January 10, 2013

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What I’ll Remember About 2012 – Part 1

By: Joe Williams

Every year we see things we never thought we would and things we never want to see again. We see everything from the incredible to the inspiring to the sad and hilarious. Here’s what I will remember about 2012.

January 1 – Matt Flynn and Matthew Stafford combine for 971 net passing yards in 45-41 Green Bay win.

January 8 – The Denver Broncos make short work of the new NFL overtime rules, scoring an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of overtime to beat the Steelers 29-23 in the first round of the AFC playoffs.

January 9 Alabama actually scored a touchdown in its rematch with LSU in the BCS Championship Game, winning 21-0.

January 14 Tom Brady shredded the Denver Broncos for five touchdown passes in the first half and another in the third quarter to tie the postseason single-game record in a 45-10 win.

January 14 – The 49ers and Saints combine for 34 points in the fourth quarter and four lead changes in the final five minutes as the 49ers outlasted New Orleans 36-32 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game.

January 22 – Joe Paterno passed away.

January 22 – The Baltimore Ravens had a dropped pass in the end zone that prevented them from winning the AFC Championship Game in New England and then missed a 32-yard field goal that would have sent the game to overtime.

January 22 – The New York Giants advanced to the Super Bowl with a 20-17 overtime win against the 49ers after a fumbled punt set up the game-winning field goal.

February 4Jeremy Lin came out of nowhere and led the New York Knicks to a win with 25 points, five rebounds and seven assists in the first of an incredible 13-game stretch in which he averaged 22.3 points and 7.4 assists. His heroics were celebrated worldwide and he ended up on the cover of Time and Sports Illustrated and one of the biggest celebrities in the league.

Jeremy Lin was one of the biggest stories of 2012.

February 5 – The New York Giants beat Tom Brady and the Patriots in another Super Bowl, 21-17, led by Eli Manning and another fourth-quarter comeback.

February 5 – Tom Brady’s wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, gets caught on camera blaming Patriot receivers for New England’s Super Bowl loss, saying that her husband cannot throw and catch the ball at the same time.

March 8 – The Indianapolis Colts announced that they will release future hall-of-fame quarterback, Peyton Manning.

March 13 – The First Four was worth watching on this night. First, Western Kentucky rallied from a 16-point deficit with 4:51 to go and beat Mississippi Valley State 59-58. Then BYU followed that up by erasing a 25-point deficit and beat Iona 78-72.

March 16Duke and Missouri, both No. 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament, go down on the same day. Norfolk State upset a 30-win Missouri team 86-84 and then later that night Lehigh defeated the Blue Devils 75-70. Only four No. 15 seeds have ever knocked off a No. 2 seed in history before it happened twice that day.

March 20 – Peyton Manning picks the Denver Broncos.

March 21NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell laid down the law on the New Orleans Saints for their bounty scandal, effectively ending the Saints season before it ever got started. This story never went away due to the continuous appeals of the suspensions.

March 26 – The Denver Broncos trade Tim Tebow to the New York Jets.

March 11 – Tiger Woods withdrew from the final round of the WGC Cadillac Championship with an injury. The blimp that was covering the golf tournament then followed Tiger as he left the golf course, a scene usually reserved for a high-speed chase.

April 1 – I.K. Kim takes the honor for worst golf shot of the year after she missed an 18-inch putt that would have won the LPGA’s first major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She ended up losing in a playoff.

April 2 – John Calipari and his Kentucky squad that consisted of six future NBA players wins the national title, beating Kansas 67-59.

April 3Baylor completed a perfect season at 40-0 and won the women’s national title, beating Notre Dame 80-61.

April 8 – Bubba Watson hits one of the greatest shots in Masters history; a miracle 40-yard hook shot out of the pine straw on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff with Louis Oosthuizen. Two putts for par later and Watson was wearing the green jacket.

April 21Phil Humber pitches a perfect game at Seattle, striking out nine in the White Sox 4-0 win.

April 26Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are drafted by the Colts and Redskins.

May 8 Josh Hamilton hit four home runs and had eight RBI against the Baltimore Orioles.

June 3 – Tiger Woods hit an incredible flop shot from behind the green on 16 that trickled into the hole on his way to winning the Memorial Tournament.

June 7 – LeBron James overwhelms the Boston Celtics with a 45 point and 15 rebound performance in a 98-79 win over Boston on the road to force a Game 7 in South Beach.

June 7 – Novak Djokovic outlasted Rafael Nadal in a grueling marathon in the Australian Open final (5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5) in a match that took five hours and 53 minutes and didn’t end until 1:37 a.m.

June 11 – The Los Angeles Kings win their first Stanley Cup in 45 years after barely squeaking into the final playoff spot in the West and going on one of the greatest runs in playoff history.

June 13Matt Cain pitched a perfect game in a 10-0 San Francisco win over the Astros.

June 21 – LeBron James and the Miami Heat win the NBA championship after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-106 in game five.

June 27 – A four-team college football playoff was formally approved to begin in 2014.

June 30 – The third round of the AT&T National was played with no spectators on the golf course because of safety concerns after a powerful wind storm left trees uprooted all over the golf course.

July 26, 2012

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Fantasy Football Rankings: QB

By: Junior

With NFL Fantasy Football drafts right around the corner, we will take a look at the top 5 players at each position. Depending on what type of league you are in, theses evaluations will vary, but the general ranking will be similar. Our first installment will focus on the quarterbacks. Having a Top 5 quarterback can take a lot of pressure off of other positions. Without one, you will need big contributions from multiple other players to stay alive.

Aaron Rodgers is this season's consensus #1 Fantasy Football QB.

1. Aaron Rodgers

I don’t think you will find a rankings list that doesn’t have the Green Bay QB at the top of it. Aaron Rodgers showed last season why he can single-handedly carry a fantasy team. Over 4,500 yards passing and 45 touchdowns through the air doesn’t leave much to complain about. However, the Packers will have a new offensive coordinator this season, so there will be a little change from last year. The Packers still don’t have much of a running game, though, which should give Rodgers plenty of attempts to air it out for points.

2. Tom Brady

Rob Gronkowski. Wes Welker. Aaron Hernandez. Deion Branch. With those weapons last year Tom Brady threw for over 5,000 yards and 39 touchdowns. Now the Patriots add Brandon Lloyd to the mix, giving Brady even more targets to work with. Just like Rodgers, the Patriots don’t have a true running game and let Brady use short throws to move the ball. Tom Brady has proven year in and year out to be a solid, reliable quarterback that will produce great fantasy numbers.

3. Drew Brees

A lot of people are dropping Brees in their rankings because of all of the trouble the New Orleans Saints have gone through this off-season. As the wise Will Ferrell once said “Good! More for me and you!”. Sure, the loss of Sean Payton is a blow to the team, but the offense is back almost fully intact and Brees can run this offense with or without Payton. I compare it to the season Peyton Manning had after Tony Dungy left the Colts. Sure, you would have preferred Dungy on the sideline, but you knew Manning was still going to score points. I feel the same way about Brees.

4. Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford exploded last season and was likely a steal for many fantasy owners due to his past injuries. That won’t be the case this season. Stafford will be almost as hot a commodity as his #1 target Calvin Johnson. I have Stafford 4th because while I expect another great season from him, it will be hard for him to have another 5,000 yard season. Add the fact that the Lions hope to have a better running game with the health of Mikel Leshoure and Stafford might not air it out quite as often as last season.

5. Cam Newton

If you would have told me last year that Cam Newton would have 4,000 yards passing I would have laughed. Hard. Cam proved a lot of doubters wrong and if he can repeat last season’s success he will be a great addition for a fantasy team. Anytime you have a true duel-threat quarterback in fantasy, the points can really add up. Include that rushing touchdowns in the red-zone are no longer just for the team’s running back, and you can pick up some serious points. You just have to be sure Cam will avoid the “sophomore slump”.

July 16, 2012

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Drew Brees Contract Madness Finally Ends

By: Anson Whaley

Sanity was restored when Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints reached an agreement on a five-year, $100 million contract this weekend. The entire contract is one of the richest in league history and the $20 million per year is an NFL record. According to ESPN, $60 million of the deal is reported to be guaranteed. If a deal wasn’t reached by Monday afternoon, Brees would have been forced to play for a franchise tender amount of about $16 million this year. That doesn’t sound so bad, but it was expected that Brees wouldn’t show up to camp without a long-term deal.

Drew Brees does a lot for New Orleans both on and off the field.

For the New Orleans Saints, it was a deal they had to make.

Brees is not only the team’s starting quarterback, but he’s one of the best in the NFL. Last year, he shattered Dan Marino’s long-time record of passing yards in a season when he threw for nearly 5,500 yards. Along with his 46 touchdowns, Brees had arguably the best season of all time for a passer. It’s extremely difficult to find star quarterbacks and the Saints simply couldn’t afford to part with perhaps the best one in the entire league.

He’s also not only an immense talent, but he’s a winner. New Orleans has made the playoffs in four of his six seasons and in 2009, Brees did something no one else was ever able to accomplish – lead the Saints to a Super Bowl victory. He saved one of his best performances of the season for that game, passing for 288 yards and a Super Bowl record 32 completions. For his efforts, he was named as the Most Valuable Player.

Maybe just as important, though, is the work Brees has done in the community.

Since he joined the franchise in 2006, Brees has done a considerable amount of charity work in the area and helped New Orleans begin to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina rocked the city the year before. His Brees Dream Foundation has raised millions of dollars to help improve schools and athletic facilities for children. In 2010, Sports Illustrated named him as their Sportsman of the Year for not only leading the Saints to the Super Bowl the previous season, but also for his charity work in the community. Some of his other charitable acts have included appearing in commercials to raise awareness for the oil spill in the gulf, participating in a USO tour, and showing up at numerous community functions throughout his career. For a city with as much devastation as New Orleans has endured, that type of support is invaluable.

Even beyond all of that, there’s another reason the Saints needed to sign him. Facing the loss of head coach Sean Payton this season due to the alleged bounty system the franchise had in place, the team is already going to be at a disadvantage this season. The Saints might be able to get by without Payton on the sidelines, but losing their starting quarterback would be a blow that would likely result in the team missing the playoffs. That not only means a low morale for the team and its fans, but a significant amount of lost revenue for the franchise that makes a considerable amount of extra money by hosting playoff games.

We often scoff at athletes demanding more money than the millions they already receive. And while it’s true that no one really deserves $100 million to play football, in the context of what other players have gotten over the years, it’s difficult to argue that Brees is overpaid. He’s been a model citizen, helped raise millions of dollars for charity, is an excellent player, and led the team to their first ever Super Bowl win.

Hard to ask for much more than that.

June 13, 2012

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NFL OTA No-Shows

By: Junior

NFL teams are starting to get back in the swing of mandatory mini-camps and practices, bringing joy to their fans at the sign of football season nearing. At the same time, some fan bases are worried about key players missing camp and when, or more importantly if, they will return. Here are five players making their fans, and even some teams, nervous.

When will Drew Brees be back in a Saints uniform?

Drew Brees

With all that has happened with the New Orleans Saints this off-season, this is the last thing the city needs. Brees was franchised and has yet to be offered a long-term deal that he finds suitable. While everyone knows that Drew Brees knows the Saints’ offense like he created it himself, he needs this time to work with new head coach Joe Vitt before the season starts. Even though this is more a question of “when” rather than “if”, it just adds to a couple of months Saints fans would love to forget.

Matt Forte

Matt Forte is upset at being franchised and doesn’t seem too happy that they tied up money signing RB Michael Bush in free agency. The Chicago Bears are supposed to contend for the playoffs this season, and even with Bush and WR Brandon Marshall added this off-season, you have to assume Forte will be a major cog in that offense. Forte will eventually be back and I don’t think many Bears fans are truly worried about his return. However, they may have to worry about his attitude once he is back.

Ed Reed

This is a situation the Baltimore Ravens need to handle carefully. With most of these players it is a foregone conclusion they will play sometime this season. That isn’t necessarily the case with Ed Reed. Reed is almost 34, and with several nagging injuries and complaints about respect, Reed could easily call it quits. All of that aside, I don’t think he will and if it weren’t for his comments about being unhappy I would say his missing camp is the least worrisome. If anyone knows the Ravens defense and how to be ready come Sunday it is Ed Reed. Until he returns to the team though, I would be nervous as a Ravens fan.

Maurice Jones Drew

For a franchise that has had little to celebrate recently, this is just more bad news to hear. Maurice Jones-Drew was the Jacksonville Jaguars offense this past season and now would like to be paid like it. He is currently the 8th highest paid RB and only has two years left on that deal. Jones-Drew is making a statement that could cost him $60,000 by missing camp, but if he holds out during the season, it could cost the Jaguars a lot more than that.

Mike Wallace

Along the same lines as everyone on this list, Mike Wallace wants a long term contract. Wallace broke out last season with almost 1200 yards receiving and has a bright future as a go to wide receiver. At the same time, the Pittsburgh Steelers have plenty of high-profile players who need to be paid, and with other receivers such as Antonio Brown on the roster, they may not want to spend as much as Wallace would like. Luckily for them, the franchise tag will make sure Wallace gets into camp before losing too much money, but it doesn’t mean he has to be happy about it. Even if Wallace was a distraction, the Steelers are a veteran team that would put a stop to that before it effected the season. I wouldn’t be too concerned as a Steelers fan.