June 10, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

NBA Finals tied up 1-1: After a close loss at home on Thursday, the Miami Heat rebounded for a 103-84 blowout win in Game 2 over the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals on Sunday. The Heat still find themselves without home court advantage, but now have a fighting chance to win the series. Another loss would have put the team in an 0-2 hole facing three straight games in San Antonio under the 2-3-2 Finals format. And against the experienced Spurs, that may have been too big a deficit to overcome.

The Heat tied the NBA Finals series at 1-1 with their Game 2 win on Sunday.

French Open concludes: Tennis’ French Open wrapped up with a couple of the game’s biggest stars finishing on top. For the men, Rafael Nadal won a record eighth French Open title, defeating David Ferrer this weekend. Nadal won easily in straight sets and his eighth title at the French is the most of any man at any Grand Slam tournament. On the women’s side, Serena Williams won her 2nd French title, also in straight sets, over the defending champ Maria Sharapova. For Williams, it was her 16th major championship.

Major League Baseball/Biogenesis scandal: Major League Baseball is reportedly trying to suspend a group of 20 players linked to the Biogenesis/PED scandal. The alleged list includes some big names such as Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, and Bartolo Colon. If the suspensions happen, some teams could find themselves in a bind. Players like Nelson Cruz, and Jhonny Peralta are parts of teams (the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers, respectively) in playoff races. Because of that, it will be interesting to see what types of moves that clubs make in advance of any potential suspensions.

Coach Jason Kidd?: The recently retired Jason Kidd doesn’t want to spend a season without basketball. ESPN reports that the former point guard is interested in coaching – specifically, he wants the Brooklyn Nets’ job. A few years ago, that may not have been a half bad idea. But the Nets have a lot invested in this team and if I’m GM Billy King, there’s no way I’m taking a call from a player with no coaching experience in college or the pros.

The ‘Average’ Lebron: Dennis Rodman made headlines again when he said LeBron James would be an average player in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The comments were made when comparing James and Michael Jordan. James may not be as great as Jordan, but average? It’s hard to envision the 6’8” freak of nature as just an average player in any era. Rodman made a good point in that the game may not be as physical as it once was, but James does so much more other than score. He’s a tremendous rebounder and passer and there’s no question he would still be a star in that era … or any other, for that matter.

Marc-Andre Fleury to return as Pens’ starter: The Pittsburgh Penguins, Stanley Cup favorites after, were unceremoniously swept by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals. In the process, starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, was replaced by backup Tomas Vokoun who played well in the series. But head coach Dan Bylsma said afterwards that Fleury is a franchise goalie and will return as the team’s No. 1 starter – and that’s probably the right move. Fleury is only 28 years old and helped the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals appearances only a few years ago. And with two years and $10 million left on his current contract, the Pens have little choice but to at least give him another shot if they are against trading him away.

Tommy Rees chosen as Notre Dame starting QB: Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly recently lost his starting quarterback Everett Golson to an academic-related suspension. As expected, Kelly announced that he will turn to Tommy Rees as the starter in 2013, per mlive.com. That’s no surprise as he’s the most experienced player of the other options, Andrew Hendrix and newcomer Malik Zaire. The Irish are fortunate to have Rees as few teams have two quarterbacks with as much experience as he and Golson. Instead of turning to an inexperienced backup, Notre Dame has Rees, who started nearly every game in 2011 and has played in 33 career games.

Brett Favre takes blame in parting with Packers: Quarterback Brett Favre accepted some of the blame for his ugly divorce from the Green Bay Packers in a recent radio show interview. That’s good news for the two since Favre will always be recognized as a Packer even though he also played briefly with the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets. The Packers will want his participation in team-related events for the rest of his life, and it’d be much better if the two sides can reconcile and get along since Favre has been such a big part of the organization.

September 5, 2012

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2012 NFL Season Preview (Part 1)

By: Joe Williams

The New York Giants begin their title defense tonight when they kickoff the 2012 NFL season against the Dallas Cowboys. That means its time look in my crystal ball and see what the future holds.

Sept. 5

1 p.m.: The New York Jets win the toss and choose to kickoff to the Buffalo Bills.

1:07 p.m.: Mark Sanchez attempts first pass of the season and throws an incompletion.

1:08 p.m.: Jets fans begin chanting for Tim Tebow to replace Mark Sanchez.

There will be plenty of focus on Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets this season.

Sept. 9

Ben Roethlisberger tells reporters that he is “pretty banged up” but going to tough it out against the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football.

The Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings game is delayed for 30 minutes while replacement officials double-check the rule for opening kickoffs.

Cam Newton leads the Carolina Panthers to a controversial last-second win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the officials advise the Panthers to go for the three-point conversion and the win instead of trying for two and overtime. After the game it is discovered that the replacement officials have been studying rulebooks from Vince McMahon’s XFL instead of the NFL. Roger Goodell vows to suspend whoever is behind the mix-up.

Sept. 10

As usual, the San Diego Chargers forget that games count in the regular season and don’t come ready to play in Oakland and lose 32-10 on Monday Night Football.

Sept. 11

San Diego coach Norv Turner, tired of watching his team play terrible in September and great in December, switches the two months on all the team calendars in their facilities.

Sept. 26

A story comes out citing “sources close to Brett Farve” saying the quarterback would consider playing if the right team called.

Sept. 28

A “source close to Brett Farve” is quoted in a report saying that the quarterback “doesn’t think anyone will call but is sitting at home with voodoo dolls of all 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL,” and he “thinks the Cowboys and Texans are on the top of the pile.”

Oct. 3

New Oakland head coach Dennis Allen vows that his team will stop leading the NFL in penalties.

Oct. 4

Roger Goodell calls Dennis Allen to remind him that he is the coach of the Oakland Raiders and “that’s not going to happen.”

Oct. 7

The San Diego Chargers win at New Orleans to improve to 4-1.

Oct. 11

Ben Roethlisberger tells reporters that he is “in pain” but will play through it against the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night football on the NFL Network.

Oct. 15

Peyton Manning throws his 13th touchdown pass of the season for the Broncos surpassing the 12 that Tim Tebow threw in 2011.

Oct. 21

The New York Jets fall to 2-5 after getting thrashed 42-10 in New England and Jets owner Woody Johnson says Tebow time is coming soon.

The Cleveland Browns defeat Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, becoming the last team in the league to secure a win.

Ben Roethlisberger tells reporters that he “has multiple injuries” but will suit up against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday Night Football.

Oct. 28

The Carolina Panthers trade DeAngelo Williams to the Detroit Lions for a 2013 draft pick.

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.

July 20, 2011

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Top NFL Free Agents

By: Rick Jarrell

After news broke last week the NFL owners and players were closing in on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, I honestly was not that excited. Part of me cares more about the NBA, but part of me can’t believe it until it is set in stone. Rumors are rumors for a reason, and while they entertain us, without potential action, it’s pointless. So this spring and summer, usually dominated by NFL and NBA rumors and training camp news, has been extremely boring for sports fans. The typical sports fan doesn’t want to diagnose the various legal matters involved in CBA negotiations.

Despite my skepticism that a deal is actually in place, I’ve begun to give in to the rumor mill a little bit, as it seems a safe bet something will be worked out soon. So here we go, with the top NFL free agents to keep an eye on.

Note: I’m excluding players that are technically NFL free agents, like Peyton Manning and Michael Vick, who we’re 99% sure they will resign with their current teams.

Deangelo Williams

Williams has been a top 10 running back the past few years, despite splitting carries with Desaun Foster and Jonathon Stewart, respectively. The two headed ground attack worked well initially for the Carolina Panthers, but the team has moved into a rebuilding stage. Williams will likely bolt for a playoff contender, where he can potentially be a feature back. He missed 10 games last year, and backs tend to break down as their careers progress, but he’s still arguably the top player available.

Nnamdi Asomugha

Asomugha’s free agency is strange, to say the least. He signed a huge contract with the Oakland Raiders, but after a contractual loop hole, he was able to opt out of his contract. Another tough luck incident for Raider Nation will likely be good luck for Asomugha and whoever signs him. His numbers were down last year, but he still made his fourth Pro Bowl because teams literally stopped throwing in his direction (I refer to this as the Champ Bailey Syndrome, who’s also a free agent). We’ve seen young talented cornerbacks switch teams only to fall out of the limelight, but I don’t expect Asomugha to be anything less than stellar. Every team could use another corner in this pass happy league, we’ll just have to see who wants him enough and who has room under the new salary cap and CBA stipulations.

Sidney Rice

Before last year, I envisioned Sidney Rice as a Viking for life. Not sure why, he just seemed like a good fit there, especially due to his connection with Brett Favre. One year later, we find that Favre is mortal, the quarterback situation is undetermined, and Minnesota may not be a long term home for the team. Rice has every reason to leave for a team that has the opposite of all that.

Randy Moss

Moss is not the player he used to be. No one can argue against that. But underestimating his abilities would be nieve. During the prime of his career, he was hands down the best receiver in the league – and he had not only one peak in Minnesota, but another in New England. Would you be surprised if he was able to resurrect himself for one last run? A lot of teams need a big play receivers – someone will take a chance. The best fit would be with a respected, veteran coach able to get Moss to dedicate himself to football again.

July 19, 2011

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8 Very Improbable NFL Playoff Teams

By: Joe Williams

It is looking like the NFL lockout is finally about to end. Now we can get back to the hope and excitement a new season brings. Unless, of course, you are a fan of a perennial cellar dweller. In every sport there are the haves and the have-nots. Even in the NFL, the league most designed to have parity, some teams have no shot to make the playoffs. Here’s a team from each division that no matter what happens in free agency or by trade in the next few weeks, will be unlikey to play in the NFL playoffs. If you are a fan of these teams you may want to begin planning your 2012 draft party.

Buffalo Bills - AFC EAST

This team has two major problems. The Patriots and the Jets. With two of the top teams in the league in their division, Buffalo is likely to lose at least three of those games. They would have to go at least 9-4 through the rest of the schedule to have any kind of chance. The NFL playoffs are not going to happen for a team without an obvious franchise quarterback.

Cincinnati Bengals – AFC NORTH

If you look up dysfunctional in the dictionary, you will see a picture of the Bengals. Their quarterback says he would rather retire than play on this team. The top wide receiver is feuding with the head coach. The running back just got arrested. Does this sound like a team ready to make an NFL playoff run?

 

Tennessee Titans – AFC SOUTH

The Titans are moving on from Vince Young and Jeff Fisher. They got their quarterback of the future in the draft and a new head coach. Tennessee could be on the rebound, but with lockout shortened preseason preparations, a team with a new coach and new quarterback is at a major disadvantage.

 Denver Broncos – AFC WEST

Here’s another team hurt by the lockout because they have a new head coach. John Fox has turned around a bad team before but this job is going to take more than one season. His biggest task is going to be figuring out what to do at quarterback. Do they stick with Kyle Orton? Do they look to the future and hope that the one smart move Josh McDaniels made was drafting Tim Tebow? Or do they put Brady Quinn behind center and play for the top pick in the draft? 

Washington Redskins – NFC EAST

Mike Shanahan has been one of the top coaches in the league, but many are starting to wonder what he is doing in Washington. Why trade for McNabb to play quarterback and continually pull him out for Rex Grossman? Now it looks like he’s going with John Beck. If they were in one of the West divisions, I’d give this team a shot. But they are in the toughest division in football.

Minnesota Vikings – NFC NORTH

If I had been writing this every year for the last decade, this would be the first time I would have said anyone other than Detroit. The Vikings have gone backwards since being one stupid Brett Favre play away from the Super Bowl. They have a quarterback of the future, but this division looks much tougher than just a year ago.

Carolina Panthers - NFC SOUTH

Teams don’t go from the number one pick in the draft to the NFL playoffs. Especially with a rookie head coach. They could have used more training camp to get Cam Newton going in their system. They have a bright future if he proves he was worthy of being the top pick in the draft. That bright future isn’t 2011.

San Fransisco 49ers – NFC WEST

This division is a real crapshoot but I’ve got to pick someone. They have a rookie head coach. Do we know who is going to play quarterback? There are questions to be answered but if any team on this list is going to make me look bad, it’s the 49ers.