March 4, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Magic Johnson offers $1 million dunk challenge offer to Lebron James: Each year, nearly all of the NBA’s biggest stars forgo the league’s slam dunk contest held during All-Star Weekend. Once a marquee event that featured some of basketball’s biggest stars such as Michael Jordan and Julius Erving, the dunk contest now showcases some smaller, and even obscure, names. Magic Johnson is the latest person to challenge Lebron James to partake in the event … but he’s backing it up with his wallet. Magic offered James $1 million to participate in next year’s dunk contest. More specifically, he’s willing to put the money up as a prize to the winner and LBJ is reportedly thinking about the offer. Here’s the thing – while it would be cool to see the best player in the league show up, only doing so after a significant purse is put up makes James look bad. The dunk contest is supposed to be about the fans, but if Lebron participates now, it looks like it’s all about the money. One way James can dunk next season and not look greedy? Donate the money to charity.

Joe Flacco is now the highest paid player in the NFL.

Joe Flacco becomes highest paid player in NFL: Funny what a Super Bowl win can do for you. First, wide receiver Jacoby Jones gets a Dancing with the Stars invite, and now Joe Flacco is in the news. Heading into this season, Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco was widely regarded as a solid, but unspectacular, player. He had the always-popular ‘Can’t win the big one’ tag and no one knew that he’d ever shake it. But this season, Flacco took a fairly unheralded Ravens’ team and not only bulldozed their way through the AFC, but knocked off the favored San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. Flacco parlayed that into a record NFL contract and is now the highest paid player in the league. Does he really deserve it? Probably not. There are many players more valuable to their respective teams and Flacco may never again reach another Super Bowl. But kudos to the Ravens for stepping up and paying their franchise quarterback. He’s still young and should have a lot of seasons ahead of him.

Mike Trout to make near minimum after historic season: By most accounts, Mike Trout had one of the most astounding rookie seasons in baseball history. It was so historic, that he nearly won the American League’s Most Valuable Player award. But if you think Trout was due for a big raise, think again. The Angels could have renewed his contract for a significant amount, but chose to give him only slightly more than the league minimum. The club is perfectly within its rights to pay Trout what they want since he’s not yet eligible for arbitration, but low-balling him after he proved he’s one of the game’s top players could come back to bite them when it comes time to re-sign him. Trout hasn’t openly complained, but I can’t imagine he’s too happy right now.

Randy Moss could leave San Francisco 49ers: Randy Moss didn’t have one of his biggest seasons, but he fit in with the 49ers this past season, helping the team reach the Super Bowl. It seemed like a good fit, but the wide receiver tweeted this past week that he wished the team good luck, indicating he may be moving on. If Moss does leave, it will be interesting to see what teams want to pick him up. He just turned 36 this month and is surely on the downside of his career. There just may not be many suitors for his services.

Catholic Seven to keep Big East name: The Catholic Seven, otherwise known as the non-football members of the Big East, decided recently to leave to create their own conference. The schools aren’t only leaving, but they’re reportedly taking the Big East name with them, according to ESPN. Assuming that happens, that’s the right move. When you think of the Big East, you think of schools like Georgetown, Providence, and St. John’s – not SMU, Houston, and Tulane. And frankly, the Big East name just wouldn’t fit the conference anymore once new members join since so many of them are away from the east coast.

January 31, 2013

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Super Bowl XLVII Predictions

By: Matt Bowen

Super Bowl XLVII is now just days away, which leaves fans to ponder how many pounds of nachos they’ll serve up to their friends and what exactly will transpire in the big game in the Big Easy.

Making predictions is half the fun when it comes to the Super Bowl. NFL fans know that most of the iconic Super Bowl moments have come unexpectedly, and there will no doubt be a few of those this year.

Let’s get to it:

Jacoby Jones Will Take the Opening Kickoff Back for a Touchdown

The Baltimore Ravens acquired Jacoby Jones in the offseason primarily to be an instant threat in the return game. Jones hasn’t disappointed this season as he returned two kicks and a punt for touchdowns.

He’s also a viable weapon as a No. 3 receiver behind Anquan Boldin and Terrey Smith. Just ask the Denver Broncos if Jones is a difference maker. They seemingly forgot about him in their Divisional Round playoff matchup as he marched into the end zone after a bomb from quarterback Joe Flacco that sent the game to overtime.

Here’s the kicker—Jones is a native of New Orleans, and he’ll be more than ready to steal the show. With his blood flowing early, he’ll start the game off with a bang.

Alex Smith Will Make an Appearance

The San Francisco 49ers made a bold move this season when they benched then starting quarterback Alex Smith for second-year man Colin Kaepernick.

Smith, a former No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft was finally beginning to look like a No. 1 pick. He was coming off arguably the best game of his career, going 18-for-19 for 232 yards and three touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8.

Just when it was looking like Smith had solidified himself, a concussion knocked him out of Week 10 against the St. Louis Rams and inevitably changed the course of his career.

In came Kaepernick, who undoubtedly optimized the Niners offense and propelled them to the Super Bowl.

So, this is the end of Smith, right?

Wrong!

He’ll make an appearance in the Super Bowl and even throw an 18-yard touchdown to tight end Vernon Davis.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh knows he has to pack a bag full of tricks if he’s to beat a veteran Ravens defense. Smith will be one of those tricks, and he’ll make the most of it. On the first possession of the second half, Smith will make his mark.
Justin Tucker Will Kick the Longest Field Goal in Super Bowl History

The Baltimore Ravens made some noise this preseason when they tapped rookie Justin Tucker from the University of Texas to be their place kicker this season.

Tucker proved he’s the man for the job, going 30-for-33 on the season and even notching four field goals longer than 50 yards.

The Super Bowl record for longest field goal is a 54-yarder from Steve Christie of the Buffalo Bills against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVIII.

Tucker will top that by booting a 56-yard field goal with 3:13 left in the third quarter. He’ll show the world just why the Ravens made a great choice when they chose him.

Randy Moss Will Walk the Walk

In case you haven’t heard, Randy Moss has named himself the “Greatest of All Time” during media day at the Super Bowl this season.

Considering he’s a member of the San Francisco 49ers, that’s a bold statement.

Although his career numbers don’t compare to Hall of Fame 49er Jerry Rice’s, Moss will make a big impact in the Super Bowl. Love him or hate him, he’s really good.

It’s long been known that Moss shows up when he wants to, and, considering it’s the Super Bowl, he’ll be open for business.

The Ravens will have their hands full trying to keep track of receiver Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis. Moss will slip by the secondary for an early second quarter touchdown. Don’t be surprised when he is booed after reaching the end zone.

In the end, he’ll have four catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.

Joe Flacco Will Stamp Himself as Elite

Why there’s still a debate to whether Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is elite or not beats me.  All the guy does is win.  Sure, it may not always be pretty, but a win is a win.

Flacco will be a free agent in the offseason, but don’t expect him to leave Baltimore—he’s there to stay.  Taking Super Bowl MVP honors will certainly boost his pocketbook during bargaining.

He may not be the flashiest quarterback, but he’ll have a Super Bowl ring to show off.

In his MVP performance he’ll go 22-for-30 with 301 passing yards and two touchdowns, including a game-winning drive that will end in a Ray Rice 12-yard screen pass touchdown.

Final Score: Ravens 24, 49ers 20

June 18, 2012

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Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, & Chad Ochocinco on the Comeback Trail

By: Anson Whaley

As recently as two years ago, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Chad Ochocinco were three of the most dangerous receivers in the NFL. Each was a few years past his respective prime, but still able to contribute heavily. The trio combined for more than 2,200 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2010, and the group was still a potent bunch.

Two years later, though, and it’s a different story.

Moss didn’t play last season and after a brief retirement, signed with the San Francisco 49ers for 2012. Moss may be the biggest question mark as he had the worst numbers of the three players in 2010. He failed to make big splashes with any of the three (yes, three) teams for which he played. Moss had brief stints with the New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings, and Tennessee Titans, but had a hard time fitting in with any of them, even though he previously had done well with the Patriots.

Alex Smith

The San Francisco 49ers and Alex Smith are hoping Randy Moss can help improve their passing attack.

An offseason injury in 2011 forced Terrell Owens to the sideline. He was deemed ready to play by his agent and even held a televised workout in October, but no NFL teams attended. With no other options, Owens suited up for the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League, playing there earlier this year, but has since been released.

After a solid 2010, Chad Ochocinco dropped off in a big way last season. Playing for the New England Patriots, he never fully grasped the system and simply wasn’t a good fit. He had the worst season of his career with only 276 receiving yards and a single touchdown.

Even though all three have question marks, each is headed in different directions as I see it.

Of the three, Owens’ career may be the one most in danger. The fact that his workout in 2011 drew no NFL interest shows exactly where he stands in terms of league appeal. And while he had a productive 2010 playing alongside Ochocinco in Cincinnati, he wasn’t able to dominate the Indoor Football League this past season. Owens played in only eight games, so it’s not fair to judge him based on total numbers. But his per game average of 52.9 yards a game wasn’t even in the league’s top 20 and he was merely a good, not great, wideout. For a player trying to get back to the NFL, it isn’t terribly impressive that he wasn’t even among the best receivers in an indoor league. It’s a different brand of football, but Owens’ skill should still translate into better numbers.

Moss, on the other hand, will have an immediate opportunity. He’s headed to a 49ers team that is in desperate need of an upgraded passing attack. Alex Smith has become a serviceable quarterback, but will have a chance to get even better if Moss is in shape. Even in his older age, Moss has a chance to become a top target in San Fran. Still, it’s hard to put his dismal 2010 out of mind. When you think about his inability to fit with any of the three teams for which he played, it’s pretty unsettling. The bottom line is that while he’s getting yet another shot, there’s no guarantee Moss will work out.

Ochocinco recently signed with the Miami Dolphins and may have the best chance to revive his career simply because he’s the youngest. At only 34, there’s still plenty of time for him to be effective. His numbers were incredibly low last season, but there’s good reason to think that his year was a bit of an anomaly. Playing in New England as a wide receiver is a bit different than many places. The Patriots emphasize finding the open man rather than looking for specific targets – it’s one of the reasons why unknowns can produce big seasons there. The other thing to like about Ochocinco is that even while playing alongside Owens in 2010, he still racked up over 800 yards receiving and caught nearly 70 passes. Playing in Miami, he’ll become one of the focal points of the passing game since the Dolphins allowed their No. 1 receiver, Brandon Marshall, to go to the Chicago Bears. Ochocinco will be the star in Miami and could even be in line for a 1,000-yard season if he’s still healthy. If you need another reason for his potential success, look no further than the Dolphins’ potent rushing game, which was 11th in the NFL. That should free up the passing game a bit and give Ochocinco an even bigger chance for success.

If anything slows him down this year, it will be the quarterback situation. The Dolphins selected Ryan Tannehill in the first round and could be forced to play him early on. That could prevent Ochocinco from having a huge season if Tannehill has some growing pains, but Miami also has veterans David Garrard and Matt Moore in place. Neither is great, but both are capable NFL quarterbacks.

All three have a chance to become impact receivers again, but my bet is on Ochocinco to do the most with the remainder of his career.

August 9, 2011

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Players I Want On My Fantasy Team

By: Joe Williams

With the first NFL preseason game just a few days away, millions of people are getting ready for their fantasy football drafts. And millions more are wondering what is wrong with those people. People wonder what is wrong with me all the time. But when you bring home that fantasy football championship and the year-long bragging rights over your buddies that comes with it…it’s worth it.

It’s pretty obvious that you’d like to have Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson and Andre Johnson on your fantasy team. You might get one or two of the best players in the NFL but how you fill out the rest of the roster is more important in your effort to build a winning team. Here are a few NFL players I will be looking to have on my fantasy team.

Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis

Last year Bradford finished the year with the 20th most fantasy points for NFL quarterbacks. He will play better in 2011. He’s going to have better weapons around him than he did last year. He’s also going to have Josh McDaniels. McDaniels left the Broncos in a bad way with several controversial decisions that he made, but he also helped Kyle Orton put up some big fantasy football numbers. He will do the same for Bradford.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver

If you drafted Moreno in the last couple seasons, you might think his name is Knowshow Moreno because he has been disappointing. The departure of McDaniels is almost as good for Moreno and it is for Bradford. John Fox is taking over in Denver and he likes to run the ball. A lot. The Broncos made a play for DeAngelo Williams but ended up settling for Willis McGahee. Another plus for Moreno. His touches will go up and so will his production.

Chad Ochocinco, WR, New England

He was a great player in Cincinnati but was known mostly for his crazy and entertaining antics on and off the field. He was stuck on a team that was going nowhere and wanted out of town. He finally gets his wish with a trade to play with Tom Brady and the Patriots. Sound familiar? Randy Moss was in a similar situation in Oakland before going to New England and putting up some of the best receiving numbers ever. Ochocinco may not score 23 TD’s like Moss did in his first year with Brady throwing to him, but he will get more than the four he scored last season.

Owen Daniels, TE, Houston

I’m giving him one more shot. I keep drafting him and he keeps getting hurt. Every season I think he’s going to put up big numbers. Just like everyone thinks the Texans are going to make that jump to a contender. If they don’t come through this season, I’m off the bandwagon. But if you don’t get one of the big-name tight ends, Daniels has the potential to put up some big numbers in the explosive Houston offense.

Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami

Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are out. Reggie Bush and Thomas are in. Bush is the big name addition in Miami but he has never been the able to handle the workload of a starting running back. Thomas will get plenty of carries and more importantly, look for him to get the ball in the red zone.

July 20, 2011

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Top NFL Free Agents

By: Rick Jarrell

After news broke last week the NFL owners and players were closing in on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, I honestly was not that excited. Part of me cares more about the NBA, but part of me can’t believe it until it is set in stone. Rumors are rumors for a reason, and while they entertain us, without potential action, it’s pointless. So this spring and summer, usually dominated by NFL and NBA rumors and training camp news, has been extremely boring for sports fans. The typical sports fan doesn’t want to diagnose the various legal matters involved in CBA negotiations.

Despite my skepticism that a deal is actually in place, I’ve begun to give in to the rumor mill a little bit, as it seems a safe bet something will be worked out soon. So here we go, with the top NFL free agents to keep an eye on.

Note: I’m excluding players that are technically NFL free agents, like Peyton Manning and Michael Vick, who we’re 99% sure they will resign with their current teams.

Deangelo Williams

Williams has been a top 10 running back the past few years, despite splitting carries with Desaun Foster and Jonathon Stewart, respectively. The two headed ground attack worked well initially for the Carolina Panthers, but the team has moved into a rebuilding stage. Williams will likely bolt for a playoff contender, where he can potentially be a feature back. He missed 10 games last year, and backs tend to break down as their careers progress, but he’s still arguably the top player available.

Nnamdi Asomugha

Asomugha’s free agency is strange, to say the least. He signed a huge contract with the Oakland Raiders, but after a contractual loop hole, he was able to opt out of his contract. Another tough luck incident for Raider Nation will likely be good luck for Asomugha and whoever signs him. His numbers were down last year, but he still made his fourth Pro Bowl because teams literally stopped throwing in his direction (I refer to this as the Champ Bailey Syndrome, who’s also a free agent). We’ve seen young talented cornerbacks switch teams only to fall out of the limelight, but I don’t expect Asomugha to be anything less than stellar. Every team could use another corner in this pass happy league, we’ll just have to see who wants him enough and who has room under the new salary cap and CBA stipulations.

Sidney Rice

Before last year, I envisioned Sidney Rice as a Viking for life. Not sure why, he just seemed like a good fit there, especially due to his connection with Brett Favre. One year later, we find that Favre is mortal, the quarterback situation is undetermined, and Minnesota may not be a long term home for the team. Rice has every reason to leave for a team that has the opposite of all that.

Randy Moss

Moss is not the player he used to be. No one can argue against that. But underestimating his abilities would be nieve. During the prime of his career, he was hands down the best receiver in the league – and he had not only one peak in Minnesota, but another in New England. Would you be surprised if he was able to resurrect himself for one last run? A lot of teams need a big play receivers – someone will take a chance. The best fit would be with a respected, veteran coach able to get Moss to dedicate himself to football again.