August 23, 2011

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AFC Preview

By: Joe Williams

New England, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. That’s really all you need to know about the AFC. One of those teams has been to 11 of the last 16 Super Bowls and 9 of the last 10. So will one of them be playing in Indianapolis on Feb. 5 or will the run of dominance come to an end or will a team like Baltimore or the Jets break through?

AFC EAST

This appears to be a two horse race. The Patriots are the two-time defending division champions, but the Jets have been to the last two AFC title games. Both teams have added big name players who come with baggage. For New England, it is Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth. The Jets have added Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason. The team that gets the most out of these new players will likely finish the season on top in the division. Buffalo and Miami have made some interesting moves as well but are still not in the league of the Jets or Patriots.

Division winner: New England

AFC NORTH

The Steelers and Ravens both won more games last year than the Bengals and Browns combined. That could happen again. Colt McCoy and the Browns seem to be headed in the right direction. Carson Palmer and the Bengals do not. The lockout gives an advantage to teams that have stability at quarterback and coaching positions. Pittsburgh and Baltimore are two of the most stable franchises in the NFL. The Steelers are the defending AFC champs. The Ravens have several veterans looking for one more shot at a ring. They meet in week 1.

Division winner: Baltimore

AFC SOUTH

2011 is an important year in the South. Just once in the last eight seasons has someone other than Indianapolis finished the season at the top of the South. If the Colts are going to stay at the top, it is going to be on the strength of Peyton Manning’s neck. If he is able to go another season without missing a game, the Colts have a great shot to keep their thrown. It’s now or never for Gary Kubiak and the Texans. Every year we think this is the year they take that giant leap forward. Every year they disappoint. But now Wade Phillips is on board to fix the defense. If he can, the Texans will be playing in January. The Titans and Jaguars both appear to be transitioning to their newly drafted quarterbacks of the future.

Division winner: Houston

AFC WEST

Kansas City was the surprise division winner in 2010. That might be enough to get San Diego to play the first month of the season as if the games actually count. The Chargers continually start terribly and finish strong. The Chiefs finally made them pay. Philip Rivers and company will have a battle on their hands for the West crown. Kansas City has plenty of young talent and should be tough for years to come. The Raiders improved to .500 but won’t be much better. The Broncos are still trying to dig out of the hole Josh McDaniels left them in.

Division winner: Kansas City

Wild Card winners: New York Jets, Indianapolis

AFC champion: Baltimore

August 8, 2011

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NBA Lockout Far Different Than NFL Version

By: Anson Whaley

When it comes to lockouts in professional sports ending a season, my stance is generally that things will sort themselves out before a season is lost. Obviously that’s not always the case as the 2005 NHL work stoppage proved, but the recent NFL lockout was the perfect example that the opportunity exists for logic and common sense to win out. In short, the players need the money and owners of profitable teams don’t want to lose cash flow or goodwill they’ve spent years building up with communities. Sports, in essence, are one of the most important things to a city. Even when things may not be going well economically, residents can look forward to the fact that they have a team they can support.

An NFL lockout was averted at the last minute and not only will there be a NFL season in 2011, it will be a complete one save for the annual preseason NFL Hall of Fame game. Unfortunately for NBA fans, though, the NBA lockout may have a far different outcome since the players and owners have legitimate reasons for not rushing into a deal.

The biggest reason that NBA players will be able to afford to hold out for a better deal is because of the number of professional leagues overseas. Unlike the NFL where few viable professional leagues exist, basketball has become a global sport and there are numerous options available in Europe to NBA stars. The most important aspect of all of this is that players can not only make money, but good money. Some teams may even pay additional expenses such as apartment rentals.

Some lower-level players are already signing contracts overseas and even some of the league’s biggest stars such as Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, and Dwight Howard are said to be giving the option significant consideration. Most players would not dream of risking the ability to play in the NBA in the event there is a season, so over the next few weeks, you can expect to see more and more players sign overseas deals with clauses allowing them to return to their respective NBA clubs once the lockout ends. Under that scenario, the players can earn money but still return to the NBA once the opportunity exists. In addition, those taking advantage of that situation will also be in far better physical shape than athletes sitting at home busy filling out their NFL fantasy football rosters and will have the opportunity to face some quality competition. Players will not only benefit financially by playing overseas, but they should also perform better once the season starts.

Will these players get a chance for another NBA Title?

In addition, the owners also have an incentive to wait until a better situation comes along. In the midst of the NBA season last year, the league claimed that 22 of its 30 teams were losing money. That’s a far different situation than the NFL, which is an enormous moneymaker. At this point, many NBA teams may be better off waiting until they can be more profitable. As much fun as it might sound to hold the keys to an NBA franchise, owners are ultimately in business to make money. For teams losing money, the prospect of not playing a season may not sound all that frightening. 

A factor that both sides will take into consideration is that the season is far longer than that of the NFL. With the playoffs, an NBA season can last about eight months. Add in training camp and the NBA offseason for teams that advance deep into the postseason is an extremely short break compared to their NFL counterparts. Some NBA players would welcome more time off and as the owners know from the lockout in 1998-99, a season can still be played even if it doesn’t start until later in the year. Both sides can do their best to negotiate a fair deal and still make some money by salvaging part of the season.

Unlike the NFL, NBA fans may unfortunately be in for a lockout that wipes out part or all of the season if negotiations don’t pick up.

July 6, 2011

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Not All Fantasies Are Locked Out

By: Joe Williams

I am what you could call a “sports nut”. My wife thinks I am out of control. I love to watch games on TV. She only likes watching games in person. I am an avid fantasy player. She thinks it is a waste of time. It is clear that we disagree and neither of us is going to change our mind. And that’s OK.

 

She is feeling pretty good right now because she got what she thinks is a pretty good birthday present this year. The NFL lockout began on her birthday and almost four months later; time is running out to get a deal done without missing games. 

With the NBA joining the lockout party a few days ago on Canada Day, she is pretty excited about the prospect of missing games in two major sports…not to mention two fantasy seasons for me. She has visions of all the stuff we can accomplish in those hours I would normally spend watching a game or setting my fantasy team lineup. 

What she doesn’t realize is the number of other fantasy games that could fill the void left by long NFL lockout and the NBA  lockout. So if you are like me and want your fantasy one way or another, here’s a few ideas for you. 

College Football 

An internet search will easily allow you to find a site that offers college fantasy football. There are so many teams and so many players that are unknown, it almost seems like it would be a game of chance rather than knowing how you want to build your team. However, there are many league settings that will allow you to customize the game to your liking. 

 

Wrestling 

That’s right. It may be considered “entertainment” and not a “real sport”, but fantasy sports are all about entertainment. Instead of watching a football game where you root for an individual player to perform well but don’t care about the outcome, you could try fantasy wrestling where you care about the outcome of a match, but don’t have to worry about whether your wrestler won “by hook or by crook” as they say. 

 Reality Shows 

This is the least popular option. Most people don’t even know it is an option. Many people hate reality TV. But if you are already watching shows like Survivor you can enhance your enjoyment of the show with a fantasy game. Watching a game when you don’t care who wins cannot compare to watching a game your favorite team or school is playing. So if you like reality TV, try the fantasy game that goes along with it. Big Brother starts on Thursday so we don’t have to wait long to start a fantasy game. 

 If these don’t appeal to you, maybe someone will come up with a fantasy game for us to follow the lockouts. Who is going to win? The players or owners? When will games actually be played? Who will be the MVL? (Most valuable lawyer) It can’t compare to the fantasy football we all know and love, but it’s got to be better than going without our fantasies.

July 1, 2011

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Top Trends In Sports This Week

By: Lionel

 The Boston Bruins once again dominated the weekly top Fathead sellers list. In contrast, NFL and NBA products have been pushed even further down this week, which we can probably blame on the lockouts.  I’m trying to be optimistic about it, but I can’t help but consider the worst case scenario:  the NFL and NBA seasons never happen, people stop buying NBA and NFL Fatheads, Fathead goes out of business, I’m without a weekly paycheck, my wife leaves me because I can’t afford to make her car payments, my mom hates me because I no longer have a wife, my leg falls off (unrelated to Fathead), they cancel the ABC Family hit “Melissa & Joey” (also unrelated), and I die a broke, miserable, family-less, one-legged man who can’t take comfort in the comic genius of Joey Lawrence and Melissa Joan Hart.

The top ten selling Fatheads of last week (6/25 – 7/1):

  1. Tim Thomas – Stanley Cup
  2. Boston Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup Champions Logo
  3. Boston Bruins Logo
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers Logo
  5. Troy Polamalu
  6. Tim Thomas
  7. Derrick Rose
  8. Peyton Manning
  9. Kobe Bryant
  10. Derrick Rose Rookie of the Year