January 6, 2014

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

NFL Playoff thrillers: Fans were hoping for some watchable playoff games this weekend in the NFL and the league didn’t disappoint. Outside of the San Diego Chargers thrashing the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-10, pro football’s postseason games were all close. Saturday featured the Colts erasing a 28-point deficit against the Chiefs to come back for a 45-44 win. In addition, the Saints and 49ers both won on field goals as time expired in their games against the Eagles and Packers, respectively. The games were about as close as you could ask for and that surely amounted in a ratings bonanza for the league.

San Diego Chargers

The San Diego Chargers had the most convincing win of the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs.

BCS Championship Game: Florida State takes on Auburn tonight in college football’s national championship game and while the potential for a good game is there, the Seminoles cruising to a comfortable win seems the more likely scenario. While Auburn has a loss and several close games, Florida State has beaten up on everyone they’ve played this season. Their closest margin of victory was by 14 points against Boston College and the fewest points the Seminoles have scored was 37 in a 30-point win against rival Florida. The team not only has the nation’s top ranked offense, but the No. 1 defense as well. I’ll take Florida State tonight, 41-24.

Texas picks Charlie Strong as head coach: Texas didn’t get their original target in Alabama coach Nick Saban, so over the weekend, they tabbed former Louisville coach Charlie Strong as their next leader after Mack Brown stepped down. Saban is widely considered as the top coach in college football but getting Strong isn’t a bad consolation prize. Strong took over a weak Cardinals program and won 37 games in four seasons there. Many will point to the fact that he piled up his wins in the Big East and the AAC, where Louisville competed this season, but Strong’s teams have fared well against other major BCS programs, too. The Cardinals crushed a good Miami team this year in their bowl game and beat third-ranked Florida last season in the Sugar Bowl.

Kobe to start All-Star Game?: Despite barely playing this season fighting injuries, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is still getting votes to start in the NBA’s All-Star Game. A lot of them. The future Hall of Famer has only played in six games this year, but is still one of the leading vote getters in the Western Conference and is on pace to be named as a starter by fans. The league has opened the door for this sort of thing by putting ballots into the fans’ hands, but this really is a perfect example of how the voting has gotten out of control. Guards such as Steph Curry and Damian Lillard are having huge seasons and should be rewarded instead of Bryant, who by his own admission, won’t likely be healthy enough in time to even play.

Lambeau Leap Fail: Green Bay Packers’ fullback John Kuhn scored a touchdown in the team’s playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Unfortunately, his Lambeau Leap left a lot to be desired. Yeah, um, that didn’t work at all.

Team USA Hockey selections: The USA Hockey team selections for the 2014 Olympics were made last week and as always, there were a few notable omissions. Two guys that didn’t make the cut, defenseman Jack Johnson and winger Bobby Ryan, were interesting. Johnson is regarded as a top defenseman and Ryan is one of the best goal scorers in the league. For whatever reason, though, the pair didn’t make the team. But while there’s a lot of noise about them being left out right now, expect that die down if Team USA can win a gold medal.

The blowout of blowouts: Southern University won a basketball game over Champion Baptist College, 116-12. No, that’s not a typo. Their 44-0 lead to start the game was an NCAA record. The ironic thing is that at 5-9, it’s not like Southern is a basketball powerhouse. Keep in mind that this is the same team that lost to Denver, Arkansas-Little Rock, Louisiana Tech, and Middle Tennessee State. Just how bad were things for Champion Baptist? Their starters were a combined 2-29 from the field and only two players on the team scored field goals. Guard Zach Hendricks was the star for the team … and he had four points. CBC had a chance to score more points, but was only 5-17 from the free throw line. The school was outrebounded 69-22, had 27 turnovers, and only recorded a single assist.

December 30, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

NFL Playoffs: The NFL Playoffs will begin next weekend and the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos have both clinched home field advantage throughout in their respective conferences. Both teams are the likely favorites but neither can really be considered invincible. Even though each has lost only a single game at home all year, anything can happen in a one-game situation. Still, if I’m picking two teams to reach the Super Bowl, it’s Seattle and Denver.

Marshawn Lynch

The Seattle Seahawks are the #1 seed in the NFC.

Bill O’Brien/Texans Talk Contract: The Houston Texans have had a dismal season and have already fired head coach Gary Kubiak. Next up for the franchise could be Penn State coach Bill O’Brien. On Saturday, news broke that the two sides were already discussing a contract and if he leaves the school, it would be yet another blow to the Nittany Lions. With the program reeling a few seasons ago from the Jerry Sandusky scandal, O’Brien rescued Penn State to a degree and put together a couple of decent seasons. The school is still on probation for a couple of more years, but he has them headed in the right direction. The one thing in Penn State’s favor, however, is that the program is in far better shape than it was when O’Brien took over. There’s still work to be done, but landing a qualified head coach shouldn’t be too taxing this time around since Penn State is in a better situation.

LeBron James and Serena Williams AP Athletes of the Year: NBA star LeBron James and tennis great Serena Williams were named the Male and Female Athletes of the Year by the Associated Press for 2013. Both were clearly deserving as James helped his team to their second consecutive Finals win and Williams won 11 titles, including two majors this year.

Paul Blair Dies: Former Baltimore Orioles outfielder Paul Blair collapsed at a celebrity bowling event and died last week – he was 69. Blair played in six World Series, winning four of them with the O’s and New York Yankees. He was a reasonable hitter, but more known for his defense as he won eight Gold Gloves as a centerfielder. Blair batted .250 and hit 134 home runs over his career, and was a two-time All-Star.

Andrew Bynum on way out in Cleveland: Just two years ago, Andrew Bynum was fresh off his best year in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging nearly 19 points and 12 rebounds per game. But after a trade to Philadelphia as part of a four-team deal that involved Dwight Howard, his career has taken a nosedive. Bynum missed all of the 2012-13 season and then signed with Cleveland this year, where he’s struggled to be a consistent player. So far this year, he had been averaging less than half of the points and rebounds he was in that final year in L.A. and on Saturday, the Cavs suspended him indefinitely for unknown reasons. It’s looking more and more like Bynum will soon be on the open market as the team may simply release him. At only 26, Bynum still has time to turn his career around if he wants to, but right now he’s a far cry from the player he was with the Lakers.

Soccer is fun: Hey look – a Turkish League soccer player managed to miss a goal despite being only few feet away and having an open net. No, really.

Russell Westbrook is Injured. Again.: Sadly, the Oklahoma City Thunder know this tune. Similar to the Derrick Rose symphony, this one ends in predictable disaster. The Thunder have again lost guard Russell Westbrook to a knee injury and he’ll reportedly be out through the All-Star break after having surgery. At this point, OKC just can’t catch a break. They’ve got Kevin Durant, one of the league’s best players and with Westbrook, the team is clearly a contender for the title. Without him, though, as we saw in last year’s playoffs, they probably can’t even win the Western Conference. The good news is that the Thunder should get him back in plenty of time for the playoffs. The bad news? He’s got an injury history longer than the list of teams with losing records in the Eastern Conference. If you’re Oklahoma City, you just can’t feel good about him being healthy for the postseason.

Nnamdi Asomugha retires: In 2011, Nnamdi Asomugha was one of the top cover cornerbacks in the NFL and had just signed a five year, $60 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. A little more than two years later and the three-time Pro Bowler has officially announced his retirement. Asomugha’s decline is the perfect example of how quickly skills can diminish when playing in the NFL. The Eagles cut him, finding him to be a liability after two years, and he failed to stick with the San Francisco 49ers, playing in only a few games this year.

December 28, 2013

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Bold Week 17 NFL Picks

By: Matt Bowen

The NFL never disappoints—all the league did this year was provide fans with playoff football two weeks early. Heading into Week 17, only the Kansas City Chiefs know they’re playoff position right now—they’ll be the No. 5 seed in the AFC. Everything else, including two divisions is up for grabs.

What more could we ask for? Every single game is a divisional battle this weekend. On a side note the NFL schedule makers deserve thumbs up for Week 17 packing such a punch. Think teams will “rest” players this week for the playoffs—think again. Too much is at stake, there’s a substantial amount seeding to be settled.

Main NFC Takeaways: The NFC East and North are for the taking. Every playoff position is subject to change.

Main AFC Takeaways: The No. 6 seed is up for grabs. The Miami Dolphins currently hold the position but the Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers all hope the ‘Phins lose. Every seeding is subject to change besides the aforementioned No. 5 spot.

With those tidbits of information, here are some bold predictions for Week 17.

The San Diego Chargers Make the Playoffs: In order to do so the Chargers need the Dolphins and Ravens to lose. The Ravens laid an egg in Week 16 against the New England Patriots and won’t recover in Week 17 on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are 7-0 at home this season and will remain perfect.

Bengals 31, Ravens 17

The Dolphins are currently in the driver’s seat for the spot but will fumble on the goal line at home against the New York Jets. The Jets are as hot-and-cold as they come and have only won once on the road this season. Don’t count them out though. Head coach Rex Ryan fears he’s on his way out which will inspire one helluva “win one for the gipper speech.”

This one won’t be pretty and the Dolphins will be scratching their heads after this game. The Jets will end the season at 8-8 and look respectable.

Jets 13, Dolphins 10

The Chargers will steal the moment and take care of business at home vs. the Chiefs. With both the Ravens and Dolphins playing at 1 p.m. the Chargers will know that the spot is theirs for the taking and feel inspired.

No one expected the Chargers to be much of anything this season but they’ve played well enough to contend for the playoffs.  Quarterback Philip Rivers has had one of the best seasons of his career and he’ll come up big in Week 17.

Rivers will throw for four touchdowns and 405 passing yards against the Chiefs. With it all on the line, he plays like a franchise quarterback.

Chargers 38, Chiefs 27

Can the Chargers sneak their way into the Playoffs?

Beside the Final Spot, the AFC is settled:

  1. Denver Broncos
  2. New England Patriots
  3. Cincinnati Bengals
  4. Indianapolis Colts
  5. Kansas City Chiefs
  6. Miami Dolphins

The New Orleans Saints, not the Carolina Panthers win the NFC South

All the Panthers have to do is win and the NFC South is theirs.

Don’t tell the Atlanta Falcons that—they’ve had a dismal season but will end it by spoiling the Panthers dreams.

It would have been easy to say the New Orleans Saints would squander their playoffs hopes away but they’re too good at home to lose against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Falcons will give it everything they have and it will be just good enough. Matt Ryan and the boys will win; making the Saints the NFC South champs which gives them a bye week. Just when everyone thought the Saints were dead in the playoff water because they play so poorly on the road, they’ll capture a home game or two.

Falcons 20, Panthers 17

Aaron Rodgers Will Lift the Green Bay Packers to the Postseason

The NFC North is for the taking and the Green Bay Packers will seize the day, becoming the most unlikely playoff team. The Packers appeared to be preparing next season due to an injury to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but somehow they have a puncher’s chance.

Rodgers will return after a seven-week hiatus and he’ll be all that they need to beat the Chicago Bears in Week 17.

Some franchises in sports just have “it.” The Packers have just that. It is impossible to explain, there’s a mystique engulfing “it” that makes “it”: so special.

The Bears are a good team that seems to be the favorite in this one, but they simply don’t have it. Rodgers comes back with a fury and puts his team in the playoffs. He’ll finish with 323 yards and three touchdowns.

Packers 35, Bears 31

Let’s Be Real Here, the Philadelphia Eagles Fly High in Dallas

Well, the NFC East certainly didn’t disappoint this year. Their annual winner-take-all play-in game is still intact.

Considering the pick isn’t so bold, the final score will be. Yes, the Cowboys will be without Tony Romo and their defense is full of holes. The Eagles have won 6-of-7 and look primed for the playoffs. The Chip Kelly experiment looked a little rough at time this season but it’s here to stay.

This score will look like he’s still coaching at Oregon and strike fear into their playoff opponent.

Fly Eagles Fly!

Eagles 63, Cowboys 17

Final NFC Standings:

  1. Seattle Seahawks
  2. New Orleans Saints
  3. Philadelphia Eagles
  4. Green Bay Packers
  5. Carolina Panthers
  6. San Francisco 49ers

December 27, 2013

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Week 17 in the NFL

By: Joe Williams

With 16 weeks down and just one to go in the NFL season, there are still four playoff spots up for grabs, four division titles to be decided and three teams will secure a bye in the first round. With dozens of possible scenarios waiting to play out, nobody knows what will happen. But here’s what you need to know for week 17.

Just three of the 16 games have no playoff implications. Here’s hoping you don’t get stuck watching Houston at Tennessee, Detroit at Minnesota or Washington at N.Y. Giants.

Carolina at Atlanta
The Panthers win the NFC South with a win. They could be the 1, 2, 5 or 6 seed.

Cam Newton

Cam Newton has the led the Panthers to the playoffs in 2013. Can they capture the #1 seed in the NFC in Week 17?

Baltimore at Cincinnati
The Bengals have already won the AFC North and will be playing for a chance at the 2 seed and a bye. They could finish as the 2, 3 or 4 seed. Baltimore needs a win and some help to get the final wild card spot.

N.Y. Jets at Miami
The Dolphins need a win and some help to get the AFC’s final wild card spot.

Jacksonville at Indianapolis
The Colts have already locked up the AFC South and are headed to the playoffs. However, a win and a Bengals loss would make the Colts the 3 seed instead of the 4.

Cleveland at Pittsburgh
The Steelers need a win and some help to get the AFC’s final wild card spot.

Green Bay at Chicago
The winner takes the NFC North title and will be the 3 or 4 seed.

Denver at Oakland
The Broncos will clinch home-field advantage in the AFC with a win.

Buffalo at New England
The Patriots will get a first round bye with a win. They could be the 1, 2, 3 or 4 seed in the AFC.

Tampa Bay at New Orleans
The Saints could get a first round bye with a win. They will be the 2, 5 or 6 seed in the NFC.

San Francisco at Arizona
The 49ers are already in the playoffs but need a win for a chance at the NFC West title and home-field advantage in the NFC. The Cardinals can get the final wild card spot in the NFC with a win and some help.

Kansas City at San Diego
The Chiefs are locked in as the 5 seed in the AFC. The Chargers can sneak into the final AFC wild card spot with a win if Baltimore and Miami lose earlier in the day.

St. Louis at Seattle
The Seahawks need one more win to clinch home-field advantage in the NFC.

Philadelphia at Dallas
The winner takes the NFC East and will be the 3 or 4 seed.

My prediction:

AFC
Denver 13-3
New England 12-4
Indianapolis 11-5
Cincinnati 10-6
Kansas City 11-5
Miami 9-7

NFC
Seattle 13-3
Carolina 12-4
Philadelphia 10-6
Chicago 9-7
New Orleans 11-5
San Fransisco 11-5

November 26, 2013

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NFL Playoff Projections

By: Joe Williams

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.

Rob Gronkowski

Will the Patriots end up the #1 seed in the AFC?

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.

The sixth seed is a crapshoot. There will likely be week 17 games in Cincinnati, Tennessee, Miami and San Diego that all mean something.

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

Monday night’s match-up in Seattle should decide the No. 1 seed in the NFC. If the Saints can’t win in Seattle this week…they’ll have to do it in January in order to reach the Super Bowl.

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.

Carolina and San Francisco will be the wild card teams. It’s division title or bust for everyone else.

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.

Pittsburgh Steelers/Batimore Ravens: This Thanksgiving night showdown is an elimination game. Winner gets to 6-6. Loser is out of the race.

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.