January 10, 2013

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What I’ll Remember About 2012 – Part 1

By: Joe Williams

Every year we see things we never thought we would and things we never want to see again. We see everything from the incredible to the inspiring to the sad and hilarious. Here’s what I will remember about 2012.

January 1 – Matt Flynn and Matthew Stafford combine for 971 net passing yards in 45-41 Green Bay win.

January 8 – The Denver Broncos make short work of the new NFL overtime rules, scoring an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of overtime to beat the Steelers 29-23 in the first round of the AFC playoffs.

January 9 Alabama actually scored a touchdown in its rematch with LSU in the BCS Championship Game, winning 21-0.

January 14 Tom Brady shredded the Denver Broncos for five touchdown passes in the first half and another in the third quarter to tie the postseason single-game record in a 45-10 win.

January 14 – The 49ers and Saints combine for 34 points in the fourth quarter and four lead changes in the final five minutes as the 49ers outlasted New Orleans 36-32 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game.

January 22 – Joe Paterno passed away.

January 22 – The Baltimore Ravens had a dropped pass in the end zone that prevented them from winning the AFC Championship Game in New England and then missed a 32-yard field goal that would have sent the game to overtime.

January 22 – The New York Giants advanced to the Super Bowl with a 20-17 overtime win against the 49ers after a fumbled punt set up the game-winning field goal.

February 4Jeremy Lin came out of nowhere and led the New York Knicks to a win with 25 points, five rebounds and seven assists in the first of an incredible 13-game stretch in which he averaged 22.3 points and 7.4 assists. His heroics were celebrated worldwide and he ended up on the cover of Time and Sports Illustrated and one of the biggest celebrities in the league.

Jeremy Lin was one of the biggest stories of 2012.

February 5 – The New York Giants beat Tom Brady and the Patriots in another Super Bowl, 21-17, led by Eli Manning and another fourth-quarter comeback.

February 5 – Tom Brady’s wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, gets caught on camera blaming Patriot receivers for New England’s Super Bowl loss, saying that her husband cannot throw and catch the ball at the same time.

March 8 – The Indianapolis Colts announced that they will release future hall-of-fame quarterback, Peyton Manning.

March 13 – The First Four was worth watching on this night. First, Western Kentucky rallied from a 16-point deficit with 4:51 to go and beat Mississippi Valley State 59-58. Then BYU followed that up by erasing a 25-point deficit and beat Iona 78-72.

March 16Duke and Missouri, both No. 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament, go down on the same day. Norfolk State upset a 30-win Missouri team 86-84 and then later that night Lehigh defeated the Blue Devils 75-70. Only four No. 15 seeds have ever knocked off a No. 2 seed in history before it happened twice that day.

March 20 – Peyton Manning picks the Denver Broncos.

March 21NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell laid down the law on the New Orleans Saints for their bounty scandal, effectively ending the Saints season before it ever got started. This story never went away due to the continuous appeals of the suspensions.

March 26 – The Denver Broncos trade Tim Tebow to the New York Jets.

March 11 – Tiger Woods withdrew from the final round of the WGC Cadillac Championship with an injury. The blimp that was covering the golf tournament then followed Tiger as he left the golf course, a scene usually reserved for a high-speed chase.

April 1 – I.K. Kim takes the honor for worst golf shot of the year after she missed an 18-inch putt that would have won the LPGA’s first major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She ended up losing in a playoff.

April 2 – John Calipari and his Kentucky squad that consisted of six future NBA players wins the national title, beating Kansas 67-59.

April 3Baylor completed a perfect season at 40-0 and won the women’s national title, beating Notre Dame 80-61.

April 8 – Bubba Watson hits one of the greatest shots in Masters history; a miracle 40-yard hook shot out of the pine straw on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff with Louis Oosthuizen. Two putts for par later and Watson was wearing the green jacket.

April 21Phil Humber pitches a perfect game at Seattle, striking out nine in the White Sox 4-0 win.

April 26Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are drafted by the Colts and Redskins.

May 8 Josh Hamilton hit four home runs and had eight RBI against the Baltimore Orioles.

June 3 – Tiger Woods hit an incredible flop shot from behind the green on 16 that trickled into the hole on his way to winning the Memorial Tournament.

June 7 – LeBron James overwhelms the Boston Celtics with a 45 point and 15 rebound performance in a 98-79 win over Boston on the road to force a Game 7 in South Beach.

June 7 – Novak Djokovic outlasted Rafael Nadal in a grueling marathon in the Australian Open final (5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5) in a match that took five hours and 53 minutes and didn’t end until 1:37 a.m.

June 11 – The Los Angeles Kings win their first Stanley Cup in 45 years after barely squeaking into the final playoff spot in the West and going on one of the greatest runs in playoff history.

June 13Matt Cain pitched a perfect game in a 10-0 San Francisco win over the Astros.

June 21 – LeBron James and the Miami Heat win the NBA championship after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-106 in game five.

June 27 – A four-team college football playoff was formally approved to begin in 2014.

June 30 – The third round of the AT&T National was played with no spectators on the golf course because of safety concerns after a powerful wind storm left trees uprooted all over the golf course.

October 31, 2012

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

We are midway through the NFL season and closing in on the trade deadline. A few teams look Super Bowl worthy, while others are looking towards 2013 already. Where does your team stand?

Matt Ryan has the Atlanta Falcons at 7-0 so far this season.

1 Atlanta Falcons (7-0) – Their seven wins are still more than the rest of the NFC South has combined (6). Matt Ryan is making a case for MVP.

2 Houston Texans (6-1) – The Texans look like the best team in the AFC. Their powerful running game will make them tough to stop come playoff time.

3 San Francisco 49ers (6-2) – Alex Smith and the Niners were almost perfect and took control of the NFC West with a dominating win over Arizona on Monday Night Football.

4 Chicago Bears (6-1) – Chicago survived a scare from Carolina and are leading the best division in the league.

5 Baltimore Ravens (5-2) – The Ravens should have no trouble with the Browns and Raiders before heading into a huge divisional showdown with Pittsburgh.

6 New England Patriots (5-3) – The Patriots enjoyed themselves in London. Their three losses are by a combined four points.

7 New York Giants (6-2) – It’s amazing the difference a couple fingernails can make. The Giants could have been in an NFC East dogfight but now they are firmly in the driver’s seat.

8 Denver Broncos (4-3) – Now the schedule starts getting easier and Peyton Manning is playing like an MVP. Denver will be dangerous.

9 Green Bay Packers (5-3) – They are starting to look like the Packers team we expected to see. With reeling Arizona up next, they should head into their bye on a roll.

10 Minnesota Vikings (5-3) – The Vikings will be desperate for a bounce-back win after the poor showing against Tampa Bay. With five tough divisional games remaining, they better get wins now.

11 Dallas Cowboys (3-4) – Their season will be on the line in the next two weeks with road games coming against Atlanta and Philly. They must win at least one of those two.

12 Arizona Cardinals (4-4) – The won four straight and have now lost four straight. It could become six with the Packers and Falcons up next.

13 Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) – Pittsburgh shut down RGIII and got back on the right side of .500. It will be tough to stay there with a trip to the Giants this week.

14 Detroit Lions (3-4) – That was a season-saving win over Seattle. Another must win this week against Jacksonville because the schedule will get harder.

15 Seattle Seahawks (4-4) – The controversial win over Green Bay continues to loom large in the NFC playoff picture. They have got to improve their 1-4 road record.

16 San Diego Chargers (3-4) – Six points in the last six quarters. Big changes ahead in San Diego if they don’t get this turned around.

17 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) – Doug Martin had a break-out game and the Bucs are back in the race. Next three are very winnable.

18 Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) – How much longer will Vick be the starter? Losing to New Orleans this week could lead to a change.

19 New York Jets (3-5) – Miami embarrassed the Jets and had fans calling for Tebow. That is a recipe for disaster in New York.

20 New Orleans Saints (2-5) – The Saints will need to go 7-2 at worst to reach the playoffs. Highly unlikely with the Eagles, Falcons (twice), 49ers and Giants still to play.

21 Indianapolis Colts (4-3) – Andrew Luck was the right pick. There are some winnable games ahead that could keep the Colts in the playoff race.

22 Cincinnati Bengals (3-4) – The Bengals could fall out of the playoff picture if they lose to the red-hot Broncos and Giants in the next two weeks.

23 Washington Redskins (3-5) – The Redskins need to beat Carolina and use the bye to get ready for three straight NFC East games.

24 Oakland Raiders (3-4) – Two straight wins for the silver and black. If they make it three against Tampa Bay they will have a shot in the AFC West.

25 Miami Dolphins (4-3) – Don’t look now but if the playoffs started today, Miami would be in. Schedule isn’t that tough the rest of the way.

26 Tennessee Titans (3-5) – Overtime loss to Indy really hurts. Especially with a trip to Chicago coming up.

27 Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) – Jags gave Green Bay all they wanted but at 1-6, that isn’t much consolation.

28 St. Louis Rams (3-5) – A 45-7 loss leaves a bad taste in their mouth and and extra week to think about it.

29 Buffalo Bills (3-4) – Road trips to Houston and New England coming up have the Bills on the brink.

30 Cleveland Browns (2-6) – Browns playing great defense and have won two of three. Reality check coming against Baltimore?

31 Carolina Panthers (1-6) – Cam Newton and company controlled the game against Chicago but couldn’t finish it off.

32 Kansas City Chiefs (1-6) – This is not how the Chiefs wanted to head into two straight prime-time games.

August 23, 2012

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AFC Preview

By: Joe Williams

One year ago, I went three-for-four picking NFL division champs and my Super Bowl team was a last-second missed field goal away from sending the AFC Championship game to overtime. What will happen this season? Only time and reading the rest of this article will tell.

The Bills will challenge, but the AFC East still belongs to New England.

AFC EAST
Is it just me or does it feel like there is a changing of the guard happening here? It has been a two-horse race with New England on top with the Jets right behind in the wild card race for the last few seasons. That changes in 2012 because the Buffalo Bills have come to crash the party. Buffalo went on a major spending spree during the offseason and built what could be the best defensive line in the league. If they get a solid season from Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bills will be in the playoff conversation in December. The Jets will be the most talked about team in the league. But not for the right reasons. Tebowmania has come to New York and already chased one quarterback out of town. This is still Tom Brady’s division but now it will be the Bills trying to keep pace.

Division winner: New England

AFC NORTH
Three AFC North teams went to the playoffs in 2011 with just the Browns staying home. That won’t happen again. Cleveland had a franchise-altering offseason though, drafting stud running back Trent Richardson and bringing in rookie Brandon Weeden to be the quarterback of the future. There is too much drama already going on in Pittsburgh. Some important players are still banged up. Mike Wallace is still holding out and the team can’t go more than a day or two without a fight at camp. Suddenly, the Bengals look like the team of the future in the North with new quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green leading the way. But this year it will go through Baltimore. The Ravens have several veterans looking for one more shot at a ring after falling just short of the Super Bowl last year.

Division winner: Baltimore

AFC SOUTH
Things can change a lot in a year. The Colts have relinquished their stranglehold on the South and put their future in the hands of Andrew Luck. That leaves the South as Houston’s division to lose. The Texans finally made the jump to division champs last year and may have gone to the Super Bowl if Matt Schaub could have played in the playoffs. If he and Andre Johnson can stay on the field all year, there will be at least one playoff game in Texas in January. The Jaguars and Titans have given the keys to sophomore quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker. This could be a real interesting division for years to come with three young quarterbacks going at it. Not much drama in 2012 though.

Division winner: Houston

AFC WEST
It’s not very often that a division champion wins a playoff game and then trades its starting quarterback. It’s also not very often that one of the best quarterbacks to ever play becomes available. Peyton Manning replaces Tim Tebow in Denver and will be the story of the West in 2012. It will be the most competitive division in 2012 just like it was in 2011 when everyone but the Chiefs went 8-8 and Kansas City was 7-9. It could come down to Peyton Manning, Darren McFadden, Jamal Charles and Antonio Gates. Who stays healthy? Who has a down year? Who regains their form and has a monster season? We won’t have a winner until week 17 when Oakland goes to San Diego and Kansas City visits Denver.

Division winner: Denver

Wild Card winners: Kansas City, Cincinnati

AFC champion: Houston

May 10, 2012

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Does the NFL Undervalue Centers?

By: Jesse

Lost in all of the hype and debate about which NFL prospect is the next Joe Montana or Jerry Rice, is which prospects could become Pro-Bowlers on the interior of the offensive line (or at least Pro Bowl caliber, if there is no Pro Bowl).  This year’s Draft showed how lightly NFL teams value interior lineman, specifically centers.  Peter Konz, the #1 rated center according to many draft sites, fell all the way to the Atlanta Falcons at #55.  But when you look at teams that have been successful over the last decade, they all have had very good, if not elite, centers.

THE PATRIOTS – DAN KOPPEN

Dan Koppen started 119 games from 2003-2010 for the Patriots.  He was injured early in 2011.  During his tenure as the Patriots center, New England won two Super Bowls and started another season 19-0.  Koppen may not be as important to the team’s success as Tom Brady or Bill Belichick, but he has been an important cog on the offensive line for a long time.

THE COLTS – JEFF SATURDAY

Saturday started 188 games for the Colts from 1999-2011.  Anyone who thinks that the Colts’ offense is completely run by Peyton Manning has never seen Saturday argue with him on the sidelines.  Saturday was out there for all of those years calling protections and identifying linebackers for the Colts’ offensive line.  He is a major reason that Peyton Manning started every game for 13 years in a row.  It will be interesting to see how much of an impact Jeff Saturday can make in Green Bay now that he has signed with the Packers.

MORE EXAMPLES

Maurkice Pouncey, David Haas, and Scott Wells have all been on Super Bowl teams in the past two seasons.  The Steelers went against the grain and drafted Pouncey 16th overall in 2010.  He has more than lived up to the selection by earning a selection to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons.  Scott Wells went from the Packers’ 7th round draft pick in the 2004 NFL Draft to the starting center in Super Bowl XLV and a Pro Bowler in 2011.  He recently signed a contract with the Rams.  Before the 2011 season, David Haas left the 49ers and signed with the Giants in free agency.  The Giants had not made the playoffs in two years, but won the Super Bowl last year with Haas manning the pivot.  The list does not end there.  The Bears’ Super Bowl run in 2006 featured team captain and perennial Pro Bowl Center Olin Kreutz.  The Giants’ 2007 Super Bowl team had Shaun O’Hara, who made three Pro Bowl teams and one All-Pro Team.

Does Fathead undervalue centers too? The only center on Fathead.com is Nick Mangold.

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Poor play at center can bring a team down as well.  Would the Cowboys have had better records in recent years if they had gotten more consistent play from center Andre Gurode?  Gurode, at times, struggled with shotgun snaps, and, on a few occasions, had multiple bad snaps in the same game.  The Cowboys chose not to resign him following the 2010 season, and, while he signed with Baltimore for the 2011 season, he started only five games for the Ravens.

Recent history has shown that the most successful teams in the league have to-of-the-line centers.  A poor center can bring down an otherwise talented football team.  So why do NFL teams seem to overlook this position in the draft?  It is one of the greatest mysteries in pro football.

November 18, 2011

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Could the Indianapolis Colts go 0-16?

By: Junior

Could the Indianapolis Colts go 0-16?

Going into their bye week this Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts are a brutal 0-10. Before the Detroit Lions in 2008, losing every game on your schedule in a 16 game season was thought to be impossible. Could it possibly happen again just three years later? I thought I would take a look at the Colts remaining 6 games and see just how real the possibility may be.

Carolina

This could be their best chance at finally getting a win. The Colts have been at home for their previous two games and will be yet again when Carolina comes to Lucas Oil Field. Add to that the extra time they have to rest from their bye, and Indianapolis should be well prepared for this game.

Unfortunately for them the 2-7 Panthers are no pushover. Cam Newton is getting better and better as he continues to get more comfortable in the NFL. If the Colts can’t find a way to shore up their run defense (31st in the league), they could lose yet another decision.

New England

The Colts are going to have a hard time leaving Foxborough with a win. Even if New England has the 32nd worst pass defense, I don’t see the Colts winning a shootout with New England. The Colt’s defense will simply be outmatched with the firepower Tom Brady and the Patriots have on offense. Besides, New England might take pleasure in beating a recent rival who is down.

Baltimore

Double what I just said above. Ravens fans have a deep-seeded hatred for the Indianapolis Colts, who were once the Baltimore Colts. Expect M&T Back Stadium in Baltimore to be rabid as they hope to help their old team to a winless record. The Ravens are better in all phases and should have an easy time getting a win at home.

Don't expect the Colts to get a friendly welcome from the Ravens or their fans.

 

Tennessee

This game starts the stretch of divisional games that will run through the end of the season for the Colts. If the Colts don’t have a win by this point in the season, their spirits won’t be very high. Having already lost at Tennessee this year, chances are slim home field advantage will be able to make up the difference in this match up. The Titans at this point in the season still have a shot at the playoffs. If that is still the case in Week 15, you can bet they will be poised not to let this game get away.

Houston

The Colts may have caught a break in this game (no pun intended) as Matt Schaub may be done for the season with a foot injury. However, Texans fans would probably still like their chances with Arian Foster against the Colts run defense. If the Colts can avoid Schaub and stop the run, this could be a game they could sneak away with.

Jacksonville

Could you imagine the pressure if the Colts are 0-15 going into this game? The Colts fans would be in attendance for what could be a historically bad ending to their season, something Lions fans were spared in 2008. The good news would be, Jacksonville is not a world beater, and if the Colts haven’t packed it in already, they could save themselves in the 11th hour.

So many twists and turns could happen between each week of this outline. Regardless, the tension (and fear from Colts fans) is palpable as Indianapolis travels towards a mark that no one wants to be associated with. If they do achieve this unfortunate record, at least there is a light at the end of the tunnel. They will be getting Peyton Manning back next year, and they will have his successor, Andrew Luck, ready to learn.