February 1, 2012

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Records Tom Brady Could Break During Super Bowl XLVI

By: Matt Bowen

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has history on the line when he takes the field in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI. The 34-year-old could tie or break all of the major Super Bowl records for quarterbacks.

Brady has been the best the NFL has to offer over the last decade and there’s no sign of him slowing down anytime soon. He threw for 5,235 yards this season—a career best.  When the big game gets underway on Super Bowl Sunday it’ll be Brady’s fifth, which will tie him with John Elway for the most all-time starts by a quarterback in the Super Bowl.  While this is quite an accomplishment, there are many more records to be had by Brady with a spectacular game.

He needs just 156 passing yards in order to surpass Kurt Warner’s record of 1,156. Given, Warner did this in three games compared to Brady’s five, but who’ll remember that in 20 years? This record is almost inevitable—the New York Giants have a really good defense, but no team is good enough to hold a quarterback of Brady’s caliber to less than 156 yards. He may own this record before halftime.  

Big catches from Larry Fitzgerald helped Kurt Warner add to his total yards in Super Bowl 43.

Brady already owns the records for attempts(155) and completions(100) in the Super Bowl—he’ll only add to those.

With four touchdown tosses Brady will tie Joe Montana for most career touchdown passes in Super Bowl history with 11. Now, four touchdowns against a strong Giants squad may seem preposterous, but football fans should know not to doubt Brady—ever. After all, he threw six against the Denver Broncos just a few weeks ago.

One more Super Bowl victory would put Brady as the greatest of all time. With one win he would best Montana for most all-time playoff wins with 17. One more win on the biggest stage in all of sports would give Brady his fourth ring—tying him with Montana and Terry Bradshaw.

It’s no secret that Brady grew up imitating his boyhood hero Joe Montana.

On Super Bowl Sunday, he could become him.

May 31, 2011

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Dallas Will Win The NBA Championship

By: Joe Williams

The NBA Finals underway with Dallas taking on Miami in search of redemption after losing in the finals to the Heat in 2006. It’s a storyline worthy of a Hollywood script.

Five years ago, Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks led the series 2-0 and Game 3 by 13 with 6:30 left in the fourth quarter. That’s when Dwyane Wade took over the series and led the Heat to four straight wins.

If it was a movie script, the Mavericks would exorcise their 2006 finals collapse demons and defeat the villainous bully that looks unstoppable. Rocky did it multiple times. Hickory won the state championship in Hoosiers. However, in the real world, we don’t always get that storybook ending. John Elway finally got his Super Bowl ring. Greg Norman never got his Green Jacket.

In this case, I believe the Mavericks will have that happy ending.

Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki is a man on a mission. He knows this could be his last good chance at an NBA championship. He has been the MVP of the playoffs so far. But Miami does have LeBron James. He left Cleveland to win “not four, not five, not six…..” titles. If he is going to get to title number eight, he’s got to win the first one. These two great players cancel each other out.

In 2006 if you happened to be flipping through the channels and stopped on any of the last four games of the NBA Finals, chances are you saw Dwayne Wade at the free throw line. He scored 42, 36, 43 and 36 in those four games. Don’t expect that constant parade to the line this time around. Perhaps more than any other, that series comes up in the discussion of outcomes affected by the officials. The powers that be don’t like that. They will make sure it doesn’t happen again. And this time Dallas has DeShawn Stevenson. In two meetings during the regular season, Stevenson held Wade to just two points in 30 minutes. Dallas will need Stevenson on the floor as much as possible because when he was on the bench Wade scored 42 points in 50 minutes.

Dallas has the advantage at the center position as well. Tyson Chandler has been a big part of the Mavericks’ improvement this year. He’s added defense and a toughness in the paint that they have lacked in the past. The matchup with Joel Anthony is probably a push defensively, but Chandler adds more offensively than Anthony.

Neither NBA team has an explosive point guard like Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook, but Dallas does have a future hall-of-famer in Jason Kidd. Kidd is no longer the superstar he was earlier in his career but he has improved his shooting and has been playing great defense. He’s got a ton of experience and usually makes the right play. Bibby has led a team deep into the playoffs before as well but he hasn’t done much since coming to Miami.

Jason Terry, J.J. Barea and Peja Stojakovic come off the Mavs bench and can score in bunches. Brendan Haywood is a quality big man. This group is more explosive and consistent than the Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, and James Jones group of Miami reserves.

The Heat have two of the best players in the league who are headed to the Hall of Fame. They also have a third all-star in Chris Bosh. The Mavericks have one superstar and a group of veterans with playoff experience that is better and deeper than the rest of the Miami roster. The Heat have more talent. Dallas is a better team. And if it comes down to coaching, I’ll take Rick Carlisle over Coach Spo.

Prediction: Dallas in 6.

May 2, 2011

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Late-Round NFL Draft Pick Steals

By: Anson Whaley

With all due respect to the NBA and NHL playoffs, the NFL Draft was the premiere sporting event of the weekend. It’s a chance for teams to not only build for the future, but in some cases, find players capable of stepping in to contribute immediately. The most attention is paid to the early rounds of the event, but there are always some diamonds in the rough found late in the draft.

Here’s a look at the top ten steals (selected in the fifth round or later) over the past twenty years:

Honorable Mention – WR Joe Horn (1996 5th Round Pick)

As one of the premier wide receivers in the early part of this decade, Horn racked up more than 6,000 yards from 2000-2004 with the New Orleans Saints. He was a four-time Pro Bowler and ended his career with 58 touchdowns.

10. QB Matt Cassel (2005 7th Round Pick)

Cassel wasn’t given a chance to play immediately, backing up some guy named Tom Bradyin New England. But with Brady’s injury, Casselshowed he learned plenty with the Patriots. He joined the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009 and was a Pro Bowler last season. With wide receivers Dwayne Boweand the recently-drafted Jon Baldwin, Cassel could have another big year in 2011.

9. QB Marc Bulger (2000 6th Round Pick)

After 2006, Bulgerwas developing into one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL, coming off of a 4,000-yard Pro Bowl season with the St. Louis Rams. But a lack of production since then caused the team to look elsewhere, drafting rookie Sam Bradfordlast season. Bradford has now become the starter while Bulgeris looking for another job. He could resurface this year with the Arizona Cardinals or another team in need of a veteran.

8. WR Keenan McCardell (1991 12th Round Pick)

McCardell is one of the more underrated receivers in recent memory. His 11,373 yards are good for 24th all-time among receivers. Part of that is due to his longevity, playing 16 seasons, but McCardell was legitimately a very good receiver, hitting the 1,000-yard mark five times over his career.

7. WR Marques Colston (2006 7th Round Pick)

Colston accumulated more than 1,000 yards in four of his first five seasons and is one of the best young receivers in the NFL. He already has 40 receiving touchdowns and playing alongside quarterback Drew Brees, will put up big time numbers by the end of his career.

6. RB Michael Turner (2004 6th Round Pick)

An argument can be made that Turner should be higher on this list since he’s one of the best running backs in the game. But I don’t expect him to keep up the kind of monster production he’s had in the past three seasons, when he rushed for nearly 4,000 yards. Still, he’s another example of why teams wait to select running backs in later rounds.

5. (tie) QB Marc Brunell (1993 5th Round Pick)

In case you hadn’t noticed, Brunell is still playing at the age of 40. Seems like he’s been in the league forever … mostly because he has. All jokes aside, even though he’s now a clipboard holder for the most part rarely seeing any game action, Brunell was an excellent starting quarterback for many years with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s amassed over 32,000 passing yards in his career, good for 30th in NFL history, and is a three-time Pro Bowler.

5. (tie) QB Matt Hasselbeck (1998 6th Round Pick)

Hasselbeckis still enjoying a great NFL career and has been a three-time Pro Bowler. His 29,000+ passing yards are good for ninth on the all-time active quarterback list and at 35, he still has time to add to those impressive numbers. Hasselbeck’s play has deteriorated a bit (as evidenced by the 34 interceptions he’s thrown the past two seasons), but he is still a very capable starting signal caller.

3. LB Zach Thomas (1996 5th Round Pick)

I know, I know – he’s the only defensive player on this list. The fact is that there have simply been far more offensive gems in later rounds. Still, the Miami Dolphins found a good one in linebacker Zach Thomas. He established himself as one of the most dominant middle linebackers of his era with more than 1,100 tackles. He even threw in 20 ½ sacks and 17 interceptions for good measure in his 12-year career.

2. Terrell Davis (1995 6th Round Pick)

Davis’ seven-year career was uncharacteristically short due to injuries, but he had three consecutive 1,500-yard seasons, including 1998 when he rushed for 2,008 yards. Davis was also a two-time AP Offensive Player of the Year and is an annual finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Oh yeah … and helping John Elwaywin two Super Bowls doesn’t hurt, either.

1. Tom Brady (2000 6th Round Pick)

If you look up late-round NFL Draft steal in the dictionary, Brady’s mug would undoubtedly show up – and for good reason. He is a two-time league Most Valuable Player, six-time Pro Bowler, and most importantly, has led the New England Patriots to three Super Bowls. Case closed.

March 23, 2011

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Chad Ochocinco and the Pursuit of Multi-Sport Excellence

By: Lionel

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Chad Ochocinco is trying out for Major League Soccer’s Sporting KC.  Ochocinco has never shied away from publicity, and MLS needs all the publicity it can get, so the tryout itself can’t be looked at as anything but positive.  The potential for controversy really comes down to the decision the team will have to make at the end of the tryout.

Maybe he’ll legitimately earn his way onto the team.  There’s no denying that he, like so many pros in any sport, is an exceptional athlete.  He’s faster, stronger, more agile, more fit, and has better hand-eye coordination than 99.99% of the athletes in this country (when you include amateurs), so there’s no doubt in my mind that he has an infinitely better chance of making the Sporting KC team than I or any of the guys on my softball team would have.  But is freaky athleticism enough to secure a spot on a professional soccer team when you haven’t played organized soccer in a decade?

Michael Jordan was one of the greatest athletes the world has ever witnessed.  But even “His Greatness” wasn’t able to successfully make the switch from basketball to baseball.  Recently retired pitcher John Smoltz was one of the best hurlers in baseball of the past three decades.  His outstanding skills, however, have not yet been enough to launch a second career in golf.  Had either of them given the same time and focus to their “second” sports that they gave to their “first” sports, is it possible that Jordan would today be mentioned in the same breath as Cal Ripken, Wade Boggs, and Ken Griffey, Jr., and that Smoltz would have spent the last two decades competing with the likes of Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods?

Multi-sport athletes are certainly not new.  Jim Thorpe, who competed well before the time of anyone reading this, is a legend in baseball, football, basketball, and many track and field events.  In more recent history, Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders put up very respectable baseball numbers while also playing professional football.  But few have been able to truly excel at more than one professional sport.  Even for the extremely gifted, it takes so much time and effort to compete at the highest level in one sport that there just aren’t enough hours in the day or energy in the body to be similarly elite at another game.

Did you know that Tom Brady was drafted by the Expos?  Daunte Culpepper was drafted by the YankeesJohn Elway played in both the Yankees’ and the Royals’ minor league system.  Pat Riley was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, Danny Ainge played a few seasons for the Blue Jays, Tony Gwynn was drafted by the Clippers, Dan Marino was drafted by the Royals, and Randy “Macho Man” Savage played minor league ball for the Cardinals and Reds (Oh, yeah!).  Each of these guys made a choice to concentrate on a single sport in an endeavor to excel, recognizing, I’m sure, that he couldn’t reach the level of greatness that he eventually reached if his efforts were divided between two sports.

Is it completely a matter of divided efforts, though?  Or are some elite athletes just better suited for certain sports?  Did Dan Marino turn down the opportunity to play baseball because it was clear to him that his skills gave him a much better shot at being a stand-out football player than a stand-out baseball player?  A former college football playing buddy of mine often questions the choices he’s made.  “For all I know,” he’ll say, “I could be the greatest pickle ball player, buffalo chip tosser, or Marco Poloist in the world, but I haven’t ever attempted any of them.”  Maybe every elite athlete is built specifically for a certain game—athleticism can make him/her very good at many things, but only truly exceptional at one.

Whatever the case may be, the Ochocinco soccer tryout makes a great story.  Can he achieve greatness in a second professional sport?  I highly doubt it.  But I marvel at his athleticism, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I can’t wait to watch the story unfold.

August 16, 2010

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Jerseys for Rent!

By: Denny

With the recent exodus of LeBron James to South Beach, it got me thinking.  It’s a very rare thing for an iconic athlete to spend his entire career with one team.  It’s not even a recent trend as we can go back to guys like Joe Namath moving on to the Rams and OJ running the rock in San Fran. These days, changing teams seems to be an almost guaranteed occurrence for the majority of star players out there.

How absolutely lucky are those fans who get to cheer for their favorite player for their entire career?  Undoubtedly fans of guys like Kobe, Derek Jeter and Peyton Manning will be able to do so.  Guys like that (hopefully) as well as the Walter Paytons, John Elways, Steve Yzermans, Magic Johnsons, Larry Birds, Cal Ripkens, Tony Gwynns and George Bretts of the world are a special commodity for sure. 

It’s disappointing to see iconic figures move on from the cities that love them.  Sometimes it’s the player’s choice as with LeBron, sometimes not like in the case of Marcus Allen who was run out of the Raiders organization.  I remember as a kid who grew up with a tremendous passion for the Milwaukee Brewers just how upsetting it was to see one of my favorite players of all time, Paul Molitor leave town for Toronto.  “The Igniter” was one of those fixtures with the Brew Crew who just seemed like he belonged  with one team for the rest of his career.  Now, Moli may not agree with that since he got to win a World Series with the Blue Jays and later had the chance to play in his hometown of Minneapolis-St. Paul, but he was definitely missed.  The fans of the Brew Crew however did get to experience both sets of emotions though as they had their rare 1-team guy in Robin Yount who stayed in Milwaukee his entire Hall of Fame career and became the face of the franchise.  There’s a lot of teams and fans who don’t have that.

How strange is it to think back to Joe Montana in a Chiefs uniform, Franco Harris as a Seahawk, Tony Dorsett as a Bronco, MJ as a Wizard, ‘Nique playing for the Celtics and Clippers and Pete Rose with the Expos?  It’s happening more and more and like we are seeing with guys like LeBron, it’s even happening before the twilight of a player’s career.  Heck, a few years ago, who would have imagined Brett Favre as anything but a Packer?  Now Packers fans are trying to remember the great years of the past while seeing their former hero wearing the purple of their hated enemy.  Crazy times.  If your guy stays with your team, be thankful.  For a variety of reasons, it just doesn’t happen much anymore.  Enjoy every second!