December 17, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Mack Brown Resigns – Crazy week in Texas with football coach Mack Brown stepping down from his post with the Longhorns. Brown’s resignation has been the subject of speculation for a few years now as many fans haven’t been pleased with the team’s record lately. After nine consecutive seasons with at least ten wins, Texas hasn’t achieved that mark in the past four years. Brown hasn’t been terrible, mind you, guiding the Longhorns to three winning seasons in those four years. But the team hasn’t competed for a national championship in some time and the program hasn’t been as good as it was last decade under him. Alabama’s Nick Saban seemed to be a potential replacement for Brown, but he recently announced he’s staying put with the Crimson Tide.

Kobe Bryant Struggles in Return – The Los Angeles Lakers got their star back this week as Kobe Bryant returned from his Achilles injury sustained last season – but things haven’t gone quite as they hoped. The team got off to a 1-3 start since Bryant’s return with their only win a three-point victory over the Charlotte Bobcats under their belts. The Mamba isn’t helping things, either. In the four games he’s played, Bryant is scoring only 13.5 points a game. Helping to fill the point guard role in Steve Nash’s absence, the good news is that he is averaging a career-high seven assists per contest. But Bryant is also averaging a career-worst 6.3 turnovers and is clearly still dealing with a high amount of rust.

Jamaal Charles has Record Day … as a Receiver – Kansas City Chiefs’ running back Jamaal Charles had some kind of day in the team’s 56-31 win over the rival Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Charles is one of the league’s best rushers, but he did his damage on Sunday through the air, racking up 195 receiving yards on eight catches. He added five big touchdowns and had 220 total yards on the day. According to ESPN, he had the third biggest receiving day for a running back since the 1970 merger and his five scores tied a franchise record. Needless to say, Charles surely won leagues for many of his fantasy football owners that reached their league’s championship games.

Roy Halladay Retires – Former All-Star pitcher Roy Halladay retired last week at the age of 36. Halladay, as recently as two seasons ago, was still one of baseball’s best pitchers. In his second season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011, the pitcher had perhaps his best season ever with a 19-6 record and career-bests with 220 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.35. The past two seasons for Halladay, though, have been forgettable and last year, he suffered one of his worst professional seasons going 4-5 with a whopping 6.82 ERA. The next question will inevitably be if he will get into the Hall of Fame. His credentials are reasonable with a career 3.38 ERA and more than 2,100 strikeouts, but his relatively low total of 203 wins will hurt him. That’s unfortunate because playing for some pretty bad Toronto Blue Jays teams for the bulk of his career, Halladay would certainly have had more wins with a better franchise. Still, that number will be difficult to overcome since most of the other starters currently in the Hall have more victories.

Snowball Fight Ends with Oregon Player Suspended – The Oregon Ducks’ football team apparently organized a snowball fight with fans and, well, things got out of control. A player was even suspended for the team’s upcoming bowl game. Well, then.

RGIII Benched … Redskins Lose Anyway – The Washington Redskins benched their star quarterback Robert Griffin III after he’s been inconsistent all year long following his recovery from his ACL injury. Kirk Cousins got the start for Washington on Sunday, but the team still lost to the Atlanta Falcons, 27-26. The team was competitive and Cousins did some good things in throwing for 381 yards and three touchdowns, but he also struggled a little with two interceptions and failed to convert a potential game-winning two-point conversion near the end of the contest. Cousins is an interesting quarterback who has a future in this league, but the team is still better off with Griffin if he can return to the form he showed in 2012. Benching him was the right move and if the Skins are wise, they’ll do the same for the rest of the season and allow him to get healthy for next year.

Jameis Winston wins Heisman – In the long and storied history of the Heisman trophy, a freshman didn’t win the award until last season when Johnny Manziel took home the prize. That opened the door for others and for the second consecutive season, a first-year player has won the honor. Freshman quarterback Jameis Winston has been nothing short of spectacular for the Seminoles and he clearly deserved to win it, leading Florida State to an undefeated season as they head into the national championship game next month.

Skiing … Not Just for the MountainsSkiers are taking over Detroit’s abandoned buildings. No, really.

November 7, 2013

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In case you missed it – October

By: Joe Williams

Another month has come and gone. October was a big one in the sports world with the return of the NBA, the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series and of course the NFL and college football seasons taking shape. But you already knew about all that. Lots of other stuff happened in the sports world that you may have missed. Such as:

DeAngelo Hall of the Washington Redskins had a post-game interview cut short by an NFL wardrobe inspector who threatened to fine Hall because he was wearing an unapproved shirt. After the game. In the locker room!

A restaurant in Houston named a burger after the Texans starting quarterback Matt Schaub. Probably not the first time a restaurant has done that about a local star. But this was not in support of the quarterback. After Schaub struggled and had a few interceptions returned for touchdowns, a local eatery came out with the “Pick Six” burger in his honor.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs can now say they play in front of the loudest crowd in the NFL after breaking an NFL record in October.

In protest to all of the rule changes and fines the NFL has unleashed on defenders lately, San Fransisco 49ers safety Donte Whitner decided to officially change his last name to “Hitner.”

The Atlanta Braves made the playoffs and left their highest paid player off of the playoff roster.

50-year-old NBA Hall-of-Famer Chris Mullin went 14 for 15 and beat the current Sacramento Kings players in a three-point shooting contest.

The new head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, Jason Kidd, was suspended for two games before ever coaching a game. (The suspension came after he crashed into a telephone pole and was under suspicion of drunk driving.

Did you see Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” video? Let’s be real. Who didn’t see it? But did you see which big name from the sports world did a spoof of that video? That’s right. None other than Hulk Hogan got in the act with his own version of “Wrecking Ball.”

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis was as surprised as anyone when his team attempted a fake punt from inside its own 20-yard-line.

Phil Mickelson helped the USA to a win over the International team in the President’s Cup. How did he prepare for the competition? By hiring a new coach. A ping pong coach that is.

A 47-year-old, two-time Olympian, Zola Budd, crushed a bunch of college runners in a 5K event in North Carolina.

Former Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice was named to the NCAA’s playoff selection committee.

People who don’t even work for USC have been contacting coaches and attempting to recruit them to fill the Trojans’ coaching vacancy.

A 15-year-old who was announcing a middle school football game was punished for using a phrase that NFL announcer Gus Johnson uses in the Madden NFL game. The phrase that got him in hot water….”He’s got that getting-away-from-the-cops speed.”

During an MMA fight in Brazil, a fighter found a new way to submit. He just jumped out of the cage and left the arena in the middle of the fight.

Kansas City Chiefs fans sent a record for the loudest crowd when they hit 137.5 decibles.

The Los Angeles Dodgers don’t have a team mascot so it was a bit of a surprise when someone in a bear costume came out during the 8th inning of the NLCS Game 3 against the Cardinals. The bear put on an amazing performance for the crowd before being ejected from the game.

A Cleveland Browns fan posted an ad on Craigslist looking for a decent quarterback for the team.

The Clippers took another step towards claiming Los Angeles for themselves by covering up the Lakers championship banners in the Staples Center.

After a 91-0 blowout win a high school coach in Texas is being accused of bullying.

A Red Sox fan couldn’t get the day off of work from his job selling furniture to attend Game 1 of the World Series. So he quit.

Indiana Pacer Paul George bought every ticket for Fresno State’s home opener for the men’s basketball season. That’s 15,596 tickets.

Washington Redskins tight end Fred Davis admitted to sleeping during team meetings. And he wonders why he’s been replaced in the starting lineup.

A fan who was injured by a hot dog thrown by the team mascot back in 2009 is now suing the Kansas City Royals.

November 1, 2013

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2013 NFL Q3 Must-See Games

By: Matt Bowen

The 2013 NFL season is now halfway in the books and there’s plenty of action left. With the cream slowly rising to the top there are currently 20 teams within one game of playoff contention. The next four weeks are the most critical to the season. Teams will either make themselves or start drawing up draft strategies. Here’s a list of the most crucial games during the third quarter of the season. Remember, each week will contain three categories; the heavyweight bout, the divisional battle and the hidden gem.

Week 9

The Heavyweight Bout: Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans

If one were to compare preseason notes compared to Week 9, this matchup would be upside down. The Houston Texans, not the Indianapolis Colts were supposed to be Super Bowl contenders, but it’s not so. The Texans are 2-5 while the Colts are 5-2.

Both teams are coming off their bye week and if you think the Texans will go down quietly, think again. Andrew Luck and Co. will have their hands full with this one. If the Colts win it will be the end of the Texans season. If Houston pulls it out they’ll suddenly have life. Both teams have to make a statement.

The Divisional Battle: Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers

Like the aforementioned Texans, the Atlanta Falcons were Super Bowl bound before the games were played. Now, they’re and afterthought. The Falcons have been decimated by injury and are playing for pride at the moment.

The surprise team of the NFC South is none other than the Carolina Panthers. Quarterback Cam Newton looks like he’s leading his team in the right direction. This is a huge game for the Panthers—a win and they’ll make believers out of all of us. A loss and it’s simply back to mediocrity.

A lot rests on RG3's knee for the Washington Redskins.

The Hidden Gem: San Diego Chargers vs. Washington Redskins

The Washington Redskins looked like they were going to steal one in Denver last week before the Broncos unleashed a massive comeback. Now at home against the San Diego Chargers in Week 9, it’s a must-win for the Redskins if they’re to keep hope alive. For those of you that are worried, RG3 will be just fine—head coach Mike Shanahan did the right thing and pulled him last week for precautionary reasons.

The Chargers are a definite surprise this season and quarterback Philip Rivers is having a monster year. At 4-3, the Chargers would be considered real contenders with a win. This one smells like a shootout.

Week 10

The Heavyweight Bout: Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints

This game isn’t for the defensive-minded person. Both teams are more than fun to watch and while the New Orleans Saints seem like they’re in cruise control the Dallas Cowboys will have to steal one on the road.

Peddle to the metal, this one will fuel the fire and reinsure all fans of why they love the game.

The Divisional Battle: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens will look to remind everyone that they’re the defending champs the second half of the season. The Cincinnati Bengals on the other hand look like they’re making a run for the ring this season. This game will be a knock-down drag-out battle that will leave one team on top of the world and the other one in the dust. A huge confidence booster this one will be.

The Hidden Gem: Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears

Oh, to the NFC North we go. The Green Bay Packers are once again the head of the class while the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears look to make something of themselves.

This matchup between the Lions and Bears will be the breaking point for the losing squad. The Lions upset the Bears in Detroit early in the season and Chicago looks to return the favor. To the victor go the spoils, or at least in this situation, the hope of a solid playoff run.

Week 11

The Heavyweight Bout: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos

Who predicted that the Kansas City Chiefs would start the season 8-0? The answer is unequivocally no one. Heading into Mile High in Week 11 they may still be undefeated. The Broncos currently have one loss, but strike fear in every opponent. No man rests easy when they have to face Peyton Manning.

The same can be said about the Chiefs defense.

Right now, the AFC West goes through Kansas City. Game on.

The Divisional Battle: Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Both teams records may not be pretty at the moment but ask one squad about what they think of the other and the answer will be unkind.

This one may be ugly, but that’s why we’ll watch.

The Hidden Gem: San Francisco 49ers vs. New Orleans Saints

A definite playoff preview, pay attention because there could be a rematch come January. The San Francisco 49ers have found balance with Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore–the New Orleans Saints still move at breakneck speeds thanks to Drew Brees.

Who will budge? Who will win?

Craziest prediction ever—this one ends in a 31-31 tie.

Week 12

The Heavyweight Bout: Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots

Two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks is about all one needs to describe a heavyweight bout.

Manning vs. Brady, grab the popcorn and smile.

The Divisional Battle: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns

This is a game where diehard football enthusiasts hope for sloppy conditions and wild plays. These cities are separated by only two hours yet they’re far from neighborly when it comes to football.

Always entertaining, this one should be a true battle.

The Hidden Gem: Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants

This one is a hidden gem due to the fact that the New York Giants lack a winning record, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of the NFC East race.

The Dallas Cowboys are currently in the lead at 4-4 but as we have all seen before the division could come down to a Week 17 rivalry to declare an 8-8 divisional winner.

Eli Manning has a reputation to repair/uphold while Tony Romo has a legendary status to create.

Every game is important and these teams will take it to heart. Expect nothing but the best from both sides.

June 5, 2013

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NFL Talk

By: Matt Bowen

Face it—it’s never too soon to talk about the NFL. The thoughts of the upcoming 2013 NFL season are starting to invade NFL fanatics’ minds. Yes, we’re only a few days into June, but it’s been three months since Super Bowl XLVII. That means we have exactly three months to go until the 2013 season kicks off on September 5. Some may say that we’re in the doldrums of the offseason, but this is just the beginning. It only gets better from here.

With that being said, let’s talk football.

Here are the top five headlines weighing on everyone’s mind this offseason:

Will RG3 Be RG3?

After his injury last season, will RG3 be the same player this year?

Any true NFL fan is currently holding their breath hoping that Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III will return healthy. The knee injury he suffered in the playoffs was gruesome to watch. The nausea that ensued when reality and doubt set in still exist today.

He’s the future—a prototype never before seen on an NFL field—the complete package.

Will he be okay?

Something tells me that he’ll be just fine—RG3 is a remarkable athlete.

Let’s hope he’s “ready for some football” on September 9 vs. the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football.

Can the Indianapolis Colts Return to the Playoffs?

The Indianapolis Colts took the league by storm last year when they defied the odds and made the playoffs. Then rookie quarterback Andrew Luck proved to be the truth, but can he avoid the sophomore slump?

Having tasted winning in 2012, the Colts grew leaps and bounds and impressed all as they won games they probably shouldn’t have. One adjustment this is season will be to new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. Former OC Bruce Arians is now head coach for the Arizona Cardinals. All Luck did under the tutelage of Arians in 2012 is set a rookie record with 4,374 passing yards.

Luck has the intelligence to absorb a new system quickly. The only question that remains is will the Colts return to the playoffs?

Will Wes Welker be the “It” Factor for the Denver Broncos?

The Denver Broncos were seconds away from the AFC Championship game last season before a Baltimore Ravens bomb sent them packing.

After shaking off the rust, quarterback Peyton Manning looked like Peyton Manning by season’s end. All the Broncos needed heading into the offseason is some added offense and there was no better find than Wes Welker.

Will Welker be the difference? Are the Broncos now “locks” for a Super Bowl appearance? Along with Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, can the Broncos have three 1000-plus yard receivers?

Something tells me Manning and Welker are out for revenge. Watch out!

How Good Will the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens Play?

The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens look to avoid the Super Bowl hangover this season.

The Ravens took the league’s top prize last season and without a doubt will look different this season. Out are Anqaun Boldin (49ers), Ed Reed (Houston Texans) and Ray Lewis (retired)— and Ravens fans have to be wondering what their team will be like without three of their best. The Ravens still have a solid squad, but are they contenders?

The 49ers face the most pressure of any team this season. Having been so close the ultimate prize, can they get over the hump this season? Colin Kaepernick is now the man and expectations have never been higher. If there’s one team that’s built to win it all it’s the Niners, but will they do it?

Numerous Other Questions Scattered on Our Minds:

Can the Cincinnati Bengals win a playoff game?

Will Adrian Peterson eclipse 2,000-plus yards again?

Will Mike Wallace be the boost the Miami Dolphins need?

Can Calvin Johnson break his own single-season receiving record of 1,964 yards?

Will the Pittsburgh Steelers make the playoffs?

Are the New England Patriots at the end of an era?

Is this the year for the Atlanta Falcons?

What will unfold for the New York Jets?

Are the Seattle Seahawks the NFL’s best team?

November 21, 2012

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Giving Doug Martin the Respect He Deserves

By: Matt Bowen

Heading into the 2012 NFL season all the talk surrounding the rookie class revolved around quarterbacks Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts and Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins. While the No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks have lived up to the massive hype, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin is not to be forgotten.

Luck may have been the #1 pick, but will Martin be the Rookie of the Year?

Yes, Luck and RG3 have put up impressive numbers thus far, but Martin is third in the NFL behind Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch with an even 1,000 rushing yards so far. More importantly, the Bucs are winning and Martin appears to get better with every touch of the ball.

The Buccaneers organization deserves credit for revamping their franchise in just a single offseason. After a disastrous 2011 full of big expectations and hot air, the team brought in new head coach Greg Schiano, acquired highly touted free agent Vincent Jackson and made a statement when they moved up in the NFL draft to steal Martin late in the first round.

Martin, a 23-year-old out of Boise State flew under the radar in college because much of the credit the Broncos received went to quarterback Kellen Moore. Let’s not get things mixed up; Moore was a great college quarterback, the greatest in terms of wins with 50, but Martin did his part to bring Boise State to national prominence. He tallied 43 touchdowns in his time as a Bronco and hasn’t slowed down one bit in the NFL.

Truth be told, he doesn’t look like a rookie and is a blast to watch. His nickname is the “Muscle Hamster” because his physique fits the bill. He’s 5’9”, 215 lbs. of pure beef. It takes more than one defender to take down Martin on most carries.

He’s averaging 5.1 yards/carry and has had 100-plus yards in three of the last four. His 251 yards and four touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders earlier this season put him in fantasy football folklore forever.

Thanks to Martin’s emergence the Bucs have won four straight games and take on one of the NFL’s best in the Atlanta Falcons in Week 12. The Bucs are currently in the playoff hunt and will get national exposure with the Falcons coming to town. This is Martin’s time to shine on the big stage. Something tells me he won’t disappoint. The Falcons may be 9-1, but they allow 130.5 yards/game against the rush and Martin is ready to make his name known.

A strong performance in Week 12 and Martin’s hat will be thrown into the Rookie of the Year race. Sure, Luck and Griffin III are the future of the NFL, but so is Martin. The two young quarterbacks may get more attention, but it’s the young running back in Martin who is quietly becoming the best.