January 29, 2014

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Bold Super Bowl XLVIII Predictions

By: Matt Bowen

Super Bowl XLVIII promises to be historic. Take your pick, offense or defense. If you’re an old-soul and firmly believe that defense wins championships then you’re in the neon green corner with the Seattle Seahawks. If you’re a fan of the explosive modern-day offense then you’re in the bright orange corner with the Denver Broncos.

Super Bowl XLVIII

Which team will leave Super Bowl XLVIII as champions?

When the Seahawks and Broncos square-off on February 2, 2014 the gloves will come off. Seeing that the game is taking place in the media capital of the world only adds fuel to the fire. In the end, the NFL and its fans will be the real winner.

There’s a ton of stats floating out there surrounding this game but here is the only one you should be concerned with right now. This is the first time since the 1990 season that the No. 1 offense has faced the No. 1 defense in the Super Bowl. Last time around the defense of the New York Giants edged out the offense of the Buffalo Bills, 20-19 in Super Bowl XXV. The Broncos scored 606 points in the regular season while the Seahawks only allowed 231. Something has got to give—we’re in for a gem.

Let’s Dig into our Super Bowl XLVIII Bold Predictions

The First Quarter will end with the Broncos Leading, 7-0

This game will start slow due to nerves which is no surprise. With only four players total from both sides with Super Bowl experience plenty of men will be wide-eyed and amped with the opening whistle blows. Both teams will go three-and-out in their opening drive. On their second possession Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will find wide receiver Demaryius Thomas for a 76-yard touchdown. Seahawks faithful everywhere will have sudden doubt about their highly-touted defense against the Broncos offense. Don’t fret—there’s plenty of ballgame left.

Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas Will Have a Game-Changing Sack in the Second Quarter

With the Broncos ahead 7-3 with 11:08 remaining in the second, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas will change the game. With fellow teammate Richard Sherman soaking up most of the attention, Thomas will have his time to shine.  A strip-sack of Manning and recovery by Seattle will flip the script. After all, the Seahawks just kicked a field goal to get on the board. Forcing a turnover and recovering on their 32-yard line will give the Seahawks prime field position. Momentum will now in favor of the Seahawks.

Manning Will Throw for Less Than 250 Yards

Hey, Seattle’s secondary isn’t called the “Legion of Boom” for no reason, there’s a reason they’re feared. The have the No. 1 defense after all and look to make a statement shutting down one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in the Super Bowl. Besides Manning’s bomb to D. Thomas in the first quarter, he’ll be quite silent.  The Seattle defense will steal the show.

Manning’s Final Line: 18-for-28, 243 passing yards, 2 TDs

Marshawn Lynch Will Be MVP

Marshawn Lynch is a different type of running back. He has throwback toughness, game-breaking speed and just doesn’t stop. His nickname is the best in the business and he lives up to it. “Beast Mode” is no joke. He simply punishes his opponents and when they tire in the fourth quarter, he’s just getting started.

Things will be no different in Super Bowl XLVIII—Beast Mode will be out in full force. He’ll carry his team to victory. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson gets plenty of credit, but the team’s success begins and ends with Lynch. He will set the tone for his team on offense.

Lynch’s Final Line: 26 carries, 143 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs, 2 receptions, 23 receiving yards, MVP

Final Score

This will be one of the best Super Bowls we have ever witnessed. The Broncos will strike first, but the Seahawks will take a 10-7 lead into halftime. The second half will be a seesaw affair and one for the ages.  This game will leave fans yearning for anything NFL and dreaming of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Seahawks 27, Broncos 21

January 9, 2014

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Bold Predictions for 2014

By: Joe Williams

In the NFL, 2013-2014 will be the season of redemption for Peyton Manning. He’s already set the NFL record for touchdown passes and passing yards (barely) in a single season. He’s going to win another MVP award and over the next month he will exercise the demons from his career. The first demon to hit the bricks will be the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers have quietly been a thorn in Manning’s side for years now. In 2005, San Diego knocked off Manning’s 13-0 team. In 2007, San Diego beat Manning’s Colts in the Divisional round of the playoffs and in 2008, San Diego bounced the Colts in overtime of the Wild Card round. But in 2014 Manning will get revenge and send the Chargers packing from the Divisional playoffs. Next up will be Tom Brady and the Patriots. We all know the history here. They’ll get it on one more time with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line and Peyton’s Broncos will get payback for the loss they suffered in New England earlier this season. Then it will be Manning vs Drew Brees. A rematch of the Super Bowl four years ago when the New Orleans Saints beat Peyton Manning and the Colts. Manning will lead Denver to its first Super Bowl win since the 1998 season and will surprise everyone by pulling a John Elway and announcing his retirement. After all, what could he do for an encore?

Kevin Durant

Will Kevin Durant and the Thunder win the NBA Championship in 2014?

In the NBA, just Indiana and Miami will try to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Six other teams will be forced to play despite their best efforts to get into the draft lottery. In the Western Conference, two teams will finish over .500 but be left home watching the playoffs. Kevin Durant will carry the Thunder to more than 50 wins without his running mate Russell Westbrook for most of the season. He’ll win the MVP award, but lose in the playoffs to the L.A. Clippers. Chris Paul and company will reach the finals and knock-off the Indiana Pacers who finally get over the hump against Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals.

In college football, the BCS will be gone and a 4-team playoff will make its debut. But that’s about all that will change. The teams battling for those four spots will look an awful lot like the teams that fought for the top two spots this year. The final four will end up being Florida State, Oregon or Stanford, Alabama or Auburn and Ohio State or Michigan State. Some team from a smaller conference will make a run at going undefeated but won’t even sniff the playoff field. Fans will complain that its the same old thing.

In MLB, as usual some teams will disappoint and others will make a surprising run. The Angels, Yankees, Mariners, and Cardinals will miss out on the postseason. Tampa Bay, Texas, Pittsburgh and the Dodgers will be among the teams in the playoff field. It will be Detroit and Pittsburgh in the World Series with the Pirates celebrating a championship for the first time since 1979.

In college basketball, Syracuse, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Witchita State, Arizona are all currently perfect. One of them will reach the championship game (but it won’t be Witchita State who will be the last team to lose its first game). But that team will lose to a teat that gets hot at the right time. And that team will be Oklahoma State. On the women’s side, five teams (Connecticut, Notre Dame, Iowa State and Indiana) have all yet to lose a game. Two of them will meet in the national championship game and once again, Connecticut will be cutting down the nets.

In golf, Tiger Woods will break Sam Snead’s record for most wins in a career. But he won’t get that 15th major championship that he has been looking for for the last few years. Phil Mickelson will get one, but not the coveted U.S. Open that he wants so badly. Team USA will get the job done on foreign soil and bring back the Ryder Cup. And the playoffs will be very entertaining once again, but it won’t be a big name player that wins it all.

December 23, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Peyton Manning sets TD record: Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has had a remarkable year and it continued on Sunday when he broke the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season. Manning threw for four scores in Denver’s win 37-13 win over the hapless Houston Texans this weekend. That gave him 51 for the season, breaking Tom Brady’s record of 50 from 2007.

Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning broke the NFL single-season passing TD record on Sunday.

And … he’s gone. Again.: Kobe Bryant made his return for the Los Angeles Lakers a couple of weeks ago and while he wasn’t exactly playing at an All-Star level, the hope was that he’d return there with some games under his belt. Yeah, so much for that. The Mamba injured his knee after returning from the devastating ACL injury and will now miss six more weeks. The Lakers just can’t seem to catch a break and while there’s talk about shutting him down, I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do. The Lakers are a .500 team right now, but if they can make a significant move or two in advance of the NBA trade deadline and get Steve Nash back from injury, who knows where things could end up? Plus, do you want to be the person to tell Kobe he can’t play again this season?

Southern Illinois coach goes off: Southern Illinois basketball coach Barry Hinson made headlines last week for his legendary rant after his team’s loss to Murray State. Hinson’s a colorful guy, but this rant that included calling his player’s mama’s boys, saying one of his guards is ‘awful’, and mentioning that his wife could outdo the horrific 2-11 shooting of his big men in the game was one of the best ever. If you’ve not yet seen it, Merry Christmas.

Tony Romo Christmas Card: So, yeah – Tony Romo has a Christmas card with his kid struggling to eat a hot dog. Yeah, I’m not making this up.

Return of Jesus Shuttleworth: The Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets apparently aren’t all that thrilled with their current jerseys. The two teams are going the street ball route and will be wearing nicknames on the backs of their jerseys in a couple of upcoming games. Ray Allen is expected to don the name J. Shuttleworth on his for his iconic movie role as Jesus Shuttleworth in Spike Lee’s ‘He Got Game’ movie from the 1990s. I’m all for having fun in pro sports, but nicknames? Really? Someone needs to remind these teams that they’re in the NBA – the highest level of professional basketball. This isn’t some crazy minor league stunt, it’s the National Basketball Association. What’s next – allowing players to suit up in warmups or t-shirts for games?

Football at Fenway: Notre Dame has played in their fair share of sports venues, but they’ll soon be able to add Fenway Park to that list. The Fighting Irish will take on Boston College in 2015 at the home of the Red Sox as part of their Shamrock Series.

Christian Laettner jersey up for auction: Christian Laettner went onto a pretty nice career in the NBA, but he’ll always be most remembered for his college career and, more specifically, his game-winning shot against Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA Tournament. Laettner’s shot lifted Duke to an overtime win and eventually, a national championship. His jersey from that game is now set to hit the streets via an auction from Lelands. If you want it, though, expect to pay a pretty penny for it with the reserve set at a cool $100,000.

Kevin Youklis heads to Japan: Former Boston Red Sox star Kevin Youklis has decided to play another season of baseball … but in Japan. Youklis is no longer the All-Star player he once was and is in serious decline. Last season, he batted only .219 with two home runs in 28 games. Still, that was enough to get him a $4 million deal with the defending Japan Series champions, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

December 19, 2013

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Predicting 2013 NFL Award Winners

By: Matt Bowen

With the playoffs three short weeks away let’s have some fun and predict the 2013 NFL award winners. While the season is still in the balance for plenty of teams, let’s be bold and take an educated guess. The final two weeks may sway some votes, but we have a good idea of how things will pan out. One thing is for certain, the NFL definitely didn’t disappoint this season—the final two weeks along with the playoffs will be as exciting as ever.

Keep these players in mind when the awards are doled out at the end of the season.

Coach of the Year

This is a tight race, but there’s clearly one winner.

There were eight head coaching changes heading into this season, and it can be easily argued that every new coach met or exceeded their expectations. Last year the following eight teams won a combined 41 games—headed into Week 16 this year these teams have a combined 56 wins.

The Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers all got new head coaches in 2013.

Hats off to all the men in charge, but the award goes to Andy Reid in Kansas City. The Chiefs were a dark horse Super Bowl team in 2012 before the won only two games and earned the No. 1 pick in the draft. This year Reid has tapped into their talent and the Chiefs currently have 11 wins. They may not win their division but a playoff appearance in a given. The Chiefs are explosive and a blast to watch.

Defensive Player of the Year

Defensive studs are often put on the back burner because they don’t score touchdowns. Not here, the men in the trenches get the acknowledgement they deserve.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint who is precisely the best defensive player, it’s not hard to find an answer. Many men are worthy of the award, but the Indianapolis Colts defensive end Robert Mathis takes the prize. His 16.5 sacks currently lead the league, and the Colts are once again going to make the playoffs.

What’s most remarkable about Mathis is his age—at 32 Mathis is an “old man” amongst the league’s new hybrid athletes on the defensive side of the ball. Still, Mathis is the best at his craft and a great leader on a rather young Colts defense. Cheers to you, Mr. Mathis.

Breakout Player of the Year

This award goes to the guy who doesn’t have a chance at 2013 NFL MVP, but his breakout season may earn him the grand award in the near future.

The argument can be made for both of these players but in the end only one can win. Both of these guys are receivers who have made tremendous strides toward stardom this season. The deciding factor ultimately comes down to team wins.

Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns currently leads the league is receiving yards with 1,467 and also has nine touchdowns. He has quickly become one of the most dangerous men in the game. If the Browns ever find a quarterback and running game Gordon may make a run a 2,000 yards in a single season. Right now, his team only has four wins. He’s 22 years old and has all the talent in the world. He’s had a troubled past, but should he leave his problems behind him the sky is the limit.

In the end, the 2013 Breakout Player of the Year goes to Alshon Jeffery of the Chicago Bears. The Bears currently lead the NFC North and control their own fate in terms of a playoff berth.

Jeffery is currently seventh in the league in receiving yards with 1,265. He has seven touchdowns and 80 catches. He’s the perfect complement to teammate Brandon Marshall and has hands like magnets.  Jeffery is only 23 years old and appears to be a Windy City staple for the next decade. Because of Jeffery the Bears are multi-dimensional and have a chance at a deep Super Bowl run. All he does is make highlight reels.

Rookie of the Year

Let’s be honest—today’s NFL is not made for rookies. There’s a steep learning curve that takes many highly touted prospects and puts them in their place—the bench. Last year may have been an exception due to the likes of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson but reality has struck once again in 2013.

To be a standout rookie in the NFL you have to be something special. Right now, only three guys come to mind the rookie debate pops up. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon deserves mention—the Bucs were terrible before he earned the starting job. Being a rookie quarterback isn’t easy, especially when you don’t start the season as the No. 1. The Bucs started 0-8 but have since won 4-of-6. For that they have hope for the future. Give the NC State alum a full offseason as the main man, and positive results will come.

Zac Stacy of the St. Louis Rams has been a bright spot in an up-and-down season for the franchise. The team was searching for a running back to win the job for weeks and found one in Stacy. The rookie from Vanderbilt has 854 yards on 202 carries and six touchdowns. He’s a real bruiser and looks like he’s made a name for himself in the NFL. Considering he only had one carry before October, Stacy has been a welcomed surprise. Because of him, the Rams will be a sleeper in 2014. He’s a real workhorse.

Look no further than Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers for NFL Rookie of the Year. The rookie out of Alabama looks like this generation’s Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks. Lacy has 248 carries for 1,028 yards and eight touchdowns. Right now the Green Bay Packers control their own destiny and when quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns from injury they’ll become the most feared offense in the NFC. Lacy makes them dangerous, the kid is a juggernaut.

MVP

So, who’s the NFL’s most valuable player this season? Let’s keep this short and sweet for there will be much debate to come.

Nick Foles deserves a mention for his work turning around the once underachieving Philadelphia Eagles.

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are always in the conversation as they should be. Manning will end up breaking the all-time touchdown record in a season of 50 set by Mr. Brady, he currently has 47 but is he the hands down MVP? No.

Outside the quarterback position, New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is the most dangerous player in the game. He’s can’t be guarded—his physical stature is not really fair to his opponents—but even he missed the top spot.

Heck, even Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker deserves a vote—all that guy does is split the uprights.

This year’s NFL MVP is Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

Correct, Wilson only has 3,077 passing yards, which ranks him No. 17 in the league. But it’s not his arm that is most valuable, it’s his mentality. He’s thrown 24 touchdowns, eight interceptions, completed 64.7 percent of his throws and has run for 508 yards on 89 rushes.

He doesn’t make many mistakes and only runs when it’s the right choice. His team is currently 12-2 and lethal at home. Right now the Seahawks seem a lock for the Super Bowl.

He’s special.

So special that the Texas Rangers drafted him in the recent Rule 5 MLB draft—he hasn’t played baseball in some time yet everybody wants a piece of Russell Wilson. He can seemingly do no wrong.

He’s got a million dollar smile and is priceless on the field. Wilson for MVP—no doubt.

November 27, 2013

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2013 NFL Q4 Must-See Games

By: Matt Bowen

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.

Week 13

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.

Week 14

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

Out of all the true Super Bowl contenders in the league, the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals may have the most questions surrounding them.

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.

Week 15

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.

Week 16

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.