March 24, 2014
NCAA Tournament upsets galore: The NCAA Tournament continued to produce upsets and last week saw quite a few of them. The biggest was No. 14 seed Mercer topping Duke in their first game, but plenty of others were surprises, too. A Kentucky team that underwhelmed for much of the season knocked off undefeated No. 1 seed Wichita State. No. 2 Kansas fell in the second round to tenth-seeded Stanford. No. 12 seeds North Dakota State, Stephen F. Austin, and Harvard all knocked off No. 5 seeds in their first-round games. And 11-seed Dayton pulled off two upsets, defeating Ohio State and Syracuse. Each year, the tournament features a host of upsets and this year was no exception.
Jets make quarterback changes: The New York Jets believe they have their franchise quarterback in Geno Smith, but that didn’t stop them from making some intriguing moves at the position last week. The team cut one-time franchise quarterback Mark Sanchez on Friday and essentially replaced him with veteran signee Michael Vick. The Sanchez dismissal was a long time coming since he had lost his job and fell out of favor. That meant New York had to go out and sign someone and Vick is an experienced signal-caller that will give the team a bit of insurance if Smith doesn’t work out.
Dodgers open season in Australia with two wins: The majority of major league teams are still finishing up Spring Training, but the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks have already kicked off the season. Opening Day took place in Australia and L.A. got off to a good start to the season with a pair of wins over Arizona on the backs of their starting pitchers. Clayton Kershaw struck out seven and gave up only one run in 6 2/3 innings in the first contest. Hyun-Jin Ryu came in for the second game and threw five scoreless innings in picking up his first win. The duo gave Los Angeles two of what they hope will be many more victories in 2014.
Bill Belichick sans hoodie: Bill Belichick showed up at the NCAA Tournament without his trademark hoodie. But his ensemble of an unbuttoned shirt complete with Florida Gators visor left a lot to be desired.
Roddy White backs out: Twitter is an interesting animal. Fans are not only given a more up close look at their favorite athletes, but they can also interact with them. Wide receiver Roddy White took to Twitter and after a fan told him Mercer would beat Duke in the NCAA Tournament, responded by saying he would give said fan season tickets on the 50-yard line. What happened next was nothing short of legendary. White responded to those who reminded him about the bet by saying he would give tickets to only the Falcons-Bears game. When others reminded him the bet was for season tickets, White then responded by saying it wasn’t even a real bet (and by proving he can’t spell the word ridiculous in the process). Well, then. The story obviously took off and instead of just buying the tickets and looking like a stand up guy, White’s stubbornness has now made him look foolish, cheap, and above human decency. Just pay up, Roddy.
Raiders trade for Matt Schaub: Oakland was in desperate need of a quarterback and addressed that issue with a trade with the Houston Texans for Matt Schaub. Schaub was benched last year after returning from an injury and Houston really had no future plans for him. The sixth-round pick they got for him wasn’t much for a guy that was a Pro Bowler as recently as 2012, but it was clear the team just wanted him out of town. Schaub had a down season in 2013, but the year before, completed 64% of his passes and threw for 22 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. At only 32, the guess here is that he has at least a few years left in the tank.
Andrew Bynum haircut fiasco: Indiana Pacers’ center Andrew Bynum was sitting out of a game with an injury and did what any normal NBA player would do – get a haircut. Bynum reportedly got the haircut during halftime of a game against the Chicago Bulls and continued to prove he doesn’t always do the right thing. Even if Bynum is injured, he’s still getting paid by the team. I mean, seriously – he can’t wait an hour or so until after the game?
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.
June 19, 2013
As the summer heats up so do the predictions for the 2013 NFL season. Quarterbacks make the NFL world go round and no one in professional sports faces more scrutiny.
With only 16 games on the schedule, there’s no time to be “off.” The grueling NFL schedule doesn’t allow it—one bad game could be the difference between the playoffs and NFL futility. Unfortunately it’s the quarterback that takes the brunt of the blame. It may not be fair, but it comes with the territory.
Nothing is different this time around as the following quarterbacks face the most pressure heading into the 2013 NFL season.
Mark Sanchez, New York Jets: Let’s get this out of the way now—Mark Sanchez is facing the most pressure of any athlete in the world this year.
The bottom line is that Sanchez must lead his team to playoffs and win at least one playoff contest. We shall see.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton is light years beyond most NFL quarterbacks after two complete seasons in the league. He has turned the “Bungles” back into the Bengals. He has led his team to the back-to-back playoff appearances, but he has yet to win.
In fact, he has not looked good in the playoffs, he looks predetermined every time he drops back to throw.
So, how does he fix this? Dalton has to look confident from Week 1. The Bengals are one of the best up-and-coming teams in the NFL and there’s reason to believe that Dalton is the man—but now is the time leave it all on the field.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, nope—it was Russell Wilson who was the 2012 rookie quarterback who stole the show. Don’t get confused, Luck and RG3 were phenomenal, but Wilson was as good if not better.
Now, Wilson must avoid the sophomore slump and lead the Seahawks to the top of the charts. There’s a great NFL debate going on right now and many say that the Seahawks are the league’s best team. That puts plenty of pressure on Wilson.
Wise beyond his years, Wilson is mature enough to handle the heat of the NFL media.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford came within 33 yards of eclipsing 5,000-plus yards for the second straight season last year.
So why does he face so much pressure in 2013?
Because his team, the Detroit Lions went 4-12 in 2012 and looked downright pitiful, that’s why. While it certainly isn’t all Stafford’s fault, as the focal point of the franchise, he is the one fan’s and media turn to for answers.
So, less is more for Stafford heading into the new season, except in the win column. True Lions fans know that if their quarterback throws the ball less than the NFL-record 727 times, that’s a good thing. That means the defense isn’t allowing the opposition to score at ease. That also means the Lions have a balanced offense.
Another downtrodden year for the Lions and it may be time to find a new front office and start over again.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: Is it just me, or does Cam Newton seem like an afterthought right now? Let’s not forget about him, as the quarterback won’t disappoint this season.
After a stellar rookie season in 2011, Newton returned from space and was grounded in 2012, but his numbers weren’t that far off from his Rookie of the Year campaign. The Panthers, however, struggled last year.
Newton is devoted to his team and to prove that he’s one of the best. The pressure is astounding, but he’ll be up to the challenge. Expect nothing less than brilliance from Newton this season.
June 10, 2013
NBA Finals tied up 1-1: After a close loss at home on Thursday, the Miami Heat rebounded for a 103-84 blowout win in Game 2 over the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals on Sunday. The Heat still find themselves without home court advantage, but now have a fighting chance to win the series. Another loss would have put the team in an 0-2 hole facing three straight games in San Antonio under the 2-3-2 Finals format. And against the experienced Spurs, that may have been too big a deficit to overcome.
French Open concludes: Tennis’ French Open wrapped up with a couple of the game’s biggest stars finishing on top. For the men, Rafael Nadal won a record eighth French Open title, defeating David Ferrer this weekend. Nadal won easily in straight sets and his eighth title at the French is the most of any man at any Grand Slam tournament. On the women’s side, Serena Williams won her 2nd French title, also in straight sets, over the defending champ Maria Sharapova. For Williams, it was her 16th major championship.
Major League Baseball/Biogenesis scandal: Major League Baseball is reportedly trying to suspend a group of 20 players linked to the Biogenesis/PED scandal. The alleged list includes some big names such as Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, and Bartolo Colon. If the suspensions happen, some teams could find themselves in a bind. Players like Nelson Cruz, and Jhonny Peralta are parts of teams (the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers, respectively) in playoff races. Because of that, it will be interesting to see what types of moves that clubs make in advance of any potential suspensions.
Coach Jason Kidd?: The recently retired Jason Kidd doesn’t want to spend a season without basketball. ESPN reports that the former point guard is interested in coaching – specifically, he wants the Brooklyn Nets’ job. A few years ago, that may not have been a half bad idea. But the Nets have a lot invested in this team and if I’m GM Billy King, there’s no way I’m taking a call from a player with no coaching experience in college or the pros.
The ‘Average’ Lebron: Dennis Rodman made headlines again when he said LeBron James would be an average player in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The comments were made when comparing James and Michael Jordan. James may not be as great as Jordan, but average? It’s hard to envision the 6’8” freak of nature as just an average player in any era. Rodman made a good point in that the game may not be as physical as it once was, but James does so much more other than score. He’s a tremendous rebounder and passer and there’s no question he would still be a star in that era … or any other, for that matter.
Marc-Andre Fleury to return as Pens’ starter: The Pittsburgh Penguins, Stanley Cup favorites after, were unceremoniously swept by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals. In the process, starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, was replaced by backup Tomas Vokoun who played well in the series. But head coach Dan Bylsma said afterwards that Fleury is a franchise goalie and will return as the team’s No. 1 starter – and that’s probably the right move. Fleury is only 28 years old and helped the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals appearances only a few years ago. And with two years and $10 million left on his current contract, the Pens have little choice but to at least give him another shot if they are against trading him away.
Tommy Rees chosen as Notre Dame starting QB: Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly recently lost his starting quarterback Everett Golson to an academic-related suspension. As expected, Kelly announced that he will turn to Tommy Rees as the starter in 2013, per mlive.com. That’s no surprise as he’s the most experienced player of the other options, Andrew Hendrix and newcomer Malik Zaire. The Irish are fortunate to have Rees as few teams have two quarterbacks with as much experience as he and Golson. Instead of turning to an inexperienced backup, Notre Dame has Rees, who started nearly every game in 2011 and has played in 33 career games.
Brett Favre takes blame in parting with Packers: Quarterback Brett Favre accepted some of the blame for his ugly divorce from the Green Bay Packers in a recent radio show interview. That’s good news for the two since Favre will always be recognized as a Packer even though he also played briefly with the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets. The Packers will want his participation in team-related events for the rest of his life, and it’d be much better if the two sides can reconcile and get along since Favre has been such a big part of the organization.
June 5, 2013
Face it—it’s never too soon to talk about the NFL. The thoughts of the upcoming 2013 NFL season are starting to invade NFL fanatics’ minds. Yes, we’re only a few days into June, but it’s been three months since Super Bowl XLVII. That means we have exactly three months to go until the 2013 season kicks off on September 5. Some may say that we’re in the doldrums of the offseason, but this is just the beginning. It only gets better from here.
With that being said, let’s talk football.
Here are the top five headlines weighing on everyone’s mind this offseason:
Will RG3 Be RG3?
Any true NFL fan is currently holding their breath hoping that Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III will return healthy. The knee injury he suffered in the playoffs was gruesome to watch. The nausea that ensued when reality and doubt set in still exist today.
He’s the future—a prototype never before seen on an NFL field—the complete package.
Will he be okay?
Something tells me that he’ll be just fine—RG3 is a remarkable athlete.
Let’s hope he’s “ready for some football” on September 9 vs. the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football.
Can the Indianapolis Colts Return to the Playoffs?
The Indianapolis Colts took the league by storm last year when they defied the odds and made the playoffs. Then rookie quarterback Andrew Luck proved to be the truth, but can he avoid the sophomore slump?
Having tasted winning in 2012, the Colts grew leaps and bounds and impressed all as they won games they probably shouldn’t have. One adjustment this is season will be to new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. Former OC Bruce Arians is now head coach for the Arizona Cardinals. All Luck did under the tutelage of Arians in 2012 is set a rookie record with 4,374 passing yards.
Luck has the intelligence to absorb a new system quickly. The only question that remains is will the Colts return to the playoffs?
Will Wes Welker be the “It” Factor for the Denver Broncos?
After shaking off the rust, quarterback Peyton Manning looked like Peyton Manning by season’s end. All the Broncos needed heading into the offseason is some added offense and there was no better find than Wes Welker.
Will Welker be the difference? Are the Broncos now “locks” for a Super Bowl appearance? Along with Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, can the Broncos have three 1000-plus yard receivers?
Something tells me Manning and Welker are out for revenge. Watch out!
How Good Will the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens Play?
The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens look to avoid the Super Bowl hangover this season.
The Ravens took the league’s top prize last season and without a doubt will look different this season. Out are Anqaun Boldin (49ers), Ed Reed (Houston Texans) and Ray Lewis (retired)— and Ravens fans have to be wondering what their team will be like without three of their best. The Ravens still have a solid squad, but are they contenders?
The 49ers face the most pressure of any team this season. Having been so close the ultimate prize, can they get over the hump this season? Colin Kaepernick is now the man and expectations have never been higher. If there’s one team that’s built to win it all it’s the Niners, but will they do it?
Numerous Other Questions Scattered on Our Minds:
Can the Cincinnati Bengals win a playoff game?
Will Adrian Peterson eclipse 2,000-plus yards again?
Will Mike Wallace be the boost the Miami Dolphins need?
Can Calvin Johnson break his own single-season receiving record of 1,964 yards?
Will the Pittsburgh Steelers make the playoffs?
Are the New England Patriots at the end of an era?
Is this the year for the Atlanta Falcons?
What will unfold for the New York Jets?
Are the Seattle Seahawks the NFL’s best team?