February 3, 2014

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Seahawks Crush Broncos in Super Bowl: Quick, raise your hand if you saw that coming. Seattle winning the game wasn’t a huge surprise, but their 43-8 dominant performance over Denver was a shocker. The Broncos bumbled their way to a loss with four fumbles seemingly unable to do anything right and Seattle’s defense was the clear MVP. After a record-setting year, Peyton Manning will again wear the label of big game loser with a dud of a performance that included some errant throws, two interceptions, and a fumble. The game wasn’t all on Manning, but he’ll get the brunt of the blame for the team scoring a meager eight points after a record-setting season.

Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl Champions

The Seahawks beat the Broncos 43-8 to become Super Bowl 48 Champions.

Psychics Predict Super Bowl: Not only psychics … psychic manatees. Ah, that makes a lot more sense.

Broncos vs. Seahawks … for Real!: Continuing the Super Bowl theme, Deadspin asks a very important question: Who would win a game between real broncos and real hawks?

David Stern Steps Down as NBA Commissioner: After 30 years as NBA Commissioner, David Stern is stepping down from his post as Deputy Adam Silver has been promoted to the job. Some players weren’t always fond of Stern using his authority to, at times, make unpopular decisions. However, what can’t be denied is the significant impact he leaves on the game. Under Stern, and with the backing of superstars such as Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, the NBA took a significant step forward in the late 1980s. The league started promoting their individual stars much more and has had an amazing run under his watch. Stern leaves the sport in excellent shape, poised for more international growth as more and more players in different countries are playing while their fans are scooping up merchandise and watching games. Some will argue that the NBA doesn’t have the great personalities it once did, but in Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and other young stars, the league has a slew of players ready to move the game forward.

Lance Berkman Retires: Beaten down by injuries, Astros first baseman Lance Berkman announced his retirement from baseball last week. Berkman was a former six-time All-Star and also finished in the top five in MVP voting four times. Playing mostly with the Houston Astros, he hit 366 career home runs while batting .293. At 37, he could have potentially played a bit more, but the first baseman has battled injuries over the past two years, only playing a total of 105 games over that time. Berkman also won a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011 – the same season in which he was named the National League’s Comeback Player of the Year.

Michael Young Retires: Also in retirement news, longtime infielder Michael Young announced he was done last week as well. Young was one of the sturdiest players of all time, never once landing on the disabled list in a career that spanned 14 seasons. Young, who played most of his career with the Texas Rangers, was also one of the top versatile infielders of his generation. Other infielders have played second, third, and shortstop as he did, but Young was one of the best at it. He had more power than most such players, slugging 185 home runs over his career. He also was a seven-time All-Star covering two positions, when he played primarily as a shortstop and third baseman. Young also was an All-Star Game MVP, won a batting title, and was awarded a Gold Glove as a shortstop. Few utility infielders had the type of success that he did.

Andrew Bynum Signs with Pacers: Oft-troubled center Andrew Bynum signed to play with the Indiana Pacers the rest of the season. Bynum has never been the same since leaving Los Angeles as part of the Dwight Howard trade. He suffered injury woes to his knees that never even allowed him to play for Philadelphia in 2012-13, then hobbled his way through 24 games with Cleveland before they traded him to the Chicago Bulls … who promptly released him to save salary costs. Based on all of that and the drama he brings, the move reeks of foolishness for a team competing to win a title. But if healthy, he’ll be a fine backup for Roy Hibbert. That, of course, is a Bynum-sized ‘if’.

Awkward High Five Gif: 3…2…1…Go!

Centers Selected among All-Star Game Reserves: NBA centers Dwight Howard and Roy Hibbert were left off of the All-Star Game starting lineups in their respective conferences, but were two of the bench players chosen, among others. The NBA continues to make a mockery of its midseason classic by not making a center mandatory for inclusion on the starting team. The center position is deemphasized by some teams and many consider today’s game more guard-oriented. However, it makes little sense to declare an All-Star roster as essentially the best ‘team’ in a particular conference while leaving out one of the primary positions. After all, can you imagine an MLB All-Star team without a starting pitcher or a Pro Bowl squad without a quarterback?

NBA Fans Drop Ball … Again: This seems to be a regular routine, but fans again made a supreme gaffe in selecting Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant as an All-Star game starter. Bryant has played only six games, and not all that well, by the way. The future Hall of Famer struggled with his shot and averaged nearly six turnovers per contest in his few games this year in between injuries. Despite that (and the fact that Bryant won’t likely be ready to play by then, anyway), fans saw fit to vote for the superstar as a starter. I’ve always been for fan involvement, but when injured players who aren’t even fit to play in the game are selected, it makes it difficult to justify that fans should continue to have the privilege to vote. On some level, the vote is about fans getting to see who they want to play. On the other hand, though, players can even have incentives about being voted as an All-Star built into their contract. It isn’t exactly fair to take any financial reward or even just the satisfaction of starting an All-Star game from deserving players.

October 18, 2013

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Manning vs. Luck: Game of the Decade?

By: Matt Bowen

The day of reckoning is upon us—Peyton Manning makes his return to Indianapolis on Oct. 20 to face-off against his successor, Andrew Luck.

After being drafted as his successor, Andrew Luck will always be linked to Peyton Manning.

When the Denver Broncos take the field against the Colts on Sunday it will be the game of the decade. TV ratings will prove this thought. Not only is Manning coming back to Indy for the first time since being left out in the pasture, both teams are pretty good. The 6-0 Broncos, led by Manning seem to be Super Bowl bound. Meanwhile, the Luck-led Colts are 4-2 and look to contend for a playoff position for the second time in as many years.

Both Manning and Luck are calmly downplaying the situation, as Manning will be honored before the game for his time spent in Indianapolis. All he did was resurrect the once futile franchise. After 14 years, a Super Bowl victory and 54,828 passing yards in Indy, he was released in 2012 after having multiple neck surgeries. Keep in mind that he missed the entire 2011 season and his career was in jeopardy. The franchise let him go after tanking that season in order to obtain the No. 1 draft selection and the most hyped college quarterback since Manning himself.

Luck was it and was taken by Indianapolis at the top spot. Colts fans may still hold a grudge against the team for doing so, but replacing Manning with Luck is something 31 other NFL organizations would love to do.

The comparisons between the two quarterbacks are remarkable:

Both had NFL dad’s that played the position themselves—Archie Manning spent many years with the New Orleans Saints, Oliver Luck with the Houston Oilers. Both Peyton and Andrew have been surrounded by football their entire live.

Here’s one that probably irks both competitive souls to this day—both Manning and Luck were heavy Heisman favorites heading into their senior seasons but finished a close second. Manning, a Tennessee Volunteer lost to Charles Woodson of Michigan in 1997. Luck, a Stanford Cardinal lost to Robert Griffin III of Baylor in 2011.

The obvious one—both went No. 1 to the Colts in their respected NFL drafts.

They may be the two most intelligent quarterbacks to ever call a game. What Manning does at the line of scrimmage is a thing of beauty and don’t think that Luck doesn’t learn from the best.

Right now, Manning looks like he’ll end up as the greatest to ever play the game, while Luck is only a decade or so behind him. It may be hard to compare numbers now, but Luck did finish his rookie campaign with the most passing yards in history with 4,374. Keep in mind that he did this while only throwing 54.1 percent. He also threw the ball an average of 39.1 times per game in 2012. Through six games in 2013, Luck has only averaged 31 attempts per. His completion percentage is at 61.8 and his game is only growing. While his numbers may not mirror his rookie year, the fact that his percentage is swelling is a great sign for the future. In a game of numbers, efficiency will always win.

Manning jumped from 56.7 to 62.1 in completion percentage in his second season and currently sits at 65.5 for his career. Expect Luck to reach the 65 percent mark before he calls it quits.

Sunday’s matchup is the Game of the Year thus far. Actually, it’s the game of the decade. Manning may be downplaying his return, but deep down all fans know that he wants to set career highs in all categories.

Don’t write-off Luck and the Colts quite yet. Nobody thought they would beat the Seattle Seahawks in Week 5 at home, but they did. If Luck leads his team to victory the football world may be turned upside down while the hype machine surrounding Luck will be turned up to 11.

Regardless of which team wins, expect both men to shine. Come Sunday, take the time and witness something special. Only when they meet again in the playoffs will we see something so pure.

May 1, 2013

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2010 NFL Draft Winners

By: Joe Williams

It’s been nearly a week since Mr. Irrelevant was selected in the NFL Draft. That’s plenty of time to figure out which teams improved and which ones blew it. But that seems like a lot of work and judging by last week’s mock draft, I could be wrong about these picks. I’ll take the easy road again this year and see who the winners were in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Eric Berry lead a great Draft class for the Chiefs in 2010.

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle hit five of its first six picks and all five of those players are now starters on one of the best and youngest teams in the league. The Seahawks added Russell Okung at left tackle, Earl Thomas at free safety, Golden Tate at wide receiver, Walter Thurmond at cornerback and Kam Chancellor at strong safety. They also picked up Anthony McCoy who is still on the roster as a backup tight end.

San Francisco 49ers

It should be no surprise that one of last year’s Super Bowl participants makes this list. In the 2010 draft the 49ers picked up Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati who are starters on the offensive line. Navorro Bowman starts at linebacker on one of the best D’s in the league and Anthony Dixon is still on the team playing fullback.

New England Patriots

In this draft the Patriots picked up six players currently on the roster and transformed Tom Brady’s offense from very good to very scary with the addition of two pass catching tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Punter Zoltan Mesko and defenders Devin McCourty, Brandon Spikes and Brandon Deaderick were also part of this draft.

Kansas City Chiefs

The 2-14 Chiefs are on this list too? Yep. Eric Berry (strong safety), Dexter McCluster (receiver), Javier Arenas (cornerback), Jon Asamoah (guard) and Tony Moeaki (tight end) is a pretty strong draft class. The Chiefs have talent, but have been plagued with injuries and poor quarterback play.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are consistently one of the best drafting teams in the league and 2010 was no exception.

Maurkice Pouncey, Emmanuel Sanders, Jonathan Dwyer and Antonio Brown are all contributors on offense and Jason Worilds and Stevenson Sylvester provide depth on defense.

Denver Broncos

This draft marked the beginning and the end in Denver. It was the beginning of putting together one of the best teams in the league today, but it also was one of the biggest nails in the coaching coffin of Josh McDaniels. He drafted Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker who are now part of the best receiving trio (with Wes Welker) in the league. Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton and Eric Olsen have all contributed on the offensive line. But of course the story of this draft is the trade up to pick Tim Tebow. It was a controversial pick and ultimately was a big part of McDaniels getting fired. Once McDaniels was gone, the Broncos had one magical season with Tebow before dumping him on the Jets and signing Peyton Manning.

St Louis Rams

The jury is still out on this one. They took Sam Bradford with the first pick in the draft and he has been a decent NFL quarterback. But it has been a couple years now and we will see if Bradford can take the next step and solidify himself as the Rams starter for the next 10 years of if the Rams start looking for the next guy to take his spot.

January 4, 2013

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Why the Seattle Seahawks Are The NFL’s Most Dangerous Playoff Team

By: Matt Bowen

Coming into the 2012 NFL season the Seattle Seahawks were the league’s most puzzling team. Now, just days away from the playoffs, the Seahawks are the NFL’s most dangerous team.

Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks are taking a lot of momentum into the playoffs.

Last offseason the organization brought in quarterback Matt Flynn to be the starter, a move that was promising but unproven. Bringing in a career backup quarterback to become the franchise cornerstone hasn’t had positive results of late in the NFL.

Draft day brought them a first-round pick in defensive end Bruce Irvin from West Virginia that caused Twitter to explode with laughter. The Seahawks got the last laugh as Irvin tallied eight sacks in his rookie campaign. His speed off the edge gives every team a dynamic they must have to be considered a winner.

Heading into training camp, the team had a three-way duel for the starting quarterback with incumbent Tarvaris Jackson, the aforementioned Flynn and surprise rookie quarterback Russell Wilson from Wisconsin. Jackson was traded before the season even began and Flynn has only thrown nine passes all season long. It was Wilson who won the job outright and has made the most of his opportunity.

In a season that was touted as the best quarterback class to ever enter the NFL, Wilson is a major reason why. Sure, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and Washington Redskins shot caller Robert Griffin III went Nos. 1 and 2 in the 2012 NFL draft, but it was Wilson who tied Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning for touchdown tosses by a rookie with 26.

So, why is Wilson so good?

Because he doesn’t do much wrong, he makes smart plays and doesn’t try to be a hero on every snap. One would say he’s wise beyond his years. In comparison to Manning’s rookie season, Wilson has thrown just 10 interceptions all season while Manning chucked up a whopping 28.

Wilson’s mobility also helped in his success this season, knowing when to tuck-and-run while having the football IQ of when to get down and live to see another day. His solid 5.2 yards/carry on 94 runs with four touchdowns proves to be a viable weapon in his arsenal.

He doesn’t wow all the time, but his calm demeanor in the face of adversity is to be respected. Truth is he does just about everything right. His quarterback rating of an even 100 is evidence of this, which was good for fourth-best in the league this season behind Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, Manning and Griffin III.

Nothing helps a rookie like a proven, tough-as-nails veteran running back like Marshawn Lynch. “Beast Mode” is his nickname and he fits the bill. He finished with 1,590 rushing yards this season and has 2,794 in his first two full seasons in Seattle. Thanks to the balance that Lynch brings to the offense it must be a nightmare for opposing coaches to try to create a game plan to stop the Seahawks.

Not to be overlooked, the team has arguably the loudest fans in the league and their 8-0 record at home this season gives weight to this debate. The “12th Man” is impressive on a weekly basis.

Another reason why the Seahawks are so fierce is their ferocious defense. Yes, the team is currently riding a five-game win streak in which they’ve scored 193 points, but the defense has set the tone in every game and even contributed with four touchdowns during the streak.

The core-four members of the secondary, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner have appropriately been dubbed the “Legion of Boom.” They wreak havoc on a play-by-play basis and are out to prove that they are the best in the entire league.

They will get their chance to show the football world just that when they travel to the nation’s capital to face the Washington Redskins on January 6, 2013 as the anchor game on Wild Card Weekend. This is a game of things to come for the NFL. This game guarantees to be a great matchup as these teams will be two of the best for years to come.

Wilson vs. RG3, Lynch vs. Redskins rookie running back Alfred Morris, who set the all-time franchise record with 1,613 rushing yards this season, what more could fans ask for?

Just remember, the Seahawks are built to win now.

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.