Saturday, December 21, 2013

To QB or not to QB?

(Head Coach Mike Shanahan, QB Kirk Cousins, and QB RG III, respectively)

     The Washington Football Team (Yes, I am one of those people) faces a complicated situation that has happened to many a team in the past: a full-on quarterback controversy. The old saying goes, "If you have two quarterbacks, you don't have one." What does that mean? Well, you could take it two ways: Literally, it means that two is not equal to one. However, looking deeper into it, the quarterback is the single most important player on any football team, so the starter carries the weight of the team on his back, and must have tremendous confidence and great leadership qualities. For that reason, going back and forth between two players is extremely ineffective in most cases. In the case of Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins, there must be a clear cut starter, or the results will be tumultuous.

     Robert Griffin III has been surrounded by controversy since he initially injured his knee against the Baltimore Ravens last season. He was supposed to rest for four weeks, did not, and proceeded to limp around the field for another month before ending the season with a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and a torn Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) in his right knee. During the offseason, he led an aggressive ad campaign with the slogan "All in for Week One". After being cleared to play the day before the start of training camp, he proceeded to sit out for the entire preseason, seemingly jumping at the bit to return to the field for the regular season opener. Excitement mounted, NFL analysts picked them to win the  NFC East, and Washington Football Team was eyeing a Super Bowl Appearance. Then the season started. Since, RG III has underpeformed dramatically, including 13 starts without scoring a rushing touchdown, and the 32nd ranked Total QBR according to ESPN Stats & Information.

     Kirk Cousins, on the other hand, has been surrounded by controversy ever since he was drafted in the 4th round by a team that traded away their 2012 6th overall pick, 2012 2nd rounder, 2012 3rd rounder, 2013 first rounder, and 2014 first rounder to the Rams to move up 4 spots and select Robert Griffin III. Cousins stayed out of the spotlight for the most part, but was able to come in and win a couple games last season. Because he impressed in the little bit of action he saw, many people began lobbying for him early in the 2013 season, believing RG III to be injury prone. Even Super Bowl Winning Head Coach and Current NBC Sports Analyst Tony Dungy chimed in on the debate, telling the Dan Patrick Show that Kirk Cousins gave the Washington Football Team a better chance to win than Griffin after their week 2 loss to the Packers. After a 3-10 start, Shanahan decided to bench RG III for the rest of the season, and Cousins finally got his chance to start last week. In his 2013 debut, he scored 3 touchdowns to go along with 3 turnovers in a loss against the Atlanta Falcons. Fans are looking forward to the finish of the season, thinking of this as a "tryout" for other teams to watch. One fan, Andre Davis, says "Hopefully they get a first rounder for him, and if that is the case, he supports the benching of RG III 110%." This sentiment is shared by many others, and tomorrow will be a big factor in the ultimate outcome.

     On Sunday, Cousins faces Washington's biggest rival: The Dallas Cowboys. A win against the Cowboys will solidify his position within the organization, or as trade bait. The team will have some decisions to make this offseason, depending on Cousins' play over these next two weeks. If Cousins plays well, he could force the team to trade RG III, force a battle for the starting job in Training Camp 2014, or force the football team to trade him for a high draft pick. If he plays poorly, however, he will be relegated to the bench for the rest of his time in D.C. So, I pose this question to Kirkland Cousins of Holland, Michigan: To QB or not to QB? That is the question, and your play will give us the answer. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

2013-14 NFL Season Preview

     That time is upon us once again people. That's right, no more watching Dancing With The Stars, no more watching HGTV with your wife, and no more time for Honey Boo Boo, because the National Football League is back at it this week. More importantly, Fantasy Football seasons begin this week, and most of us are still upset about the mistakes we made in our drafts.

     This summer has been an eventful one across all the sports. In the NBA, LeBron James and the Miami Heat won their 2nd consecutive World Championship. In Golf, Phil Mickelson choked away the US Open once again, while also winning his first Open Championship. In Baseball, we have seen Miguel Cabrera and Crush (Chris) Davis dominate the league with monstrous home runs. In College Football, Johnny Manziel has stolen all the headlines: first by being irresponsible, then with accusations of illegally accepting money for autographs

     However, the NFL has still managed to steal the show once again, as Aaron Hernandez topped headlines for weeks after being charged with 1st degree murder. In addition to that, we had two front office employees for the Broncos' suspended for DUIs, the ongoing RGKnee debacle, more butt-fumble news, and another round of Tebow Mania. Now that it is September once again, we can put all of that past us, and focus on the task at hand: winning Super Bowl XLVIII.

     There are a number of teams out there that believe they have a chance to win it all, but many of them, especially those that were in the playoffs last year, have questions surrounding their roster that could disrupt that opportunity. The Ravens have lost a significant amount of fire power since last year. The San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and New England Patriots all have injuries to their top receiving threat. Many expect the Colts and Redskins to take a step back as their young quarterbacks adjust to a league that will have studied their NFL game tape. And let's face it: The Vikings and Bengals never have a shot. 

     That leaves the top contenders this year as the Broncos, Falcons, Texans, and Packers. Of those four, the strongest case can be made for the Broncos, as they have only improved an offense that was nearly unstoppable last year. Not to say that I believe Peyton Manning will win another ring, but they should be the favorite right now. As per the rest of the league, here's where you stand as of now:

Week 1 Power Rankings

1. Denver Broncos - Despite Peyton Manning's propensity for late game interceptions, I have faith.

2. Atlanta Falcons - Steven Jackson is a big addition to a team that previously had a 250 pound man nicknamed "The Burner"for his apparent inability to burn calories.

3. Green Bay Packers - Losing Greg Jennings and Donald Driver might mean a lot to the franchise, but should not slow this team down one bit.

4. Houston Texans - Between Arian Foster's heart condition and Ed Reed's mysterious hip, you would think more caution would be expressed here.

5. San Francisco 49ers - Ted Ginn's injury is devastating, and Colin Kaepernick may or may not be a Miami Dolphin, but I expect another division title in San Fran.

6. New England Patriots - Losing Gronk for a few weeks is bad, but losing Hernandez forever is an unforeseen dagger. Take into account the loss of Wes Welker, and you have a completely revamped receiving core in Foxboro. Look to see Belichick reinvent the wheel once again.

7. Seattle Seahawks - Russell Wilson impressed me the most of any of the rookies last season. I expect big things for him in the near future.

8. Baltimore Ravens - Joe Flacco is as Eli Manning-esque as they come. That is the only way to quantify the 2013 postseason.

9. Washington Redskins - The knee is good, and RGIII has hashed everything out with the Shannahans. A deep playoff run is possible.

10. Indianapolis Colts - Luck proved everyone right last year with young guys like Vick Ballard and T.Y Hilton. Expect the addition of Heyward-Bey to pay dividends.

11. New York Giants - The Giants tend to be on again off again, they were off last year, so expect a playoff birth.

12. Cincinnatti Bengals - Dalton & Green have the potential to be one of the all time great tandems in football. Whether or not that translates into playoff success remains to be seen.

13. New Orleans Saints - The return of Sean Payton will mark another 10 win season for Brees and Company. His passing stats continue to shatter ever record imaginable. On pace to approach all-time marks.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers - A healthy Troy Polamalu is a winning season in Steel City, its as simple as that.

15. Minnesota Vikings - The addition of Greg Jennings would be great if they still had Percy Harvin. This team definitely has potential to make a run, but that's provided AP reaches his season goal.

16. Chicago Bears - The Bears' offensive stars have reached their prime and should be ready to make a playoff push. The thing is, the same could have been said for the past 5 years.

17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Darelle Revis and Dashon Goldson as well as 2013 2nd rounder Jonathan Banks look to improve the league's worst passing defense.

18. Carolina Panthers - The Panther's have failed to make significant improvements for the second consecutive year. Head Coach Ron Rivera's hot seat is turning into an inferno.
19. Detroit Lions - Adding Reggie Bush to an offense featuring Mega Tron will be very interesting, hopefully it will add another dimension.

20. Philadelphia Eagles - First-year head coach Chip Kelly looks to shake things up with a brand-new offense. Here's to hoping Vick survives more than 10-12 games of it.

21. Tennessee Titans - The old saying goes: If you have two quarterbacks, you don't have one. Good luck starting Jake Locker with a guy like Ryan Fitzpatrick on the sideline.

22. Kansas City Chiefs - This team has 7 former 1st & 2nd round picks on their starting defense, and 9 on offense, yet has failed to accomplish much of anything. See: Detroit Lions 2002-2005

23. St. Louis Rams -Sam Bradford has had tumultuous College & Professional careers to date, but if he improves his statistics from last season they have a chance to finish the season .500 or better.

24. Arizona Cardinals - A lot of hype surrounded the Cardinals this off season with the drafting of the 'Honey Badger', but I will not buy it until he figures out how many drug tests he failed at LSU.

25. Dallas Cowboys - Dez Bryant has improved on his previous season total by 3 receiving touchdowns each year. Expect a big year from him, but not much from the rest of the team.

26. San Diego Chargers - Norv Turner is finally gone. With his curse lifted, Antonio Gates' toe may finally heal.

27. Cleveland Browns - 129 year old second year QB BrandonWeeden leads Cleveland once again... unfortunately.

28. Miami Dolphins - Poised to make some noise this season, but then again they are the Dolphins.

29. Buffalo Bills - Hopefully Bills' Coach Doug Marrone keeps Spiller from getting too sick just yet.

30. New York Jets - Sanchez is hurt, and that actually bodes well for their season.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars - Hard to personify how bad the Jaguars are. Imagine this happens to you. Now think, at least he was out after 6 days. The Jaguars have been like this for years.

32 .Oakland Raiders - Sorry Raider Fans. Maybe another move to Los Angeles will change your fortunes. Just remember, it was only a decade ago that you were in the Super Bowl... oh.

 Fantasy Players To Watch

The first week is always an explosive one, and I expect a few flash-in-the-pan stars to shine on Sunday. Plenty of teams have good match-ups to open the season (See: Patriots' Schedule) but there are a few individuals that stand out as my fantasy players to watch:

1. Christian Ponder - QB Minnesota Vikings

      The Minnesota Lions face the Detroit Lions on Sunday in a game that I fully expect to be a high scoring affair. Most expect Adrian Peterson to continue getting the ball on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd down, but the Lions will bring 8 men into the box to prevent that from translating into success. Ponder will have to take shots down field and abuse this defense the way that every other QB in the NFL has done. Fantasy Prediction: 308 Passing Yards, 3 Touchdowns.

2. Isaac Redman - RB Pittsburgh Steelers

     The Pittsburgh Steelers will host the Tennessee this Sunday in a game that figures to play out in the Steelers' favor. Fantasy owners should be intrigued by the match-up, because Steelers' rookie RB Le'Veon Bell is sitting out this week, giving Redman the bulk of the carries. Horrible Titans run defense will be victimized. Fantasy Prediction: 127 Total Yards, 2 Touchdowns.

3. Golden Tate - WR Seattle Seahawks

     The Seattle Seahawks travel to Charlotte to face the Panthers this Sunday in a game that matches up two of the best young players in the game: Russell Wilson and CamNewton. With 8 men in the box to contain Marshawn Lynch, coveraged rolled towards Sidney Rice, and Percy Harvin out with a hip injury, I look for Golden Tate to have another breakout season and that starts with this game. Fantasy Prediction: 154 Receiving Yards, 2 Touchdowns.

Super Bowl Predictions

     To finish it off, it is only natural that I make a Super Bowl Pick. I tend to defy logic in all that I do, and although it may not make perfect sense there is always a reason to pick a team to win. So for those fans out there cheering for perennial losers, keep reminding your Super-Bowl winning friends that your team is selecting much higher in the draft. 

     I expect the representatives on both sides to be featuring young QBs: Seahawks and Colts. With that in mind, I am going with the Indianapolis Colts as my pick to win Super Bowl XLVIII. Get your popcorn ready football fans, I have a feeling this year will be one for the ages.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The No Fun League

The NFL is doing it once again: making changes to a perfect league. According to, NFL officials are traveling to training camps to warn teams that they will be cracking down on player celebrations.

According to the official NFL Rules, this includes but is not limited to:
  1. Sack Dances 
  2. Home-Run Swing 
  3. Incredible Hulk 
  4. Spiking the Ball 
  5. Spinning the Ball 
  6. Throwing or Shoving the Ball
  7. Pointing or Pointing the Ball 
  8. Verbal Taunting 
  9. Military Salute 
  10. Standing Over an Opponent (Prolonged and with Provocation)
  11. Dancing 
  12. Throat Slash...Not This
  13. Sexually-Suggestive Gestures 
  14. Prolonged Gyrations 
  15. Stomping on a Team Logo
Even more interesting, is that this comes from Rule 12, Section 3 of the 2012 Official Playing Rules, but they are just now beginning to enforce the penalties. I for one, think this system of assessing 15 yard penalties is fundamentally flawed. There are levels to the amount of taunting and disrespect players dish out, and I believe there are ways the rules can be appropriately adjusted to suit this. 

Similar to the way that minor face mask infractions used to be 5 yard penalties, I believe the same should go for celebrations. Some are much more egregious than others, and that is obvious. DeSean Jackson falling into the endzone should not be a penalty, even if the officials want to crack down on players. 

In my opinion, 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties should be only assessed for grossly excessive celebrations that either disrespect the other team, or use props that are not involved with the game of football. Other cases listed in the NFL Rule book, however it is that we may feel about them, should warrant 5 yard delay of game penalties. The Terrell Owens and Randy Moss Celebrations of the early to mid 2000s were not average celebrations, and should be treated as such. 

I'll leave you with this. First, the Best Touchdown Celebrations of All-Time. But also, this nugget. Barry Sanders scored over 100 career touchdowns. Each one of them ended by handing the ball to the referee. Also, Referee Interference? We need a rule against this too.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Future of Baseball

     Amid recent allegations of performance enhancing drug use by some of the leagues' best players, it feels necessary to lighten the mood with some talk of the leagues bright young stars. Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Manny Machado, and Yasiel Puig have all taken the league by storm over the past two years, but who is the best of them all? Generally, baseball players are judged on 5 basic fundamentals, or tools. According to various sources, the 5 tools of baseball are: hitting for power, hitting for average, base running, throwing, and fielding.

By the Numbers:

     LF Bryce Harper 6-2 230
Batting: .268/.349/.485  
Baserunning: 24/10/.705  
Fielding: 440/11/.975 13 outfield assists.

    CF Mike Trout 6-2 230
Batting: .313/.387/.543  
Baserunning: 75/9/.893  
Fielding: 668/8/.988 3 outfield assists.

    3B Manny Machado 6-2 180
Batting: .292/.321/.458  
Baserunning: 8/5/.615  
Fielding: 476/11/.977 1 amazing throw.

    RF Yasiel Puig 6-3 245
Batting: .369/.409/.571  
Baserunning: 6/3/.667  
Fielding: 86/3/.965 4 outfield assists.

     Hitting for Power

     Slugging percentage (Total Bases/At Bats) is the best measurement of power hitting. The league average is .400, but each of these players is hitting above that number. Harper, while known for having outstanding power, comes in behind  Yasiel Puig and Mike Trout in his stat, with Machado bringing up the rear.

     However, we have to take into account that Puig has been in the majors for less than 2 months, and Harper is only 20 years old. At this point, Machado does not have the power to hit home runs on a consistent basis, which limits his power. Harper has the weakest line-up around him, so pitchers do not have to give him anything to hit. Mike Trout has Trumbo, Hamilton, and Pujols behind him, which means he gets good looks in every plate appearance. The same goes for Puig, playing with Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, and Adrian Gonzalez.

     The best power hitter out of this bunch has to be Bryce Harper. At his best, Harper commands the plate better than any of these other players. His plate vision is far superior to Puig, and his power is better than the others.

     Hitting for Average

     Batting Average (At Bats/Hits) is the most commonly used statistic in baseball, and quite honestly the most important for all non-pitchers. Mike Trout and Manny Machado seem to be the better players at hitting for average at this point. Yasiel Puig has come back to Earth since his initial burst onto the scene, and is hitting .269 in July as opposed to the earth-shattering .436 that he hit in June.
     Between Trout and Machado, Trout has to be the choice. In each of the past two seasons, Trout has been 2nd in the American League in batting average, only bested by the Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera.

     Base Running

     Stolen Bases/Caught Stealing/Stolen Base Percentage are an underrated aspect of the game, but the main components of base running. often At first glance, all of these players look like outstanding athletes, and possess a considerable amount of speed. Puig is built like a horse and draws comparisons to Bo Jackson, Machado is tall and slim with an athletic build a la a young A-Rod, minus the power. Bryce Harper goes 110 percent every play, and dives into bags headfirst like the great 'Charlie Hustle', Pete Rose. Mike Trout, the shortest and stockiest of the bunch, has become known as somewhat of a speed demon, and is being compared to the Mick.

     However, base-running is not all about speed, it is also about picking and choosing your spots, and running efficiently. Puig and Harper both have reputations as aggressive base-runners, sometimes to a fault, but Mike Trout is far and away the top guy in this category. With 49 stolen bases last year, Trout was the major league leader.


     Assists are the true measurement of an outfielder's ability to throw out advancing runners. Bryce Harper's arm has been heralded since high school, allegedly throwing a 96 mph fastball. Puig's rise has included a number of powerful throws as well, although he has to learn to use the cutoff sometimes. Machado's throw from foul territory is a perfect representation of his ability to unleash the ball, but he does not get enough chances to show off his arm.

     For Trout, throwing is one part of his game that critics mock. Although he is a respectable outfielder, base runners do not fear him the way that they do Harper and Puig. Because of the raw ability that goes along with an outfielder throwing fastballs in the mid 90s, this category has to go to Bryce Harper.


     Fielding is the lost art of Baseball. Routine plays are never noticed, only the spectacular grabs and the errors. Yesterday during the  Mid-Atlantic Sports Network broadcast of the Washington Nationals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game, color commentator F.P Santangelo said it perfectly, "Most major league players can make the spectacular plays, its those that make those plays look easy that are the truly great ones." Harper and this right field wall definitely have some hashing out to do on this topic.

     For Puig, its a different story. Trout has had his share of highlight catches as well, most notably some home-run robbing leaps. Machado's highlight reel extends beyond just the one throw, as he also has this outstanding display of wit. I have to give the edge here to Mike Trout. He has played the most games out of all these players, and has the highest fielding percentage as well.


     This is a tough call, because each of these players brings something different to the game. Bryce Harper is a lefty with tremendous power and a laser rocket arm that balances himself with the plate discipline of a veteran. Yasiel Puig a big righty that takes a hack at every pitch he sees and pushes the limit in every aspect of the game.

     Manny Machado is a double machine that is making a name for himself as a shortstop playing third base. Mike Trout is a bonafied superstar that proved over the past two seasons that he can do it all. Each of these young phenoms is a 5-tool player with the potential to be a Hall-of-Famer when their career is all said and done.

The Decision: Mike Trout. He has flat out been better than the other players to this point, in fact, his numbers are arguably better than anybody in the Major Leagues besides Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis. I expect him to be a League MVP within the next few years, I can't necessarily say the same about these other players.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ranking the NFL Starters: Quarterbacks

     In the National Football League, the Quarterback is widely considered the most important position on the field, and thought to be the natural leader of any team. So, as I start my series on ranking the best players in the league, we start out with the most important player. No team has the ability to be successful in the end without a franchise player behind the center. 

     Throughout history, the elite dynasties of history have all had Hall of Famers playing at the Quarterback position: '60s Packers (Bart Starr), '70s Steelers (Terry Bradshaw), '70s Dolphins (Bob Griese), '80s 49ers (Joe Montana), '90s Cowboys (Troy Aikman), '90s Broncos (John Elway), '00s Patriots (Tom Brady). Each of these teams had at least 3 Super Bowl Appearances and at least 2 Super Bowl wins, and their successes are largely due to the prowess of their field generals. 

     Right now, the NFL is in a golden age of passing. 10 years ago, 4,000 passing yards in a season was an outstanding feat, but nowadays, 5,000 yards has replaced it as the new benchmark as 3 players have done it in the past 2 years. Rookies are carrying their teams to the playoffs, and mediocre players are rising to the competition in the postseason. 

Taking all that into account, these are your quarterback rankings for the 2013-14 NFL season. 

      32. Blaine Gabbert - Jacksonville Jaguars 
In 2 years as an NFL Starter, he has scored only 21 touchdowns and has a passer rating of 70.1. 

      31. Terrelle Pryor - Oakland Raiders 
The highlight of Pryor's NFL Career to this point is entering the supplemental draft after agreeing to stay in college for his senior season. 

      30. Mark Sanchez - New York Jets
 2 words: Butt Fumble.

      29. Christian Ponder - Minnesota Vikings
 A fine starter, but his success last year was largely due to the amazing comeback season of Adrian Peterson. 

      28. Brandon Weeden - Cleveland Browns
 Recieved strong consideration for worst in the league. Turns 30 in October, don't expect him to get any better. 

      27. Jake Locker - Tennessee Titans 
Doesn't seem to be a great passer, but he has above average athleticism. Below average overall, but serviceable as a game manager. 

      26. Ryan Tannehill - Miami Dolphins
 Not a great player, but he gets points for versatility with two years as a college wide receiver and his wife on HBO's HardKnocks

      25. Kevin Kolb - Buffalo Bills
 I don't understand this move at all. Would have been better off with Fitzpatrick, but I expect EJ Manuel to take away his time as the season goes on. 

      24. Michael VickPhiladelphia Eagles 
Arguably the greatest running quarterback of all time. Arguably the least durable quarterback of all time. 

      23. Carson Palmer - Arizona Cardinals 
Hasn't been the same since he met Kimo Von Oelhoffen

      22. Sam Bradford - St. Louis Rams 
Surgically-repaired shoulder. Lost Stephen Jackson. Despite this, they're projected to have a big season. I don't believe in the hype. 

      21. Alex Smith - Kansas City Chiefs
 Bad in San Francisco for years before his breakout season. Expect him to return to form, mediocre.

      20. Josh Freeman - Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
Very up and down in his first 4 years. 27-17 TD:Int ratio is respectable, needs to be more consistent. Team has put great players around him on offense and defense.

      19. Tony Romo - Dallas Cowboys 
Epic failure in clutch situations, including one of the worst botches of all time. Otherwise, he is a pro-bowler.

      18. Phillip Rivers - San Diego Chargers
 Suffered from the curse of Norv Turner, expect him to improve this year.

      17. Matthew Stafford - Detroit Lions 
Benefits from having one of the most dominant receivers in NFL History. Expect him to bounce back from last year. 

      16. Jay Cutler - Chicago Bears 
Much better with his bff Brandon Marshall (Start the video at 2:45) on the team. If he can stay healthy, he can lead them to the playoffs. 

      15. Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers 
With great potential, comes great responsibility. More potential than any other player in the NFL. Has to show it more often. 

      14. Andy Dalton - Cincinnatti Bengals 
Underrated. Been to the playoffs in each of his first two seasons, I expect more of the same. Not on that elite level yet. 

      13. Matt Schaub - Houston Texans 
The real challenge comes this year. 2 straight divison titles for the Texans, but in order for him to hold off Luck and the Colts again this year he will have to step his game up. 

      12. Russell Wilson - Seattle Seahawks 
Of the outstanding quarterbacks that burst onto the season, Wilson had the 2nd best supporting cast. Proving himself again will put him in the top 10. Outstanding Playmaker.

      11. Colin Kaepernick - San Francisco 49ers 
Fluky player in my opinion. Gets rave reviews and led his team to the Superbowl  but has most bust potential of young stars of last year. Fans should hope he doesn't leave for the Dolphins.

      10. Robert Griffin III - Washington Redskins 
Could be the best player in the NFL a couple years from now. Knee injury is a cause for concern. If he's healthy, he's unstoppable. Bonafide Superstar

      9. Andrew Luck - Indianapolis Colts 
Improved the Colts' win total by 9 games in his first season with the team, which was done mostly without his head coach. Makes plays when his team needs him. Field General. 

      8. Ben RoethlisbergerPittsburgh Steelers 
Doesn't get the yards & touchdowns of some of the other guys, but his career 92 passer rating and 97 passer rating last year legitimizes him in the ranks of the best. 

      7. Matt Ryan - Atlanta Falcons 
Been great for a long time, but only recently garnered playoff success. Expect him to be in the NFC Championship for years to come. 

      6. Joe Flacco - Baltimore Ravens 
Wacko Flacco has always done more in the postseason than we have suspected of them. This year, I'm expecting big things from this guy. 

      5. Eli Manning - New York Giants 
Can't spell elite without Eli. Bounce back year for the Giants, the receivers will be healthy and ready for a late playoff run.

      4. Drew Brees - New Orleans Saints 
Struggled last year without Sean Payton, but still does things that no other quarterback has ever done. Could break the all-time record for passing yards and touchdowns by the time he hangs up his cleats. Hall of Famer. 

      3. Peyton Manning - Denver Broncos 
One of the most consistent players of all-time. Criticized for lack of playoff success, on multiple occasions,  but I expect him to return as strong as ever this year. Once in a generation player.

      2. Aaron Rodgers - Green Bay Packers 
39:8 TD to Interception ratio was the best in the NFL last season. Discount double check swept over the country the past few years. Has dominated the league for 5 years. Heir Apparent to Brady's crown as the best in the league.

      1. Tom Brady - New England Patriots 
34:8 TD to Interception ratio was just behind Rodgers, but his 4,827 passing yards out threw Rodgers by over 500 yards, evident that he is throwing more than ever to keep his team in the fray. 5 Super Bowl Appearances, 3 Super Bowl Titles. Led his team to the AFC Championship once again last season, but has a long road ahead of him with the injuries to Gronkowski and the murder charges for Aaron Hernandez. The defining moment of his career came in the clutch against the Rams in 2001. One of the Top 5 Greatest Quarterbacks of All-Time.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Professional Sports: A Melting Pot of Future Convicts?

     Long before Aaron Hernandez was investigated for his alleged involvement with a double murder in July of 2012, long before he was charged with 1st degree murder and 5 other gun-related charges, and long before he was accused of shooting a man in the face in February, professional athletes were committing crimes at a rate higher than many other social groups. Which is odd, considering that many of them are some of the most financially stable people on the planet. I believe that, in the simplest of terms, most people commit crimes so that they can have the things that they want. Robberies, Drug Dealings, Petty Thefts: these are all crimes that most people commit because they lack the means to have what they want, or to provide for their families. Other crimes are not planned, but are mishaps that occur frequently: Aggravated Assault, DUI, Domestic Violence. These crimes, although inexcusable, tend to have some sort of reasoning behind them for the most part. However, for those privileged individuals that are afforded the opportunity to play a professional sport, whether it be Football, Basketball, Baseball, or anything else, there is no reason that these crimes and worse should be occurring at such an alarming rate.

     The American people place athletes on a pedestal. In High School, when they have nothing, teachers will give them the grades they need to pass. Coaches will let them dictate the team. In some cases, students will help them forge test scores. When they get to college, they are treated like royalty. Female students are desperate for their affection, and male students admire their in-game play. They are allowed to act as if they are a step above everyone else on life's totem pole. For instance, athletes at Stanford University are given a list of easy courses to take, such as Social Dances of North America III, that are used as GPA boosters. By the time they make it to the professional ranks, there is no controlling their ego. Cam Newton, for example, told Peter King at the NFL Scouting Combine that he sees himself an entertainer and icon, without mention of being a Super Bowl champion or Hall of Fame Player.

     The idea that professional athletes role models leads us to believe that they are productive members of society, and it gives them the notion that they are invincible. Exhibit A: Gilbert Arenas. While under investigation for bringing guns into the Wizards' locker room following an altercation with teammate Javaris Crittenton (who by the way, is now awaiting a murder trial) Arenas pulled this on court display that got himself suspended for 50 games. To me, this is the perfect example of an Athlete's untouchable persona. He believed that even though he had just brought lethal weapons into an NBA Locker Room, it was okay for him to shoot down his teammates at a regular-season game with all the cameras on him. Arenas was in the news again this week, unfortunately, as he was arrested in California for having 100 pounds of illegal fireworks. The sad part is that this is not the only case of an athlete's blatant disregard for the law, although many of them are fortunate enough to avoid real punishment. Ben Roethlisberger, for instance, has been accused of rape on two separate occasions in two different states, but out of court settlements have kept him out of harm's way. Or Donte Stallworth, who was convicted of DUI Manslaughter, but only served 24 days in a county jail.

In addition to criminal allegations, we are going through an era where cheating is growing rampant, and athletes are steadily finding new ways to get ahead. Bruce Irvin and Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks were accused of using the drug adderall to enhance in-game performance. Of the great home run hitters of baseball history, many of them are steroid users: Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, and Jose Canseco, to name a few. A quote from the greatest cyclist of all time, Lance Armstrong: "It is impossible to win the Tour De France without doping." Its unfortunate that athletes think like this, but it is becoming the norm.

Hall Of Fame Running Back and Heisman Trophy Winner OJ Simpson was involved in perhaps the most famous car chase and murder trial of all time. He was found not guilty for the double murder of his ex-wife and her boyfriend, but is currently serving a prison sentence for essentially stealing back his own stuff from another person's house. Although he was fortunate enough to stay out of jail after the first time he was charged with a felony, he proceeded to commit another a decade later. In the case of Aaron Hernandez, people are not as optimistic about his future. The evidence is overwhelming and he is in serious danger. He is not being granted bail, he has been released by the Patriots, and not to mention, he has a wife and kid at home.

So, before you proclaim a famous athlete as your idol or role model, it is necessary to ask yourself a few questions:
     1. Does this athlete's life outside of sports reflect that of a responsible person?
     2. Are they going beyond ethical boundaries to compete at the highest level?
     3. Is this athlete leading a double life as a violent criminal?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

NBA Finals Preview: Game 6

Game 6 is tonight. The San Antonio Spurs travel to American Airlines Arena to face the Miami Heat tonight at 9:00 EDT on ABC.

Will this be the end of the big three? Will this validate the questions that critics have had about LeBron James since the 2007 Finals? Is this the game that will finally take LeBron James off his pedestal?

In short, no. The Miami Heat will win Game 6 of these NBA Finals for a number of reasons that do not have anything to do with the game, and a number of reasons that do.

First, the reasons that people have been throwing out for the past couple days that have nothing to do with the game:
     -The Spurs have to come back down to Earth sometime.
     -The series has gone back and forth each game.
     -The Miami Heat haven't lost back to back games since January.
     -The Miami Heat are the best team in the NBA.

None of those reasons will factor into tonight, because the playoffs are a game by game monster, and besides game 1, each game has been a must-win for the team that has won the game. All that matters tonight are the players and the coaches. When the Spurs lose this game, it will have nothing to do with the idea that what goes up must come down, because their shooters could very well hold up tonight and come down all next season. The up-and-down nature of the series' is purely a matter of who need's the game more, and tonight the Spurs need this game just as bad as the Heat, as many people do not believe they can win it in a Game 7 situation.The Heat's propensity to win games after a loss is countered by the fact that the Spurs are 14-2 in the last 10 years when given the opportunity to close out series' on the road. Calling the Heat the best team in the league is arguable at best, especially given Dwyane Wade's knee injury and Chris Bosh's soft play, and LeBron's recent fatigue issues.

The 6 biggest match-ups in tonight's game 6:

     Gregg Popovich vs. Erik Spoelstra:

Popovich is obviously the better and more experienced coach in this match-up, and he has 4 titles to his credit. However, Spoelstra has been in the title 3 years in a row, and he is no pushover. He called out his players on being exposed by one-on-one matchups with Parker and Ginobili in Game 5, and hopes to engineer a different outcome.

     LeBron James vs. LeBron James

I firmly believe that there has never been another athlete with as much potential and ability as LeBron. Nodody can convince me otherwise. However, if he can't help counter the Spur's scoring runs, his 25 point games will be meaningless. It is most important for him to take over the game when the Spurs are hot, because he cannot be stopped by anyone but himself. The Spurs went on at least two double digit runs last game. The Heat rebounded from the first, but were unable to recover after  a 75-74 deficit became a 87-75 Spurs lead in the 4th quarter.

     Tony Parker vs. Heat Defenders

This is the key. The Spurs run through Tony Parker. When the Heat outscored the Spurs by 18 points in the second half of game 4, Parker had 0 points and 3 assists. Preventing him from getting to the basket and distributing the basketball is preventing the Spurs from winning the game.

     Heat Shooters vs. Spurs New Big Three

Danny Green, Gary Neal, and Kawhi Leonard make up what I would like to refer to as the new big three. All three of these guys have the ability to score 20 or more points in a game, and if any of them do that tonight, the Heat are in trouble. On the Contrary, the role players on the Heat have the ability to score some big time points as well. Ray Allen is arguably the greatest shooter in NBA History, Mike Miller had 7 three's in the closeout game last year, and of course "The Chalmers Game" where D-Wade had these praises for his point guard afterwards.

     Pain vs. Gain

No pain, no gain is what I have always learned. Dwyane Wade looks like he is in extreme pain every time he over exerts himself on a play, constantly grimacing, or coming off the court to get massaged, or even going back into the locker room every once in a while. For the past two games, he has been able to overcome the pain and produce the way he has for the past 10 years. However, its hard to believe that he will be able to keep this up with little rest.

     Tim Duncan vs. Chris Bosh

The bigs have not been at the forefront of this series, but they very well could play a huge part in tonight's game. Chris Bosh has had a double double in each of the Heat's wins, while only having 1 in the 3 losses. The same goes for Duncan: he has played much better in their wins. Chris Andersen has not played in the last two games, which may have to change tonight because the Heat are consistently having match-up issues inside and out. I expect Bosh to see some time at power forward tonight, where he likes to step out and shoot three pointers. If he does, do not be surprised if the Veboshiraptor reappears, as it took him 65 million years to win his first NBA title and he is ready for another one.

P.S. Always expect a Hard Day's Night against the Heatles.

Monday, June 3, 2013

LeBron's Legacy


LeBron's 4 MVP Awards

     The best player in the NBA has been dominating the league since he was 18 years old. For 10 years, he has been the most dynamic player in the league averaging 27.6 points per game, along with 7.3 rebounds and 6.9 assists. Since entering the professional ranks, he has accomplished things that only him and Michael Jordan have been able to do over the course of their basketball careers. 4 Time MVP, Reigning NBA Champion, Reigning Finals MVP, 2 Time Reigning Olympic Gold Medalist, 9-Time All NBA Selection, NBA Scoring Champion, Father, Philanthropist, 6-8 250 lb, LeBron James.

Michael Jordan's Rings (Count Them Up)

     Despite all of this success, LeBron James continues to come under fire for one reason: Winning. As a child prodigy, James has been compared to Michael Jordan ever since he entered the NBA. To the old-timers, and to a certain degree the new generation, Michael Jordan is an untouchable figure. No matter what anyone does, there will still be those that believe he is far and away the greatest to ever touch the court. It is hard to argue with 6 rings and 5 MVP awards, but he has become somewhat of a Chuck Norris-Like figure in the eyes of his fan base. LeBron James is an outstanding player that is in a class of his own at this stage of his career, but he is playing in a different era than Jordan, and comparisons truly do not work well across those types of barriers. Bill Russell is the king of the 60s. Kareem in the 70s. Magic and Bird in the 80s. Jordan in the 90s. Kobe, Shaq, and Duncan shared the 2000s. This decade belongs to LeBron. It is his own, and should not be compared to any other player. As we all know, he has no regard for human life.

LeBron vs Paul George

     Tonight, the Miami Heat will face the Indiana Pacers in Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. Some would say this is critical juncture in the career of LeBron James, because a loss would forever taint his legacy. Soon after joining the Miami Heat, a now-infamous pep rally where LeBron James claims that he will win multiple championships, "Not 1, Not 2..." All the way through 7 championships is being cited by many sources. Now, it is being speculated that if the Heat lose tonight, there will be no big three next season, and LeBron will end up leaving the Heat with 1 title in 4 years. ESPN's DJ Steve Porter made this famous auto-tune mash-up to sum up his first season with the Heat. Last year, the critics were silenced, and nobody had anything bad to say about LeBron or the Heat. This season, during the regular season, the Heat won 66 games and went on a 41-1 tear that shocked the world. However, a couple injuries here, a couple bad plays there, and here they are, the same situation as last season: Game 7 at home in the Conference Finals. However, this time, they don't have the momentum. 

LeBron's latest SI Cover

My Prediction

A lot is being made of the fact that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, perennial all-stars and superstar talents, are averaging just over 25 ppg combined during his series vs the Pacers. With the Birdman back to challenge Roy Hibbert in the middle, Wade and Bosh will provide a boost, 35 points combined between the 2 of them. LeBron will do his thing as usual, something around 30 points. The X-Factor will be the role players: Chalmers, Allen, Cole, Haslem, and Battier/Miller. At least 2 of these players will have to score in double figures, because as we have seen, when Haslem is making his jump shot, or Allen is hot from 3-point range, or Cole and Chalmers are driving to the basket, this team is virtually unbeatable. Miami Heat win this win in a close game, despite heroic efforts from Paul George and Roy Hibbert, 100-93.

So the question stands. When it is all said and done, what will be LeBron's Legacy?