September 30, 2013

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5 Things To Watch As The NHL Season Approaches

By: Tyler Vespa

With only days until a new NHL season begins, let’s take a look at what happened this offseason, and look forward to a schedule that includes 6 outdoor games.

The Red Wings and the Leafs outside at the Big House? Check. Dodger Stadium? The Ducks? The Kings? West Coast? Check. A double dip in the Big Apple? Check. The Rangers will play the Devils and Islanders three days apart at Yankee Stadium. It wouldn’t be complete without the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field.

The Big House in Ann Arbor, MI will host the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs this season.

Canada’s version of the Winter Classic, the Heritage Classic will continue after a two-year absence. The Ottawa Senators will take on the Vancouver Canucks at BC Place in Vancouver on March 2nd.

With that here’s 5 things we should keep an eye on as the new season begins:

Realignment: Will the Red Wings march through the Eastern Conference? Is Winnipeg out of their league?

Training Camp: Will teams be sharper due to full offseason?

Olympic Year: Who’s going to challenge for the U.S. and Canadian rosters? Will certain players on worse teams focus more on country’s Olympic run?

Best Offseason – Dallas Stars: New GM Jim Nill traded for Tyler Seguin and also brought in Rich Peverly, Shawn Horcoff, and Sergei Gonchar. Combine that with star forward Jamie Benn and goaltender Kari Lehtonen and its great expectations in Dallas.

Worst Offseason: Tie- Buffalo, Calgary, Florida: The Sabres lost leading scorer Thomas Vanek, and star goalie Ryan Miller has been inconsistent. Buffalo failed to make a move to replace Vanek.

The Flames lost franchise star Jarome Iginla and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. Youth and inexperience haunts                               Calgary.

Of all the teams in league, the Panthers would probably win for negative effects brought on by the realignment. The competition for the Panthers in the new Atlantic Division is a considerable change as the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings are ready and waiting. Keep in mind, the Panthers finished dead last in the weakest division in the NHL last season.

It’s time to drop the gloves. Let’s play hockey.

November 29, 2012

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Why the Cincinnati Bengals are Legitimate Super Bowl Sleepers

By: Matt Bowen

The NFL playoffs are quickly approaching and the postseason picture couldn’t be cloudier at the moment. As a die-hard NFL fan, that’s what is great about the game. With so many games coming down to the wire on a weekly basis, the human imagination runs a marathon every Sunday with all the possibilities for the “second season.” Fans want nail-biting, bone-crunching action and the NFL delivers with regularity. Something fans love is debating the true sleeper teams and the Cincinnati Bengals should be feared this season.

Can the Bengals replicate the run the Giants made to the Super Bowl last season?

Now in the final quarter of the year, every team around the league is either gearing up for the final push toward the postseason or looking to spoil the party for their opponents.

So, who will win the Super Bowl? Well, only time will tell as the games have yet to be played, but there’s plenty of room for speculation.

Everybody knows that the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons are sitting pretty at 10-1 and will be favorites in the postseason, but having one of the best regular season records does not guarantee the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Often it’s not the team that is tops throughout the season, but the team that gets hot at the right time.

Super Bowl sleepers are always dangerous this time of year as out of nowhere everything things seems to come together and these teams begin to fire on all cylinders.

In the recent past the Green Bay Packers of 2010 and New York Giants of 2011 fumbled through much the regular season only to catch fire late and carry that momentum all the way to a championship. This year, that team is the Bengals.

Yes, the Bengals are the most dangerous sleeper to make a serious push for the Super Bowl this season. Gone are the days of being the doormat of the NFL and a real laughing stock; the Bengals are for real.

Led by quarterback Andy Dalton, the Bengals are currently 6-5, riding a three-game winning streak and are within reach of the playoffs. The best thing that happened to this young, revamped team this year may have been a four-game losing streak.

Offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth commented that the team “relaxed” after a 3-1 start and thought that winning in the NFL would come easy to them. After a month of losing the Bengals did something that hasn’t been seen in Cincinnati since the late 1980’s—they collected themselves and never quit.

After a surprise trip to the playoffs in 2011, the Bengals were written off as a one-year wonder. Behind Dalton and a tough dose of NFL reality in 2012, the team is headed in the right direction.

The Bengals offense is growing on a weekly basis.  Having a top-five NFL receiver in A.J. Green, an up-and-coming touchdown target in rookie Mohamed Sanu and a dependable running back in BenJarvus Green-Ellis doesn’t hurt. What Green accomplishes on Sunday afternoons is special; he makes the game look simple. His 10 receiving touchdown are currently tied with New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski for tops in the league.

The defense plays with a serious chip on their shoulder and most importantly, the team is having fun. The team that plays together stays together and for a second straight season the playoffs are on the horizon for the Bengals. The fact that they are on the outside of the playoffs looking in right now gives them even more fuel.

A win over their divisional foe Baltimore Ravens in Week 17 to clinch a spot in the postseason will give them all the confidence they need. The Bengals are the team of the future.

Who Dey!

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”.

May 24, 2012

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Paying Homage to Los Angeles Kings Star Anze Kopitar

By: Matt Bowen

The Los Angeles Kings have shaken-up the sports world with their meteoric rise in the NHL playoffs all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Kings squeaked into the playoffs and look to become the first ever No. 8 seed to win the holy grail of hockey. While the Kings have been led in the playoffs by goaltender Jonathan Quick and captain Dustin Brown, it was Anze Kopitar who got them to this point.

Anze Kopitar and the Kings shocked everyone by making it to the Stanley Cup Finals as the 8th Seed.

Quick has been sensational this playoff season, posting a 1.54 goals against average with a .946 save percentage and Brown has posted 16 points, but it has been Kopitar who deserves most of the credit. The 24-year-old center from Slovenia is now in his sixth NHL season and is the most underrated player in hockey.

He’s scored 25-plus goals in five consecutive seasons and led his team with 76 points this season. It’s safe to say that his numbers would have been higher had his teammates played up to their potential this year as the Kings have just begun to click.

The Kings were expected to contend for the Cup in 2011-12 after they made some bold moves last offseason, bringing in Mike Richards from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a couple of highly talented players in Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn. Well, things didn’t go as planned as the Kings found it merely impossible to put the puck in the net during stretches of the season.

Things were going so poorly for Kings that they were forced to fire head coach Terry Murray on December 12 and replaced him with Darryl Sutter. While the Kings responded well to the change, it still didn’t quite spark the offense to their liking and they traded young stud defenseman Jack Johnson for scorer Jeff Carter at the trade deadline.

Even after all the moves the Kings made this season, it was Kopitar’s consistency that kept the Kings afloat. He now has 15 points in the playoffs and always seems to light the lamp when his team needs it most.

Despite all the obstacles that Kopitar and the Kings have faced this season, all’s well that ends well as the Kings have reached the ultimate destination.

With the Eastern Conference still up for grabs between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, the NHL will be in the spotlight in the coming weeks. The man who will shine most on center stage is Kopitar himself.

May 18, 2012

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Will Ed Reed Play in 2012?

By: Junior

Word broke yesterday that Ed Reed is not certain whether he will return to the Baltimore Ravens for the 2012 NFL season.  The Ravens have already lost Terrell Suggs for at least part of the 2012 season, can they afford to lose Reed as well?

Ed Reed was still making plays like this during the 2012 NFL Playoffs. Will we see more next season?

The future Hall of Fame safety is 33 years old and has been battling injuries in recent seasons. That hasn’t slowed his production on the field in the slightest. Ed Reed had 5 interceptions last season, adding to his career total of 57, which is the most in Baltimore Ravens franchise history. A constant playmaker who always commands attention from the opposing quarterback, the loss of Reed would be felt through the entire Ravens defense.

In April, Reed made it known that he was unhappy with the “respect” he was getting from the Ravens organization. The respect in question includes his current contract situation. Reed is in the last year of a 6 year deal and while other players are getting new contracts, Reed is left to wonder if he will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Will Ed Reed really retire? The thought has been hinted at for a couple of seasons now, but with the Ravens being Super Bowl contenders every year, the desire to win the Lombardi Trophy entices him back each year. After coming so close to finally making a Super Bowl last year, he has to think the Ravens are closer than ever.

In the AFC Divisional Round, Reed made this interception to seal a win  against the Houston Texans and keep the season alive. In the AFC Championship game last year, Baltimore dropped a pass in the end zone and then missed a field goal that would have sent them into OT against the Patriots. I don’t think Reed wants that to be how his final game in the NFL ends.

If his career does come to an end, he will almost certainly be a first-ballot hall of famer. In his 11 year career, Reed has been selected to 11 Pro Bowls, two “All-Decade” teams, and was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. He holds the NFL record for a 107-yard interception returned for a touchdown and is also the only player in NFL history to score a touchdown off of a punt return, blocked punt, interception and a fumble recovery.

However, what if he doesn’t retire and the unthinkable happens: Reed signs with another team after the 2012 season? While this is improbable, Reed’s contract complaints seem to imply he would be willing to go elsewhere if a team offered more. While it would be strange seeing Reed in a different uniform, that possibility could arise if he can’t agree with the Ravens after this year.

Ed Reed has a lot of time before the regular season arrives, but time is running out on the Ravens’ Super Bowl window and they need to make sure all their stars are ready to make what could be one final push at a championship.