May 28, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Tony Kanaan wins Indy 500: After years of frustration, veteran racer Tony Kanaan finally won the prize of his life with a win in this weekend’s Indianapolis 500. For Kanaan it was his first victory at the historic race. With only three laps to go after a green flag, Kanaan quickly took the lead. It was a good thing, too, because defending champion Dario Franchitti crashed further back from the front and the race finished under caution with Kanaan in the lead. Rookie Carlos Munoz finished in second place.

Brian Urlacher retired from the NFL after 13 years with the Chicago Bears.

Brian Urlacher retires: After not re-signing with the Chicago Bears and becoming a free agent, Brian Urlacher figured he’d be playing again in 2014. But Urlacher surprised a few folks last week when he announced his retirement. Having played 13 seasons, it’s not as if his career is being cut short but he likely still has something left in the tank. Urlacher is believed to have reached out to every team in the league, but in the end, decided he’d had enough. There’s little doubt that he’ll be on his way to the Hall of Fame at some point.

San Francisco and Houston awarded 2016 and 2017 Super Bowls: NFL owners approved the cities of San Francisco and Houston as hosts of the 2016 and 2017 Super Bowls respectively. Both edged out Miami, which was also vying for the games. San Francisco will host the historic 50th Super Bowl, which will be played in Levi’s Stadium, expected to be complete in 2014. For Miami, the biggest negative was the franchise not securing funding for improvements to their stadium. That likely cost them a bid and they may not see another one until either the team or the city forks over some money for upgrades to Sun Life Stadium.

Lebron James and Kobe Bryant headline All NBA First Team: The All NBA teams were named last week and among first-teamers were Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. Others included Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, and Chris Paul. Left off was the scoring champion, Carmelo Anthony. Duncan had a great season, but I’m not sure I would have given him the nod over Anthony.

Cleveland wins NBA Draft lottery: Cleveland had a miserable season, but wound up with a pretty good consolation prize when they won the top spot in the NBA’s Draft lottery selection on Tuesday. It’s the second time in three seasons they’ll have had the No. 1 selection and, should they keep it, could pair a big man such as Nerlens Noel along with Kyrie Irving. In a year where there isn’t considered a dominant player at the top, trading the pick could be an option. But when you consider that they have four selections in the top 33 picks, they may need to get a proven player or two in return instead of more picks. And for what it’s worth, Cleveland’s general manager Chris Grant has said he’s willing to consider dealing the selection.

NFL Draft moving to May: Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed in the NFL’s spring meetings last week that the league’s draft will move to May in 2014. The main reason for the switch? Radio City Music Hall will be booked during the regularly scheduled time in April.

Mike Trout becomes youngest AL player to hit for cycle: Anaheim Angels phenom Mike Trout already has an amazing track record in his short time in the big leagues. But he added another honor on Tuesday when he became the youngest AL player to hit for the cycle. Trout picked up five RBI in a 12-0 win over Seattle to accomplish the feat.

Michael Crabtree tears Achilles: The 49ers received some great news when it was announced San Francisco would host the 2016 Super Bowl. But things evened out a bit with the news that star wide receiver, Michael Crabtree, tore his Achilles and is expected to miss six months. Crabtree, who had gotten off to a modest start with the 49ers, had a breakout season last year with 85 catches, more than 1,100 yards, and nine touchdowns. The good news for San Francisco is that the team has some depth in the passing game with newly-signed Anquan Boldin, draft pick Quinton Patton, tight end Vernon Davis, and Mario Manningham.

Mike Krzyzewski will remain coach of Team USA: It was widely believed that Coach K would step down from his role as head of the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team, but he’s apparently had a change of heart and will return. In a nutshell, that’s nothing but great news for the program. Since taking over in 2005, Team USA has had nothing but success, winning gold medals in 2008 and 2012. The players have responded well to him and there’s also something to be said for consistency in the program.

St. Louis Rams sign 400-pounder: The St. Louis Rams made a big splash, literally and figuratively, last week. The team signed Ole Miss’ Terrell Brown as a free agent. If you’re not familiar with Brown, that probably doesn’t sound like a big deal … at least until you get to the part that he’s 403 pounds. And oh yeah, he’s 6’10”, too. Brown didn’t play much during his time at Ole Miss and is considered at best to be a project. He was mostly on the defensive line in college, but will shift to the offensive line in the NFL. It may sound like an interesting story, but if coaches couldn’t find a way to use him against smaller, slower players in college, the chances that he’ll be able to compete against the best players in the world are slim.

January 31, 2013

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Super Bowl XLVII Predictions

By: Matt Bowen

Super Bowl XLVII is now just days away, which leaves fans to ponder how many pounds of nachos they’ll serve up to their friends and what exactly will transpire in the big game in the Big Easy.

Making predictions is half the fun when it comes to the Super Bowl. NFL fans know that most of the iconic Super Bowl moments have come unexpectedly, and there will no doubt be a few of those this year.

Let’s get to it:

Jacoby Jones Will Take the Opening Kickoff Back for a Touchdown

The Baltimore Ravens acquired Jacoby Jones in the offseason primarily to be an instant threat in the return game. Jones hasn’t disappointed this season as he returned two kicks and a punt for touchdowns.

He’s also a viable weapon as a No. 3 receiver behind Anquan Boldin and Terrey Smith. Just ask the Denver Broncos if Jones is a difference maker. They seemingly forgot about him in their Divisional Round playoff matchup as he marched into the end zone after a bomb from quarterback Joe Flacco that sent the game to overtime.

Here’s the kicker—Jones is a native of New Orleans, and he’ll be more than ready to steal the show. With his blood flowing early, he’ll start the game off with a bang.

Alex Smith Will Make an Appearance

The San Francisco 49ers made a bold move this season when they benched then starting quarterback Alex Smith for second-year man Colin Kaepernick.

Smith, a former No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft was finally beginning to look like a No. 1 pick. He was coming off arguably the best game of his career, going 18-for-19 for 232 yards and three touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8.

Just when it was looking like Smith had solidified himself, a concussion knocked him out of Week 10 against the St. Louis Rams and inevitably changed the course of his career.

In came Kaepernick, who undoubtedly optimized the Niners offense and propelled them to the Super Bowl.

So, this is the end of Smith, right?

Wrong!

He’ll make an appearance in the Super Bowl and even throw an 18-yard touchdown to tight end Vernon Davis.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh knows he has to pack a bag full of tricks if he’s to beat a veteran Ravens defense. Smith will be one of those tricks, and he’ll make the most of it. On the first possession of the second half, Smith will make his mark.
Justin Tucker Will Kick the Longest Field Goal in Super Bowl History

The Baltimore Ravens made some noise this preseason when they tapped rookie Justin Tucker from the University of Texas to be their place kicker this season.

Tucker proved he’s the man for the job, going 30-for-33 on the season and even notching four field goals longer than 50 yards.

The Super Bowl record for longest field goal is a 54-yarder from Steve Christie of the Buffalo Bills against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVIII.

Tucker will top that by booting a 56-yard field goal with 3:13 left in the third quarter. He’ll show the world just why the Ravens made a great choice when they chose him.

Randy Moss Will Walk the Walk

In case you haven’t heard, Randy Moss has named himself the “Greatest of All Time” during media day at the Super Bowl this season.

Considering he’s a member of the San Francisco 49ers, that’s a bold statement.

Although his career numbers don’t compare to Hall of Fame 49er Jerry Rice’s, Moss will make a big impact in the Super Bowl. Love him or hate him, he’s really good.

It’s long been known that Moss shows up when he wants to, and, considering it’s the Super Bowl, he’ll be open for business.

The Ravens will have their hands full trying to keep track of receiver Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis. Moss will slip by the secondary for an early second quarter touchdown. Don’t be surprised when he is booed after reaching the end zone.

In the end, he’ll have four catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.

Joe Flacco Will Stamp Himself as Elite

Why there’s still a debate to whether Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is elite or not beats me.  All the guy does is win.  Sure, it may not always be pretty, but a win is a win.

Flacco will be a free agent in the offseason, but don’t expect him to leave Baltimore—he’s there to stay.  Taking Super Bowl MVP honors will certainly boost his pocketbook during bargaining.

He may not be the flashiest quarterback, but he’ll have a Super Bowl ring to show off.

In his MVP performance he’ll go 22-for-30 with 301 passing yards and two touchdowns, including a game-winning drive that will end in a Ray Rice 12-yard screen pass touchdown.

Final Score: Ravens 24, 49ers 20

October 17, 2011

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Five NFL Trades That Should Happen

By: Anson Whaley

Sure, NFL trades aren’t all that frequent. While we as fans pay strict attention to the MLB, NBA, and NHL trade deadlines, the NFL cutoff date generally comes and goes without much fanfare. Seriously, before this week, did you have any idea that the trade deadline is Tuesday? If you did, the chances are good that you’re probably an agent, a GM, or a player.

That said, there are some moves that should happen – moves that could make teams better in the short or long run. Here are five players that should be moved in exchange for a draft pick.

5. WR Eddie RoyalDenver Broncos to Carolina Panthers: Eddie Royal’s name is one of the most widely heard when the trade deadline comes up. Royal had an extremely productive rookie year in 2008 catching 91 passes for just under 1,000 yards, but since then, has dropped off a bit – particularly with the emergence of other receivers over the years such as Brandon Lloyd and the departed Jabar Gaffney. At 25, though, Royal still should have plenty of productivity left and would make a nice target for rookie Cam Newton in Carolina who could use another wideout.

4. CB Asante SamuelPhiladelphia Eagles to St. Louis Rams: The Rams’ secondary is in need of a major boost. Arguably their top three cornerbacks, Ron Bartell, Jerome Murphy, and Bradley Fletcher, are injured and the team needs to shore up that position. Sure, the Rams aren’t likely to contend this year, but Samuel is only 30 and is still capable of being a contributor for several more seasons. The Eagles’ defense has struggled this season, but mediocre linebacker play has been a big factor in that. And with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie, the team can afford to move one of their cornerbacks. Trading Samuel to a team such as the New York Giants might make more sense, but I couldn’t see the Eagles allowing him to go to a division rival.

3. RB Joseph AddaiIndianapolis Colts to Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Addai’s had injury issues the past few years, but when healthy, he’s more than capable of being an adequate running back. Tampa Bay may not win the NFC South, but they could have a shot at a Wild Card. Leading rusher LeGarrette Blount is injured, but more than that, the Bucs could use some help in the backfield. Addai is injured himself, so he may not be immediately available himself. But a second back would provide some insurance for the team should one of them go down later in the season. Indianapolis has young running backs Delone Carter and Donald Brown on the roster and can afford to part with Addai at this point as he’s been solid, but unspectacular.

2. WR Brandon Lloyd – Denver Broncos to San Francisco 49ers: Raise your hand if you expected the 49ers to not only get off to a good start this season, but look like one of the league’s better teams at 5-1. Even San Francisco fans were probably hard pressed to expect the team’s hot start. But now that the 49ers appear to be for real, it’s time they add another receiver to the mix. Enter Brandon Lloyd, who had more than 1,400 receiving yards last season with the Broncos. Lloyd is also familiar with the area having played with San Francisco in his first three seasons. He’s a veteran and can provide immediate help to rejuvenated quarterback Alex Smith. Michael Crabtree and Ted Ginn have been serviceable at wide receiver, but adding a steady veteran to the team in Lloyd would go a long way to helping the team not only reach the playoffs, but make some noise once they get there.

1. QB Carson PalmerCincinnati Bengals to Seattle Seahawks: The Carson Palmer/Cincinnati saga hasn’t gone as expected for Palmer, who probably believed he would eventually have his trade request fulfilled. Six games into the season and Palmer is still sitting out while rookie Andy Dalton has taken the reins for the Bengals’ offense. Seriously, though, this is helping no one. Palmer would be better served by being able to play elsewhere and Cincinnati could get something in return for him. A move to Seattle might be ideal for Palmer who could help the Seahawks contend in the mediocre NFC West. He would also be reunited with former USC coach Pete Carroll and is an upgrade over Tarvaris Jackson.

October 12, 2011

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NFL Predictions: Week 6 Fantasy Picks

By: Rick Jarrell

Fantasy Football Predictions: Week 5 Recap

I’m not sure what’s going on with the New York Jets. They held up pretty well against the New England Patriots, only losing by nine points, but I’m surprised they didn’t run more. Sure the Patriots’ secondary is suspect, but slowing the game down and playing good defense was the Jets bread and butter. Super Bowl hopefuls I just don’t see.

Where I missed on Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson, I hit on Alex Smith. The 49ers crushed the Tampa Bay Bucs 48-3, with Smith tossing 3 TD and 0 INT. The offensive explosion did not include Michael Crabtree, though, recording only a couple catches for 36 yards.

Oh and Nick Novak kicked five field goals. That’s a solid pick for a kicker, albeit lucky. But when your fantasy team begins to tank, you take what you can get.

Fantasy Football Predictions:  Week 6

Dallas & New England

It feels like a cop out to just select two offenses, but this match up has high scoring written all over it. Expect Tom Brady and his receivers to have a big game, as well as Tony Romo and his crew. Brady doesn’t discriminate when it comes to his receivers, so who knows who will be his favorite target for the week. If you’re looking to pick someone up, go after Aaron Hernandez, their second tight end who gets first tight end receptions, or Chad Ochocinco, who has disappointed fantasy owners so far, but has to score at least a few times this year, right?

Michael Bush

The Oakland Raiders face my Cleveland Browns this Sunday, which I fully expect to result in personal dismay. The Brownies can’t stop the run, and Darren McFadden has become the top tier player the Raiders expected him to be when he was drafted in the first round a few years ago.

But unless your league-mates have been in a cave, he’s not on your waiver wire. Chances are Michael Bush isn’t either, but I have him on many of my teams, and it’s always a toss-up whether he should play or not. This week he’s a good play in a likely blowout of the Browns. The Raiders will run the ball a ton, and Bush will get the goal line carries.

Ryan Grant

Speaking of the running game, the Green Bay Packers go up against one of the worst run defenses in the league in the St. Louis Rams. They’re also one of the worse defenses in general, so Aaron Rodgers should have a big day. But eventually they’ll pull out to a big league and run the clock down. Grant splits carries with James Starks, but Grant is technically the starter and incumbent, although he missed all last year due to injury.

For whatever reason, I’ve noticed Grant go undrafted and stay on the waiver wire in many leagues. He’s definitely not what he was two years ago, but he’s a good value play if you’re desperate for a running back.

October 7, 2011

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NFL Predictions: Week 5 Fantasy Picks

By: Rick Jarrell

Last week was very kind to fans – the games were exciting and, for the most part, concluded in rather predictable fashions. Most of the games, other than the Bengals win over the Bills and 49ers win over the Eagles, had outcomes you would expect. And even those two, in hindsight, make a lot of sense. But despite the predictability, there were a lot of entertaining games on, the Detroit Lions‘ comeback over the Dallas Cowboys likely the best of them all.

Tony Romo, one of my fantasy studs of the week, managed to only play one half and put up 300 yards and 3 TDs. But at halftime, the towel boy locked Romo in a storage closet and took his jersey, throwing three picks resulting in two touchdowns and a devastating loss in the second quarter. Still a decent fantasy play despite the turnovers, but wow.

McNabb performed well, too, especially compared his recent performances. 200 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT is acceptable for a back up if you needed it. The Vikings still lost, but it seems like that’s going to be a consistent trend this year.

On to the Week 5 Fantasy Studs…

Alex Smith

For many fantasy owners, the beginning of bye weeks has snuck up quicker than anticipated. All of my teams, for example, have been annihilated by the Week 5 buys, including both of my quarterbacks – Romo and Rex Grossman (I try to synchronize my teams for simplicity). Luckily I’ve snagged a decent replacement in Alex Smith.

Smith led the Niners to victory Sunday with a solid 200 yards and 2 TD game. The Eagles, who allegedly have a deadly secondary, actually have superior cornerbacks and holes at safety and lineback, which Smith was able to exploit with Vernon Davis at tight end.

This week, they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who aren’t exactly shutting down teams. Will Smith put up 40 points for you? No. Did I just accidentally type “Will Smith?” Yes. But another solid 20 point outing is likely in store, which is all you can really ask for in a back up.

Note: I’ll also be starting Michael Crabtree in hopes he will finally play a full game and finally show some of the talent touted when he was coming out of college.

Shonn Greene & LaDainian Tomlinson

The New York Jets have looked much worse than anticipated this year on the shoulders of Mark Sanchez, who did a pretty good Tony Romo impression Sunday night. But their match up with the New England Patriots this weekend provides a very good match up for the Jets, who in the past, have played well and beat the high flying offense. The Patriots’ defense is suspect at best, but can produce big plays with their dynamic corners. The run defense, however, gives up big yards. Look for the Jets to keep the ball on the ground, out of Sanchez’s hands, and in the arms of Green and LaDainian Tomlinson.

Nick Novak

That’s right, I’m suggesting a kicker. In reality, kickers don’t matter much. When they put up big numbers, it’s unpredictable, and your energy is best served on other matters – fantasy football and otherwise. Which makes it even more irritating that the first bye week, my kicker is out. Not a big deal, but it’s annoying. So my strategy on the waiver wire to pick up whoever is playing Denver in hopes they nail a 50 yard field goal. This week, that’s San Diego’s Nick Novak. Denver’s Matt Prater would work, too, but he isn’t very accurate.