December 19, 2013

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Predicting 2013 NFL Award Winners

By: Matt Bowen

With the playoffs three short weeks away let’s have some fun and predict the 2013 NFL award winners. While the season is still in the balance for plenty of teams, let’s be bold and take an educated guess. The final two weeks may sway some votes, but we have a good idea of how things will pan out. One thing is for certain, the NFL definitely didn’t disappoint this season—the final two weeks along with the playoffs will be as exciting as ever.

Keep these players in mind when the awards are doled out at the end of the season.

Coach of the Year

This is a tight race, but there’s clearly one winner.

There were eight head coaching changes heading into this season, and it can be easily argued that every new coach met or exceeded their expectations. Last year the following eight teams won a combined 41 games—headed into Week 16 this year these teams have a combined 56 wins.

The Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers all got new head coaches in 2013.

Hats off to all the men in charge, but the award goes to Andy Reid in Kansas City. The Chiefs were a dark horse Super Bowl team in 2012 before the won only two games and earned the No. 1 pick in the draft. This year Reid has tapped into their talent and the Chiefs currently have 11 wins. They may not win their division but a playoff appearance in a given. The Chiefs are explosive and a blast to watch.

Defensive Player of the Year

Defensive studs are often put on the back burner because they don’t score touchdowns. Not here, the men in the trenches get the acknowledgement they deserve.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint who is precisely the best defensive player, it’s not hard to find an answer. Many men are worthy of the award, but the Indianapolis Colts defensive end Robert Mathis takes the prize. His 16.5 sacks currently lead the league, and the Colts are once again going to make the playoffs.

What’s most remarkable about Mathis is his age—at 32 Mathis is an “old man” amongst the league’s new hybrid athletes on the defensive side of the ball. Still, Mathis is the best at his craft and a great leader on a rather young Colts defense. Cheers to you, Mr. Mathis.

Breakout Player of the Year

This award goes to the guy who doesn’t have a chance at 2013 NFL MVP, but his breakout season may earn him the grand award in the near future.

The argument can be made for both of these players but in the end only one can win. Both of these guys are receivers who have made tremendous strides toward stardom this season. The deciding factor ultimately comes down to team wins.

Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns currently leads the league is receiving yards with 1,467 and also has nine touchdowns. He has quickly become one of the most dangerous men in the game. If the Browns ever find a quarterback and running game Gordon may make a run a 2,000 yards in a single season. Right now, his team only has four wins. He’s 22 years old and has all the talent in the world. He’s had a troubled past, but should he leave his problems behind him the sky is the limit.

In the end, the 2013 Breakout Player of the Year goes to Alshon Jeffery of the Chicago Bears. The Bears currently lead the NFC North and control their own fate in terms of a playoff berth.

Jeffery is currently seventh in the league in receiving yards with 1,265. He has seven touchdowns and 80 catches. He’s the perfect complement to teammate Brandon Marshall and has hands like magnets.  Jeffery is only 23 years old and appears to be a Windy City staple for the next decade. Because of Jeffery the Bears are multi-dimensional and have a chance at a deep Super Bowl run. All he does is make highlight reels.

Rookie of the Year

Let’s be honest—today’s NFL is not made for rookies. There’s a steep learning curve that takes many highly touted prospects and puts them in their place—the bench. Last year may have been an exception due to the likes of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson but reality has struck once again in 2013.

To be a standout rookie in the NFL you have to be something special. Right now, only three guys come to mind the rookie debate pops up. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon deserves mention—the Bucs were terrible before he earned the starting job. Being a rookie quarterback isn’t easy, especially when you don’t start the season as the No. 1. The Bucs started 0-8 but have since won 4-of-6. For that they have hope for the future. Give the NC State alum a full offseason as the main man, and positive results will come.

Zac Stacy of the St. Louis Rams has been a bright spot in an up-and-down season for the franchise. The team was searching for a running back to win the job for weeks and found one in Stacy. The rookie from Vanderbilt has 854 yards on 202 carries and six touchdowns. He’s a real bruiser and looks like he’s made a name for himself in the NFL. Considering he only had one carry before October, Stacy has been a welcomed surprise. Because of him, the Rams will be a sleeper in 2014. He’s a real workhorse.

Look no further than Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers for NFL Rookie of the Year. The rookie out of Alabama looks like this generation’s Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks. Lacy has 248 carries for 1,028 yards and eight touchdowns. Right now the Green Bay Packers control their own destiny and when quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns from injury they’ll become the most feared offense in the NFC. Lacy makes them dangerous, the kid is a juggernaut.

MVP

So, who’s the NFL’s most valuable player this season? Let’s keep this short and sweet for there will be much debate to come.

Nick Foles deserves a mention for his work turning around the once underachieving Philadelphia Eagles.

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are always in the conversation as they should be. Manning will end up breaking the all-time touchdown record in a season of 50 set by Mr. Brady, he currently has 47 but is he the hands down MVP? No.

Outside the quarterback position, New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is the most dangerous player in the game. He’s can’t be guarded—his physical stature is not really fair to his opponents—but even he missed the top spot.

Heck, even Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker deserves a vote—all that guy does is split the uprights.

This year’s NFL MVP is Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

Correct, Wilson only has 3,077 passing yards, which ranks him No. 17 in the league. But it’s not his arm that is most valuable, it’s his mentality. He’s thrown 24 touchdowns, eight interceptions, completed 64.7 percent of his throws and has run for 508 yards on 89 rushes.

He doesn’t make many mistakes and only runs when it’s the right choice. His team is currently 12-2 and lethal at home. Right now the Seahawks seem a lock for the Super Bowl.

He’s special.

So special that the Texas Rangers drafted him in the recent Rule 5 MLB draft—he hasn’t played baseball in some time yet everybody wants a piece of Russell Wilson. He can seemingly do no wrong.

He’s got a million dollar smile and is priceless on the field. Wilson for MVP—no doubt.

November 27, 2013

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2013 NFL Q4 Must-See Games

By: Matt Bowen

The 2013 NFL season is nearing a close but there are plenty of questions yet to be answered. This year more than ever it seems that every game is a coin flip. Right now there are literally 26 teams still in playoff contention. This is great—every game from here on out will be a nail-biter. Here’s a list of the most crucial games during the final quarter of the season. Remember, each week will contain three categories; the heavyweight bout, the divisional battle and the hidden gem.

Week 13

The Heavyweight Bout: New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks

Games don’t get bigger than this one. A potential NFC Championship Game in the making, both teams have a statement to make. Nothing like ending a holiday weekend with a cherry on top, Monday Night Football is not to be missed—Drew Brees and Russell Wilson will have their teams primed for a battle. Find time for this one.

The Divisional Battle: Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions

NFL fans can thank the Detroit Lions for this Thanksgiving tradition. The Lions provided football on Thursday before football was on Thursday. Hooray! Hey, there’s nothing like spending family time together watching the Lions and Green Bay Packers pummel one another. Here’s some added fuel to the fire—first place in the division is on the line. The Lions currently hold the top spot but the Packers want it badly. Another added bonus, we get to watch Calvin Johnson—who doesn’t like to watch greatness?

The Hidden Gem: Arizona Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Eagles

These teams are both surprises this year and playing their best ball of the season right now. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer just may be the hottest in the league. He’s thrown for 733 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions the last two games. The Cardinals have also won four straight games.

The Philadelphia Eagles, led by the NFL’s leading rusher through Week 12 LeSean McCoy are also sizzling. Winners of three straight and coming off their bye week, there’s no time to lose momentum now.

Neither team will give an inch. Expect plenty of offense. Give this one a go.

Week 14

The Heavyweight Bout: Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers

Few words need to describe this matchup between bitter divisional rivals. Remember when the Seattle Seahawks dismantled the San Francisco 49ers at home in Week 2, 29-3?

The Niners do too, expect them to exact revenge.

The Divisional Battle: Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints

Winners of seven straight, the Carolina Panthers are the hottest team in the league right now. The NFL is far from easy and the Panthers will travel to the Big Easy in Week 14. This is to prove that they’re the best team in their division.

The New Orleans Saints don’t plan on relinquishing their A1 status anytime soon.

Cam Newton is living up to the hype—his counterpart Drew Brees is the standard. Jaw-dropping action will occur.

The Hidden Gem: Indianapolis Colts vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Out of all the true Super Bowl contenders in the league, the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals may have the most questions surrounding them.

One week they look like outright champs, the next it looks like they don’t belong.

Quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton have to find a way. The winner of this one will gain the confidence it takes to go all the way. They’ll also do some convincing.

This is a true make-or-break game for both sides.

Week 15

The Heavyweight Bout: Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys

Two iconic franchises, two franchise quarterbacks, playoffs lives on the line—this game has all the elements to be a classic.

Aaron Rodgers will have returned from injury and Tony Romo will be psyched to make a run for the coveted Lombardi trophy. These two guys may just combine for 800 passing yards.

Fun, fun, fun—please pay attention to this one.

The Divisional Battle: San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos

Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning on Thursday Night Football is a great start to Week 15. The San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos have something to fight for as the Chargers are only 5-6 heading into Thanksgiving, but have a real punchers chance. Rivers has never performed so well and the Chargers are electric on offense.

Manning and the Broncos need little introduction, they’re the real deal.

The Hidden Gem: New York Jets vs. Carolina Panthers

Believe it or not, the New York Jets are currently in the playoff hunt. Yes, even at 4-7 they have a shot. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith has had his ups and downs, but the future is promising for him and the Jets.

The weak spot the Jets have this season is playing on the road. If they’re to make the postseason, they’ll have to head into Carolina and win. The Panthers defense, led by Luke Kuechley is one of the best in the league; don’t think they’ll let a rookie show them up.

Considering what’s at stake, this will be a good one.

Week 16

The Heavyweight Bout: Chicago Bears vs. Philadelphia Eagles

The Chicago Bears are currently in a dogfight for the NFC North with the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. The Eagles are in the same situation in the NFC East with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.

Both teams are currently 6-5 and not in the playoffs. Considering their divisions will be on the line, neither team can afford to lose. This game has smash-mouth football written all over it. Last team with the ball wins.

The Divisional Battle: New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers

See Week 14—the loser of that game will want redemption. The winner will want to claim NFC South supremacy.

Scary thing is they may meet again in the playoffs. Awesome.

The Hidden Gem: New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens

Hey, the champs haven’t thrown in the towel quite yet. The Baltimore Ravens still have a pulse and are picking up steam down the stretch. Don’t cross-off Joe Flacco and Ray Rice because after all, they’re stars.

If they are to truly be playoff contenders, they’ll have to beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. For them, it’s business as usual. They have yet to be their best and are still 8-3. That fact is downright frightening.

The Ravens must let it be known that they will defend what is rightfully theirs. A win in Week 16 will do just that.

If you think Week 17 was forgotten, think again. Sit tight, for it’ll have its own article. 16 divisional games—Wow!

Then, we’ll talk about playoffs.

October 3, 2013

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2013 NFL Q2 Must-See Games

By: Matt Bowen

The second quarter of the 2013 NFL season is now upon us and this is where the truth comes out. Which teams are true contenders? Which will continue to surprise? Which are massive disappointments? Let’s break into the second part of this four part series and get down to business. Remember, each week will contain three categories; the heavyweight bout, the divisional battle and the hidden gem.

Week 5

The Heavyweight Bout: Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys

Just in case you’ve forgotten, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is really good at throwing a football. His counterpart, Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys is no slouch himself.

This game will get an abundance of attention for a reason and deservingly so. Expect a ton of offense. Receivers like Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant will make the most of the nationally televised event and put up video game-like numbers.

Right now, Manning is looking like he’s an easy MVP selection and is making his argument as the best ever. Check him out before it’s too late.

Can the Dallas Cowboys upset the Broncos in Week 5?

The Divisional Battle: Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers

A pivotal game for both squads, the Detroit Lions are coming off a Week 4 win against the Chicago Bears. The Green Bay Packers are fresh off their bye-week and looking to make a statement after a disappointing 1-2 start.

The Lions haven’t won in Cheese Land since the early 1990s. This would be a monumental win for the Lions and a monumental collapse for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers and Co. aren’t about to let that happen now.

Both sides must have this game, but who will it be?

The Hidden Gem: Seattle Seahawks vs. Indianapolis Colts

The Seattle Seahawks look like the early-season Super Bowl favorite while the Indianapolis Colts continue to make positive noise. Quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck are the future of the league and this game will be something special.

This one is a can’t-miss game and will be a chess match until the very end.

Week 6

The Heavyweight Bout: New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots

Like offense? This game between heavyweights may tally 80-combined points. The New England Patriots are riddled with injuries but always find a way to compete. The New Orleans Saints were almost forgotten about because of their 2012 miscues but Drew Brees has defensive coordinators everywhere shaking in their boots once again.

Expect Tom Brady and Brees to combine for 700-plus passing yards. A true barn burner, this one will be fun to watch.

The Divisional Battle: Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Overall records never matter in this rivalry. The Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs hate one another.

With no love lost in this divisional battle, this type of game is why football is defined as tough.

Alex Smith has done enough to win over his new home crowd quickly in KC and Terrell Pryor is turning some heads The Black Hole. Although it may be ugly, that’s why this game will be great.

The Hidden Gem: New York Giants vs. Chicago Bears

This Thursday Night showdown may not look so great because the New York Giants have started the season off with a string of duds but this game promises to be entertaining.

The Giants are loaded with offensive talent and the Chicago Bears are somehow flying under the radar. Quarterback Jay Cutler may look like the grumpiest guy in sports, but his performance is making Bears fans everywhere smile right now. Eli Manning will look to reinstall faith within Giants fans by stealing a win on the road against a formidable opponent.

Stay up past your bedtime for this one.

Week 7

The Heavyweight Bout: Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis Colts

This one doesn’t need much explanation.

Peyton Manning returns to Indianapolis.

Manning vs. Andrew Luck, the kid who the franchise he brought to greatness drafted to take his place.

Any questions?

The Divisional Battle: Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins

While Super Bowl aspirations may be a bit too high this year for these teams, there is definite promise. Both teams were razzed for drafting their current starting quarterbacks, but right now they are looking wise.

Ryan Tannehill has the Dolphins looking good and E.J. Manuel and the Bills are only a couple of seasons from contention.

This matchup against AFC East rivals will be like looking into the future. This game means something for both sides. Pretty soon it will be the difference between making the playoffs and taking an unwanted vacation.

The Hidden Gem: Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

This game means something because these guys despise each other.

The Pittsburgh Steelers behind Ben Roethlisberger won’t go down without a fight and the Baltimore Ravens are the most disrespected team in the NFL.

Why?

Joe Flacco has rallied the troops and they are now a trap game for every opponent this season. This game will be overlooked by most but be great from beginning to end.

Week 8

The Heavyweight Bout: Washington Redskins vs. Denver Broncos

Okay, the Washington Redskins may have a lackluster record at the moment, but never mind that. Week 8 is a soft spot in the NFL schedule.

The thought of Robert Griffin III heading to Mile High to face Peyton Manning and the Broncos is awfully enticing.

This will be a real measuring stick for RG3 in his progression as a NFL quarterback. He’s stuck between two worlds right now. He must become a better passer and only rely on his legs when he needs to escape. He’s got the smarts to still be great.

In case you were wondering, Manning may throw for 500 yards against the porous Redskins defense.

The Divisional Battle: Miami Dolphins vs. New England Patriots

Week 7 has the Miami Dolphins pitted against the Buffalo Bills as a divisional battle to set the tone for the future. The ‘Phins Week 8 battle against the New England Patriots is to set the tone for now.

If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best and the Dolphins will have to prove that they belong in the conversation.

This one will be heated. Don’t expect for one second that the Patriots are ready to lose control of the AFC East.

The Hidden Gem: Atlanta Falcons vs. Arizona Cardinals

Believe it or not, the Arizona Cardinals will spoil many teams’ seasons this year.

Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons sure don’t want it to be them in Week 8. Carson Palmer has given life to the once stagnant Cardinals offense.

Also, the Cards have a dynamic duo in their secondary in LSU alums Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. Falcons’ receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones have a tall task against the Cards.

Football enthusiast young to old will have a blast watching this tilt.

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?

February 18, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

NBA All-Star weekend takes center stage: The NBA held its annual All-Star weekend to mixed reviews and the events left me mostly ‘meh.’ The whole East-West format for the skills competitions, dunk contests, and three-point shootout was rather confusing. The scoring format was unbelievably difficult to track unless you were prepared for it going into the evening. The dunk contest was also largely a dud with two of the top participants, Gerald Green and James White, taking a full 1:30 without even completing a slam. One thing that was impressive, though, was Kyrie Irving’s performance in the three-point shootout. Irving is a bonafide star and here’s the thing: the NBA can’t be anything but pleased to have a name brand player win one of the events. Many times, these things are won by guys in the middle of NBA benches. Plus, while the all-star game didn’t feature much actual defense (big surprise, I know), it was still exciting to watch.

Will Derek Jeter be ready for the Yankees' season opener.

NFL defensive stars to be released: With the offseason of the NFL upon us, it’s that time of year when we’re starting to hear of teams’ plans to part ways with some of their stars. When this happens, contracts generally play a role and that appears to be the case with a few big announcements. The Indianapolis Colts are ready to let go of defensive monster Dwight Freeney. Freeney’s production has slipped a bit over the past few years, but he could still have been in line for a big free agent deal. The Colts chose not to re-sign him and he’ll be moving on, leaving as the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks. Another big time star on defense that helped his team win a championship is the PackersCharles Woodson. Woodson has still been productive, but was due to count for $10 million against the team’s cap for next year. That’s a big number and with several young stars to pay soon, including B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews, Green Bay figured it was too much.

Michael Jordan says Kobe > Lebron: With Lebron James tearing through the NBA this season, the talk of his place among some of the all-time greats is ramping up. The current king by many accounts, Michael Jordan, even weighed in this past week. But it wasn’t to anoint James just yet – rather, MJ still says that the LakersKobe Bryant gets his nod as the better player. Jordan pointed to Kobe’s five rings over Lebron’s one as the deciding factor. He took a good deal of criticism for that stance (James, himself, even said it shouldn’t be based solely on rings), but I don’t think his main point was that Bryant was the better player strictly because of that. Instead, I think his intent was that because both are great players, Kobe gets the nod because of the rings. And if that’s the reasoning, it’s hard to disagree.

Danica Patrick wins Daytona 500 pole: Ever since breaking into racing, Danica Patrick has garnered a lot of attention. But her biggest achievement to date was likely winning the pole position for the Daytona 500, which she did this weekend, beating out Jeff Gordon and others. The pole position hardly guarantees a victory for her – only nine racers with the pole in the event’s 54-year history went on to win. Dale Jarrett was the last to do so … and that was in 2000. That said, it’s still better to start up front than in the back of the field so, advantage Danica.

This just in – Roger Goodell is rich: The fact that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is a rich man shouldn’t come as any great surprise. But just how rich he is was revealed in a recent report and likely raised a few eyebrows. Goodell reportedly made $30 million in 2011 – a significant increase from the approximately $10 million he made in 2010. That’s a large chunk of change, but consider this: MLB commissioner But Selig and NBA counterpart David Stern earn about $20 million, according to ESPN. Considering the wild success of professional football, Goodell’s pay seems to be in line with what other top execs in the world of sports are making.

Derek Jeter hopes to return for opener: With pitchers and catchers reporting, baseball season will be front and center before you know it. The YankeesDerek Jeter hopes that he’ll be ready to go when the season begins. Jeter suffered an ankle injury last year in the playoffs and it was no guarantee that he’d be ready for the opener. But Jeter says that the recovery is going well and he expects to be back in time, according to this article by MLB.com. That would be incredible news for the Yankees who could use him for another run at the playoffs. It’s not as if New York is without other weapons, but Jeter was one of the team’s leaders last year, racking up a league-leading 216 hits and 740 plate appearances. Batting .316 on the season, he showed that at 38, there’s probably still some left in the tank.