January 29, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Rajon Rondo out for season – The Boston Celtics received some bad news fresh off of a close win over the Miami Heat as starting point guard Rajon Rondo will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL injury. The news couldn’t come at a worse time for the Celtics who are struggling just to make the playoffs, currently sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Even a heavy veteran presence in Boston with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce might not be enough to carry the Celtics to another postseason appearance. Avery Bradley got the start in place of Rondo against the Heat, but the bigger impact is that the team will now rely more heavily on backup guards Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa to play some extra minutes.

Will Alex Rodriguez miss the entire 2013 MLB season?

Could Alex Rodriguez miss entire 2013 season? New York Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman said that there’s a chance that star third baseman Alex Rodriguez could miss the entire 2013 season after his hip surgery. While he doesn’t necessarily believe it’s likely, he did state that it was possible. If that’s the case, it would obviously be a tremendous blow to the team. Rodriguez has been in a noticeable decline over the past few seasons and is nowhere near the player he was in his prime. But he’s still a quality player as evidenced by his 18 home runs and 57 runs batted in last year in 122 games, and could help the team if he were on the field.

Pro Bowl comes and goes in Pro Bowl like fashion – This weekend, the NFL held their annual Pro Bowl game. It was a typical Pro Bowl that featured little defense and plenty of offensive fireworks as the NFC won 62-35 over the AFC. But guess what? That’s fine by me. The game is a far cry from regular season football (or even preseason football, for that matter), but it’s still an All-Star game. And after all, every all-star game is played different. The final score of hockey’s all-star game generally looks more like a low-scoring football affair. The basketball all-star game comes off as a triple overtime thriller. And even baseball, which has something on the line in deciding the home field advantage for the World Series, isn’t played to specifications. After all, if a pitcher is cruising through three innings, would a manager really take him out to get other players in the game? Football’s all-star game isn’t truly indicative of what the sport should be, but look around – it’s not alone. And oh yeah, it’s in Hawaii – who wants to complain about that?

Fan makes half-court shot; Lebron turns into a linebacker – In case you missed it, a fan at a Miami Heat game sunk a half-court shot to win $75,000 from Lebron James’ foundation. James was so surprised that he promptly tackled said fan right there on the court, giving him a gigantic bear hug in the process. Had to be an exciting moment, but let’s be real here – if a 6’8”, 250-pound guy is lunging at me trying to knock me down, I’m probably getting out of the way.

Australian Open Tennis concludes – Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka won the men’s and women’s Australian Open tennis championships last week, but the bigger story may have been Sloane Stephens’ victory over highly favored Serena Williams earlier in the tournament. In the immediate aftermath, there were a plethora of wild statements about the torch being passed. What was conveniently left out in many of those discussions is that Williams was practically playing on one leg and with a bad back. While it’s true that she recovered enough to finish the match, she clearly wasn’t anywhere close to 100%. Even more to the point is that it was only a single match. I’m as excited as anybody for the future of Stephens, but the amount of enthusiasm about the win should be tempered. Stephens will be good – real good. I’m just not ready to call her the face of American tennis just yet (even if she did triple her Twitter followers since the win).

May 10, 2012

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Does the NFL Undervalue Centers?

By: Jesse

Lost in all of the hype and debate about which NFL prospect is the next Joe Montana or Jerry Rice, is which prospects could become Pro-Bowlers on the interior of the offensive line (or at least Pro Bowl caliber, if there is no Pro Bowl).  This year’s Draft showed how lightly NFL teams value interior lineman, specifically centers.  Peter Konz, the #1 rated center according to many draft sites, fell all the way to the Atlanta Falcons at #55.  But when you look at teams that have been successful over the last decade, they all have had very good, if not elite, centers.

THE PATRIOTS – DAN KOPPEN

Dan Koppen started 119 games from 2003-2010 for the Patriots.  He was injured early in 2011.  During his tenure as the Patriots center, New England won two Super Bowls and started another season 19-0.  Koppen may not be as important to the team’s success as Tom Brady or Bill Belichick, but he has been an important cog on the offensive line for a long time.

THE COLTS – JEFF SATURDAY

Saturday started 188 games for the Colts from 1999-2011.  Anyone who thinks that the Colts’ offense is completely run by Peyton Manning has never seen Saturday argue with him on the sidelines.  Saturday was out there for all of those years calling protections and identifying linebackers for the Colts’ offensive line.  He is a major reason that Peyton Manning started every game for 13 years in a row.  It will be interesting to see how much of an impact Jeff Saturday can make in Green Bay now that he has signed with the Packers.

MORE EXAMPLES

Maurkice Pouncey, David Haas, and Scott Wells have all been on Super Bowl teams in the past two seasons.  The Steelers went against the grain and drafted Pouncey 16th overall in 2010.  He has more than lived up to the selection by earning a selection to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons.  Scott Wells went from the Packers’ 7th round draft pick in the 2004 NFL Draft to the starting center in Super Bowl XLV and a Pro Bowler in 2011.  He recently signed a contract with the Rams.  Before the 2011 season, David Haas left the 49ers and signed with the Giants in free agency.  The Giants had not made the playoffs in two years, but won the Super Bowl last year with Haas manning the pivot.  The list does not end there.  The Bears’ Super Bowl run in 2006 featured team captain and perennial Pro Bowl Center Olin Kreutz.  The Giants’ 2007 Super Bowl team had Shaun O’Hara, who made three Pro Bowl teams and one All-Pro Team.

Does Fathead undervalue centers too? The only center on Fathead.com is Nick Mangold.

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Poor play at center can bring a team down as well.  Would the Cowboys have had better records in recent years if they had gotten more consistent play from center Andre Gurode?  Gurode, at times, struggled with shotgun snaps, and, on a few occasions, had multiple bad snaps in the same game.  The Cowboys chose not to resign him following the 2010 season, and, while he signed with Baltimore for the 2011 season, he started only five games for the Ravens.

Recent history has shown that the most successful teams in the league have to-of-the-line centers.  A poor center can bring down an otherwise talented football team.  So why do NFL teams seem to overlook this position in the draft?  It is one of the greatest mysteries in pro football.

October 27, 2011

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Division Races Heating Up

By: Joe Williams

It’s seven weeks into the NFL season, and the division races are starting to take shape. NFL teams like Buffalo and Detroit have thrown their hats in the ring, and others like St. Louis and Indianapolis have played their way out of it. Here’s where we stand:

AFC EAST

It was supposed to be a battle between the Jets and Patriots, but the Bills have made it a three team race. New England’s only loss came at the hands of the Bills and their New Year’s Day rematch ought to have playoff implications. Buffalo has a few games against NFL teams at the bottom of the standings and two meetings with the Jets, so the schedule sets up well for them to stay in the race. The next month will be critical for the Jets. They play the Bills twice and New England once. One of these teams is going to be watching at home in January.

AFC NORTH

Cleveland and Cincinnati are hanging around. This is the only division with no NFL teams below .500. Wins against New England and Baltimore in the next two weeks would put the Steelers in the driver’s seat in the AFC. Things are going to get much more difficult for the Bengals with two games left against both Pittsburgh and Baltimore. We’re about to find out what this team is made of. Nov. 6 at Pittsburgh is the game of the year for the Ravens. If they can beat the Steelers for a second time, the division should be in their controls. The Browns are in the conversation at 3-3 but they haven’t beaten anyone worth bragging about. Can they steal a couple against the big boys?

AFC SOUTH

All it took was one injury for the Colts to go from AFC South dominance to one of the worst teams in the league. Someone is going to take advantage and after Sunday’s beat down of the Titans, it looks like it will be Houston. The schedule sets up nicely for them with most of their tough games already behind them. If Tennessee can get back on track, the New Year’s Day rematch could be huge.

AFC WEST

As usual, the Chargers are the heavy favorite in the West. And as usual, they let the rest of the West hang around. They host the Chiefs on Halloween in a must-win for Kansas City. The Chiefs really have to win the next three to stay in the race because they have a brutal five-game-stretch coming up. If the Raiders can get their act together during the bye week and get Carson Palmer ready to go, the West title may be on the line when they meet in the last game of the season.

NFC EAST

There will be lots of entertaining games between now and week 17, but it almost seems like we can just skip ahead to the last day of the season when Dallas is at the Giants and Philadelphia hosts Washington. That’s when this division will be sorted out.

NFC NORTH

The Packers have already got people talking about a 16-0 regular season. It’s probably not going to happen, but as long as Rodgers is healthy, they should win the North division. Detroit still has two shots at the defending champs though so they could make things interesting. Chicago is too far back to catch Green Bay but the Bears will be in the thick of the wild card race.

NFC SOUTH

The Falcons, Saints, and Bucs won a total of 34 games last year. They are on a similar pace right now, and, just like last year, one of them is going to get left out of the playoff picture. New Orleans has a one game lead and the last two at home, so they should have an edge. It could come down to which team gets knocked off by Carolina in the last month of the season.

NFC WEST

San Francisco has five wins. The rest of the division has three. It is the 49ers‘ division to give away. And if they keep playing well with a soft schedule coming up, they could even earn an opening round bye.

October 6, 2011

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Fathead’s NFL Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

NFL Rankings:  As we approach Week 5 of the NFL season, here is how each of the NFL teams stacks up.

1.Green Bay Packers (4-0) — As the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair would say, “To be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man.” Until someone beats the Pack, they will be at the top of the rankings.

2. Baltimore Ravens (3-1) — After opening the season by dominating the defending AFC champion Steelers and blowing out the AFC runner-up Jets on Sunday, the Ravens are the class of the AFC.

3. New Orleans Saints (3-1) — Drew Brees and company gave the Packers all they wanted and followed that with three solid wins.

4. Buffalo Bills (3-1) — After pulling off the shocker of the year and beating New England, the Bills get beat by the Bengals.

5. New England Patriots (3-1) — Tom Brady’s offense hasn’t been held under 30 points yet.

6. Detroit Lions (4-0) — They won’t be undefeated much longer if they keep falling behind by 20 points.

7. Houston Texans (3-1) — Wade Phillips has got the defense playing much better.

8. New York Jets (2-2) — A two game losing streak makes this trip to New England huge for the Jets.

9. Atlanta Falcons (2-2) — Important stretch coming up for the Falcons with Green Bay and Detroit coming up in the next couple weeks.

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) — The Bucs need a win at San Francisco to carry momentum into tough stretch with Saints, Bears, Saints, Texans and Packers coming up.

11. San Diego Chargers (3-1) — Chargers should get healthy with the Broncos on Sunday and their bye week.

12. New York Giants (3-1) — G-men getting it done despite injuries. They may have gotten a break with the controversial play against the Cardinals.

13. Tennessee Titans (3-1) – Huge test for surprising Titans this week at Pittsburgh.

14. Washington Redskins (3-1) – The defense is giving up an NFC best 15.8 points per game. They have two weeks to get ready for a divisional showdown with the Eagles.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) – Are the defending AFC champs suffering from a post-Super Bowl loss hangover? Or is it just that they cannot protect the quarterback?

16. Dallas Cowboys (2-2) – No team is more entertaining than “America’s Team”. Do the Cowboys ever play a game decided by more than one score?

17. Chicago Bears (2-2) – The Bears have a good chance to build a lead Sunday in Detroit. The question is will they be able to hold it?

18. San Francisco 49ers (3-1) – Their three wins is one more than the rest of the NFC West combined. The division is theirs to lose.

19. Oakland Raiders (2-2) – It looks like the Raiders are the team that will push San Diego in the AFC West.

20. Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) – It’s been a nightmare start for the “Dream Team”. They are probably glad to be hitting the road after the last two performances at home.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) – Got a shot to be 4-2 at the bye with two winnable games coming up. Not bad for a team who’s quarterback retired rather than play for them.

22. Cleveland Browns (2-2) – They have an extra week to recover from getting pounded by the Titans.

23. Carolina Panthers (1-3) – The good news is Cam Newton looks like he is their quarterback of the future. The bad news is New Orleans, Atlanta and Washington coming up.

24. Arizona Cardinals (1-3) – They should have beaten the Giants on Sunday. They head to Minnesota to face an angry Vikings team.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) – The offense is experiencing some major growing pains with rookie Blaine Gabbert now playing quarterback. They average less than 10 points per game.

26. Denver Broncos (1-3) – It’s not Kyle Orton’s fault the Packers put 49 points on the board Sunday. Try telling that to the fans in Denver though.

27. Indianapolis Colts (0-4) – It’s going to be a long season without Peyton Manning. This team won’t quit though.

28. St. Louis Rams (0-4) – Injuries and the schedule have made them look worse than they really are. Unfortunately, they have Green Bay, Dallas and New Orleans for their next three.

29. Seattle Seahawks (1-3) – Put up 21 points in the second half Sunday. Only score 37 in their other 3.5 games.

30. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) – They have played much better in the last two weeks.

31. Minnesota Vikings (0-4) – They would be ranked much higher if the NFL cut games to 30 minutes.

32. Miami Dolphins (0-4) – With a bye and the Jets coming up they could be winless when the Broncos come to town.

September 28, 2011

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NFL Predictions: Week 4 Surprise Fantasy Studs

By: Rick Jarrell

Man, was Week 3 for the NFL exciting. A total of ten underdogs took home wins, the highlight being the Buffalo Bills, who survived Tom Brady’s New England Patriots to take the early division lead. The Oakland Raiders mostly dominated the New York Jets, the Cleveland Browns scored a game winning touchdown in the last two minutes, and Michael Vick somehow managed to start, but got knocked out, again. All around entertaining week.

My NFL fantasy predictions, however, were a mixed bag. Rex Grossman had a decent game against the Dallas Cowboys, but failed to put up significant numbers. The San Diego Chargers were a huge disappointment, not blowing out the hobbled Kansas City Chiefs as they should. Vick started, but Mike Kafka did get some playing time, but did not impress.

The bright spot was Rob Gronkowski, who again, scored two touchdowns in a high scoring battle against the Bills. Ochocinco should have had a good game, as well, but dropped a sure fire 50 yard touchdown pass. It slipped right through his hands. Stunning. Still can’t believe it. While I continue to try to digest that, on to Week 4 NFL predictions.

Tony Romo

A lot of people have been down on Romo. Sure, he screwed up in Week 1 against the New York Jets. But he’s still a Top 10 quarterback, and whether or not he’s a true leader, he’ll still give you NFL fantasy points. I’ll admit, his performance Monday was less than stellar. I expected much more. But he is playing with broken ribs and a pierced lung, so he deserves some slack.

Another week to recover should be good for him. Although it’s a short week and recover time isn’t normal, expect him to have a big game against the Detroit Lions. The Lions secondary is sub-par, and with a high scoring offense led by Matt Stafford, I see this being a shootout. If Romo can’t go, Jon Kitna wouldn’t be the worst pick up for those desperate.

Donovan McNabb / Percy Harvin

I’m very surprised to be saying this, but I think McNabb is poised for a good week. Perceived by many to be well past his prime, and Week 1’s performance was nothing short of proof, McNabb has played decently the past two weeks. The Vikings would have won Sunday if not for their aversion from Adrian Peterson in the second half, which was strange to say the least.

A match up against Kansas City, a team down a Pro Bowl safety in Eric Berry, and a team I predicted to get slaughtered last week, should be favorable, despite my incorrect prediction. Without deep protection, McNabb’s top deep threat, Percy Harvin, should be able to get some space.

Tim Hightower/Roy Helo

The running back by committee is a fantasy owner’s worst enemy. Washington Redskin’s coach Mike Shanahan is a notorious offender. But their Week 4 match up against the St. Louis Rams’ – the worst running defense in the league – should have one, if not both, poised for a big game.

Historically, Shanahan’s “no-name” backs have exploded randomly a few times a season, but never stuck as top of the depth chart guys. I like what Hightower does as a blocking back, and Helu certainly has potential, so hopefully they do stick. But expect an offensive explosion from one of them sometime this season, likely this week being their best shot.