

3. The halftime show will be the perfect time for a bathroom break. Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers? No thank you. But I will appreciate the chance to leave my seat for the bathroom, more food or any other reason without the worry that I’m going to miss anything worth watching.

4. Anytime the game is close, the losing side will have a couple of calls (or non-calls) to complain about. This year will be no different. And if history is to be our judge, look for the Seahawks to be the one’s with something to complain about (anyone remember Super Bowl XL?)

5. Richard Sherman has gotten all the attention since the conference championship games ended, but he won’t get much during the game. Peyton Manning will be looking for the weak spot in the Seattle defense and won’t throw many passes in Sherman’s direction.

6. Champ Bailey will make a game-changing play.

7. So will Marshawn Lynch.

8. Percy Harvin will not.

9. Neither will Wes Welker.

10. The Broncos rarely score less than 30. The Seahawks rarely allow more than 20. Let’s set the magic number at 25. If Peyton Manning can put up 25 points or more, the Broncos will win Super Bowl XLVII. The last time the No. 1 defense played the No. 1 offense in the Super Bowl was in 1990 when the Giants beat the Bills on a last-second field goal miss. Look for this game to come down to a field goal attempt in the final minute. Final score: Broncos 27, Seahawks 24.