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.

December 11, 2012

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

There are three weeks left in the NFL regular season and we know who four of the 12 playoff teams will be.

15 teams are still in the hunt for the other eight spots, leaving 13 teams that should already be looking to 2013. Where does your team sit?

Tom Brady and New England are the new #1 in the NFL Power Rankings.

1 New England Patriots (10-3)Brady and Belichick are at it again. New England is going to be scary in January and probably February.

2 Atlanta Falcons (11-2) — Oops. The Falcons put it on cruise control a bit early. They still need at least one more win to lock down the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

3 San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1) — You’ve got to feel for Alex Smith. Especially with a potential Super Bowl preview coming up Sunday night in New England.

4 Houston Texans (11-2) — Sunday’s game against the Colts just got a whole lot bigger. One more loss and Houston could have a big problem.

5 Denver Broncos (10-3) Manning is making a strong case for MVP. A win in Baltimore could get the Broncos a first round bye.

6 Baltimore Ravens (9-4) — Their last four games have been decided by three points. This week is a must-win if the Ravens are going to have a first-round playoff bye.

7 Green Bay Packers (9-4) – The Packers are now alone in first place in the NFC North and winning in Chicago on Sunday would give them another division title.

8 Seattle Seahawks (8-5) – Did Pete Carroll have a flashback to his USC days and think he needed to run up the score to gain style points?

9 New York Giants (8-5) – There is no margin for error in the NFC East and the Giants must go to Atlanta and Baltimore in the next two weeks. The defending champs could miss the post season.

10 Chicago Bears (8-5)Jay Cutler needs to get healthy quick and have a big game on Sunday or the Bears will be watching the playoffs on TV.

11 Dallas Cowboys (7-6)Pittsburgh comes to town this week in a meeting of two teams desperately needing a win. Dez Bryant could be out with a broken finger.

12 Indianapolis Colts (9-4) – Is this all Andrew Luck? This team was horrendous last season.

13 Washington Redskins (7-6) – The Skins are 4-0 since their bye week and have stormed back into the NFC East race. The question is whether RGIII can be RGIII with an injured knee.

14 Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) – Beat the Eagles, Steelers and Ravens and you’re in the playoffs. That’s a tall order.

15 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6) – Do they want to make the playoffs? Didn’t look like it when they were down 27-3 to a bad San Diego team.

16 Minnesota Vikings (7-6) – That was a big win over the Bears. The Vikings need another win this week at St. Louis because they finish with Houston and Green Bay.

17 St. Louis Rams (6-6-1) – A three-game winning streak for the first time since 2006 has the Rams in playoff contention. Three more wins may not be enough though.

18 New York Jets (6-7) – The Jets were left for dead on Thanksgiving, but two straight wins has them in the hunt with three winnable games remaining.

19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) – Allowing two touchdowns in the last four minutes to lose against the Eagles is going to haunt the Bucs while they are watching the playoffs at home.

20 New Orleans Saints (5-8) – It was really just a matter of time in New Orleans. Not even Drew Brees can overcome the issues they have had.

21 Detroit Lions (4-9) – There is too much talent on this team to be 4-9. The Lions just can’t find a way to win. Something’s missing.

22 Carolina Panthers (4-9) – Where has that Panther team been all season? It’s a little late to be showing up for the party.

23 Tennessee Titans (4-9) – The Titans are just the latest fourth quarter victim of Andrew Luck. I’m sure they are looking forward to another decade of that.

24 Miami Dolphins (5-8) – The Dolphins competed against the Patriots and 49ers in the last two weeks, but it is clear they are not on that level.

25 Buffalo Bills (5-8) – The defense has improved but it has been a disappointing season in Buffalo.

26 Cleveland Browns (5-8) – The Browns are 5-3 in their last eight and still mathematically alive in the playoff hunt? Who knew?

27 Arizona Cardinals (4-9) – U.G.L.Y. Cardinals got no alibi. From 4-0 to 4-12? Yikes.

28 San Diego Chargers (5-8) – Big changes coming in San Diego for 2013. Nobody is safe.

29 Philadelphia Eagles (4-9) – Nick Foles could be the starter in 2013 after that come-from-behind win against the Bucs, but Philly fans are probably complaining that he cost them a higher draft pick.

30 Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) – Not much to be positive about in Jacksonville right now. At least the weather is nice.

31 Oakland Raiders (3-10) – There was hope when Oakland landed Carson Palmer, but some things never change. The Raiders losing seems to be one of them.

32 Kansas City Chiefs (2-11) – The Chiefs lead the race for the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft…in large part because they are -22 in the turnover battle.

November 26, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Jack Taylor goes off – Jack Taylor, a Division III guard playing for Grinnell College scored an NCAA record 138 points in a game. He surpassed Bevo Francis’ mark of 113 set in 1954 in doing so. Taylor’s performance awed NBA All-Stars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and LBJ even said he was interested in getting a tape from the game. Sure, Taylor hoisted up 71 three-pointers and made only 27 (good for a modest 38% if you don’t have an abacus handy), but overall, he made nearly half his shots, going 52-108. That’s quite a few attempts, but the mere fact that Taylor could have thrown up that many in the course of a game without getting too tired, still makes it a worthy accomplishment.

How many wins will Belichick get to with Brady at the helm?

Bill Belichick wins No. 200New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick made news when the Patriots crushed the Jets 49-19 on Thanksgiving night. Lost a bit in the headlines of the 30-point rout is that Belichick won his 200th game. Belichick became only the eighth coach in NFL history with that many wins and as long as Tom Brady’s still around playing pitch and catch with wideouts (Brady, by the way, threw for 323 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions), he’s probably got plenty more in the tank if he wants to keep going.

Maryland and Rutgers are Big 10 bound – The ACC and Big East got a bit weaker with Maryland and Rutgers officially announcing they will head to the Big 10 (aka B1G) this week. Both football programs have been up and down, but each brings something valuable to their new conference. Maryland brings the DC market along with a successful basketball program while Rutgers adds the heavily desired New York/New Jersey market. The ACC is already on the move, reportedly interested in Big East teams Connecticut and Louisville to replace the Terrapins as of last week, which begs the question – with Virginia Tech, Miami, Boston College, Pitt, and Syracuse already in the fold, doesn’t the new ACC look a lot like the old Big East?

Michael Finley wants to return – Michael Finley, a former NBA All-Star, is hoping to return to the league, according to ESPN. Finley was planning to work as an executive in the NBA, but after playing in pickup games over the summer, is hoping some team will give him a look. At 39, he’s young enough that a return could be possible, but his production shrunk considerably over the last season of his career. Finley only averaged 15 minutes a game playing in 45 games for the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics, scoring about four points a game. He could be a quality reserve late in the year for a playoff team in need of some depth, but don’t look for him to be a significant contributor.

Melky Cabrera signs with Blue JaysMelky Cabrera inked a two-year $16 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays in one of the first big off-season splashes. Cabrera’s signing is significant because it comes on the heels of a 50-game suspension for testosterone. Last season, he was leading the National League in batting average before the suspension and he removed himself of consideration after the positive test result. The question will be, of course, if Cabrera can repeat his stellar 2012 season. He was a career .284 hitter and before last year, had only hit greater than .300 once when he batted .305 in 2011. Because of the dramatic improvement, there will be plenty of questions surrounding him in 2013 – none greater, perhaps, than from Blue Jays’ fans who will question his signing if he gets off to a slow start.

NHL cancels more games – The National Hockey League made a minor splash when it announced games through the middle of December (including January’s All-Star game) would be canceled due to the continuation of the lockout. There’s still a chance for a season, but the key thing of note is that the two sides don’t even appear to be all that close to a reconciliation. There’s still time for the players and owners to come to an agreement in time for a partial season, but it’s not looking good right now.

July 26, 2012

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Fantasy Football Rankings: QB

By: Junior

With NFL Fantasy Football drafts right around the corner, we will take a look at the top 5 players at each position. Depending on what type of league you are in, theses evaluations will vary, but the general ranking will be similar. Our first installment will focus on the quarterbacks. Having a Top 5 quarterback can take a lot of pressure off of other positions. Without one, you will need big contributions from multiple other players to stay alive.

Aaron Rodgers is this season's consensus #1 Fantasy Football QB.

1. Aaron Rodgers

I don’t think you will find a rankings list that doesn’t have the Green Bay QB at the top of it. Aaron Rodgers showed last season why he can single-handedly carry a fantasy team. Over 4,500 yards passing and 45 touchdowns through the air doesn’t leave much to complain about. However, the Packers will have a new offensive coordinator this season, so there will be a little change from last year. The Packers still don’t have much of a running game, though, which should give Rodgers plenty of attempts to air it out for points.

2. Tom Brady

Rob Gronkowski. Wes Welker. Aaron Hernandez. Deion Branch. With those weapons last year Tom Brady threw for over 5,000 yards and 39 touchdowns. Now the Patriots add Brandon Lloyd to the mix, giving Brady even more targets to work with. Just like Rodgers, the Patriots don’t have a true running game and let Brady use short throws to move the ball. Tom Brady has proven year in and year out to be a solid, reliable quarterback that will produce great fantasy numbers.

3. Drew Brees

A lot of people are dropping Brees in their rankings because of all of the trouble the New Orleans Saints have gone through this off-season. As the wise Will Ferrell once said “Good! More for me and you!”. Sure, the loss of Sean Payton is a blow to the team, but the offense is back almost fully intact and Brees can run this offense with or without Payton. I compare it to the season Peyton Manning had after Tony Dungy left the Colts. Sure, you would have preferred Dungy on the sideline, but you knew Manning was still going to score points. I feel the same way about Brees.

4. Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford exploded last season and was likely a steal for many fantasy owners due to his past injuries. That won’t be the case this season. Stafford will be almost as hot a commodity as his #1 target Calvin Johnson. I have Stafford 4th because while I expect another great season from him, it will be hard for him to have another 5,000 yard season. Add the fact that the Lions hope to have a better running game with the health of Mikel Leshoure and Stafford might not air it out quite as often as last season.

5. Cam Newton

If you would have told me last year that Cam Newton would have 4,000 yards passing I would have laughed. Hard. Cam proved a lot of doubters wrong and if he can repeat last season’s success he will be a great addition for a fantasy team. Anytime you have a true duel-threat quarterback in fantasy, the points can really add up. Include that rushing touchdowns in the red-zone are no longer just for the team’s running back, and you can pick up some serious points. You just have to be sure Cam will avoid the “sophomore slump”.