March 27, 2013

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NFL Free Agency Winners

By: Joe Williams

There are just a couple weeks left until the NFL Draft so you know what that means…it’s time to judge who “won” and “lost” in free agency. And we’re going to do it only about nine months before we really know how good these teams are and what signings were actually good.

Tom Brady and the Patriots will be moving forward without Wes Welker in the 2013 season.

Tom Brady and the Patriots will be moving forward without Wes Welker in the 2013 season.

New England Patriots

Yeah they lost Wes Welker to Denver, but signing Danny Amendola is a nice replacement. But that’s not why the Patriots are on the list. It’s because Bernard (Patriot-killer) Pollard has joined the Tennessee Titans. You may remember that it was Pollard who sacked Tom Brady on the play where Brady tore his ACL in 2008. He was also involved in the play when Wes Welker got a torn ACL in 2009 and when Rob Gronkowski got hurt and missed the Super Bowl. And just a couple months ago it was a ferocious hit from Pollard that knocked Stevan Ridley out and forced a crucial fumble in the AFC Championship Game that Baltimore went on to win. But this year, the Patriots don’t have to worry about Pollard because they don’t play the Titans. (I reserve the right to change this opinion if the NFL schedules the Patriots and Titans to play in the preseason.)

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle started the offseason with a bang by trading for one of the most dangerous weapons in the league in Percy Harvin. Then they added Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to an already stellar defense.

Kyle Arrington

The New England defensive back (and new father) just scored a year’s worth of diapers from new Patriot Adrian Wilson for giving up the number 24 jersey, allowing Wilson to keep his number from his days in Arizona.

Elvis Dumervil

In one of the strangest free agent developments I can remember, Dumervil was cut from Denver because his agent didn’t get a signed agreement faxed to the team seven minutes earlier. Instead, Elvis was cut by the Broncos even though he wanted to stay and they wanted to keep him. It was an embarrassing situation for everyone involved, but signing a 5-year, $35 million contract with the defending Super Bowl champs is a nice recovery for Dumervil.

Denver Broncos

If not for the previously mention Dumervil debacle, the Broncos would have an almost perfect off season so far. Adding Wes Welker, Louis Vasquez, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Terrance Knighton fills just about every hole on the roster. If they can bring in Dwight Freeney or John Abraham to replace Dumervil, they will be in great shape heading into the draft.

Tim Tebow

Even though he isn’t a free agent, Tebow makes the list because there is finally a team that has come forward and said they actually want him on the roster. Yeah it is the Orlando Predators and yeah it is the Arena Football League. But at least he’d get a shot to play quarterback.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins landed the biggest fish in free agency when they signed WR Mike Wallace. They have also made a splash by signing WR Brandon Gibson, TE Dustin Keller, and linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe. If all goes well, they could challenge the Patriots in the AFC East. If not, at least they have given their fans some hope and shown that they are going for it.

January 30, 2013

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2013 Off To A Wild Start

By: Joe Williams

Is it just me or has this been one of the craziest months is sports, both on and off the field? At the top of the list of course is the story about Manti Te’o’s girlfriend and the hoax behind it. Every day there is a new unbelievable twist to this story. I’m not even going to try to comment. But it’s certainly not the only wacky thing we’ve seen recently…

More drama in New York

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan was spotted in the Bahamas with a tattoo on his right arm of his wife’s likeness wearing only a Mark Sanchez jersey. Does this explain why Ryan stuck with Sanchez as his quarterback for so long instead of putting in Tim Tebow?

The Jets were a major story throughout 2012. Now, it has continued into 2013.

Alabama wins BCS Title

The Crimson Tide winning another title is one of the few things that doesn’t seem out of the ordinary in 2013. But it’s not very often when the most talked about play of a title game comes with a team up by 35 points. It’s even more unusual for that play to be a shoving match between the game-winning quarterback and center (A.J. McCarron and Barrett Jones). One more oddity about this game….the biggest star to emerge was not even on the field. McCarron’s girlfriend, Katherine Webb has become the talk of the game after some comments we made by commentator Brent Musberger. She will now be in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and will be covering the Super Bowl for Inside Edition.

Carmelo Anthony tries to fight Kevin Garnett

An on the court exchange of trash talk went too far when Kevin Garnett allegedly told Carmelo Anthony that his wife tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios. Anthony then tried to confront KG after the game as the teams were leaving the arena.

Tiger tops tee shot, misses cut

It was not a good start to 2013 for Tiger Woods. In his first tournament in Abu Dhabi, he not only topped a tee shot with his driver, but he was also penalized two shots for taking an illegal drop and ended up missing the cut by one shot. (He has since redeemed himself by easily winning the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.)

Miracle in Atlanta

After blowing a 20-0 halftime lead, the Falcons moved down the field in just two plays to kick the game-winning field goal in their divisional playoff game against Seattle.

Stunning finish in Denver

The Broncos’ defense committed a cardinal sin by letting Jacoby Jones get behind everybody and Joe Flacco found him for a 70-yard game-tying touchdown with just 31 seconds left. The Ravens would eventually win the game 38-35 in the second overtime period.

John Fox confuses Peyton Manning for Tim Tebow

Denver had the ball on its own 20 with 36 seconds on the clock and three timeouts to use before halftime. Fox calls for a handoff to the fullback and a run to the locker room. Then, leading 35-28 with 2:23 left in the game and one first down away from a win, Fox decides to run the ball three times and punt. And after Baltimore tied the game, the Broncos had the ball on their 20-yard-line with 31 seconds left and two timeouts and Fox goes for the trifecta and calls for a kneel down and overtime. He probably is still in the habit of doing this after all the pathetic offensive possessions Tim Tebow gave him last season, but aren’t situations like these the reason you give $96 million to one of the top quarterbacks of all time?

Patriots lose; wife goes off

Following in the footsteps of Tom Brady’s wife Gisele after the Patriots Super Bowl loss in 2012, Wes Welker’s wife lashed out on Facebook against Ray Lewis after the Ravens AFC title game win over the Patriots. And as if that wasn’t enough, Hulk Hogan’s former wife Linda has got Lewis’ back and come out against Mrs. Welker.

Biggest interviews in sports go to Oprah and Katie Couric

Lance Armstrong finally came clean (maybe) on the Oprah show and admitted that he used PED’s. Couric scored the first interview with Manti Te’o where he explained the situation with his girlfriend to be a hoax.

Really NFL?

49ers running back Frank Gore was fined $10,500 for having his socks too low, which is completely ridiculous, but looks even worse when the NFL later fined Patriots quarterback Tom Brady $10,000 for trying to kick Ed Reed while sliding to the ground. So there is a stiffer penalty for how you wear your socks than there is for something that could injure another player?

Referee scandal?

We are all accustomed to people complaining about officials for favoring one side or the other, but the NFL showing favoritism among the officials is a new one. Apparently, several NFL game officials are questioning the league’s grading system and the selection of Jerome Boger as referee for Super Bowl XLVII.

Super sabotage?

Former Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown claimed that former Raiders coach Bill Callahan sabotaged the Raiders in their Super Bowl loss to the Buccaneers. Brown said the coach changed the game plan in order to hurt Oakland’s chances of winning…a claim that was backed up by another former Raider, Jerry Rice. Callahan has denied the allegations.

Also:

Oregon scored a one-point safety in the Fiesta Bowl.

Houston Rockets center Greg Smith was called for a three-second violation after stopping in the lane to tie his shoe.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock was hurt doing the Ray Lewis dance after losing a bet to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

New Orleans announces name change from Hornets to Pelicans.

Northern Illinois sets NCAA shot-clock era record with four points in a first half.

September 21, 2011

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Predicting the NFL Week 3 Fantasy Studs

By: Rick Jarrell

Like many media personalities, I’m going to take a stab at predicting which NFL players will have spectacular statistical performances this upcoming weekend. But unlike many media personalities, I’m going to predict the top five players in the league – Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, Andre Johnson, etc – will have a great week. That’s a cop out. Anyone can do that. The following are my somewhat bold predictions for NFL Week 3 fantasy studs.

Rex Grossman

I’m still surprised the Washington Redskins didn’t decide to go with Jon Beck as their starting quarterback, but I digress. Grossman has shown flashes of the good and bad we saw during his Chicago Bears days. Mike Shanahan may be reeling in the gun slinger, creating a reliable starter, and the suspect Dallas Cowboys’ secondary provides a solid match up. Where Dallas’s secondary lacks, it’s run defense makes up for it, with playmakers on the defensive line, which leads me to believe the Skins will be even more inclined to take it to the air as much as possible. But I caution you, as always, Grossman will throw a pick or two on his way to a 400 yard game.

Rob Gronkowski & Chad Ochocinco

Gronkowski has already been tearing it up this year, with three touchdowns in two games, even while splitting time with fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez (often in two tight end formations). But now that Hernandez will be out the next 2-4 weeks, Gronkowski should benefit even more by being additionally targeted by Tom Brady.

But one man can only do so much. There has to be another benefactor, someone who hasn’t tallied as many receptions as normal on the team. Someone who’s very vocal, but strangely not the last two weeks. That man, of course, is Ochocinco. He’s crowded behind the aforementioned athletic tight ends and very Patriot-minded players Deion Branch, Wes Welker, and Julian Edelman. Even with Brady throwing for 500 yards a game, that’s a lot of love to spread around. Expect Ocho to benefit from Hernandez’s absence, possibly more than Gronkowski will.

The Entire San Diego Chargers Team

The Kansas City Chiefs surprised everyone last year by winning the division handily but have stumbled out of the gate this year. They lost their Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry in Week 1, and Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles in Week 2. Both to ACL injuries. Both are out for the year. Couple that with the wide perception the team would take a step back this NFL season, it will likely be a very long year for the team and their fans.

The beneficiary of the Chief’s misfortunes this week will be the division rival Chargers. Moving the opposite direction of the Chiefs, as they are widely perceived to have underperformed last year, stud quarterback Phillip Rivers should have a huge game against the depleted secondary. Who catches the ball the most – Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd, Antonio Gates – is irrelevant, as it’s probable all three will have very favorable games for their fantasy owners.

Mike Kafka

That’s right, I said it – Mike Kafka. League rules state Michael Vick has to sit out at least one game after his concussion (at least I think those are still the rules). So unless they change the rules specifically for him, Kafka is the man for Philadelphia this Sunday. The former Northwestern quarterback is highly unknown, but I can tell you this – it seems no matter who the Eagles put in at quarterback, they still win. Donovan McNabb, AJ Feely, Kevin Kolb, Vick, and now Kafka, who went 7-9 after Vick’s departure this past weekend.

Don’t expect Kafka to turn into Drew Brees. Not even close. They’ll probably try to establish the run, with LeSean McCoy having a breakout season so far. But the Giants have a strong defensive line. They’re weak in the secondary. So in a situation where you’d think Andy Reid would limit pass attempts to below 20, it may actually eclipse 30.

I hope none of you drafted Peyton Manning and David Garrard and are already hounding the waiver wire. But for the few that exist, Kafka is a decent option. Assuming Grossman is unavailable, that is.

January 19, 2011

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2010 NFL Award Predictions

By: Anson Whaley

With the Super Bowl only a few weeks away, it’s time to take a look back at the NFL season and make some predictions for the league’s 2010 awards.

Most Valuable Player

This is likely a three-horse race between three quarterbacks – Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, Mike Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.

It’s no surprise that Brady ended up here.  He’s been one of the league’s best quarterbacks over the past decade and had some pretty good receivers to work with in Randy Moss and Wes Welker.  Brady had to deal with the early loss of Moss (who was traded), but still found a way to excel.  In leading the Patriots to a league-best 14-2 record, he passed for 36 touchdowns (second best in his career) and threw only 4 interceptions, by far the fewest he’s had in a 16-game season.

Mike Vick ending up in this discussion was a surprise, however.  At the beginning of the season, Vick wasn’t even slated to be the team’s starter.  But with an early injury to Kevin Kolb, Vick took over and never looked back.  On the season, he threw for more than 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns while rushing for 9 more scores.  All of those numbers were career highs, and Vick managed to accomplish all of that playing in only 12 games.  He not only looked like the Vick of old, he looked even better.

Aaron Rodgers also has a shot at landing the award.  He threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns.  The fact that he put up those numbers without a major running threat all season (after the early-season injury to Ryan Grant) and led his team to the playoffs will definitely help his campaign, and he should be a legitimate candidate.

This is a close race, but my vote goes to Brady because his team had the most success in the regular season.

Offensive Player of the Year

This is another tough one to call.  In addition to the three quarterbacks mentioned above in the Most Valuable Player race, there’s Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, who led the league in rushing with more than 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns and Atlanta Falcons’ wide receiver Roddy White, whose 115 receptions and nearly 1,400 yards receiving made him, statistically, the best pass catcher in the NFL.

Foster had the benefit of defenses needing to respect a great passing game, and White benefitted from the Falcons’ rushing game, so I’ll rule both of those players out.  Vick did it all this season with his arm and his legs, having his best season ever.  I’ll take him by a hair over Brady for this award.

Defensive Player of the Year

I see this as a race between Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware and Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.  Matthews’ numbers (13 ½ sacks, 60 tackles, and an interception) don’t quite equal those of Ware’s (15 ½ sacks, 66 tackles, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown), but the Packers had a much better season, and Matthews was a big part of that.  My vote goes to Matthews.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

This award is probably coming down to a pair of Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookies – running back LeGarrette Blount and wide receiver Mike Williams.  Blount had 1,007 yards, averaging 5.0 yards per carry, and ran for 6 touchdowns, while Williams led the team’s passing attack, racking up 964 yards and, maybe more importantly, 11 touchdowns.

Williams gets the edge in my book due to his ability to find the end zone so frequently.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Ndamukong Suh has a bit of competition from guys like Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap (24 tackles and 9 ½ sacks), Cleveland Browns strong safety T.J. Ward (2 INTs and 123 tackles), and New England Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty (7 INTs and 82 tackles), but Suh is probably the winner here.

Despite playing on the interior part of the defensive line, Suh was the only rookie to get into double-digit sacks (with 10), and he racked up 66 tackles.  He didn’t stop there, though.  Suh also added an interception and recovered a forced fumble for a touchdown.  For his efforts, he was named as a starter to the Pro Bowl, but will not play due to injury.

Coach of the Year

Atlanta Falcons’ Mike White or Kansas City Chiefs’ Todd Haley will probably win this award.  White led the Falcons to an NFC-best 13-3 record, while Haley took a Chiefs team that was 4-12 in 2009 and turned them into division champs, going 10-6.

While White had a team with several offensive weapons in Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, and Roddy White, Haley had a bit less to work with.  For that reason, Haley gets my vote for turning a franchise around that was a laughingstock the year before.