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

July 16, 2012

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Drew Brees Contract Madness Finally Ends

By: Anson Whaley

Sanity was restored when Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints reached an agreement on a five-year, $100 million contract this weekend. The entire contract is one of the richest in league history and the $20 million per year is an NFL record. According to ESPN, $60 million of the deal is reported to be guaranteed. If a deal wasn’t reached by Monday afternoon, Brees would have been forced to play for a franchise tender amount of about $16 million this year. That doesn’t sound so bad, but it was expected that Brees wouldn’t show up to camp without a long-term deal.

Drew Brees does a lot for New Orleans both on and off the field.

For the New Orleans Saints, it was a deal they had to make.

Brees is not only the team’s starting quarterback, but he’s one of the best in the NFL. Last year, he shattered Dan Marino’s long-time record of passing yards in a season when he threw for nearly 5,500 yards. Along with his 46 touchdowns, Brees had arguably the best season of all time for a passer. It’s extremely difficult to find star quarterbacks and the Saints simply couldn’t afford to part with perhaps the best one in the entire league.

He’s also not only an immense talent, but he’s a winner. New Orleans has made the playoffs in four of his six seasons and in 2009, Brees did something no one else was ever able to accomplish – lead the Saints to a Super Bowl victory. He saved one of his best performances of the season for that game, passing for 288 yards and a Super Bowl record 32 completions. For his efforts, he was named as the Most Valuable Player.

Maybe just as important, though, is the work Brees has done in the community.

Since he joined the franchise in 2006, Brees has done a considerable amount of charity work in the area and helped New Orleans begin to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina rocked the city the year before. His Brees Dream Foundation has raised millions of dollars to help improve schools and athletic facilities for children. In 2010, Sports Illustrated named him as their Sportsman of the Year for not only leading the Saints to the Super Bowl the previous season, but also for his charity work in the community. Some of his other charitable acts have included appearing in commercials to raise awareness for the oil spill in the gulf, participating in a USO tour, and showing up at numerous community functions throughout his career. For a city with as much devastation as New Orleans has endured, that type of support is invaluable.

Even beyond all of that, there’s another reason the Saints needed to sign him. Facing the loss of head coach Sean Payton this season due to the alleged bounty system the franchise had in place, the team is already going to be at a disadvantage this season. The Saints might be able to get by without Payton on the sidelines, but losing their starting quarterback would be a blow that would likely result in the team missing the playoffs. That not only means a low morale for the team and its fans, but a significant amount of lost revenue for the franchise that makes a considerable amount of extra money by hosting playoff games.

We often scoff at athletes demanding more money than the millions they already receive. And while it’s true that no one really deserves $100 million to play football, in the context of what other players have gotten over the years, it’s difficult to argue that Brees is overpaid. He’s been a model citizen, helped raise millions of dollars for charity, is an excellent player, and led the team to their first ever Super Bowl win.

Hard to ask for much more than that.

November 8, 2011

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BCS Championship Picture Still Murky

By: Joe Williams

If the final BCS rankings came out today, we would be looking at an LSU vs. Oklahoma State matchup in the BCS Championship game. Will it stay that way until the final BCS rankings come out at the end of the season? If this season plays out like most then there will be more twists and turns before the BCS matchups are set. Does your team have a shot to reach the BCS Championship game? Here’s a look at what it may take to get the contending teams to New Orleans on Jan. 9.

No.1 LSU

As long as the Tigers keep winning they will stay at No. 1 in the BCS rankings. They still face No. 8 Arkansas and must play the SEC title game. If they win out, they will play in the BCS Championship game.

No. 2 Oklahoma State

If the Cowboys win their final three games, including a showdown with No. 6 Oklahoma, they should stay in the top two in the BCS Rankings and play in the BCS Championship game.

No. 3 Alabama

This is where things get interesting. The Crimson Tide must win out and the only formidable team they have left is No. 20 Auburn. If Oklahoma State loses, Alabama would pass the Cowboys but there is a good chance an undefeated Stanford team would jump into the second spot of the BCS Rankings. Or what if Arkansas beats LSU and there is a three way tie at 6-1 in the SEC West? It could all come down to whether or not the BCS voters want to see a rematch of that ugly 9-6 loss against LSU in the BCS Championship game.

No. 4 Stanford

The Cardinal need to beat No. 7 Oregon on Saturday night and they may need a convincing win to convince the voters to move them up in the BCS rankings. Then they need to beat Cal and Notre Dame and they could have a rematch with USC in the conference title game. If they win out, they should move ahead of Alabama in the BCS rankings, but it would be tough for them to catch an unbeaten Oklahoma State.

No. 5 Boise State

We say this every year, but the Broncos need a lot of help to make it to the BCS Championship game. They must blow out their four remaining opponents, including a good TCU team. Bronco fans should be rooting for Oregon to beat Stanford and the Sooners to take down Oklahoma State. They also need Georgia to win the SEC East and then the SEC title game. If the Broncos are the only unbeaten team (other than Houston) and have a victory over the SEC champion they will have a legitimate argument but probably get left out of the BCS Championship game again.

No. 6 Oklahoma

The Sooners must win their final three games which would mean going to Oklahoma State and winning. They have to get passed Alabama as the highest ranked one-loss team in the BCS rankings and they need Stanford to lose a game as well. Then, they need to hope the voters will move them ahead of Boise State and decide they don’t want to see an Alabama/LSU rematch in the BCS Championship game.  

No. 7 Oregon 

If the Ducks beat Stanford, USC, Oregon St. and win the conference championship game, they would be in the discussion, as long as Oklahoma St. loses. Would that be enough to pass one-loss Oklahoma or Alabama in the BCS rankings? I don’t think so, but if their only loss is to an undefeated No. 1 LSU and things fall the Ducks’ way, we could be in for a rematch from the season opener in the BCS Championship game.

No. 8 Arkansas 

It is certainly a longshot, but let’s say the Razorbacks beat Tennessee and Mississippi St. Then they go on the road and beat No. 1 LSU. They could be in a three-way tie with LSU and Alabama in the SEC West. Depending on how the tiebreaker plays out, they could go to the SEC championship game and beat Georgia. If that all happens, Arkansas would be a one-loss SEC champion and could get in BCS Championship game if Stanford or Oklahoma State drops a game.

No. 9 Clemson 

The Tigers could run the table and get to the ACC title game where they could meet Georgia Tech and avenge their only loss on the season. They would be 12-1 with a win over the only team to beat them. They would also need Stanford, Oklahoma State, and maybe Boise State to lose. Then they would need some other one-loss teams like Oregon and Oklahoma to fall. If they end up as one of a couple one-loss teams, you could make a case for Clemson.

No. 10 Virginia Tech

The Hokies are in the same boat as Clemson. They could run the table and get to the ACC title game and have a rematch with the only team they lost to (Clemson). Then they would be 12-1 with a win over the only team to beat them. They would also need Stanford, Oklahoma State, and maybe Boise State to lose. Then they would need some other one-loss teams like Oregon and Oklahoma to fall. If they end up as one of a couple one-loss teams, you could make a case for Virginia Tech in the BCS Championship game.

No.11 Houston

Boise State has to lose for the Cougars to get a BCS invite. The only way they get to the BCS Championship game is if they go back in time, join the Big East for 2011, play a whole new schedule, and go undefeated. Oh, and get some help. Good luck with that.

No. 12 Penn State 

If Penn State can rack up four more wins (No. 19 Nebraska, Ohio State, No. 16 Wisconsin, and No. 13 Michigan State in the conference title game) they will be 12-1 with the only loss coming at the hands of Alabama. That is a pretty good resume but they need just about everyone in front of them in the BCS rankings to lose. Not likely.

October 27, 2011

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Division Races Heating Up

By: Joe Williams

It’s seven weeks into the NFL season, and the division races are starting to take shape. NFL teams like Buffalo and Detroit have thrown their hats in the ring, and others like St. Louis and Indianapolis have played their way out of it. Here’s where we stand:

AFC EAST

It was supposed to be a battle between the Jets and Patriots, but the Bills have made it a three team race. New England’s only loss came at the hands of the Bills and their New Year’s Day rematch ought to have playoff implications. Buffalo has a few games against NFL teams at the bottom of the standings and two meetings with the Jets, so the schedule sets up well for them to stay in the race. The next month will be critical for the Jets. They play the Bills twice and New England once. One of these teams is going to be watching at home in January.

AFC NORTH

Cleveland and Cincinnati are hanging around. This is the only division with no NFL teams below .500. Wins against New England and Baltimore in the next two weeks would put the Steelers in the driver’s seat in the AFC. Things are going to get much more difficult for the Bengals with two games left against both Pittsburgh and Baltimore. We’re about to find out what this team is made of. Nov. 6 at Pittsburgh is the game of the year for the Ravens. If they can beat the Steelers for a second time, the division should be in their controls. The Browns are in the conversation at 3-3 but they haven’t beaten anyone worth bragging about. Can they steal a couple against the big boys?

AFC SOUTH

All it took was one injury for the Colts to go from AFC South dominance to one of the worst teams in the league. Someone is going to take advantage and after Sunday’s beat down of the Titans, it looks like it will be Houston. The schedule sets up nicely for them with most of their tough games already behind them. If Tennessee can get back on track, the New Year’s Day rematch could be huge.

AFC WEST

As usual, the Chargers are the heavy favorite in the West. And as usual, they let the rest of the West hang around. They host the Chiefs on Halloween in a must-win for Kansas City. The Chiefs really have to win the next three to stay in the race because they have a brutal five-game-stretch coming up. If the Raiders can get their act together during the bye week and get Carson Palmer ready to go, the West title may be on the line when they meet in the last game of the season.

NFC EAST

There will be lots of entertaining games between now and week 17, but it almost seems like we can just skip ahead to the last day of the season when Dallas is at the Giants and Philadelphia hosts Washington. That’s when this division will be sorted out.

NFC NORTH

The Packers have already got people talking about a 16-0 regular season. It’s probably not going to happen, but as long as Rodgers is healthy, they should win the North division. Detroit still has two shots at the defending champs though so they could make things interesting. Chicago is too far back to catch Green Bay but the Bears will be in the thick of the wild card race.

NFC SOUTH

The Falcons, Saints, and Bucs won a total of 34 games last year. They are on a similar pace right now, and, just like last year, one of them is going to get left out of the playoff picture. New Orleans has a one game lead and the last two at home, so they should have an edge. It could come down to which team gets knocked off by Carolina in the last month of the season.

NFC WEST

San Francisco has five wins. The rest of the division has three. It is the 49ers‘ division to give away. And if they keep playing well with a soft schedule coming up, they could even earn an opening round bye.

October 6, 2011

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Fathead’s NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

NFL Rankings:  As we approach Week 5 of the NFL season, here is how each of the NFL teams stacks up.

1.Green Bay Packers (4-0) — As the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair would say, “To be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man.” Until someone beats the Pack, they will be at the top of the rankings.

2. Baltimore Ravens (3-1) — After opening the season by dominating the defending AFC champion Steelers and blowing out the AFC runner-up Jets on Sunday, the Ravens are the class of the AFC.

3. New Orleans Saints (3-1) — Drew Brees and company gave the Packers all they wanted and followed that with three solid wins.

4. Buffalo Bills (3-1) — After pulling off the shocker of the year and beating New England, the Bills get beat by the Bengals.

5. New England Patriots (3-1) — Tom Brady’s offense hasn’t been held under 30 points yet.

6. Detroit Lions (4-0) — They won’t be undefeated much longer if they keep falling behind by 20 points.

7. Houston Texans (3-1) — Wade Phillips has got the defense playing much better.

8. New York Jets (2-2) — A two game losing streak makes this trip to New England huge for the Jets.

9. Atlanta Falcons (2-2) — Important stretch coming up for the Falcons with Green Bay and Detroit coming up in the next couple weeks.

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) — The Bucs need a win at San Francisco to carry momentum into tough stretch with Saints, Bears, Saints, Texans and Packers coming up.

11. San Diego Chargers (3-1) — Chargers should get healthy with the Broncos on Sunday and their bye week.

12. New York Giants (3-1) — G-men getting it done despite injuries. They may have gotten a break with the controversial play against the Cardinals.

13. Tennessee Titans (3-1) – Huge test for surprising Titans this week at Pittsburgh.

14. Washington Redskins (3-1) – The defense is giving up an NFC best 15.8 points per game. They have two weeks to get ready for a divisional showdown with the Eagles.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) – Are the defending AFC champs suffering from a post-Super Bowl loss hangover? Or is it just that they cannot protect the quarterback?

16. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) – No team is more entertaining than “America’s Team”. Do the Cowboys ever play a game decided by more than one score?

17. Chicago Bears (2-2) – The Bears have a good chance to build a lead Sunday in Detroit. The question is will they be able to hold it?

18. San Francisco 49ers (3-1) – Their three wins is one more than the rest of the NFC West combined. The division is theirs to lose.

19. Oakland Raiders (2-2) – It looks like the Raiders are the team that will push San Diego in the AFC West.

20. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) – It’s been a nightmare start for the “Dream Team”. They are probably glad to be hitting the road after the last two performances at home.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) – Got a shot to be 4-2 at the bye with two winnable games coming up. Not bad for a team who’s quarterback retired rather than play for them.

22. Cleveland Browns (2-2) – They have an extra week to recover from getting pounded by the Titans.

23. Carolina Panthers (1-3) – The good news is Cam Newton looks like he is their quarterback of the future. The bad news is New Orleans, Atlanta and Washington coming up.

24. Arizona Cardinals (1-3) – They should have beaten the Giants on Sunday. They head to Minnesota to face an angry Vikings team.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) – The offense is experiencing some major growing pains with rookie Blaine Gabbert now playing quarterback. They average less than 10 points per game.

26. Denver Broncos (1-3) – It’s not Kyle Orton’s fault the Packers put 49 points on the board Sunday. Try telling that to the fans in Denver though.

27. Indianapolis Colts (0-4) – It’s going to be a long season without Peyton Manning. This team won’t quit though.

28. St. Louis Rams (0-4) – Injuries and the schedule have made them look worse than they really are. Unfortunately, they have Green Bay, Dallas and New Orleans for their next three.

29. Seattle Seahawks (1-3) – Put up 21 points in the second half Sunday. Only score 37 in their other 3.5 games.

30. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) – They have played much better in the last two weeks.

31. Minnesota Vikings (0-4) – They would be ranked much higher if the NFL cut games to 30 minutes.

32. Miami Dolphins (0-4) – With a bye and the Jets coming up they could be winless when the Broncos come to town.