February 25, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Jimmie Johnson wins the Daytona 500: Danica Patrick made a bit of history as the first woman to start at the pole position in a Daytona 500 race. She was passed up quickly, but also later regained the lead to become the first female to lead a lap in the event. But the day belonged to Jimmie Johnson who won the race and his second Daytona 500. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. made a late push, but for the third time in four years, he finished in second place. Winning second place on the biggest stage in NASCAR is quite an achievement and to do it three times in four years is flat out amazing. But it also has to sting to finish as the bridesmaid that many times.

NASCAR kicked off its 2013 season with the Daytona 500 this weekend.

Curtis Granderson breaks arm … on first Spring Training at bat: After sitting out for months, major leaguers probably can’t wait until their first Spring Training at bat. Yankees’ outfielder Curtis Granderson may be having second thoughts about that, though. Granderson was promptly hit by a pitch in his first at bat by the Blue Jays’ J.A. Happ, suffering a broken arm. The star will be out for two to three months and will likely miss the first five weeks of the regular season. Granderson was the team’s biggest offensive star last season, leading the Yankees in home runs (43) and RBI (106), so it will be a significant blow. The loss hurts even more when you consider that New York lost several offensive stars in the offseason including Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez, and Russell Martin, who combined for 64 home runs last year.

Marquise Goodwin dominates NFL Combine: The NFL Combine started over the weekend and a few wide receivers made their marks. Most notably, Texas’ Marquise Goodwin had a great weekend. He was timed unofficially at 4.25 and officially, he received a 4.27 – narrowly missing the 4.24 Combine record set by running back Chris Johnson. Breaking 4.4 is considered at the elite level and a sub 4.3 is insane. There’s no doubt that Goodwin improved his draft status in a big way and could make himself a top pick.

49ers looking to unload Alex Smith: News broke over the weekend that the San Francisco 49ers were not only hoping to trade backup quarterback Alex Smith, but that they might already be close to a deal with an unspecified team. Trading Smith is really a no-brainer for the team since they’re all in with Colin Kaepernick. And since Kaepernick nearly helped lead the team to a sixth Super Bowl title this past year, it’s hard to argue with that logic. Smith was finally turning into a serviceable quarterback and San Francisco should be able to land a nice deal for him. He’s not an elite player by any means, but he would be an upgrade under center for many franchises. Ideally, the 49ers would be thrilled to have a backup of Smith’s stature. But he’s obviously unhappy after losing his job to Kaepernick last season and keeping him makes little sense when they can bring in another player who can help them.

Jerry Buss dies: Iconic Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss passed away this week at the age of 80. With his ten NBA championships, Buss wasn’t only one of the top owners in the NBA, but all of sports. Think of all he’s seen … Magic Johnson winning a title as a rookie. The 1980s Showtime Lakers with Magic, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, and company. A three-peat with Kobe and Shaq. Buss had really seen it all in the NBA over the past 30+ years and had the experience of a lifetime.

Evgeni Malkin has concussion symptoms: The NHL’s Most Valuable Player for 2011-12, Evgeni Malkin, has showed signs of a concussion after a recent game. The Penguins’ star suffered the injury on Friday against the Florida Panthers. If Malkin misses any length of time, it won’t be anything new for Pittsburgh. The Pens have dealt with missing Sidney Crosby for long stretches after a concussion and the team can’t seem to catch a break. The timing couldn’t have been worse for the Penguins, who lead the Atlantic Division.

Syracuse retires Carmelo Anthony’s jersey: Knicks star Carmelo Anthony had his jersey retired by Syracuse in a game last week. Anthony played only one season for Syracuse, but it was one to remember. He was the best freshman in college basketball that year and led his team to an NCAA championship. Typically, I’d be against retiring the jersey of a player who stayed in college for only a single season. I think that honor should be reserved for the best players of all time in the sport and you simply can’t be in that conversation if you only stick around for one year. But in winning a title, I’m okay with it. Anthony had such a special year that he probably deserves the recognition. Syracuse also waited a decade to do this, so it clearly was something with which they had reservations. But if they’re okay with it, I’m okay with it.

January 31, 2013

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Super Bowl XLVII Predictions

By: Matt Bowen

Super Bowl XLVII is now just days away, which leaves fans to ponder how many pounds of nachos they’ll serve up to their friends and what exactly will transpire in the big game in the Big Easy.

Making predictions is half the fun when it comes to the Super Bowl. NFL fans know that most of the iconic Super Bowl moments have come unexpectedly, and there will no doubt be a few of those this year.

Let’s get to it:

Jacoby Jones Will Take the Opening Kickoff Back for a Touchdown

The Baltimore Ravens acquired Jacoby Jones in the offseason primarily to be an instant threat in the return game. Jones hasn’t disappointed this season as he returned two kicks and a punt for touchdowns.

He’s also a viable weapon as a No. 3 receiver behind Anquan Boldin and Terrey Smith. Just ask the Denver Broncos if Jones is a difference maker. They seemingly forgot about him in their Divisional Round playoff matchup as he marched into the end zone after a bomb from quarterback Joe Flacco that sent the game to overtime.

Here’s the kicker—Jones is a native of New Orleans, and he’ll be more than ready to steal the show. With his blood flowing early, he’ll start the game off with a bang.

Alex Smith Will Make an Appearance

The San Francisco 49ers made a bold move this season when they benched then starting quarterback Alex Smith for second-year man Colin Kaepernick.

Smith, a former No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft was finally beginning to look like a No. 1 pick. He was coming off arguably the best game of his career, going 18-for-19 for 232 yards and three touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8.

Just when it was looking like Smith had solidified himself, a concussion knocked him out of Week 10 against the St. Louis Rams and inevitably changed the course of his career.

In came Kaepernick, who undoubtedly optimized the Niners offense and propelled them to the Super Bowl.

So, this is the end of Smith, right?

Wrong!

He’ll make an appearance in the Super Bowl and even throw an 18-yard touchdown to tight end Vernon Davis.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh knows he has to pack a bag full of tricks if he’s to beat a veteran Ravens defense. Smith will be one of those tricks, and he’ll make the most of it. On the first possession of the second half, Smith will make his mark.
Justin Tucker Will Kick the Longest Field Goal in Super Bowl History

The Baltimore Ravens made some noise this preseason when they tapped rookie Justin Tucker from the University of Texas to be their place kicker this season.

Tucker proved he’s the man for the job, going 30-for-33 on the season and even notching four field goals longer than 50 yards.

The Super Bowl record for longest field goal is a 54-yarder from Steve Christie of the Buffalo Bills against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVIII.

Tucker will top that by booting a 56-yard field goal with 3:13 left in the third quarter. He’ll show the world just why the Ravens made a great choice when they chose him.

Randy Moss Will Walk the Walk

In case you haven’t heard, Randy Moss has named himself the “Greatest of All Time” during media day at the Super Bowl this season.

Considering he’s a member of the San Francisco 49ers, that’s a bold statement.

Although his career numbers don’t compare to Hall of Fame 49er Jerry Rice’s, Moss will make a big impact in the Super Bowl. Love him or hate him, he’s really good.

It’s long been known that Moss shows up when he wants to, and, considering it’s the Super Bowl, he’ll be open for business.

The Ravens will have their hands full trying to keep track of receiver Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis. Moss will slip by the secondary for an early second quarter touchdown. Don’t be surprised when he is booed after reaching the end zone.

In the end, he’ll have four catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.

Joe Flacco Will Stamp Himself as Elite

Why there’s still a debate to whether Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is elite or not beats me.  All the guy does is win.  Sure, it may not always be pretty, but a win is a win.

Flacco will be a free agent in the offseason, but don’t expect him to leave Baltimore—he’s there to stay.  Taking Super Bowl MVP honors will certainly boost his pocketbook during bargaining.

He may not be the flashiest quarterback, but he’ll have a Super Bowl ring to show off.

In his MVP performance he’ll go 22-for-30 with 301 passing yards and two touchdowns, including a game-winning drive that will end in a Ray Rice 12-yard screen pass touchdown.

Final Score: Ravens 24, 49ers 20

October 17, 2011

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Five NFL Trades That Should Happen

By: Anson Whaley

Sure, NFL trades aren’t all that frequent. While we as fans pay strict attention to the MLB, NBA, and NHL trade deadlines, the NFL cutoff date generally comes and goes without much fanfare. Seriously, before this week, did you have any idea that the trade deadline is Tuesday? If you did, the chances are good that you’re probably an agent, a GM, or a player.

That said, there are some moves that should happen – moves that could make teams better in the short or long run. Here are five players that should be moved in exchange for a draft pick.

5. WR Eddie RoyalDenver Broncos to Carolina Panthers: Eddie Royal’s name is one of the most widely heard when the trade deadline comes up. Royal had an extremely productive rookie year in 2008 catching 91 passes for just under 1,000 yards, but since then, has dropped off a bit – particularly with the emergence of other receivers over the years such as Brandon Lloyd and the departed Jabar Gaffney. At 25, though, Royal still should have plenty of productivity left and would make a nice target for rookie Cam Newton in Carolina who could use another wideout.

4. CB Asante SamuelPhiladelphia Eagles to St. Louis Rams: The Rams’ secondary is in need of a major boost. Arguably their top three cornerbacks, Ron Bartell, Jerome Murphy, and Bradley Fletcher, are injured and the team needs to shore up that position. Sure, the Rams aren’t likely to contend this year, but Samuel is only 30 and is still capable of being a contributor for several more seasons. The Eagles’ defense has struggled this season, but mediocre linebacker play has been a big factor in that. And with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie, the team can afford to move one of their cornerbacks. Trading Samuel to a team such as the New York Giants might make more sense, but I couldn’t see the Eagles allowing him to go to a division rival.

3. RB Joseph AddaiIndianapolis Colts to Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Addai’s had injury issues the past few years, but when healthy, he’s more than capable of being an adequate running back. Tampa Bay may not win the NFC South, but they could have a shot at a Wild Card. Leading rusher LeGarrette Blount is injured, but more than that, the Bucs could use some help in the backfield. Addai is injured himself, so he may not be immediately available himself. But a second back would provide some insurance for the team should one of them go down later in the season. Indianapolis has young running backs Delone Carter and Donald Brown on the roster and can afford to part with Addai at this point as he’s been solid, but unspectacular.

2. WR Brandon Lloyd – Denver Broncos to San Francisco 49ers: Raise your hand if you expected the 49ers to not only get off to a good start this season, but look like one of the league’s better teams at 5-1. Even San Francisco fans were probably hard pressed to expect the team’s hot start. But now that the 49ers appear to be for real, it’s time they add another receiver to the mix. Enter Brandon Lloyd, who had more than 1,400 receiving yards last season with the Broncos. Lloyd is also familiar with the area having played with San Francisco in his first three seasons. He’s a veteran and can provide immediate help to rejuvenated quarterback Alex Smith. Michael Crabtree and Ted Ginn have been serviceable at wide receiver, but adding a steady veteran to the team in Lloyd would go a long way to helping the team not only reach the playoffs, but make some noise once they get there.

1. QB Carson PalmerCincinnati Bengals to Seattle Seahawks: The Carson Palmer/Cincinnati saga hasn’t gone as expected for Palmer, who probably believed he would eventually have his trade request fulfilled. Six games into the season and Palmer is still sitting out while rookie Andy Dalton has taken the reins for the Bengals’ offense. Seriously, though, this is helping no one. Palmer would be better served by being able to play elsewhere and Cincinnati could get something in return for him. A move to Seattle might be ideal for Palmer who could help the Seahawks contend in the mediocre NFC West. He would also be reunited with former USC coach Pete Carroll and is an upgrade over Tarvaris Jackson.

October 7, 2011

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NFL Predictions: Week 5 Fantasy Picks

By: Rick Jarrell

Last week was very kind to fans – the games were exciting and, for the most part, concluded in rather predictable fashions. Most of the games, other than the Bengals win over the Bills and 49ers win over the Eagles, had outcomes you would expect. And even those two, in hindsight, make a lot of sense. But despite the predictability, there were a lot of entertaining games on, the Detroit Lions‘ comeback over the Dallas Cowboys likely the best of them all.

Tony Romo, one of my fantasy studs of the week, managed to only play one half and put up 300 yards and 3 TDs. But at halftime, the towel boy locked Romo in a storage closet and took his jersey, throwing three picks resulting in two touchdowns and a devastating loss in the second quarter. Still a decent fantasy play despite the turnovers, but wow.

McNabb performed well, too, especially compared his recent performances. 200 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT is acceptable for a back up if you needed it. The Vikings still lost, but it seems like that’s going to be a consistent trend this year.

On to the Week 5 Fantasy Studs…

Alex Smith

For many fantasy owners, the beginning of bye weeks has snuck up quicker than anticipated. All of my teams, for example, have been annihilated by the Week 5 buys, including both of my quarterbacks – Romo and Rex Grossman (I try to synchronize my teams for simplicity). Luckily I’ve snagged a decent replacement in Alex Smith.

Smith led the Niners to victory Sunday with a solid 200 yards and 2 TD game. The Eagles, who allegedly have a deadly secondary, actually have superior cornerbacks and holes at safety and lineback, which Smith was able to exploit with Vernon Davis at tight end.

This week, they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who aren’t exactly shutting down teams. Will Smith put up 40 points for you? No. Did I just accidentally type “Will Smith?” Yes. But another solid 20 point outing is likely in store, which is all you can really ask for in a back up.

Note: I’ll also be starting Michael Crabtree in hopes he will finally play a full game and finally show some of the talent touted when he was coming out of college.

Shonn Greene & LaDainian Tomlinson

The New York Jets have looked much worse than anticipated this year on the shoulders of Mark Sanchez, who did a pretty good Tony Romo impression Sunday night. But their match up with the New England Patriots this weekend provides a very good match up for the Jets, who in the past, have played well and beat the high flying offense. The Patriots’ defense is suspect at best, but can produce big plays with their dynamic corners. The run defense, however, gives up big yards. Look for the Jets to keep the ball on the ground, out of Sanchez’s hands, and in the arms of Green and LaDainian Tomlinson.

Nick Novak

That’s right, I’m suggesting a kicker. In reality, kickers don’t matter much. When they put up big numbers, it’s unpredictable, and your energy is best served on other matters – fantasy football and otherwise. Which makes it even more irritating that the first bye week, my kicker is out. Not a big deal, but it’s annoying. So my strategy on the waiver wire to pick up whoever is playing Denver in hopes they nail a 50 yard field goal. This week, that’s San Diego’s Nick Novak. Denver’s Matt Prater would work, too, but he isn’t very accurate.

August 1, 2011

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End of NFL Lockout Brings Flurry of Activity

By: Anson Whaley

At long last (okay, it wasn’t that long), the NFL Lockout is over. With operations just now getting underway, there’s not much time to lose. Teams are signing players at a moment’s notice and the season will be here before you know it. In only about a week’s time, we’ve seen enough developments to fill up several months of normal offseason activity. Here are the top ten … so far.

10. 49ers Hold Steady with Alex Smith – San Francisco was expected to bring back the underachieving Smith and they did just that by re-signing him. To be honest, I don’t understand this move as Smith has progressed at a pace slow enough to make a snail envious over the past five years. But new head coach Jim Harbaugh was determined to give him another shot so the 49ers will again operate with him under center. Smith does know the offense, but knowing and executing in the NFL are two entirely different things.

9. Cam Newton Signs with Panthers – Sure, Newton was expected to sign, but already? With so little time before camp, Newton didn’t have much leverage if he didn’t want to risk alienating fans. The No. 1 overall pick is off to a fine start by reportedly signing the four-year $22 million deal shortly after the lockout’s end.

8. Reggie Bush Dealt to Miami – As if Ricky Williams’ fate weren’t sealed already with the drafting of rookie Daniel Thomas, adding Bush to the roster all but assured he is finished in Miami. The Dolphins picked up the all-purpose back who should complement Ronnie Brown far better than Williams (Note to self: Do not draft Ricky Williams in fantasy football for the third consecutive season).

7. Seahawks Add Sidney Rice – The Seahawks’ passing game left much to be desired last year – and that’s part of the reason Matt Hasselbeck is no longer with the team. But without a 1,000-yard receiver in 2010, Seattle needed to upgrade its wideouts. They not only will be better with the addition of Rice, but also got younger with the 24-year old.

6. Chad Ochocinco Joins Tom Brady in New England – Johnson, er, Ochocinco, comes with a bit of baggage, but the Patriots had success with another so-called misfit in Randy Moss. Who’s to say history won’t repeat itself? New England needed to replace Moss and Ochocinco is plenty capable of a few more big seasons – especially with future Hall of Famer Brady at the helm.

With Ochocinco on board, Brady has a new deep threat target this season.

5. Santonio Holmes stays put in New York – Holmes was the Jets’ biggest priority this offseason and they got him re-signed. They may have missed out on Nnamdi Asomugha, but signing Santonio gives quarterback Mark Sanchez the deep threat he needs to succeed in the Big Apple.

4. Brett Favre is at it. Again – I really shouldn’t be surprised by this anymore, but, well, call me surprised. Favre had more drama last season than Erica Kane in a Sweeps Week episode of All My Children, and after the disastrous year on and off the field that he endured, I figured there was no way he’d be back in the NFL. But with rumors popping up that Favre could be willing to serve as a backup to Michael Vick in Philadelphia, the Twitter universe exploded. In all seriousness, I don’t expect Favre to make good on this. Common sense, for once, has to win out. Right? Right?!?

3. Donovan McNabb Traded to Vikings – Despite a subpar season last year in the Nation’s capital, McNabb will get another shot at starting as the Vikings’ projected first-team quarterback. How much he has left in the NFL tank is anybody’s guess, but playing in a dome out of the elements eight times a year should help the aging star.

2. Kevin Kolb Traded to Cardinals – The Eagles insisted on a high draft pick in exchange for its backup quarterback and got one in a second-rounder from Arizona. In addition, Philly also secured the talents of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Both teams come out winners in this deal and Kolb should help the Cardinals compete immediately in the mind-numbingly awful NFC West.

1. Nnamdi Asomugha Signs with Eagles – Raise your hand if you saw this signing coming. Asomugha was virtually assured of not being a Raider, but Philadelphia wasn’t one of the NFL teams generally discussed as a viable option. But with his addition, the Eagles have instantaneously improved their chances of winning the conference.