February 18, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

NBA All-Star weekend takes center stage: The NBA held its annual All-Star weekend to mixed reviews and the events left me mostly ‘meh.’ The whole East-West format for the skills competitions, dunk contests, and three-point shootout was rather confusing. The scoring format was unbelievably difficult to track unless you were prepared for it going into the evening. The dunk contest was also largely a dud with two of the top participants, Gerald Green and James White, taking a full 1:30 without even completing a slam. One thing that was impressive, though, was Kyrie Irving’s performance in the three-point shootout. Irving is a bonafide star and here’s the thing: the NBA can’t be anything but pleased to have a name brand player win one of the events. Many times, these things are won by guys in the middle of NBA benches. Plus, while the all-star game didn’t feature much actual defense (big surprise, I know), it was still exciting to watch.

Will Derek Jeter be ready for the Yankees' season opener.

NFL defensive stars to be released: With the offseason of the NFL upon us, it’s that time of year when we’re starting to hear of teams’ plans to part ways with some of their stars. When this happens, contracts generally play a role and that appears to be the case with a few big announcements. The Indianapolis Colts are ready to let go of defensive monster Dwight Freeney. Freeney’s production has slipped a bit over the past few years, but he could still have been in line for a big free agent deal. The Colts chose not to re-sign him and he’ll be moving on, leaving as the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks. Another big time star on defense that helped his team win a championship is the PackersCharles Woodson. Woodson has still been productive, but was due to count for $10 million against the team’s cap for next year. That’s a big number and with several young stars to pay soon, including B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews, Green Bay figured it was too much.

Michael Jordan says Kobe > Lebron: With Lebron James tearing through the NBA this season, the talk of his place among some of the all-time greats is ramping up. The current king by many accounts, Michael Jordan, even weighed in this past week. But it wasn’t to anoint James just yet – rather, MJ still says that the LakersKobe Bryant gets his nod as the better player. Jordan pointed to Kobe’s five rings over Lebron’s one as the deciding factor. He took a good deal of criticism for that stance (James, himself, even said it shouldn’t be based solely on rings), but I don’t think his main point was that Bryant was the better player strictly because of that. Instead, I think his intent was that because both are great players, Kobe gets the nod because of the rings. And if that’s the reasoning, it’s hard to disagree.

Danica Patrick wins Daytona 500 pole: Ever since breaking into racing, Danica Patrick has garnered a lot of attention. But her biggest achievement to date was likely winning the pole position for the Daytona 500, which she did this weekend, beating out Jeff Gordon and others. The pole position hardly guarantees a victory for her – only nine racers with the pole in the event’s 54-year history went on to win. Dale Jarrett was the last to do so … and that was in 2000. That said, it’s still better to start up front than in the back of the field so, advantage Danica.

This just in – Roger Goodell is rich: The fact that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is a rich man shouldn’t come as any great surprise. But just how rich he is was revealed in a recent report and likely raised a few eyebrows. Goodell reportedly made $30 million in 2011 – a significant increase from the approximately $10 million he made in 2010. That’s a large chunk of change, but consider this: MLB commissioner But Selig and NBA counterpart David Stern earn about $20 million, according to ESPN. Considering the wild success of professional football, Goodell’s pay seems to be in line with what other top execs in the world of sports are making.

Derek Jeter hopes to return for opener: With pitchers and catchers reporting, baseball season will be front and center before you know it. The YankeesDerek Jeter hopes that he’ll be ready to go when the season begins. Jeter suffered an ankle injury last year in the playoffs and it was no guarantee that he’d be ready for the opener. But Jeter says that the recovery is going well and he expects to be back in time, according to this article by MLB.com. That would be incredible news for the Yankees who could use him for another run at the playoffs. It’s not as if New York is without other weapons, but Jeter was one of the team’s leaders last year, racking up a league-leading 216 hits and 740 plate appearances. Batting .316 on the season, he showed that at 38, there’s probably still some left in the tank.

January 4, 2013

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Why the Seattle Seahawks Are The NFL’s Most Dangerous Playoff Team

By: Matt Bowen

Coming into the 2012 NFL season the Seattle Seahawks were the league’s most puzzling team. Now, just days away from the playoffs, the Seahawks are the NFL’s most dangerous team.

Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks are taking a lot of momentum into the playoffs.

Last offseason the organization brought in quarterback Matt Flynn to be the starter, a move that was promising but unproven. Bringing in a career backup quarterback to become the franchise cornerstone hasn’t had positive results of late in the NFL.

Draft day brought them a first-round pick in defensive end Bruce Irvin from West Virginia that caused Twitter to explode with laughter. The Seahawks got the last laugh as Irvin tallied eight sacks in his rookie campaign. His speed off the edge gives every team a dynamic they must have to be considered a winner.

Heading into training camp, the team had a three-way duel for the starting quarterback with incumbent Tarvaris Jackson, the aforementioned Flynn and surprise rookie quarterback Russell Wilson from Wisconsin. Jackson was traded before the season even began and Flynn has only thrown nine passes all season long. It was Wilson who won the job outright and has made the most of his opportunity.

In a season that was touted as the best quarterback class to ever enter the NFL, Wilson is a major reason why. Sure, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and Washington Redskins shot caller Robert Griffin III went Nos. 1 and 2 in the 2012 NFL draft, but it was Wilson who tied Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning for touchdown tosses by a rookie with 26.

So, why is Wilson so good?

Because he doesn’t do much wrong, he makes smart plays and doesn’t try to be a hero on every snap. One would say he’s wise beyond his years. In comparison to Manning’s rookie season, Wilson has thrown just 10 interceptions all season while Manning chucked up a whopping 28.

Wilson’s mobility also helped in his success this season, knowing when to tuck-and-run while having the football IQ of when to get down and live to see another day. His solid 5.2 yards/carry on 94 runs with four touchdowns proves to be a viable weapon in his arsenal.

He doesn’t wow all the time, but his calm demeanor in the face of adversity is to be respected. Truth is he does just about everything right. His quarterback rating of an even 100 is evidence of this, which was good for fourth-best in the league this season behind Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, Manning and Griffin III.

Nothing helps a rookie like a proven, tough-as-nails veteran running back like Marshawn Lynch. “Beast Mode” is his nickname and he fits the bill. He finished with 1,590 rushing yards this season and has 2,794 in his first two full seasons in Seattle. Thanks to the balance that Lynch brings to the offense it must be a nightmare for opposing coaches to try to create a game plan to stop the Seahawks.

Not to be overlooked, the team has arguably the loudest fans in the league and their 8-0 record at home this season gives weight to this debate. The “12th Man” is impressive on a weekly basis.

Another reason why the Seahawks are so fierce is their ferocious defense. Yes, the team is currently riding a five-game win streak in which they’ve scored 193 points, but the defense has set the tone in every game and even contributed with four touchdowns during the streak.

The core-four members of the secondary, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner have appropriately been dubbed the “Legion of Boom.” They wreak havoc on a play-by-play basis and are out to prove that they are the best in the entire league.

They will get their chance to show the football world just that when they travel to the nation’s capital to face the Washington Redskins on January 6, 2013 as the anchor game on Wild Card Weekend. This is a game of things to come for the NFL. This game guarantees to be a great matchup as these teams will be two of the best for years to come.

Wilson vs. RG3, Lynch vs. Redskins rookie running back Alfred Morris, who set the all-time franchise record with 1,613 rushing yards this season, what more could fans ask for?

Just remember, the Seahawks are built to win now.

January 2, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Adrian Peterson barely misses Eric Dickerson’s record: I’ll admit that I was among the doubters not believing that Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson could break Eric Dickerson’s long-standing record of 2,105 rushing yards in a season. But Peterson shocked me (and probably a lot of other people) in rushing for 199 yards, coming much closer than expected. In the end, he fell only nine yards short of the goal and despite the happy face he may put on this week, it’s hard to imagine he’s not at least a bit disappointed. Peterson still should have a few more productive seasons ahead of him, but reaching the rarefied air that he did this year may never happen again. Even if it doesn’t, though, congratulations are in order for an MVP-type season and one of the best ever for a running back. Plus, the win over the Packers gave the Vikings a playoff berth and ultimately, that’s a pretty nice consolation prize for Peterson.

Drafted in April, Andrew Luck is now taking the Colts to the NFL Playoffs.

Avery Johnson fired as coach of Nets: The Brooklyn Nets made a fairly surprising move by firing head coach Avery Johnson. Assistant P.J. Carlesimo is leading the way for now, but the franchise also has an eye on Phil Jackson. For Johnson, it was a tale of two months. The former NBA guard had the Nets out to an 11-4 start in November and looking like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. But then came a 3-10 stretch in December and that ultimately cost him his job. Part of the reason for that downfall can be attributed to the loss of star center Brook Lopez, who missed six games due to injury. But with so much talent, more was expected of the team at this point in the season. Johnson should get another opportunity with a different team down the line, though. Before serving as the Nets’ coach, he led the Dallas Mavericks to the playoffs in each of his four years with the franchise and also took them to the NBA Finals in 2006.

Hideki Matsui retires: Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui ended his long career by officially announcing his retirement last week. Matsui spent a total of 20 seasons playing Japanese and American baseball and in ten major league seasons, he hit 175 home runs and batted .282 with the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, Tampa Bay Rays, and Oakland Athletics. Even factoring in his 332 home runs in Japan, Matsui still isn’t a likely Hall of Famer. But he was certainly an above-average major leaguer. Matsui finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2003, was a two-time All-Star, and won a World Series Most Valuable Player Award.

Three Rookie quarterbacks make playoffs: When a rookie quarterback leads a team to the NFL playoffs, it’s a big accomplishment. When three do it in the same year, it’s probably time to call the Mayans for another apocalyptic prediction. That’s what happened this year as the ColtsAndrew Luck, the RedskinsRobert Griffin III, and the SeahawksRussell Wilson led their franchises to the postseason. The amazing thing is that none were just along for the ride, either. Luck broke the rookie passing record, throwing for more than 4,100 yards this season, while Griffin had the NFL’s second-best passer rating and Wilson tallied 26 touchdowns and more than 3,000 yards.

Kevin Ollie named permanent UConn head coach: Ollie, a former player, was named as UConn’s permanent head men’s basketball coach with a reported five-year deal. Following the retirement of Jim Calhoun, Ollie was given the job on a sort of trial run with only a one-year deal. But so far this season, he’s steered the Huskies to a 9-2 record and convinced the administration that he was capable of leading the program. Replacing Calhoun is a tough task and Ollie will have his work cut out for him if he wants to achieve as much as the former coach did. The key here is that the new deal will make things much easier for him on recruiting. Instead of telling prospective players that he hopes to still be on the job next year, he can now virtually assure them that he will.

Brandon Roy hopes to continue comeback bid: Just a few years ago, Brandon Roy was one of the top young guards in the NBA. In his first four seasons with the Portland Trailblazers, Roy averaged nearly 20 points a game and made three All-Star teams. But knee issues forced him to suddenly retire after a disappointing 2010-11 season. Roy made a comeback this year with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but is still suffering with the condition and has only appeared in a few games so far this year. Roy has weighed another retirement, but is hoping to get back on the court after dealing with the chronic knee pain. The decision has to be difficult for him. He’s still young enough that he could have several seasons in front of him if the pain can be treated. But at some point, the conditioning day in and day out to be able to play has to be a burden.

December 18, 2012

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

A lot changed in the NFL in Week 15. Fans in Washington, Minnesota and Dallas saw their playoff hopes improve dramatically. And if you are rooting for Baltimore, Tampa Bay, New York Giants, St. Louis, Chicago, Pittsburgh or the New York Jets…your hopes either took a major hit and/or are gone all together. Here’s how I have them ranked with two games to go.

1 San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) — As the Nature Boy Ric Flair always said, “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” The Patriots were at the top last week and the 49ers went into New England and won. San Fransisco is now “The Man.”

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers haven't given up on this season.

2 Atlanta Falcons (12-2) — Talk about making a statement. If anybody wants to get to New Orleans, they are going to have to go through Atlanta.

3 New England Patriots (10-4)Tom Brady was on the verge of one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history. But the Patriots couldn’t finish it off and likely cost themselves a playoff bye.

4 Houston Texans (12-2)
— One more win ought to be enough to lock up home-field advantage in the AFC. It won’t be easy with the Vikings and Colts both fighting for wild card spots.

5 Denver Broncos (11-3)
– The Broncos may be the biggest winner of week 15. Home wins over the Browns and Chiefs will clinch the No. 2 seed and a first round bye.

6 Green Bay Packers (10-4) – The NFC North champs have won eight of nine and have their sights set on the NFC’s No. 2 seed and a first round bye.

7 Seattle Seahawks (9-5) – After putting up 108 points in the last two weeks the Seahawks are one win away from getting into the playoffs (probably) and have an outside shot of stealing the NFC West from San Fransisco.

8 Dallas Cowboys (8-6) – Somehow the Cowboys got off the mat and won five of six. If they can make it seven of eight they should be NFC East champs.

9 Baltimore Ravens (9-5) — Remember when the Ravens were on the verge of earning a bye in the first round of the playoffs? A desperate New York Giant team could give them a fourth straight loss and make the Ravens at Bengals in week 17 for the division title.

10 Washington Redskins (8-6) – Five straight wins have the Redkins at the top of the NFC East. A win at Philly this week will set up a huge week 17 showdown with the Cowboys.

11 Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) – The Bengals can make the playoffs with a win in Pittsburgh. A loss makes things very interesting.

12 New York Giants (8-6) – Did the Giants just sneak in an extra bye week? Sunday’s game in Baltimore is a must win.

13 Indianapolis Colts (9-5) – The Colts should have no trouble with the Chiefs this week. A win should keep them from having to go to New England in the first round.

14 Minnesota Vikings (8-6) – If the playoffs started today….with Houston and Green Bay left on the schedule, they have started for the Vikings.

15 Chicago Bears (8-6) — Wins in Arizona and Detroit won’t be enough to get the Bears in the playoffs. They need help.

16 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7) – Despite losing four of five, the Steelers can make the playoffs by winning the last two games. Their reward for doing so? Probably the Patriots.

17 New Orleans Saints (6-8) – This season cannot end fast enough for the Saints now that they are out of playoff contention.

18 Carolina Panthers (5-9) –  Don’t be surprised if the Panthers finish 7-9. This is one team that hasn’t quit.

19 St. Louis Rams (6-7-1) – If everyone in front of them loses, a win would give the Rams something to play for in week 17.

20 Miami Dolphins (6-8) – Surprisingly, the Dolphins still have hope. They must beat Buffalo and hope the Steelers beat the Bengals to go into week 17 with a chance.

21 Tennessee Titans (5-9) – Is Jake Locker the future for the Titans? I’m not sure they know the answer.

22 New York Jets (6-8) – The Jets looked more like a team playing for the top pick in the draft than a playoff spot on Monday night.

23 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8)
– That 41-0 beat down ensured the Bucs won’t have to worry about making a trip to the frozen tundra in January.

24 Arizona Cardinals (5-9) – Nice win for the Cards. With the Bears and 49ers coming up, they were looking at a 12-game losing streak to finish the season.

25 Detroit Lions (4-10) – The Lions are a candidate for most disappointing team of 2012. They could lose their last eight games.

26 Cleveland Browns (5-9) – You heard it here first. Cleveland makes the playoffs in 2013.

27 Buffalo Bills (5-9) – Maybe the Bills are the new Redskins? Let’s see if they try to win the off-season for the second year in a row.

28 San Diego Chargers (5-9)
– The window in San Diego is officially closed. Time to rebuild.

29 Oakland Raiders (4-10) – The Raiders haven’t allowed a point in five quarters.

30 Philadelphia Eagles (4-10) – Eagles are headed for 4-12 with two playoff hungry opponents remaining but they would love to knock the Redskins and Giants out of the race.

31 Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12) – GM, Head Coach, quarterback and even franchise location are question marks? That’s not good.

32 Kansas City Chiefs (2-12) – The Chiefs appear to be a lock for 2-14 and the first pick in the draft.

December 11, 2012

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NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

There are three weeks left in the NFL regular season and we know who four of the 12 playoff teams will be.

15 teams are still in the hunt for the other eight spots, leaving 13 teams that should already be looking to 2013. Where does your team sit?

Tom Brady and New England are the new #1 in the NFL Power Rankings.

1 New England Patriots (10-3)Brady and Belichick are at it again. New England is going to be scary in January and probably February.

2 Atlanta Falcons (11-2) — Oops. The Falcons put it on cruise control a bit early. They still need at least one more win to lock down the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

3 San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1) — You’ve got to feel for Alex Smith. Especially with a potential Super Bowl preview coming up Sunday night in New England.

4 Houston Texans (11-2) — Sunday’s game against the Colts just got a whole lot bigger. One more loss and Houston could have a big problem.

5 Denver Broncos (10-3) Manning is making a strong case for MVP. A win in Baltimore could get the Broncos a first round bye.

6 Baltimore Ravens (9-4) — Their last four games have been decided by three points. This week is a must-win if the Ravens are going to have a first-round playoff bye.

7 Green Bay Packers (9-4) – The Packers are now alone in first place in the NFC North and winning in Chicago on Sunday would give them another division title.

8 Seattle Seahawks (8-5) – Did Pete Carroll have a flashback to his USC days and think he needed to run up the score to gain style points?

9 New York Giants (8-5) – There is no margin for error in the NFC East and the Giants must go to Atlanta and Baltimore in the next two weeks. The defending champs could miss the post season.

10 Chicago Bears (8-5)Jay Cutler needs to get healthy quick and have a big game on Sunday or the Bears will be watching the playoffs on TV.

11 Dallas Cowboys (7-6)Pittsburgh comes to town this week in a meeting of two teams desperately needing a win. Dez Bryant could be out with a broken finger.

12 Indianapolis Colts (9-4) – Is this all Andrew Luck? This team was horrendous last season.

13 Washington Redskins (7-6) – The Skins are 4-0 since their bye week and have stormed back into the NFC East race. The question is whether RGIII can be RGIII with an injured knee.

14 Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) – Beat the Eagles, Steelers and Ravens and you’re in the playoffs. That’s a tall order.

15 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6) – Do they want to make the playoffs? Didn’t look like it when they were down 27-3 to a bad San Diego team.

16 Minnesota Vikings (7-6) – That was a big win over the Bears. The Vikings need another win this week at St. Louis because they finish with Houston and Green Bay.

17 St. Louis Rams (6-6-1) – A three-game winning streak for the first time since 2006 has the Rams in playoff contention. Three more wins may not be enough though.

18 New York Jets (6-7) – The Jets were left for dead on Thanksgiving, but two straight wins has them in the hunt with three winnable games remaining.

19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) – Allowing two touchdowns in the last four minutes to lose against the Eagles is going to haunt the Bucs while they are watching the playoffs at home.

20 New Orleans Saints (5-8) – It was really just a matter of time in New Orleans. Not even Drew Brees can overcome the issues they have had.

21 Detroit Lions (4-9) – There is too much talent on this team to be 4-9. The Lions just can’t find a way to win. Something’s missing.

22 Carolina Panthers (4-9) – Where has that Panther team been all season? It’s a little late to be showing up for the party.

23 Tennessee Titans (4-9) – The Titans are just the latest fourth quarter victim of Andrew Luck. I’m sure they are looking forward to another decade of that.

24 Miami Dolphins (5-8) – The Dolphins competed against the Patriots and 49ers in the last two weeks, but it is clear they are not on that level.

25 Buffalo Bills (5-8) – The defense has improved but it has been a disappointing season in Buffalo.

26 Cleveland Browns (5-8) – The Browns are 5-3 in their last eight and still mathematically alive in the playoff hunt? Who knew?

27 Arizona Cardinals (4-9) – U.G.L.Y. Cardinals got no alibi. From 4-0 to 4-12? Yikes.

28 San Diego Chargers (5-8) – Big changes coming in San Diego for 2013. Nobody is safe.

29 Philadelphia Eagles (4-9) – Nick Foles could be the starter in 2013 after that come-from-behind win against the Bucs, but Philly fans are probably complaining that he cost them a higher draft pick.

30 Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) – Not much to be positive about in Jacksonville right now. At least the weather is nice.

31 Oakland Raiders (3-10) – There was hope when Oakland landed Carson Palmer, but some things never change. The Raiders losing seems to be one of them.

32 Kansas City Chiefs (2-11) – The Chiefs lead the race for the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft…in large part because they are -22 in the turnover battle.