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.

December 17, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Mack Brown Resigns – Crazy week in Texas with football coach Mack Brown stepping down from his post with the Longhorns. Brown’s resignation has been the subject of speculation for a few years now as many fans haven’t been pleased with the team’s record lately. After nine consecutive seasons with at least ten wins, Texas hasn’t achieved that mark in the past four years. Brown hasn’t been terrible, mind you, guiding the Longhorns to three winning seasons in those four years. But the team hasn’t competed for a national championship in some time and the program hasn’t been as good as it was last decade under him. Alabama’s Nick Saban seemed to be a potential replacement for Brown, but he recently announced he’s staying put with the Crimson Tide.

Kobe Bryant Struggles in Return – The Los Angeles Lakers got their star back this week as Kobe Bryant returned from his Achilles injury sustained last season – but things haven’t gone quite as they hoped. The team got off to a 1-3 start since Bryant’s return with their only win a three-point victory over the Charlotte Bobcats under their belts. The Mamba isn’t helping things, either. In the four games he’s played, Bryant is scoring only 13.5 points a game. Helping to fill the point guard role in Steve Nash’s absence, the good news is that he is averaging a career-high seven assists per contest. But Bryant is also averaging a career-worst 6.3 turnovers and is clearly still dealing with a high amount of rust.

Jamaal Charles has Record Day … as a Receiver – Kansas City Chiefs’ running back Jamaal Charles had some kind of day in the team’s 56-31 win over the rival Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Charles is one of the league’s best rushers, but he did his damage on Sunday through the air, racking up 195 receiving yards on eight catches. He added five big touchdowns and had 220 total yards on the day. According to ESPN, he had the third biggest receiving day for a running back since the 1970 merger and his five scores tied a franchise record. Needless to say, Charles surely won leagues for many of his fantasy football owners that reached their league’s championship games.

Roy Halladay Retires – Former All-Star pitcher Roy Halladay retired last week at the age of 36. Halladay, as recently as two seasons ago, was still one of baseball’s best pitchers. In his second season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011, the pitcher had perhaps his best season ever with a 19-6 record and career-bests with 220 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.35. The past two seasons for Halladay, though, have been forgettable and last year, he suffered one of his worst professional seasons going 4-5 with a whopping 6.82 ERA. The next question will inevitably be if he will get into the Hall of Fame. His credentials are reasonable with a career 3.38 ERA and more than 2,100 strikeouts, but his relatively low total of 203 wins will hurt him. That’s unfortunate because playing for some pretty bad Toronto Blue Jays teams for the bulk of his career, Halladay would certainly have had more wins with a better franchise. Still, that number will be difficult to overcome since most of the other starters currently in the Hall have more victories.

Snowball Fight Ends with Oregon Player Suspended – The Oregon Ducks’ football team apparently organized a snowball fight with fans and, well, things got out of control. A player was even suspended for the team’s upcoming bowl game. Well, then.

RGIII Benched … Redskins Lose Anyway – The Washington Redskins benched their star quarterback Robert Griffin III after he’s been inconsistent all year long following his recovery from his ACL injury. Kirk Cousins got the start for Washington on Sunday, but the team still lost to the Atlanta Falcons, 27-26. The team was competitive and Cousins did some good things in throwing for 381 yards and three touchdowns, but he also struggled a little with two interceptions and failed to convert a potential game-winning two-point conversion near the end of the contest. Cousins is an interesting quarterback who has a future in this league, but the team is still better off with Griffin if he can return to the form he showed in 2012. Benching him was the right move and if the Skins are wise, they’ll do the same for the rest of the season and allow him to get healthy for next year.

Jameis Winston wins Heisman – In the long and storied history of the Heisman trophy, a freshman didn’t win the award until last season when Johnny Manziel took home the prize. That opened the door for others and for the second consecutive season, a first-year player has won the honor. Freshman quarterback Jameis Winston has been nothing short of spectacular for the Seminoles and he clearly deserved to win it, leading Florida State to an undefeated season as they head into the national championship game next month.

Skiing … Not Just for the MountainsSkiers are taking over Detroit’s abandoned buildings. No, really.

November 7, 2013

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In case you missed it – October

By: Joe Williams

Another month has come and gone. October was a big one in the sports world with the return of the NBA, the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series and of course the NFL and college football seasons taking shape. But you already knew about all that. Lots of other stuff happened in the sports world that you may have missed. Such as:

DeAngelo Hall of the Washington Redskins had a post-game interview cut short by an NFL wardrobe inspector who threatened to fine Hall because he was wearing an unapproved shirt. After the game. In the locker room!

A restaurant in Houston named a burger after the Texans starting quarterback Matt Schaub. Probably not the first time a restaurant has done that about a local star. But this was not in support of the quarterback. After Schaub struggled and had a few interceptions returned for touchdowns, a local eatery came out with the “Pick Six” burger in his honor.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs can now say they play in front of the loudest crowd in the NFL after breaking an NFL record in October.

In protest to all of the rule changes and fines the NFL has unleashed on defenders lately, San Fransisco 49ers safety Donte Whitner decided to officially change his last name to “Hitner.”

The Atlanta Braves made the playoffs and left their highest paid player off of the playoff roster.

50-year-old NBA Hall-of-Famer Chris Mullin went 14 for 15 and beat the current Sacramento Kings players in a three-point shooting contest.

The new head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, Jason Kidd, was suspended for two games before ever coaching a game. (The suspension came after he crashed into a telephone pole and was under suspicion of drunk driving.

Did you see Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” video? Let’s be real. Who didn’t see it? But did you see which big name from the sports world did a spoof of that video? That’s right. None other than Hulk Hogan got in the act with his own version of “Wrecking Ball.”

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis was as surprised as anyone when his team attempted a fake punt from inside its own 20-yard-line.

Phil Mickelson helped the USA to a win over the International team in the President’s Cup. How did he prepare for the competition? By hiring a new coach. A ping pong coach that is.

A 47-year-old, two-time Olympian, Zola Budd, crushed a bunch of college runners in a 5K event in North Carolina.

Former Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice was named to the NCAA’s playoff selection committee.

People who don’t even work for USC have been contacting coaches and attempting to recruit them to fill the Trojans’ coaching vacancy.

A 15-year-old who was announcing a middle school football game was punished for using a phrase that NFL announcer Gus Johnson uses in the Madden NFL game. The phrase that got him in hot water….”He’s got that getting-away-from-the-cops speed.”

During an MMA fight in Brazil, a fighter found a new way to submit. He just jumped out of the cage and left the arena in the middle of the fight.

Kansas City Chiefs fans sent a record for the loudest crowd when they hit 137.5 decibles.

The Los Angeles Dodgers don’t have a team mascot so it was a bit of a surprise when someone in a bear costume came out during the 8th inning of the NLCS Game 3 against the Cardinals. The bear put on an amazing performance for the crowd before being ejected from the game.

A Cleveland Browns fan posted an ad on Craigslist looking for a decent quarterback for the team.

The Clippers took another step towards claiming Los Angeles for themselves by covering up the Lakers championship banners in the Staples Center.

After a 91-0 blowout win a high school coach in Texas is being accused of bullying.

A Red Sox fan couldn’t get the day off of work from his job selling furniture to attend Game 1 of the World Series. So he quit.

Indiana Pacer Paul George bought every ticket for Fresno State’s home opener for the men’s basketball season. That’s 15,596 tickets.

Washington Redskins tight end Fred Davis admitted to sleeping during team meetings. And he wonders why he’s been replaced in the starting lineup.

A fan who was injured by a hot dog thrown by the team mascot back in 2009 is now suing the Kansas City Royals.

October 28, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Brett Favre stays retired: An interesting story this week came out of St. Louis where it was reported that the Rams offered a job to retired quarterback Brett Favre. With starter Sam Bradford suffering a season-ending ACL injury, the Rams checked to see if Favre would be interested in making yet another comeback. The future Hall of Famer declined, though, deciding to stay out of football. While it might have been fun for us to see if Favre could still play, the move was the right one. Favre has already been the numerous butt of jokes for his on again off again relationship with the NFL. But more importantly, the quarterback hasn’t played since 2010 and can’t possibly be ready to step in for a team right now. Favre likely would have turned down any gig, but the icing on the cake for his decision was probably the Rams’ last-place standing in the NFC West. St. Louis doesn’t look like a playoff team and you can bet that Favre wanted no part of the grueling NFL season without a chance to win another title.

Could Larry Fitzgerald be playing for someone other than the Cardinals this season?

The World Series: The World Series is all tied up as the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox have each won two games. The big story has been all of the talk surrounding Game 3 where the Cardinals won on an obstruction call when it was ruled the Sox’ Will Middlebrooks prevented the Cardinals’ Allen Craig from trying to score from third. The rule is a complicated one and it’s still being hotly debated if it was the right call since the source of the obstruction was when Middlebrooks was diving for a ball and really had nowhere else to go. One thing’s clear, though – if the call was indeed the right one, Boston fans upset that the rule shouldn’t be enforced there are off base. The rule is the rule and it shouldn’t be changed simply because it affected a World Series game.

Kansas City Chiefs still undefeated: We’re now halfway through the NFL season and after a 23-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns this week, the Kansas City Chiefs are still unbeaten at 8-0. Kansas City has had a remarkable season, but it’s still hard to believe that they would be the favorite to reach the Super Bowl. At 7-1, the Denver Broncos have a blemish on their record and are technically behind the Chiefs in the AFC West. Despite that, though, it’s hard to imagine folks lining up to bet against Peyton Manning and that offense if the two teams squared off in a game.

Alabama plays hardball with football fans: The Alabama Crimson Tide are building a small dynasty in college football and their tickets are understandably a hot item. So when some students left blowout games early, the administration was none too pleased. Head coach Nick Saban started things off by openly criticizing those that left, but the real hammer dropped when the school revoked the seats of the student organizations in a certain block of the stadium. That may sound harsh, but the school’s guidelines for having tickets actually state that early departures from games is unacceptable behavior.

Greg Oden returns: Big man Greg Oden returned to action in the NBA after missing the past several seasons with injuries. Oden made his return with the Miami Heat and suited up for the team on Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans. He only played four minutes since the team is trying to work him into the rotation at a reasonable rate after missing so much time, but he scored a bucket and hauled in two rebounds. Oden also had two turnovers and two quick fouls, but to see him back on the court was a welcome sight.

Larry Fitzgerald trade in the works?: ESPN reported this week that Larry Fitzgerald could be traded this offseason if not by this week’s NFL trade deadline as the move would save the Arizona Cardinals approximately $8 million. Fitz has been one of the league’s best wide receivers and this past weekend, he became the youngest receiver in NFL history to record 800 catches. Fitzgerald has been something to watch since he burst onto the scene. And the thing to remember is that his numbers would be even more astonishing if he had played with better quarterbacks over the course of his career.

Tim Lincecum signs new deal with Giants: Tim Lincecum hasn’t quite been himself over the past couple of seasons, but the Giants showed tremendous faith in their former ace by signing him to a two-year $35 million deal last week. That kind of money is substantial for a pitcher that was only 10-14 with a 4.37 ERA last year – particularly when you consider it was on the heels of a 2012 season when he was even worse, going 10-15 with an ERA of 5.18. At only 29, there’s still plenty of time for Lincecum to return to his Cy Young form. But San Francisco is still taking a sizeable gamble that he will be able to turn it around with that kind of money, though.

Basketball legend Bill Sharman dies: Former Boston Celtics star Bill Sharman passed away last week at the age of 87. Sharman was a Hall of Famer and also named as one of the NBA’s top 50 players of all time during the league’s 50th anniversary. You hear the term ‘lifer’ thrown around quite a bit, but Sharman was one of those guys where it was truly applicable. Sharman was a player from 1950 – 1961 and then went into coaching from 1966 – 1976. After coaching, he wrote two books on the sport and also was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers front office.

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.