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.

May 31, 2013

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In Case You Missed It: May Edition

By: Joe Williams

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like something crazy is happening on a daily basis in the sports world. Maybe it’s always been that way and it’s just that we now have the technology that allows us to see and hear everything. Either way, there is just too much crazy for one article at the end of the year to cover it all so let’s just take it a month at a time. Here are some of the wacky sports stories from this May.

The New York Knicks ended up looking pretty foolish when lost Game 5 against the Boston Celtics after they came to the arena dressed in all black because they were “attending the Celtics funeral.”

Aroldis Chapman ate 18 pastries before a game in May.

Wichita State catcher Tyler Baker chased down and captured a squirrel with his batting helmet after the animal ended up in the infield when Baker was on second base.

Washington Nationals outfielder, Bryce Harper, was ejected from a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates because he slammed his bat and his helmet to the ground.

An NFL quarterback who attempted just eight passes last season and is now unemployed was named Most Influential Athlete by Forbes Magazine. That’s right. Tim Tebow is at it again.

Boston Red Sox pitcher Joel Hanrahan threw a wild pitch that actually went right through a sign on the wall behind home plate.

The Oakland A’s lost a game to the Cleveland Indians when a blown call cost them what would have been a game-tying home run in the top of the ninth. Not only did the umpires miss the call live, but then they went to the replay and still got it wrong.

A Jacksonville Jaguars fan sent President Obama a petition asking the President to force the Jaguars to sign unemployed quarterback Tim Tebow.

MLB umpires suffered another embarrassing incident when they allowed the Houston Astros to go to their bullpen twice before a pitch was thrown. The Angels argued the call and after three huddles and a phone call, the incorrect call was upheld.

An average citizen contacted the NBA to declare himself eligible for the draft. Surprisingly, he received a personal response from the NBA informing him that he is a free agent and can sign with any team.

A fan at a San Francisco Giants game fell onto the field while reaching for a ball, lost his pants and was then ejected from the game.

A fan at a Chicago Blackhawks playoff game went into labor in the stands. But she wasn’t about to leave during an elimination game and waited until after the game to go to the hospital.

Lorenzo Cain of the Kansas City Royals was awarded a walk after receiving just three balls instead of the required four in a game against the New York Yankees.

San Diego Chargers rookie Manti Te’o actually showed up at the Maxim Hot 100 party after the magazine put his fake girlfriend at No. 69 in its Hot 100 list.

Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman blew a save against the Philadelphia Phillies. This was after he at 18 pastries before the game.

A snow cone vender at a Houston Astros game was fired after bringing the snow cones into the bathroom and leaving them on the floor while he used the toilet.

More to come in June I’m sure.

April 2, 2012

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Believe it or not – Jets a Good Fit for Tim Tebow

By: Anson Whaley

In only a few short years, NFL quarterback Tim Tebow has become a lightning rod for attention. Recently, Tebow was traded from the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets. With the signing of Peyton Manning, it wasn’t a surprise that he was dealt. But the Jets’ willingness to step up to make a move raised a few eyebrows. At first glance, Tebow ending up in New York might seem like a disaster waiting to happen. But a longer look shows that it could actually be a good fit for both parties.

With Tim Tebow on the team, Mark Sanchez will have competition this season.

Tebow’s been through the media firestorm. Locally in Denver, the attention wasn’t nearly what it will be in the Big Apple. But here’s the thing – the national attention Tebow drew will undoubtedly prepare him for what he’ll face from the NY/NJ market. If any player can handle the added attention he’ll receive going to a larger market, it’s him.

Tebow will also have the added benefit of not being the main story 24/7. Even when he wasn’t putting up great numbers, Tebow was still the main focus out in Denver. But in New York, there are any other number of things that can keep him off the front page. The Knicks and Linsanity will be in the middle of their season, the Yankees are a front-page story year round, and if the Rangers have another year like this one, they’ll be a focal point as well. Throw in the New Jersey Devils and Mikhail Prokhorov’s antics with the Nets and it’s easy to see there are plenty of other distractions. Tebow won’t be able to avoid the media insanity that’s sure to follow him, but he won’t be the only story in town.

With Tebow out of Denver, many thought a great landing spot would have been in Jacksonville. But playing for the Jets may actually be better for him. In Jacksonville, the media scrutiny would have still been significant and Tebow would have had to balance that with constantly playing in front of family and friends. Sure, they could have provided a support system for him of sorts, but it will also be beneficial for him to avoid having the weight of needing to succeed in front of them.

On the field, Tebow will (for now, anyway) likely start the season as the backup to Mark Sanchez. Sanchez has been good, but not great. But he’s done enough to keep his job for now and that will be an advantage for Tebow. He’ll have time to study the playbook and get acquainted with his new team. There’d be no opportunity to do that had he been traded to a team in immediate need of a quarterback and surviving the media blitz he’ll face will be infinitely easier as a backup. Tebow, of course, has aspirations of starting eventually, but it will behoove him to let Sanchez take the reins for at least a bit.

The other part of that is that because Sanchez has struggled at times, the door could be opened for Tebow to become a starter. In Denver, Tebow would have had no shot to get off the bench with Manning leading the team. But head coach Rex Ryan won’t be hesitant to pull the trigger on a quarterback change if he doesn’t feel that Sanchez is living up to expectations. Sanchez completed fewer than 60% of his passes last year and had a passer rating of only 78.2. If the Jets have aspirations of getting to a Super Bowl, they’ll need better production from their quarterback. And while Tebow posted worse numbers than Sanchez last season, he was able to lead his team to a slew of victories at the end of the year – something Sanchez didn’t do. The bottom line is that if Sanchez doesn’t win early, Tebow could get onto the field.

And even if Tebow can’t unseat Sanchez, Ryan has said he’d like to use him in wildcat packages. He will still be able to contribute but not have all of the pressures of being the starter. There will still be plenty of eyeballs on him, but he won’t face the same amount of scrutiny as he would if he were under center on every single play.

Tebow isn’t the only one who will benefit, either. The Jets will have someone to legitimately push Mark Sanchez for playing time. In addition, having Tebow will give their offense another dimension with the wildcat package. There will also almost certainly be more interest in the team and a revitalization of sorts after a disappointing 8-8 season.

The success (or lack thereof) of the New York experiment won’t be known for some time. Still, it’s possible that Tebow could not only survive, but thrive, there.

March 20, 2012

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Potential Landing Spots for Tebow

By: Joe Williams

Now that Peyton Manning has made his decision, one question remains….what happens to Tim Tebow? Indications are the Broncos will try to trade him, but will they be able to find someone to bring the circus to town for a guy that ranks 34th in completion percentage in a league with 32 starting quarterbacks? I believe a deal gets done before April’s draft. Here are 7 possible landing spots for Tebowmania.

With Peyton Manning now in Denver, which team will Tim Tebow go to?

Jacksonville

This is the obvious choice because Tebow is from Jacksonville. They could certainly use something to get the fans excited and this would do it. Shahid Khan has said that he would’ve drafted Tebow if he owned the team a year earlier so he could make it happen to try and fill the seats for a franchise that has had trouble doing so. The problem is the Jags used a 2011 first-round pick on Blaine Gabbert and just signed free agent Chad Henne.

Miami

How desperate are the Dolphins? Their attempts to make a splash by landing a big name have failed several times recently and they could really be feeling the heat after not only missing out on Manning, but getting passed over by Matt Flynn who went to Seattle. Maybe the Dolphins resort to bringing in someone who won’t have the choice to turn them down.

New England

Do the Patriots need a quarterback? No. But the offensive coordinator is the same man who moved up in the draft to pick Tebow, and Bill Belichick isn’t afraid to try something other coaches wouldn’t even think of. Maybe Tebow spends a couple years learning from Brady instead of Manning.

Denver

Sure the Broncos plan to trade Tebow but they are going to have to find someone to take him. Denver likely has a short window with Manning to try and win the Super Bowl so they would love to get some assets in return but there may not be another team willing to make the deal Denver wants. Then again, maybe all they want is for the circus to leave town.

Cleveland

The Browns tried to move up to draft a quarterback but were beaten out by Washington. Tebow would generate more buzz than Colt McCoy or Seneca Wallace for a team that has been an after-thought in the AFC North during the last few years. And there is always a chance John Elway will feel sorry for Cleveland fans after what he did to the Browns as a player and give them the most popular player in the league.

Philadelphia

You never know. We all thought the Eagles were set to head into the future with Kevin Kolb and now he is in Arizona and Michael Vick and Vince Young are in Philly. Andy Reid must have a clause in his contract that requires him to bring in every controversial quarterback he can get his hands on. May as well have another lefty to come in when Vick gets hurt.

Oakland

What? You don’t think Tebow should be the face of Raider Nation? Maybe he is the guy who can get this franchise heading in the right direction. The Raiders have always been a team that likes to throw the ball deep. When Tebow throws, he likes to throw deep….even when the receiver has run a short or medium route. Dennis Allen, new head coach of the Raiders, was the Broncos’ defensive coordinator last year and could buy into Tebowmania.

October 6, 2011

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Fathead’s NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

NFL Rankings:  As we approach Week 5 of the NFL season, here is how each of the NFL teams stacks up.

1.Green Bay Packers (4-0) — As the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair would say, “To be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man.” Until someone beats the Pack, they will be at the top of the rankings.

2. Baltimore Ravens (3-1) — After opening the season by dominating the defending AFC champion Steelers and blowing out the AFC runner-up Jets on Sunday, the Ravens are the class of the AFC.

3. New Orleans Saints (3-1) — Drew Brees and company gave the Packers all they wanted and followed that with three solid wins.

4. Buffalo Bills (3-1) — After pulling off the shocker of the year and beating New England, the Bills get beat by the Bengals.

5. New England Patriots (3-1) — Tom Brady’s offense hasn’t been held under 30 points yet.

6. Detroit Lions (4-0) — They won’t be undefeated much longer if they keep falling behind by 20 points.

7. Houston Texans (3-1) — Wade Phillips has got the defense playing much better.

8. New York Jets (2-2) — A two game losing streak makes this trip to New England huge for the Jets.

9. Atlanta Falcons (2-2) — Important stretch coming up for the Falcons with Green Bay and Detroit coming up in the next couple weeks.

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) — The Bucs need a win at San Francisco to carry momentum into tough stretch with Saints, Bears, Saints, Texans and Packers coming up.

11. San Diego Chargers (3-1) — Chargers should get healthy with the Broncos on Sunday and their bye week.

12. New York Giants (3-1) — G-men getting it done despite injuries. They may have gotten a break with the controversial play against the Cardinals.

13. Tennessee Titans (3-1) – Huge test for surprising Titans this week at Pittsburgh.

14. Washington Redskins (3-1) – The defense is giving up an NFC best 15.8 points per game. They have two weeks to get ready for a divisional showdown with the Eagles.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) – Are the defending AFC champs suffering from a post-Super Bowl loss hangover? Or is it just that they cannot protect the quarterback?

16. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) – No team is more entertaining than “America’s Team”. Do the Cowboys ever play a game decided by more than one score?

17. Chicago Bears (2-2) – The Bears have a good chance to build a lead Sunday in Detroit. The question is will they be able to hold it?

18. San Francisco 49ers (3-1) – Their three wins is one more than the rest of the NFC West combined. The division is theirs to lose.

19. Oakland Raiders (2-2) – It looks like the Raiders are the team that will push San Diego in the AFC West.

20. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) – It’s been a nightmare start for the “Dream Team”. They are probably glad to be hitting the road after the last two performances at home.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) – Got a shot to be 4-2 at the bye with two winnable games coming up. Not bad for a team who’s quarterback retired rather than play for them.

22. Cleveland Browns (2-2) – They have an extra week to recover from getting pounded by the Titans.

23. Carolina Panthers (1-3) – The good news is Cam Newton looks like he is their quarterback of the future. The bad news is New Orleans, Atlanta and Washington coming up.

24. Arizona Cardinals (1-3) – They should have beaten the Giants on Sunday. They head to Minnesota to face an angry Vikings team.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) – The offense is experiencing some major growing pains with rookie Blaine Gabbert now playing quarterback. They average less than 10 points per game.

26. Denver Broncos (1-3) – It’s not Kyle Orton’s fault the Packers put 49 points on the board Sunday. Try telling that to the fans in Denver though.

27. Indianapolis Colts (0-4) – It’s going to be a long season without Peyton Manning. This team won’t quit though.

28. St. Louis Rams (0-4) – Injuries and the schedule have made them look worse than they really are. Unfortunately, they have Green Bay, Dallas and New Orleans for their next three.

29. Seattle Seahawks (1-3) – Put up 21 points in the second half Sunday. Only score 37 in their other 3.5 games.

30. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) – They have played much better in the last two weeks.

31. Minnesota Vikings (0-4) – They would be ranked much higher if the NFL cut games to 30 minutes.

32. Miami Dolphins (0-4) – With a bye and the Jets coming up they could be winless when the Broncos come to town.