June 5, 2013

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NFL Talk

By: Matt Bowen

Face it—it’s never too soon to talk about the NFL. The thoughts of the upcoming 2013 NFL season are starting to invade NFL fanatics’ minds. Yes, we’re only a few days into June, but it’s been three months since Super Bowl XLVII. That means we have exactly three months to go until the 2013 season kicks off on September 5. Some may say that we’re in the doldrums of the offseason, but this is just the beginning. It only gets better from here.

With that being said, let’s talk football.

Here are the top five headlines weighing on everyone’s mind this offseason:

Will RG3 Be RG3?

After his injury last season, will RG3 be the same player this year?

Any true NFL fan is currently holding their breath hoping that Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III will return healthy. The knee injury he suffered in the playoffs was gruesome to watch. The nausea that ensued when reality and doubt set in still exist today.

He’s the future—a prototype never before seen on an NFL field—the complete package.

Will he be okay?

Something tells me that he’ll be just fine—RG3 is a remarkable athlete.

Let’s hope he’s “ready for some football” on September 9 vs. the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football.

Can the Indianapolis Colts Return to the Playoffs?

The Indianapolis Colts took the league by storm last year when they defied the odds and made the playoffs. Then rookie quarterback Andrew Luck proved to be the truth, but can he avoid the sophomore slump?

Having tasted winning in 2012, the Colts grew leaps and bounds and impressed all as they won games they probably shouldn’t have. One adjustment this is season will be to new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. Former OC Bruce Arians is now head coach for the Arizona Cardinals. All Luck did under the tutelage of Arians in 2012 is set a rookie record with 4,374 passing yards.

Luck has the intelligence to absorb a new system quickly. The only question that remains is will the Colts return to the playoffs?

Will Wes Welker be the “It” Factor for the Denver Broncos?

The Denver Broncos were seconds away from the AFC Championship game last season before a Baltimore Ravens bomb sent them packing.

After shaking off the rust, quarterback Peyton Manning looked like Peyton Manning by season’s end. All the Broncos needed heading into the offseason is some added offense and there was no better find than Wes Welker.

Will Welker be the difference? Are the Broncos now “locks” for a Super Bowl appearance? Along with Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, can the Broncos have three 1000-plus yard receivers?

Something tells me Manning and Welker are out for revenge. Watch out!

How Good Will the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens Play?

The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens look to avoid the Super Bowl hangover this season.

The Ravens took the league’s top prize last season and without a doubt will look different this season. Out are Anqaun Boldin (49ers), Ed Reed (Houston Texans) and Ray Lewis (retired)— and Ravens fans have to be wondering what their team will be like without three of their best. The Ravens still have a solid squad, but are they contenders?

The 49ers face the most pressure of any team this season. Having been so close the ultimate prize, can they get over the hump this season? Colin Kaepernick is now the man and expectations have never been higher. If there’s one team that’s built to win it all it’s the Niners, but will they do it?

Numerous Other Questions Scattered on Our Minds:

Can the Cincinnati Bengals win a playoff game?

Will Adrian Peterson eclipse 2,000-plus yards again?

Will Mike Wallace be the boost the Miami Dolphins need?

Can Calvin Johnson break his own single-season receiving record of 1,964 yards?

Will the Pittsburgh Steelers make the playoffs?

Are the New England Patriots at the end of an era?

Is this the year for the Atlanta Falcons?

What will unfold for the New York Jets?

Are the Seattle Seahawks the NFL’s best team?

January 30, 2013

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2013 Off To A Wild Start

By: Joe Williams

Is it just me or has this been one of the craziest months is sports, both on and off the field? At the top of the list of course is the story about Manti Te’o’s girlfriend and the hoax behind it. Every day there is a new unbelievable twist to this story. I’m not even going to try to comment. But it’s certainly not the only wacky thing we’ve seen recently…

More drama in New York

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan was spotted in the Bahamas with a tattoo on his right arm of his wife’s likeness wearing only a Mark Sanchez jersey. Does this explain why Ryan stuck with Sanchez as his quarterback for so long instead of putting in Tim Tebow?

The Jets were a major story throughout 2012. Now, it has continued into 2013.

Alabama wins BCS Title

The Crimson Tide winning another title is one of the few things that doesn’t seem out of the ordinary in 2013. But it’s not very often when the most talked about play of a title game comes with a team up by 35 points. It’s even more unusual for that play to be a shoving match between the game-winning quarterback and center (A.J. McCarron and Barrett Jones). One more oddity about this game….the biggest star to emerge was not even on the field. McCarron’s girlfriend, Katherine Webb has become the talk of the game after some comments we made by commentator Brent Musberger. She will now be in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and will be covering the Super Bowl for Inside Edition.

Carmelo Anthony tries to fight Kevin Garnett

An on the court exchange of trash talk went too far when Kevin Garnett allegedly told Carmelo Anthony that his wife tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios. Anthony then tried to confront KG after the game as the teams were leaving the arena.

Tiger tops tee shot, misses cut

It was not a good start to 2013 for Tiger Woods. In his first tournament in Abu Dhabi, he not only topped a tee shot with his driver, but he was also penalized two shots for taking an illegal drop and ended up missing the cut by one shot. (He has since redeemed himself by easily winning the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.)

Miracle in Atlanta

After blowing a 20-0 halftime lead, the Falcons moved down the field in just two plays to kick the game-winning field goal in their divisional playoff game against Seattle.

Stunning finish in Denver

The Broncos’ defense committed a cardinal sin by letting Jacoby Jones get behind everybody and Joe Flacco found him for a 70-yard game-tying touchdown with just 31 seconds left. The Ravens would eventually win the game 38-35 in the second overtime period.

John Fox confuses Peyton Manning for Tim Tebow

Denver had the ball on its own 20 with 36 seconds on the clock and three timeouts to use before halftime. Fox calls for a handoff to the fullback and a run to the locker room. Then, leading 35-28 with 2:23 left in the game and one first down away from a win, Fox decides to run the ball three times and punt. And after Baltimore tied the game, the Broncos had the ball on their 20-yard-line with 31 seconds left and two timeouts and Fox goes for the trifecta and calls for a kneel down and overtime. He probably is still in the habit of doing this after all the pathetic offensive possessions Tim Tebow gave him last season, but aren’t situations like these the reason you give $96 million to one of the top quarterbacks of all time?

Patriots lose; wife goes off

Following in the footsteps of Tom Brady’s wife Gisele after the Patriots Super Bowl loss in 2012, Wes Welker’s wife lashed out on Facebook against Ray Lewis after the Ravens AFC title game win over the Patriots. And as if that wasn’t enough, Hulk Hogan’s former wife Linda has got Lewis’ back and come out against Mrs. Welker.

Biggest interviews in sports go to Oprah and Katie Couric

Lance Armstrong finally came clean (maybe) on the Oprah show and admitted that he used PED’s. Couric scored the first interview with Manti Te’o where he explained the situation with his girlfriend to be a hoax.

Really NFL?

49ers running back Frank Gore was fined $10,500 for having his socks too low, which is completely ridiculous, but looks even worse when the NFL later fined Patriots quarterback Tom Brady $10,000 for trying to kick Ed Reed while sliding to the ground. So there is a stiffer penalty for how you wear your socks than there is for something that could injure another player?

Referee scandal?

We are all accustomed to people complaining about officials for favoring one side or the other, but the NFL showing favoritism among the officials is a new one. Apparently, several NFL game officials are questioning the league’s grading system and the selection of Jerome Boger as referee for Super Bowl XLVII.

Super sabotage?

Former Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown claimed that former Raiders coach Bill Callahan sabotaged the Raiders in their Super Bowl loss to the Buccaneers. Brown said the coach changed the game plan in order to hurt Oakland’s chances of winning…a claim that was backed up by another former Raider, Jerry Rice. Callahan has denied the allegations.

Also:

Oregon scored a one-point safety in the Fiesta Bowl.

Houston Rockets center Greg Smith was called for a three-second violation after stopping in the lane to tie his shoe.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock was hurt doing the Ray Lewis dance after losing a bet to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

New Orleans announces name change from Hornets to Pelicans.

Northern Illinois sets NCAA shot-clock era record with four points in a first half.

September 12, 2012

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Why Joe Flacco Is the NFL’s Most Underrated Star

By: Matt Bowen

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is the most underrated player in the entire NFL. Entering the 2012 NFL season, Flacco consistently caught plenty of flak for being an underachiever in his brief four-year NFL career.

Joe Flacco has taken hits on and off the field, even when he is performing well.

In actuality, he does nearly everything right. What more could an organization ask for in its franchise quarterback? The Ravens have never finished a season worse than 9-7 with Flacco under center. His regular season record is an astounding 45-20. In fact, the Ravens have never missed the playoffs with Flacco.

Now, thanks to the league’s most underrated star, the Ravens are on their way to the Super Bowl.

Flacco looked superb in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals as the Ravens won 44-13. He made throws no one believed he could make.  Flacco wasted little time showing the world that he’s an elite quarterback as he completed a 52-yard bomb to wide receiver Torrey Smith on the team’s first play of the game. His first touchdown toss of the night was a 34-yard strike that found receiver Anquan Boldin in the end zone with pinpoint precision. Flacco’s second touchdown had the perfect touch and was similar to a rainbow three-pointer in the NBA as he found tight end Dennis Pitta for six points.

In the end, Flacco finished 21-for-29 for 299 yards and two touchdowns. He was even pulled in the fourth quarter to avoid risk of injury. He looked nothing short of an NFL star.

Combined with running back Ray Rice and one of the most feared defenses in NFL history thanks to Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, the Ravens are all the rage right now. Flacco deserves credit after being ridiculed in the media for the first four years of his career. This is the year where the tide turns in his favor.

With a new contract coming next season, even Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh has publicly stated, “Pay him whatever he wants.” Harbaugh knows what Flacco means to his team—he is the team. The scary thing about Flacco is he’s just 27 years old; he hasn’t even hit his prime yet. He’s quietly on his way to being one of the best quarterbacks of all-time.

As this glorious NFL season unfolds, pay close attention to Flacco; there’s something special brewing in Baltimore.

June 13, 2012

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NFL OTA No-Shows

By: Junior

NFL teams are starting to get back in the swing of mandatory mini-camps and practices, bringing joy to their fans at the sign of football season nearing. At the same time, some fan bases are worried about key players missing camp and when, or more importantly if, they will return. Here are five players making their fans, and even some teams, nervous.

When will Drew Brees be back in a Saints uniform?

Drew Brees

With all that has happened with the New Orleans Saints this off-season, this is the last thing the city needs. Brees was franchised and has yet to be offered a long-term deal that he finds suitable. While everyone knows that Drew Brees knows the Saints’ offense like he created it himself, he needs this time to work with new head coach Joe Vitt before the season starts. Even though this is more a question of “when” rather than “if”, it just adds to a couple of months Saints fans would love to forget.

Matt Forte

Matt Forte is upset at being franchised and doesn’t seem too happy that they tied up money signing RB Michael Bush in free agency. The Chicago Bears are supposed to contend for the playoffs this season, and even with Bush and WR Brandon Marshall added this off-season, you have to assume Forte will be a major cog in that offense. Forte will eventually be back and I don’t think many Bears fans are truly worried about his return. However, they may have to worry about his attitude once he is back.

Ed Reed

This is a situation the Baltimore Ravens need to handle carefully. With most of these players it is a foregone conclusion they will play sometime this season. That isn’t necessarily the case with Ed Reed. Reed is almost 34, and with several nagging injuries and complaints about respect, Reed could easily call it quits. All of that aside, I don’t think he will and if it weren’t for his comments about being unhappy I would say his missing camp is the least worrisome. If anyone knows the Ravens defense and how to be ready come Sunday it is Ed Reed. Until he returns to the team though, I would be nervous as a Ravens fan.

Maurice Jones Drew

For a franchise that has had little to celebrate recently, this is just more bad news to hear. Maurice Jones-Drew was the Jacksonville Jaguars offense this past season and now would like to be paid like it. He is currently the 8th highest paid RB and only has two years left on that deal. Jones-Drew is making a statement that could cost him $60,000 by missing camp, but if he holds out during the season, it could cost the Jaguars a lot more than that.

Mike Wallace

Along the same lines as everyone on this list, Mike Wallace wants a long term contract. Wallace broke out last season with almost 1200 yards receiving and has a bright future as a go to wide receiver. At the same time, the Pittsburgh Steelers have plenty of high-profile players who need to be paid, and with other receivers such as Antonio Brown on the roster, they may not want to spend as much as Wallace would like. Luckily for them, the franchise tag will make sure Wallace gets into camp before losing too much money, but it doesn’t mean he has to be happy about it. Even if Wallace was a distraction, the Steelers are a veteran team that would put a stop to that before it effected the season. I wouldn’t be too concerned as a Steelers fan.

May 18, 2012

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Will Ed Reed Play in 2012?

By: Junior

Word broke yesterday that Ed Reed is not certain whether he will return to the Baltimore Ravens for the 2012 NFL season.  The Ravens have already lost Terrell Suggs for at least part of the 2012 season, can they afford to lose Reed as well?

Ed Reed was still making plays like this during the 2012 NFL Playoffs. Will we see more next season?

The future Hall of Fame safety is 33 years old and has been battling injuries in recent seasons. That hasn’t slowed his production on the field in the slightest. Ed Reed had 5 interceptions last season, adding to his career total of 57, which is the most in Baltimore Ravens franchise history. A constant playmaker who always commands attention from the opposing quarterback, the loss of Reed would be felt through the entire Ravens defense.

In April, Reed made it known that he was unhappy with the “respect” he was getting from the Ravens organization. The respect in question includes his current contract situation. Reed is in the last year of a 6 year deal and while other players are getting new contracts, Reed is left to wonder if he will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Will Ed Reed really retire? The thought has been hinted at for a couple of seasons now, but with the Ravens being Super Bowl contenders every year, the desire to win the Lombardi Trophy entices him back each year. After coming so close to finally making a Super Bowl last year, he has to think the Ravens are closer than ever.

In the AFC Divisional Round, Reed made this interception to seal a win  against the Houston Texans and keep the season alive. In the AFC Championship game last year, Baltimore dropped a pass in the end zone and then missed a field goal that would have sent them into OT against the Patriots. I don’t think Reed wants that to be how his final game in the NFL ends.

If his career does come to an end, he will almost certainly be a first-ballot hall of famer. In his 11 year career, Reed has been selected to 11 Pro Bowls, two “All-Decade” teams, and was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. He holds the NFL record for a 107-yard interception returned for a touchdown and is also the only player in NFL history to score a touchdown off of a punt return, blocked punt, interception and a fumble recovery.

However, what if he doesn’t retire and the unthinkable happens: Reed signs with another team after the 2012 season? While this is improbable, Reed’s contract complaints seem to imply he would be willing to go elsewhere if a team offered more. While it would be strange seeing Reed in a different uniform, that possibility could arise if he can’t agree with the Ravens after this year.

Ed Reed has a lot of time before the regular season arrives, but time is running out on the Ravens’ Super Bowl window and they need to make sure all their stars are ready to make what could be one final push at a championship.