December 19, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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.
November 27, 2013
The 2013 NFL season is nearing a close but there are plenty of questions yet to be answered. This year more than ever it seems that every game is a coin flip. Right now there are literally 26 teams still in playoff contention. This is great—every game from here on out will be a nail-biter. Here’s a list of the most crucial games during the final quarter of the season. Remember, each week will contain three categories; the heavyweight bout, the divisional battle and the hidden gem.
The Heavyweight Bout: New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks
Games don’t get bigger than this one. A potential NFC Championship Game in the making, both teams have a statement to make. Nothing like ending a holiday weekend with a cherry on top, Monday Night Football is not to be missed—Drew Brees and Russell Wilson will have their teams primed for a battle. Find time for this one.
The Divisional Battle: Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions
NFL fans can thank the Detroit Lions for this Thanksgiving tradition. The Lions provided football on Thursday before football was on Thursday. Hooray! Hey, there’s nothing like spending family time together watching the Lions and Green Bay Packers pummel one another. Here’s some added fuel to the fire—first place in the division is on the line. The Lions currently hold the top spot but the Packers want it badly. Another added bonus, we get to watch Calvin Johnson—who doesn’t like to watch greatness?
The Hidden Gem: Arizona Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Eagles
These teams are both surprises this year and playing their best ball of the season right now. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer just may be the hottest in the league. He’s thrown for 733 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions the last two games. The Cardinals have also won four straight games.
The Philadelphia Eagles, led by the NFL’s leading rusher through Week 12 LeSean McCoy are also sizzling. Winners of three straight and coming off their bye week, there’s no time to lose momentum now.
Neither team will give an inch. Expect plenty of offense. Give this one a go.
The Heavyweight Bout: Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers
Few words need to describe this matchup between bitter divisional rivals. Remember when the Seattle Seahawks dismantled the San Francisco 49ers at home in Week 2, 29-3?
The Niners do too, expect them to exact revenge.
The Divisional Battle: Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints
Winners of seven straight, the Carolina Panthers are the hottest team in the league right now. The NFL is far from easy and the Panthers will travel to the Big Easy in Week 14. This is to prove that they’re the best team in their division.
The New Orleans Saints don’t plan on relinquishing their A1 status anytime soon.
Cam Newton is living up to the hype—his counterpart Drew Brees is the standard. Jaw-dropping action will occur.
The Hidden Gem: Indianapolis Colts vs. Cincinnati Bengals
One week they look like outright champs, the next it looks like they don’t belong.
Quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton have to find a way. The winner of this one will gain the confidence it takes to go all the way. They’ll also do some convincing.
This is a true make-or-break game for both sides.
The Heavyweight Bout: Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys
Two iconic franchises, two franchise quarterbacks, playoffs lives on the line—this game has all the elements to be a classic.
Aaron Rodgers will have returned from injury and Tony Romo will be psyched to make a run for the coveted Lombardi trophy. These two guys may just combine for 800 passing yards.
Fun, fun, fun—please pay attention to this one.
The Divisional Battle: San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos
Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning on Thursday Night Football is a great start to Week 15. The San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos have something to fight for as the Chargers are only 5-6 heading into Thanksgiving, but have a real punchers chance. Rivers has never performed so well and the Chargers are electric on offense.
Manning and the Broncos need little introduction, they’re the real deal.
The Hidden Gem: New York Jets vs. Carolina Panthers
Believe it or not, the New York Jets are currently in the playoff hunt. Yes, even at 4-7 they have a shot. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith has had his ups and downs, but the future is promising for him and the Jets.
The weak spot the Jets have this season is playing on the road. If they’re to make the postseason, they’ll have to head into Carolina and win. The Panthers defense, led by Luke Kuechley is one of the best in the league; don’t think they’ll let a rookie show them up.
Considering what’s at stake, this will be a good one.
The Heavyweight Bout: Chicago Bears vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Chicago Bears are currently in a dogfight for the NFC North with the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. The Eagles are in the same situation in the NFC East with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.
Both teams are currently 6-5 and not in the playoffs. Considering their divisions will be on the line, neither team can afford to lose. This game has smash-mouth football written all over it. Last team with the ball wins.
The Divisional Battle: New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers
See Week 14—the loser of that game will want redemption. The winner will want to claim NFC South supremacy.
Scary thing is they may meet again in the playoffs. Awesome.
The Hidden Gem: New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens
Hey, the champs haven’t thrown in the towel quite yet. The Baltimore Ravens still have a pulse and are picking up steam down the stretch. Don’t cross-off Joe Flacco and Ray Rice because after all, they’re stars.
If they are to truly be playoff contenders, they’ll have to beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. For them, it’s business as usual. They have yet to be their best and are still 8-3. That fact is downright frightening.
The Ravens must let it be known that they will defend what is rightfully theirs. A win in Week 16 will do just that.
If you think Week 17 was forgotten, think again. Sit tight, for it’ll have its own article. 16 divisional games—Wow!
Then, we’ll talk about playoffs.
November 26, 2013
In just a couple days the nation will be eating turkey and giving thanks for all the Black Friday sales. So if you are planning to spend hours in line waiting for the chance to trample other shoppers and need something to pass the time, try predicting what will happen in the last five weeks of the NFL season. I did. And trust me, I’m in the mood to trample. But I learned a few things along the way, too.
Here’s how my playoff field turned out in the AFC:
1. New England: 13-3
2. Denver: 13-3
3. Cincinnati: 12-4
4. Indianapolis: 9-7
5. Kansas City: 13-3
6. Miami: 9-7
The Broncos may have just cost themselves home field advantage in the AFC by blowing that 24-0 lead in New England. And if they don’t bounce back with a win in Kansas City on Sunday, they’ll be looking at a wild card spot.
Suddenly, Sunday’s game between the Titans and Colts is huge. The Colts are reeling after another blowout loss and still have to play the Bengals and Chiefs. A Tennessee win on Sunday would put the Titans just a game back with the Cardinals, Jaguars and Texans as their last three opponents.
Here’s how my playoff field turned out in the NFC:
1. New Orleans: 14-2
2. Seattle: 13-3
3. Dallas: 10-6
4. Green Bay: 9-6-1
5. Carolina: 11-5
6. San Francisco: 11-5
The NFC East will come down to the final game of the season when the Eagles head to Dallas to battle the Cowboys. Especially if the Eagles can beat Arizona this week.
The NFC North will come down to the health of Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers. The quarterback that returns and regains his form first will lead his team to the division title. And Detroit is going to regret blowing the game against Tampa Bay last week.
Several teams are playing for their season in week 13:
Detroit Lions: After losing at home to Tampa Bay the Lions face a must-win situation on Thanksgiving against a probably Aaron Rodgers-less division rival from Green Bay.
San Diego: With the Giants, Broncos and Chiefs still to play, San Diego cannot take a seventh loss against Cincinnati on Sunday.
Arizona: The Cardinals must beat the Eagles this week if their week 17 game against the 49ers is to mean anything in the wild card race.
November 1, 2013
The 2013 NFL season is now halfway in the books and there’s plenty of action left. With the cream slowly rising to the top there are currently 20 teams within one game of playoff contention. The next four weeks are the most critical to the season. Teams will either make themselves or start drawing up draft strategies. Here’s a list of the most crucial games during the third quarter of the season. Remember, each week will contain three categories; the heavyweight bout, the divisional battle and the hidden gem.
The Heavyweight Bout: Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans
If one were to compare preseason notes compared to Week 9, this matchup would be upside down. The Houston Texans, not the Indianapolis Colts were supposed to be Super Bowl contenders, but it’s not so. The Texans are 2-5 while the Colts are 5-2.
Both teams are coming off their bye week and if you think the Texans will go down quietly, think again. Andrew Luck and Co. will have their hands full with this one. If the Colts win it will be the end of the Texans season. If Houston pulls it out they’ll suddenly have life. Both teams have to make a statement.
The Divisional Battle: Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers
Like the aforementioned Texans, the Atlanta Falcons were Super Bowl bound before the games were played. Now, they’re and afterthought. The Falcons have been decimated by injury and are playing for pride at the moment.
The surprise team of the NFC South is none other than the Carolina Panthers. Quarterback Cam Newton looks like he’s leading his team in the right direction. This is a huge game for the Panthers—a win and they’ll make believers out of all of us. A loss and it’s simply back to mediocrity.
The Hidden Gem: San Diego Chargers vs. Washington Redskins
The Washington Redskins looked like they were going to steal one in Denver last week before the Broncos unleashed a massive comeback. Now at home against the San Diego Chargers in Week 9, it’s a must-win for the Redskins if they’re to keep hope alive. For those of you that are worried, RG3 will be just fine—head coach Mike Shanahan did the right thing and pulled him last week for precautionary reasons.
The Chargers are a definite surprise this season and quarterback Philip Rivers is having a monster year. At 4-3, the Chargers would be considered real contenders with a win. This one smells like a shootout.
The Heavyweight Bout: Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints
This game isn’t for the defensive-minded person. Both teams are more than fun to watch and while the New Orleans Saints seem like they’re in cruise control the Dallas Cowboys will have to steal one on the road.
Peddle to the metal, this one will fuel the fire and reinsure all fans of why they love the game.
The Divisional Battle: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens will look to remind everyone that they’re the defending champs the second half of the season. The Cincinnati Bengals on the other hand look like they’re making a run for the ring this season. This game will be a knock-down drag-out battle that will leave one team on top of the world and the other one in the dust. A huge confidence booster this one will be.
The Hidden Gem: Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears
This matchup between the Lions and Bears will be the breaking point for the losing squad. The Lions upset the Bears in Detroit early in the season and Chicago looks to return the favor. To the victor go the spoils, or at least in this situation, the hope of a solid playoff run.
The Heavyweight Bout: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos
Who predicted that the Kansas City Chiefs would start the season 8-0? The answer is unequivocally no one. Heading into Mile High in Week 11 they may still be undefeated. The Broncos currently have one loss, but strike fear in every opponent. No man rests easy when they have to face Peyton Manning.
The same can be said about the Chiefs defense.
Right now, the AFC West goes through Kansas City. Game on.
The Divisional Battle: Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Both teams records may not be pretty at the moment but ask one squad about what they think of the other and the answer will be unkind.
This one may be ugly, but that’s why we’ll watch.
The Hidden Gem: San Francisco 49ers vs. New Orleans Saints
A definite playoff preview, pay attention because there could be a rematch come January. The San Francisco 49ers have found balance with Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore–the New Orleans Saints still move at breakneck speeds thanks to Drew Brees.
Who will budge? Who will win?
Craziest prediction ever—this one ends in a 31-31 tie.
The Heavyweight Bout: Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots
Two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks is about all one needs to describe a heavyweight bout.
Manning vs. Brady, grab the popcorn and smile.
The Divisional Battle: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns
This is a game where diehard football enthusiasts hope for sloppy conditions and wild plays. These cities are separated by only two hours yet they’re far from neighborly when it comes to football.
Always entertaining, this one should be a true battle.
The Hidden Gem: Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants
This one is a hidden gem due to the fact that the New York Giants lack a winning record, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of the NFC East race.
The Dallas Cowboys are currently in the lead at 4-4 but as we have all seen before the division could come down to a Week 17 rivalry to declare an 8-8 divisional winner.
Eli Manning has a reputation to repair/uphold while Tony Romo has a legendary status to create.
Every game is important and these teams will take it to heart. Expect nothing but the best from both sides.
January 10, 2013
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 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 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 4 – Jeremy 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.
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 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 16 – Duke 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 21 – NFL 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 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 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.
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 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.