Monday, December 28, 2015

Peyton Manning and the HGH Saga

In a story first reported by an Al Jazeera undercover probe, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has been linked to human growth hormones, drugs that are illegal to use according to NFL rules. Manning reportedly received the human growth hormones through the mail in 2011 in the name of his wife, Ashley, to avoid having his name tied up with the shipments. The entirety of the report stems from a man named Charlie Sly, a former intern at the Guyer Institute in Indianapolis whose story continues to change. Since the story first broke, Sly claimed that he was not present at the company in 2011, as the report originally stated, but Al Jazeera released a video proving that Sly did in fact work there in 2011. Sly later recanted his story to Al Jazeera upon the realization that much of the information he had used was made up when talking with the undercover reporter.

As seen in the video below, Peyton Manning responded to these comments in an ESPN video, where his anger and frustration are almost palpable to the viewer. Meaning refers to Sly as "slapstick" numerous times, and uses strong words like "disgusted" when describing his views on this "false" report.

Yet the story can not be fully ruled out yet. While some ESPN analysts have been surprisingly quick to jump to Manning's defense, the NFL has announced they will investigate the Manning controversy: "We are reviewing the matter," said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy. "Our procedure is to follow up on any information that potentially involves a violation of this nature." It is not too egregious to argue that Manning may have in fact used performance enhancers, since at the time in 2011, Manning looked to bounce back from a neck injury that caused him to miss the entire 2011 season. Coincidentally, the quarterback managed to have his best statistical season of his career just two years later, causing skeptics online to argue that this type of drastic turnaround must have been assisted by HGH.
So did Peyton Manning utilize human growth hormones in an effort to bounce back from injury? As we learned with the Tom Brady and the Deflategate saga, it is important to be open-minded until more information is released rather than jump to rash conclusions. Right now, all we can do is wait.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

NFL Power Rankings: Week 16

1. Carolina Panthers: Running back Jonathan Stewart may have been missing last week, but Cam Newton and the Panthers offense still managed to score 38 points in a win over the Giants. In two of the past three games, the Panthers defense has allowed 35 points or more, where even though Carolina's perfect season is alive and well, there are certain signs of the locomotive slowing down as the playoffs approach.

2. New England Patriots: One by one, Patriots stars are returning from the injuries they sustained earlier in the year, including Rob Gronkowski, Dont'a Hightower, and Jamie Collins. As seen with last week's game when both Chung and McCourty were sidelined, the most important thing for this Pats team is to remain the top seed while staying healthy. The addition of Steven Jackson will certainly help New England's nonexistent run game this season.
3. Arizona Cardinals: The loss of free safety Tyrann Mathieu to a torn ACL will be an incredibly costly injury to one of the best secondaries in football, but with Bruce Arians as the head coach, the Cardinals are still very much in contention. At the age of 35, Carson Palmer is having the best statistical season of his career (4,277 yards, 32 touchdowns, 106.7 passer rating), and he has a shot at amending his horrible playoff record (0-2 with a 66.5 passer rating in the postseason).

4. Seattle Seahawks: In one of the strangest turn of events, the Seattle Seahawks are 5-0 ever since Marshawn Lynch sustained an injury against the Cardinals. Quarterback Russell Wilson has caught fire over the last several weeks, especially when throwing the ball to receiver Doug Baldwin. Seattle has a chance to regain their pride within the NFC West with a win over the Cardinals in Week 17.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers: When quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, the Pittsburgh Steelers are a legitimate threat to dethrone the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Receiver Antonio Brown is basically unstoppable, especially with his eye-popping stat line against the top ranked Broncos secondary last week (16 receptions, 189 yards, 2 scores). Many would have expected the MCL injury to Le'Veon Bell would have derailed the Steelers offense, but back up running back DeAngelo Williams has done a great job temporarily replacing the young star.
6. Kansas City Chiefs: The Kansas City Chiefs have won their last 8 games and are likely the hottest team in all of football. With wins against the Steelers and Broncos, the success of Kansas City's football team has not been hindered by the loss of running back Jamaal Charles for the season. Defensively, safety Eric Berry earned Pro Bowl honors for the first time since being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, with two of KC's linebackers making the Pro Bowl as well (Tamba Hall and Justin Houston). The Chiefs could pull off the impossible and make the playoffs after a 1-5 start.

7. Green Bay Packers: After losing four of five games during the middle of the year, the Packers have started to return to their winning ways with a three game win streak. The loss of receiver Jordy Nelson at the start of the year had a larger impact on this team than many people expected, as it shows the lack of depth at the receiver position. With teams focusing most of their efforts on Randall Cobb, and Eddie Lacy struggling to return to last year's form, the Packers offense is just not the same as it once was.

8. Denver Broncos: Brock Osweiler is 3-2 in games when starting this season, but by losing the past two games, the Broncos are currently on track for the third seed in the postseason. Over the past two years, the Broncos are 7-0 when running back CJ Anderson rushes for 85 yards or more, so establishing the run against teams like Cincy will be key for this offense moving forward.

9. Cincinnati Bengals: While AJ McCarron may have been able to win the first start of his career, the entire success of the Bengals hinges upon Andy Dalton's health come playoff time. Cincinnati has a tough game against the Denver Broncos next week, where a win would put Cincy on track for a first round bye in the postseason. Yet with Dalton missing from the lineup, this sort of outcome is unlikely.

10. New York Jets: Now that cornerback Darrelle Revis has returned from the concussion he sustained back in November, the Jets have a legitimate shot at earning a spot in the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Jets do not control their own destiny, as they must win their next two games and hope for at least one loss by the Chiefs, Steelers, or Broncos. This week, the Jets are home against the injury-plagued Patriots, so it would be unwise to count out New York just yet.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Will the Carolina Panthers Go Undefeated?

While the Carolina Panthers may have been able to defeat the Giants this past weekend to move to 14-0, the win did not come easily. Eli Manning and the Giants led a four-touchdown comeback, with their last score being a pass to Odell Beckham Jr. with 1:46 left in the game. So maybe Carolina's defense was not able to close out the game, but Cam Newton ultimately marched 49 yards in 8 plays to set up Graham Gano's game winning field goal. With two games left in the regular season, the Panthers only need to beat the Falcons on the road next week and then the Buccaneers at home in Week 17 for an undefeated regular season. So let's take a look at these next two games, as well as any potential playoff teams capable of handing the Panthers their first loss of the season.

Falcons: At this point in the season, the Falcons must win their final two games just to have a chance at a spot in the playoffs. Unfortunately for Falcons fans, Atlanta has lost their last five games against the Panthers over the course of three different seasons, where their most recent matchup resulted in a 38-0 loss for the Falcons just two weeks ago. Even though the Panthers defense allowed 38 points to the Saints the week before, and 35 points to the Giants a week later, this defense managed to play to its full potential against the Falcons. Next week's key matchup will be Panthers cornerback Josh Norman versus star wide receiver Julio Jones, where in their last matchup against one another, Julio Jones caught seven passes for 88 yards but no touchdowns. In two of the last three games where teams have been able to score a lot of points against the Panthers, the offenses were able to get over the top of the Panthers secondary for a couple of big plays. The Falcons just don't seem like they have it in them, so I predict another win for the Panthers next week.
Prediction: Panthers over Falcons
Record: 15-0 

Buccaneers: Now that the Bucs have no chance of making the playoffs, Tampa Bay gains nothing from beating the Panthers in the last game of the season other than a sense of pride; in fact, it would be more advantageous for Tampa to intentionally lose this game in an effort to gain a better position in the draft. If Tampa loses another game, it's likely that they would sneak into the top 10 of the 2016 NFL Draft. Had this game taken place several weeks earlier when Jameis Winston became more comfortable in the pocket, Mike Evans had returned to full health, and Doug Martin emerged as Pro Bowl caliber running back once again, the Bucs had a legitimate shot at giving the Panthers their first loss. More importantly, deep threats Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson would give the Panthers secondary fits all game. Yet since this is not the case, the Panthers will become the third team in the Super Bowl era to by undefeated by the end of the regular season.
Prediction: Panthers over Buccaneers
Record: 16-0

Seahawks: With the Seahawks basically locked in as the fifth seed in the playoffs, a weak NFC East team as the fourth seed, and a likely win by the third seeded Packers in the first round of the playoffs, a Seahawks-Panthers matchup is almost inevitable. Sure, there are a lot of assumptions that must be made to get to this point, but the odds are in favor of this rematch from last year's Divisional Round taking place once more. Even with running backs Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls injured, the Seahawks are one of the hottest teams in football, with quarterback Russell Wilson throwing for 19 touchdowns and no picks in his last 5 games. The Seahawks secondary is good enough to slow down the Panthers offense as they did last year in the playoffs, but the Seahawks are also very talented when it comes to throwing the deep ball (Wilson is 13 of 15 with a passer rating of 125.6 when on passes 31 yards or longer). Lastly, Lynch is expected to make his return come playoff time, so don't be shocked when the Seahawks defeat the Panthers in the Divisional Round for the second year in a row.
Prediction: Seahawks over Panthers
Record: 16-1

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Midseason NFL Playoff Seeding Predictions

AFC Playoff Seeding

1. New England Patriots (15-1): Injuries to players like Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, and Nate Solder have been unable to derail this offensive locomotive, but as they continuously stack up, it will be interesting to see if the perfect record remains.

2. Cincinnati Bengals (12-4): The Bengals have always been known to start well in September and October, but with consecutive losses over the past two weeks, the number one overall seed in the AFC seems unlikely.
3. Denver Broncos (11-5): The quarterback situation is difficult to figure out, but I simply don't see the Broncos making it past the first round of the playoffs despite a great defense.

4. Indianapolis Colts (8-8): The AFC South is the softest division in football, and once Andrew Luck is able to return from injury, the Colts will be a solid bet to win the division.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6): A healthy Big Ben will make this team dangerous by the end of the season, even though star running back Le'Veon Bell is injured.

6. Buffalo Bills (10-6): The Bills have an easy schedule to end the year, and talent on either side of the ball will make them a solid playoff contender.

NFC Playoff Seeding

1. Carolina Panthers (14-2): The undefeated Panthers are certainly clicking on both sides of the ball, where Luke Kuechly is making a strong case for Defensive Player of the Year. Cam Newton is earning MVP buzz, even with Kelvin Benjamin out for the year.

2. Green Bay Packers (12-4): The Packers have cooled off  substantially since their 6-0 start to the season, where the injury to receiver Jordy Nelson is finally starting to catch up with this dynamic offense. Running back Eddie Lacy will need to return to last season's form in order to take some pressure off of the reigning MVP.
3. Arizona Cardinals (11-5): Carson Palmer is sneaking his way into the MVP discussion thanks to his impressive statistics (3,066 yards, 27 TD's, 9 INT's) and 8-2 overall record. The Cardinals must hope that Palmer remains healthy in order to prevent last year's collapse from happening again.

4. New York Giants (10-6): With the Redskins, Cowboys, and Eagles all playing poorly, the Giants are pretty close to locking down an NFC East title. As long as the Giants are in the playoffs, you can never count out Eli Manning and the Giants.

5. Seattle Seahawks (10-6): A rough start to the season and an injured "Beast Mode" has left the Seahawks out of the discussion for a first round bye in the postseason. With the abundance of talent on this roster, expect the Seahawks to turn it around late in the season.

6. Minnesota Vikings (9-7): With Adrian Peterson leading the league in rushing yards (1,006 yards), less pressure is placed on Teddy Bridgewater to make plays, as seen last season. Their schedule is not easy, per se, but they should be able to make the playoffs.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Top 50 Rivalries in American Sports History (Full)

Honorable Mentions: Texas-Texas A&M, Philadelphia Phillies-New York Mets, Clemson-South Carolina, Florida-Florida State, New Jersey Devils-New York Rangers, Michael Jordan-Dominique Wilkins, Michigan-Michigan State, Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa

50. Ravens-Steelers (Pro Football): At one point the hottest rivalry in all of football, Baltimore and Pittsburgh have fought viciously every single time they meet on the field, seeing how both teams were defined by their hard-hitting, bone-crushing defense. The two teams both play in the AFC North, which  means they are required to play at least twice a year, yet we have seen these teams play in the postseason three times. The Ravens were a very young franchise when this rivalry began, but thanks to big names like Ray Lewis, James Harrison, Ed Reed, and Troy Polamalu, the Ravens-Steelers rivalry was always fun to watch.
49. Yankees-Mets (Pro Baseball): The Subway Series was formed when the MLB created inter-league play in 1997, and the tension between these two teams quickly carried over to the fanbases due to the fact that both stadiums are in New York. The rivalry gained a lot of notoriety, starting with Roger Clemens hitting Mike Piazza in the head with a fastball, which then put Piazza on the disabled list with a concussion. The two players faced each other yet again in the 2000 World Series, when a piece of Piazza's shattered bat nearly hit Clemens on the mound. When Clemens threw the bat at the baseline, both benches cleared, and the play quickly became the pinnacle of this rivalry. The Yankees went on to win the game, as well as the World Series.

48. Harvard-Yale (College Football): Seeing how these two schools are known for their academic prestige, it is surprising that the two football teams have one of the more passionate rivalries in all of college football. With the first game played in 1875, Harvard and Yale have battled it out on the football field 130 times over the years, having been deemed "The Game". The Harvard-Yale rivalry has been full of pranks between either side, including the kidnapping of the Yale bulldog mascot, and Harvard students giving fake tours of the Yale campus. While neither school is able to recruit the elite athletes from around the country, the Harvard-Yale rivalry still manages to attract huge crowds each year.

47. Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding: Many would not associate figure skating with incredibly heated rivalries, but the Kerrigan-Harding duo drew a lot of publicity towards the sport when Harding's husband hired a man to injure Kerrigan before the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championship. Eventually, Harding was forced to plead guilty, leading to her being stripped of her title and suspension for life from the USFA as a skater and coach. The two skaters will forever be associated with one another.

46. Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson (Boxing): Having beaten the heavily favored Mike Tyson in the first meeting, Evander Holyfield stepped into the arena for his second fight against Mike, unknowing of the strange twist that lay ahead. During the third round, Mike bit off part of Holyfield's ear during a clinch, and followed this mind-boggling decision by biting Holyfield's left ear later in the same round. Tyson ended up being disqualified, creating one of the stranger rivalries in all of sports.

45. Larry Bird-Dr. J (Pro Basketball): Larry Bird may have a serious reputation for his trash talking on the court, but the Celtics legend was certainly able to back it up. In a November game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Bird had outscored Philly's Dr. J 42 to 6, and supposedly, Bird continuously reminded Julius Erving with each shot that he made. Eventually the two players got into a shoving match, and both teams stormed onto the court in order to break up the fight. When it was all said and done, Bird and Dr. J were both fined $7,500 for their actions. Seeing how the Celtics had already come back to beat the 76ers in the 1981 Eastern Conference Finals, the fight between Bird and Erving shows that there was still tension between these two players.

44. Cubs-White Sox (Pro Baseball): A common pattern that we will see with many of the rivalries on this list is two teams that are based within the same city. The Cubs-White Sox rivalry, known by many nicknames, started in 1906 when the two teams played in the World Series. A notable moment from this rivalry started when White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski ran into Cubs catcher Michael Barrett, and as Pierzynski looked to return to his dugout, Barrett stood in his way, and eventually, Barrett threw a punch. The benches cleared, and Barrett was suspended for 10 games.

43. Knicks-Heat (Pro Basketball): When two teams meet each other in the playoffs for four straight seasons, a sense of bitterness is bound to develop between the two franchises. At one point in time, the Heat and Knicks were in the same division, so playing each other in the postseason four straight times certainly presented an opportunity for revenge. The first time the Heat and Knicks played in the playoffs, Miami coach Pat Riley supposedly asked P.J. Brown to start a fight in the hopes that several Knicks players will be suspended; Brown was successful, where Patrick Ewing, Allan Houston, Larry Johnson and John Starks were all suspended for one game. The Heat went on to win the series in 7 games. More fights took place between Miami and New York within the next three years, as well as buzzer-beaters, controversial calls, and many, many upsets. The rivalry is not quite the same now that the two teams are in different divisions, but the Knicks-Heat rivalry is one of the best in NBA history.

42. Shaq-Kobe (Pro Basketball): While these two superstars managed to win three consecutive titles while playing for the Lakers, Shaq and Kobe were unable to maintain their relationship, eventually resulting in a trade that sent Shaq to Miami. Despite their success together on the court, Shaq was once quoted as saying, "I have something to say. I think Kobe is playing too selfishly for us to win," yet clearly this was not the main reason behind Shaq's disappointment. The Lakers were winning games at the time, and Kobe began to gain a lot more attention due to his spectacular play, causing Shaq to ask for a trade in 2000 following a blowout win. Eventually, the two were split up, and although both players managed to win championships apart from one another, fans can't help but wonder what could have been if the two players had stayed together.

41. Penguins-Flyers: The Penguins-Flyers matchup is one of the more current rivalries on this list, as both teams have been very legitimate title contenders over the past few years. Having met each other in three of the past six Stanley Cup Playoffs, the in-state rivals clearly do not like one another, as seen with the many fights that take place on the ice. Some of the more memorable moments of this rivalry include a five-overtime game back in the 2000 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, as well as Pittsburgh's 43 game winless streak on the road against Philadelphia.

40. Yankees-Dodgers (Pro Baseball): Before the Dodgers franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1958, the Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers shared a city with one another, but also played each other 7 times in the World Series before 1958. Once the Dodgers left Brooklyn, the two teams represented the two largest cities from the East and West Coast. Following 1958, the Dodgers and Yankees went on to play each other in the World Series 4 more times, raising the total to 11. There have been some incredible moments from this rivalry, including Jackie Robinson stealing home, Don Larsen's perfect game, and Reggie Jackson's three home run game. Although the Yankees-Dodgers rivalry is less prevalent today, the great moments from the past makes this one of the best rivalries in baseball.

39. Michael Jordan vs. Pistons (Pro Basketball): Having been knocked out of the NBA Playoffs by the Detroit Pistons for three straight seasons, Michael Jordan clearly wanted revenge against the "Bad Boys" of Detroit. The Pistons had implemented a plan called "Jordan Rules", a game plan that focuses all of their defensive efforts on MJ. The Pistons were hated by NBA fans due to their physical defense and cocky attitude, so it came as no surprise that MJ did his best to get past the Pistons in the 1991 Playoffs, leading to Chicago's first NBA title. There was also tension between Jordan and Isiah Thomas, starting with Thomas convincing other plays at the All Star Game not to pass Jordan the ball. It is rumored that Thomas was not added to the 1992 "Dream Team" because Jordan and Pippen refused to play with him.

38. Missouri-Kansas (College Football): Rarely does a college football rivalry have roots in the Civil War, but the Missouri-Kansas football rivalry is unique in that sense. During the Civil War, Missouri attempted to influence Kansas into joining the Union as a Slave State, leading to constant fighting between citizens of either state. Once this football rivalry began, Civil War veterans from Kansas and Missouri would watch the game on opposite sides of the field, reminiscent of a Civil War battlefield. The two teams have played 120 times, the second most in Division-I college football, where the most important contest came in 2007 when Missouri was ranked 2nd in the nation, while Missouri ranked 3rd. The rivalry has since been broken up, now that Missouri has left for the SEC.

37. Grambling State-Southern (College Football): On the final Saturday of November, one can watch the Bayou Classic, a contest between two little-known schools in Louisiana. Despite the small size of both schools, this rivalry produces plenty of passion among the fans. The Bayou Classic is the only Division-I subdivision game to be broadcasted on television, and the game is traditionally played in the New Orleans Saints' Superdome. A great tradition that has been created is the Battle of the Bands, where the marching bands from either school present elaborate performances the Friday night before the game, and also during halftime. Taking into account the size of either school, one can't help but be amazed by the incredible amount of passion in this rivalry.

36. Raiders-Steelers (Pro Football): Before the "Steel Curtain" won 4 Super Bowls in 6 years, the most famous play in football history took place between Pittsburgh and Oakland. With the Steelers down by one point with under 30 seconds left in this divisional playoff game, Terry Bradshaw threw a pass to his receiver John Fuqua, but Fuqua was hit right before catching the ball, and the ball flew backwards into the hands of Franco Harris. Harris ran the ball into the endzone fore the game-winning touchdown. This play has generated plenty of controversy, where some skeptics--mostly Oakland's fans and former players--believe the ball hit the ground before Harris caught the ball. Some also believe that the ball only hit Fuqua on the play, which would make Harris' catch illegal due to an NFL rule. Including this first matchup, Pittsburgh played Oakland in the playoffs five consecutive times, where the winner of three of these games went on to win the Super Bowl. Raiders fans are still angry over the Immaculate Reception to this day.

35. Florida State-Miami (College Football): This college football rivalry is defined by mistakes. Starting in 1987, Florida State missed an opportunity to beat Miami as they looked to convert on an extra point that would have guaranteed a victory; instead, the pass attempt was broken up, and Miami went on to win the National Championship. In '91, '92, '00, '02, and '04, Miami was able to beat Florida State every time thanks to missed field goals by FSU late in the game, one of which decided the Orange Bowl, while another created controversy when FSU was picked to play for the National Championship over Miami despite Florida State's loss to the U. Eventually, Florida State caught a break when Miami lost a game due to a muffed snap on a potentially game-tying field goal with 2:16 left. The last great game took place in 2009, when FSU marched down the field with 1:43 left in the game and down 38-34. Even though the ball was placed on the 2 yard line with a fresh set of downs and 17 seconds left, FSU was unable to score, further proving FSU's inability to close out a game against Miami.

34. Richard Petty-David Pearson (Auto Racing): Widely considered to be the best rivalry in NASCAR history, Richard Petty and David Pearson always seemed to have captured the first and second place finishes when competing in the same race. When it was all said and done, Pearson and Petty accounted for 63 first/second place finishes, the most of any duo in NASCAR history. In the 1976 Daytona 500, the two created one of the more interesting final laps in racing history. One-hundred feet from the finish line, the two cars crashed, thus spinning into the infield grass. Petty was unable to start his car, so Pearson slowly drove his car across the finish line for the victory.The immense amount of respect the two drivers showed for one another made Petty and Pearson try their hardest each and every race, creating so many memorable moments on the track.

33. War Admiral-Seabiscuit (Horse Racing): These two race horses come from very different backgrounds, yet their rivalry is one of the best in all of horse racing. War Admiral won the Triple Crown in 1937, thus earning him the American Horse of the Year Award. In 1938, the two horses were scheduled to race in a match, deemed the "Match of the Century." While War Admiral was the clear favorite, Seabiscuit managed to win by four lengths while 40 million people listened over the radio. The rivalry has spawned a best-selling book, and a popular film distributed by Universal Films, proving the influence that the Seabiscuit-War Admiral rivalry still has to this day.
32. Red Wings-Blackhawks (Pro Hockey): Out of all the teams in the NHL, no two teams have played more regular season games against each other than the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks. As two of the Original Six teams in hockey, the Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry has seen some interesting moments since their first game in 1926. From 1989 to 1996, one could count on a fight between Stu Grimson and Bob Probert, two well-known rivals who had both played for either team. Just recently, the Blackhawks were down 3-1 in the 2013 NHL Playoffs, but managed to win three straight games to win the series, and eventually, the Stanley Cup. The rivalry is bound to change now that Detroit is in a different conference from Chicago, but the amount of great history in this rivalry makes it one of the best in hockey.

31. Chiefs-Raiders (Pro Football): From roughly 1966 to 1975, the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs clashed against one another as the two superpowers in the AFL. The Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs exchanged blows throughout the years as they looked to win the AFL Western Division--later known as the AFC West--where either the Raiders or Chiefs won the division for 11 straight seasons. With 3 AFL Championships between the two teams in that 11 year span, as well as one Super Bowl victory obtained by the Kansas City Chiefs, the rivalry became one of the most heated in sports history.

30. Cowboys-49ers (Pro Football): After losing three years in a row to the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs during the 70's, the San Francisco 49ers managed to get revenge against "America's Team" in one of the best games in NFL history. The 70s was clearly a decade dominated by the Cowboys, but in the waning seconds of the 1981 NFC Championship Game, Joe Montana threw pass while backpedaling away from two Dallas defenders, and although it seemed that the ball would sail past the end zone, Dwight Clark jumped into the air for the touchdown, thus ending the reign of Dallas. The clash of two dynasties is clearly defined by this iconic play, quite possibly the best in football history.

29. Florida-Georgia (College Football): Deemed the "World's Largest Cocktail Party", these two bordering states use college football as a way to settle their differences. There have been many great moments from this rivalry, where the most memorable came in 1980. With Georgia's perfect season on the line, and down by one point on their own 7 yard line, quarterback Buck Belue threw a 25-yard pass to Lindsay Scott who ran 93 yards for the game winning touchdown (Georgia went on to win the National Championship). Then, in 2007, Georgia looked to defeat Tim Tebow and the Gators by intimidating them early with the "Gator Stomp", a tactic that took place after Georgia's first touchdown, where the entire team stormed the field to celebrate. Clearly the rivalry is big enough to sell out the Jacksonville Jaguars' stadium each and every year, the location where the game is played.

28. Sampras-Agassi (Pro Tennis): Having first played each other as junior tennis players, Agassi and Sampras had a competitive rivalry lasting from 1989 to 2002. The two first met each other in a Grand Slam Final in 1990, when Sampras upset Agassi in straight sets. While the rivalry remained close in the first few years, Sampras began consistently beating Agassi following the 1995 US Open. It has been reported that Sampras and Agassi are still struggling to mend fences even after they retired from the sport.

27. UConn-Tennessee (Women's College Basketball): Unlike most rivalries in sports, the UConn-Tennessee rivalry is more about the two coaches rather than the players on the court. Pat Summitt of Tennessee has the most wins as a coach in NCAA Division I college basketball, male or female. Meanwhile, Geno Auriemma of UConn has yet to lose in the National Championship Game, as he has won the most championships in Women's college basketball history--one more than Summitt. With the two schools being the two best women's college basketball institutions, a rivalry has been formed against the two universities. With UConn beating Tennessee four times in the National Championship four times, Geno has once called Tennessee the "evil empire" so clearly there is tension between these two incredible coaches.

26. Nebraska-Oklahoma (College Football): Although both teams were in the Big 12 Conference following its creation in 1996, the rivalry between Nebraska and Oklahoma was most heated when the two teams competed in the Big Eight Conference before 1996. The most notable game came in 1971, when the defending champion, top ranked Cornhuskers entered with a 20-game win streak, as they played second ranked Oklahoma. Nebraska went on to win the game thanks to a game-winning touchdown with 1:38 left to play. Oklahoma has given Nebraska their only loss in a season five times, while Nebraska has done the same to Oklahoma twice. The rivalry may be over now that Nebraska left for the Big Ten, but Oklahoma fans were clearly not happy when an assistant at Oklahoma, Bo Pelini, left for the head coaching job at Nebraska.

25. Affirmed-Alydar (Horse Racing): By far the best rivalry in all of horse racing, Affirmed and Alydar raced 10 times during their careers, including three epic duels during Affirmed's quest for the Triple Crown. In the 1978 Kentucky Derby, Alydar entered as the favorite, yet Affirmed managed to edge him out by one-and-a-half lengths. In the next Triple Crown race, the Preakness, Affirmed held off Alydar for the majority of the race, as he earned the second jewel of the Triple Crown with a time of 1:54. The final jewel of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, was by far the best race of this rivalry. At close to the mile marker, Alydar drew even with Affirmed, and from there, the two horses raced in one of the greatest duels in history. Affirmed won the race by a head, thus capturing the Triple Crown, and capping off an incredible season against his arch-nemisis.

24. Louisville-Kentucky (College Basketball): Since Kentucky and Louisville played in the 1983 National Championship, the two teams have played every year in the Battle for the Bluegrass. The rivalry reached its peak when Rick Pitino, the head coach who won Kentucky a National Championship in 1996, left to coach for Louisville in 2001. Having played six times in the NCAA Tournament, twice within the past three years, a lot is normally on the line when these two teams play.

23. Redskins-Cowboys (Pro Football): Since 1961, the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys have played twice in the regular season each and every year, creating a heated competition between these two teams for the NFC East title. In fact, in 1961, the Cowboys tried to sneak 76 chickens onto the Redskins' field at halftime, with one black chicken meant to symbolize Redskins' owner George Preston Marshall and his refusal to sign black players (the prank failed by the way). The two teams met in the playoffs twice, both in the NFC Championship Game, and Washington won the two games by a combined score of 57-20. The Cowboys have the second best win percentage in NFL history, so when these teams play, there are almost always playoff implications for at least one team, thus creating many memorable moments in the regular season.

22. Brady-Manning (Pro Football): Ever since Tom Brady replaced Drew Bledsoe as the starting quarterback of the Patriots in 2001, there has been a competitive rivalry between the two quarterbacks. Between the two of them, Manning and Brady have won four Super Bowls, 22 Pro-Bowls, and 7 MVPs awards. With 15 meetings over the past 14 seasons, fans love to tune in to watch two of the greatest quarterbacks in football battle it out. Neither quarterback looks to retire anytime soon, so we are sure to see many more memorable moments in the near future. This type of quarterback rivalry may never be duplicated again.
21. Martina Navratilova-Chris Evert (Women's Pro Tennis): Navratilova and Evert faced each other an astounding 14 times in grand-slam finals, which made for one of the greatest rivalries in the sport of tennis.  Martina ended up getting the better of Evert 10 times, which has given her the title of greatest female tennis player of all time; however, Evert was pesky, and her four wins were all spread out throughout Navratilova's reign. Evert actually completed the career grand slam by winning the US Open, French Open, Australian Open, and Wimbledon before Navratilova, and at the time was the sixth woman ever to accomplish that fete (Navratilova completed the career grand slam the very next year in 1983). They have each won 18 grand-slam singles tournaments, which is tied for 4th all-time among women, and therefore each achieved incredible success throughout their respective careers despite their intense rivalry with one another.

20. Wilt Chamberlain-Bill Russell: An extension of both the Celtics-76ers rivalry and the Celtics-Lakers rivalry, Chamberlain vs. Russell was such an influential rivalry not just because it involved two NBA greats on rival teams, but also because these two players happened to play the same position, which is an oddity when it comes to legendary NBA rivalries. In the 17 combined years that Chamberlain and Russell were in the NBA, from 1956 (when Russell was a rookie) to 1973 (when Chamberlain retired), they had a combined 9 MVP’s (5 for Russell and 4 for Chamberlain) and 13 rings (11 for Russell and 2 for Chamberlain). Chamberlain and Russell truly dominated the NBA for nearly twenty years, so it is natural that their rivalry is considered one of the best in sports history.

19. Notre Dame-USC: Even though these two schools have very different backgrounds and traditions, the battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh is considered to be one of the best in college sports. Notre Dame and USC have combined for the most National Championships (22), Heisman Trophy winners (14), All-Americans, and Hall of Famers in the NFL of any two teams in a college football rivalry. Also, five of the top ten most watched games in college football are from this rivalry. One of the more notable games came in 2005, when USC was stopped at the goal when the clock struck zero; however, more time was put on the clock, and when Leinart attempted a quarterback sneak to win the game, running back Reggie Bush pushed in Leinart for the touchdown, adding fuel to this rivalry.

18. Nicklaus-Palmer: Quite clearly the greatest rivalry in golf history, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer are two of golf's biggest stars, so everyone made sure to tune in to watch these two legends battle it out on the course. Nicklaus is widely considered to be the best golfer in history, but Arnold Palmer provided some competition. This rivalry started at the 1962 U.S. Open, when Nicklaus overcame a three shot deficit to force a 18-hole playoff on Sunday, which Nicklaus eventually won. Five times, Nicklaus and Palmer finished first and second at the end of a major, and during a five year stretch, the two golfers were the only two champions at the Masters. The impact that these two golfers have had on the sport has shaped golf into what we know and love today.

17. Syracuse-Georgetown: Remember when the Big East was the most competitive and intense conference in all of college basketball… those were the days. Now, Syracuse has moved on to the ACC and Georgetown is just a shell of their former self. Though their recent games have still been fairly competitive and intense competitions, the real golden age of this rivalry was back in the 1980’s, when Patrick Ewing and Georgetown went up against Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse team in several heated contests. Perhaps the most memorable game between these two was when Syracuse’s Pearl Washington nailed a game winning jumper with just eight seconds left to give Syracuse a 65-63 win over Georgetown, who were ranked first in the nation. The game was not to pass by without a bit of controversy, though, as Georgetown’s players were pulled off the court following an incident where an orange was thrown at the backboard during one of Patrick Ewing’s free throws.

16. Giants-Eagles: With these two teams both battling for the NFC East title each and every year, surely tensions will be high when the Philadelphia Eagles play the New York Giants. Out of this rivalry have come several incredible moments, such as the Miracle at the Meadowlands, and the Miracle at the Meadowlands, Part II (feat. DeSean Jackson). Although many people believe this is the greatest rivalry in the NFL, it does not quite match up with another classic matchup further on down the list.

15. Cubs-Cardinals: The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals are some of baseball's biggest franchises, seeing how the Cubs rank second in all-time wins, while the Cardinals ranks fourth. While the Cubs have managed to record an incredible amount of wins, a World Series title has eluded them since 1908, unlike the Cardinals, who have won 11 titles in that same span. The two mid-west teams have had some incredible moments, including Ryne Sandberg's home run in 1984, and the greatest home run race of all time between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Considering how close the stadiums are to one another, fans are able to travel to either stadium to cheer on their teams, creating an atmosphere unlike any other in baseball.

14. Cal-Stanford: "The Big Game", a rivalry between California and Stanford, is the best college rivalry you will see on the West Coast, as it was first played 122 years ago. While the concluding play at this past year's Iron Bowl may give "The Play" a run for its money, many consider what took place on the field in 1986 to be the most remarkable moment in college football history. With four seconds left on the clock, Cal had one last attempt to win by scoring on a kick return. The ball was lateraled five times by four different players, when finally, Cal's Kevin Moell ran the ball into the endzone, having to run over one of Stanford's trombone players in the process. Stanford's band ran on the field prematurely, creating a chaos on the field that has yet to be replicated in sports.

13. Bruins-Canadiens: Being two of the Original Six, this rivalry is one of the longest lasting in hockey history. Although the Canadiens dominated during the early years, the series has become much more competitive as of late. The two teams have played against each other in the postseason 34 times, where seven of those series resulted in Game 7s (both of which are the highest totals between any two teams in hockey). In fact, Boston and Montreal met in this past postseason, where Montreal was able to fend off the Bruins in a seven game series, surely adding fuel to an already fiery rivalry.
12. Magic Johnson-Larry Bird: From 1980 to 1988, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson combined for 8 out of a possible 9 championships, where either the Celtics or Lakers were competing in the NBA Finals for 10 consecutive seasons. This rivalry started in college, when Bird’s Indiana State lost to Johnson’s Michigan State in the National Championship Game. From that point on, the two were forever linked to one another. The two player have combined for 8 NBA Finals Championships, 6 MVP awards, 24 All-Star Game appearances, and 18 All-NBA First Team honors. The Celtics-Lakers may be the greatest rivalry in all of basketball, but yet another incredible competition emerged out of this rivalry.

11. Packers-Bears: The first game between these two teams was all the way back in 1921, where the Chicago Bears were known as the Chicago Stanleys, and just 7,000 people were in attendance. With 22 league championships between them, the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers are certainly two storied franchises that have been evenly matched over the course of this rivalry (93-89-6 Bears).

10. Unites States-Soviet Union (International Hockey): A rivalry with roots in the Cold War, the United States hockey team at the 1980 Olympics was not supposed to beat the superior, more experienced Russians in the semi-finals. In what came to be known as the "Miracle on Ice", the United States hockey team, consisting of ammeter and college skaters, beat the Russians by a score of 4-3, as they went on to beat Finland for the gold medal. Russia and the United States had already spent years threatening one another during the Cold War, and the "Miracle on Ice" served as a metaphorical battlefield between these two superpowers.

9. Texas-Oklahoma (College Football): The Red River Rivalry is played in the Cotton Bowl Stadium, a neutral site where the seating is divided equally among Texas and Oklahoma fans. These two bordering states take their football very seriously, and the state schools are both one of college football's most esteemed programs. Texas and Oklahoma have combined for 11 National Championships since 1950. Since the two schools are both currently in the Big 12, a shot at the Big 12 Championship is almost always on the line as the two fight for the Golden Hat Trophy.
8. Dodgers-Giants (Pro Baseball): At the very beginning of this rivalry, both teams were based in the same state, yet a different one from California, where they play today. The Brooklyn Bridegrooms and New York Giants played against one another in the 1889 World Series, yet the rivalry seemed over once the Dodgers moved to the west coast in 1957; however, the Dodgers quickly managed to convince the Giants to move to California as well in order to continue the rivalry. The rivalry has created many fights between the two franchises, both on the field and off. In both 1965 and 1981, fights took place on the field involving the players. Yet recently, the two fanbases have have fought away from the baseball field, where on two occasions, fans were stabbed to death. The fact that this rivalry has led to fights on and off the field makes it one of the most bitter, hate-filled rivalry in sports.

7. Army-Navy (College Football): The Army-Navy rivalry has an incredible amount of tradition that has been created over the past 124 years, seeing how these teams first met in 1890. The inter-service rivalry is more than a football game, but rather, a competition between two inter-service schools whose student body consist of people looking to represent the country in the line of duty. Although Army and Navy rarely have winning records when the two teams play each other, the pageantry and passion seen in every meeting between the two institutions is worth watching once a year. The Army-Navy game is deemed “the most American game”, and rightfully so.

6. Duke-UNC (College Basketball): This in-state rivalry is indisputably the best rivalry in college basketball, seeing how the two schools are less than 20 miles away. UNC and Duke are both top schools in terms of the success of their basketball team, with 9 NCAA Tournament wins between the two. In fact, at least one school has been ranked in the AP Top 25 during the past 139 meetings, a streak that's lasted since 1960. Playing in the same conference has created many memorable games to choose from, whether it be Austin River’s buzzer beater to beat UNC on the road, or the game in 1979 when the score at halftime read 7-0 Duke. Coach K. and Ron Williams are two of the best coaches in the sport, so many more classic moments are sure to come in the future.

5. Ali-Frazier (Pro Boxing): These two boxers have met three times in history, and each fight managed to gain national publicity that has yet to be matched by any other boxing match. The first fight, deemed the "Fight of the Century", resulted in a Frazier win at Madison Square Garden, thus handing Ali the first loss of his career. The next two fights were won by Ali, a boxer known for his trash talk and catchy rhymes. The tensions of this rivalry heightened due to growing unrest taking place in America, such as the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War coming to a close.

4. Alabama-Auburn (College Football): This past Iron Bowl game between Alabama and Auburn might just be the best game in college football history, where a 109 yard return by cornerback Chris Davis for the score ended Alabama’s championship bid, thus propelling Auburn into the SEC championship. The state of Alabama is seemingly split down the middle when it comes to this rivalry, and as we know, the south certainly loves their football. Apart from the 2013 Iron Bowl, other memorable games have emerged from this rivalry, such as when quarterback Cam Newton overcame a 24-0 deficit to defeat Alabama by a final score of 28-27, as Auburn eventually went on to win the National Championship.

3. Celtics-Lakers (Pro Basketball): The greatest rivalry in NBA history is a remarkable one, considering that the teams play in different conferences, and thus find themselves playing each other fairly infrequently in the regular season. The postseason, however, has been a different story, as the two teams have been so dominant over the years that they have met a record twelve times in the NBA Finals. The golden age of this rivalry has to be the Larry Bird and Magic Johnson era, but it has also been rekindled in recent years, with the recent dominance of Kobe Bryant in L.A. and the big three in Boston. Though both teams are currently rebuilding, the contests remain heated and competitive in honor of the most legendary rivalry in professional basketball.
2. Red Sox-Yankees (Pro Baseball): This rivalry started when the Red Sox’s owner sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, ultimately starting the “Curse of the Bambino” once Boston was unable to win their sixth World Series. The rivalry reached its peak in 2004, when the Red Sox became the first team in MLB history to win a playoff series after losing the first three games. Following this dramatic series, the Red Sox snapped their 86-year skid, winning their sixth World Series. Violence between fans can be seen on occasion in this rivalry, and seeing how both teams are in the AL East, tensions are always high come September.

1. Ohio State-Michigan (College Football): And last but not least, we believe the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is the greatest rivalry in American sports history. Michigan has the most wins of any school in college football history, whereas Ohio State ranks third all-time in terms of win percentage; as a result, the competitive nature of both schools has formed a bitter rivalry between the neighboring state universities. After first playing each other in 1897, the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry reached its peak in a period known as the “Ten Year War”, when Michigan coach Bo Schembechler and Ohio State coach Woody Hayes competed against one another from the sidelines, starting with a Michigan upset over Ohio State in 1969, where OSU was ranked first overall at the time coming off of a National Championship. Flash-forward to 2014, where Ohio State coach Urban Meyer refuses to even say the word “Michigan”, instead referring to them as “that team up North.” There is a different kind of passion among college football fans compared to other American sports, and thanks to the many accomplishments by either school through the years, the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry has become the most passionate, competitive, and enthralling rivalry in all of sports.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

5 Guys That You Hate in Your Fantasy Football League

Mr. Auto Draft - Fantasy football is all about dedication and the least you can do to display your dedication is show up to the draft.  I don't want to hear excuses like "Oh, it's my anniversary," or "I have the SAT's tomorrow," because when you asked to be part of the league you signed your RSVP to the draft.  I hope you got Jeremy Maclin in the fourth round...

That Guy That Never Sets His Lineup - I'm asking for you to check your team for ten minutes a week - that's all it takes - but you stubbornly refuse to comply.  At some point it just becomes disrespectful; tighten up your tie, put your writing utensil of choice behind your ear, and show fantasy football the respect it deserves.

The Trade Spammer - No, I won't trade you A.J. Green for five different players you just picked up.  If I had wanted them, I would have picked them up myself.  The notification emails I constantly get from you are almost as annoying as the daily emails I get from because I bought my sister nail polish for her birthday.  Stop it!

The Guy Who Only Knows Players From His Favorite Team - Bro, it's embarrassing... you just dropped Larry Fitzgerald so you could pick up Dexter McCluster.  You tell me "McCluster has insane potential because he returns kicks and punts also."  Are you sure you didn't pick him up just because you only know Chiefs players.  I'm not mad at you, I just feel bad for you - you're making a fool of yourself.

The League Leader Who Doesn't Know Anything about Football - You drafted Knowshon Moreno in the third round because you loved the name "Knowshon."  Now you're winning the league and you haven't checked since the draft.  Last week you beat the second best team even though you had two players on a bye and started Reggie Wayne, who's been on the IR for the last three weeks.  Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good... That being said, we all hate you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Top 10 NFL Logos

Honorable Mention: Dallas Cowboys: Since 1964, the Dallas Cowboys have left their logo untouched, and the Dallas star is a clear symbol of this billion dollar franchise. "America's Team" has won 5 Super Bowls starting in 1971, and throughout the highs and lows, their logo stayed the same. The Dallas star originates from Texas' nickname,"The Lone Star State", and is regarded as one of the most well-known logos in all of sports. Everything is bigger in Texas, or so the saying goes, but in this case, the Dallas Cowboys believe a simple logo is the way to go.

10. Indianapolis Colts: It may be an extremely simple design, but the horseshoe seen on Indianapolis' helmet is a perfect symbol of the Colts franchise. The blue-and-white combination looks great on the uniforms, and the logo is not too overwhelming. Apart from a slight tweaking to the logo in 2002, the Indianapolis Colts have left the horseshoe virtually untouched since 1984. The simplicity and history associated with Indianapolis' logo makes it well deserving of the tenth spot on our countdown.

9. Philadelphia Eagles: In 1996, the Philadelphia Eagles organization transformed their logo from a realistic eagle clutching a football in its talons, to a cartoon version of a bald eagle's head. Despite its cartoony design, the Eagles' intimidating glare makes this logo a masterpiece. The silver and green go well together, and just like the insanely popular app Angry Birds, this bird is here to stay.

8. San Diego Chargers: After their logo featured the San Diego Chargers helmet from 1974 to 2001, the San Diego organization decided to simplify things by transitioning to a lone lightning bolt. Originally, the bolt was white with a yellow outline, but in 2007, the bolt turned yellow with different shades of blue lining the edges. Whatever a "Charger" may be, the yellow and blue lightning bolt is a perfect symbol of this electric San Diego franchise.

7. Green Bay Packers: In 1961, or so the story goes, legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi asked his equipment manager for a team logo, and the result was the Packers "G". The "G" stands for Green Bay, and its shape supposedly models after the irregular shape of a football. The green and yellow was not added to Green Bay's logo until 1980. The Packers organization have their design heavily copyrighted, as they believe their design is one of the best in sports. I love the story associated with this logo, and the colors look extraordinary as they outline the Green Bay "G".

6. Oakland Raiders: After changing their logo three times in five years, the Oakland Raiders finally found their logo in 1964 that is the same general design seen on the uniforms today. Al Davis changed the color scheme to black and silver, and after several minor changes, the logo consisted of a silver pirate wearing Oakland's helmet. In contrast with the silver pirate was a black shield, where the word "Raiders" was etched at the top. The general design has been left untouched for close to 50 years, and is regarded as one of the best in the National Football League.

5. Atlanta Falcons: The top 5. This is where we start to analyze some of the best logos in sports. The Atlanta Falcons logo shows a red and black hawk soaring through the air, talons at the ready. This falcon is shaped like the letter "F", a creative addition to an already fantastic logo. The red and black duo looks absolutely fantastic, and this logo is clearly deserving of a top 5 spot.

4. Minnesota Vikings: For the first time since 1966, the Minnesota Vikings organization has decided to modify their logo. Though the changes are rather small, the bold black streaks through theViking's hair adds a certain crispness to this logo. Purple and gold is a unique color tandem in the National Football League, and the designer of this particular logo had some creativity in order to successfully include both colors into the design. Though I like the current Minnesota helmets that just feature two horns on either side, these logos are too good to not be seen on every helmet.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers: In 1969, a Republic Steel based in Cleveland recommended to the Steelers organization that they adopt the industry logo. This logo features three astroids, where the three different colors represent the the ingredients needed to make steel; red for iron ore, blue for scrap steel, and yellow to make coal. The original industry logo had the word steel inscribed inside, but Steelers gained permission to add E-R-S to their brand new logo. Unlike other logos in the league, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a complicated story behind the symbol of their franchise, which is why the Pittsburgh Steelers logo ranks number three on our list.

2. Detroit Lions: The Detroit Lions' logo is very straightforward; an intimidating lion on its hind legs, ready to do battle. Minor details were added in 2009 to this logo, which clearly makes the logo look more realistic. Though I am sure there is no such thing as a blue lion living in the wild, the "honolulu-blue" mixed with white makes this logo a tasteful masterpiece. The minor changes in 2009 helped this logo sky-rocket upwards in terms of popularity, and with only one logo left to be named in our countdown, the Lions organization should be happy with a number two ranking.

1. Denver Broncos: Though I am a huge fan of the Denver Broncos logo from the 70s and 80s, today's logo is the best in all of football. The glistening orange mane incorporates Denver's primary color, while the blue shadows streaking through its white hair includes the secondary color. Since the logo was introduced by the franchise in 1997, this particular logo has been one of my favorites in all of sports. The grimacing look of sheer determination seen on the Broncos face represents the kind of attitude organizations look for in their players. I would not be surprised if some people do not agree with my first choice, so be sure to comment your rankings in the comment section below.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

2015-2016 NFL Divisional Round Predictions

(5) Chargers over (1) Colts: The Indianapolis Colts have struggled to stop the run throughout the years, so San Diego's addition of talented running back Melvin Gordon may pose certain problems for the Colts defense. In addition, Gordon will be able to take some pressure off of Rivers, who will also be throwing to their recently acquired receiver, Jacoby Jones.

(2) Patriots over (3) Broncos: In what will likely be the final meeting between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, it is highly unlikely that Manning will be able to travel into Foxboro in the month of January and defeat the Patriots. New England's defensive line has an abundance of young talent (Jones, Brown, and Easley), and the passing game is near unstoppable when Rob Gronkowski is on the field.

(1) Packers over (5) Cardinals: It is difficult to see a team who calls the warm and sunny Glendale, Arizona their home traveling to Lambeau Field and knocking off the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs. From a statistical point of view, Rodgers was near perfect last season at home, and a talented Cardinals defense is not enough to stop Green Bay's passing game.
(2) Seahawks over (3) Panthers: The Seahawks beat Cam Newton and the Panthers last season in the Divisional Round, and not much is likely to change this year. The Panthers are very depleted when it comes to their receiving corp following Kelvin Benjamin's injury, whereas Seattle added the elite talent known as Jimmy Graham.

2015-2016 NFL Wild Card Round Predictions

(3) Broncos over (6) Bills: Seeing how the Bills have one of the best pass rushes in all of football, it would be tough for the 39-year-old Peyton Manning to complete most of his passes when he's on the ground for the entire game. Luckily, C.J. Anderson will hopefully be there to bail him out.

(5) Chargers over (4) Ravens: The Ravens are always a brutal team to play against in the playoffs, especially with quarterback Joe Flacco at the helm, who has posted a 6-2 record with 18 touchdowns and three picks in his last eight postseason games. The lack of receivers in Baltimore will help a mediocre Chargers defense, and the addition of Melvin Gordon for the Chargers will take some pressure off of Rivers.
(3) Panthers over (6) Giants: While the Panthers won their first playoff game during the Cam Newton-era last season, but similarly to the Ravens, you can never count out the New York Giants when January rolls around. This game could be an absolute bloodbath, but the advantage goes to Carolina due to their punishing defense and home field advantage.

(5) Cardinals over (4) Cowboys: The Cowboys had the opportunity to be one of the best team's in football had they signed DeMarco Murray in the offseason, but instead, they are putting all of their eggs in one basket--the passing game--and hoping it works. Now that Arizona has a talented defense (ranked fifth last year in point allowed), they could be a difficult team to face in the postseason.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Top Premier League Transfers of the 2015 Transfer Window

I'm taking the liberty here to extend my role as World Cup analyst to include an article here about the Barclays Premier League. At the end of the month of August, the BPL summer transfer window will close shut and teams will be forced to work with their roster as it is until the window reopens again in January. Thus, I'm going to rank my top ten transfers of this summer, with transfer quality based on a combination of player talent, fit, and price.

10. Gokhan Inler, $8m, Leicester City
They may have lost Esteban Cambiasso, but Leicester City managed to replace him with an experienced, talented, international in the heart of the pitch. Players with top flight experience are crucial to Leicester, who were just promoted prior to the 2014-2015 season and made a remarkable escape from relegation having been bottom of the league on Christmas day. Inler also comes at a very cheap price and will help solidify a position that was previously lacking for the Foxes.

9. Adama Traore, $11m, Aston Villa
It's not often that an extremely talented youngster from the Barcelona youth system would choose to move permanently to Aston Villa, but so are the odd circumstances surrounded the relegation of the Barcelona B team that Traore did just that. For 11 million dollars, Traore represents only a fraction of what Villa recouped from the Benteke transfer and will bring a flair and technical ability to the attack that the Villains have been lacking for years. As an added incentive, Traore's price will only rise over the next few years, and his resale value should eventually exceed twice or three times the 11 million dollars that Aston Villa paid for him.

8. Jordan Amavi, $14m, Aston Villa
Adama Traore is not the only incoming Villain that can provide flair and technical ability on the pitch, as Jordan Amavi has more tricks up his sleeve than you'd expect for a left back. He's a decent defender, but will become better at that portion of his game as he matures. On the other hand, his attacking ability is right where it needs to be and his pace is phenomenal. Most of all, he looks comfortable in the position, and Aston Villa have sorely been missing a confident left back the last couple years with Aly Cissokho manning the position.

7. Andre Ayew, Free, Swansea City
Admittedly, I wasn't sure that Andre Ayew was going to fit into Swansea's first team for much of the season with the excess of midfielders that they have on their roster, but he has burst onto the scene and made a real impact in their first few games. He's physically dominant, with great speed and a very sturdy build, while his technical skills are well above average and he seems to have a poacher's ability of being in the right place at the right time. And wait, you tell me they got him on a free transfer!? Yep.

6. Nathaniel Clyne, $19m, Liverpool
Clyne is only 24 years of age now, but he's been among the best (if not the best) right back in the Premier League for several years now, so it's rather remarkable that Liverpool got him for only 19 million dollars. Factor in the massive gap between him and Liverpool's previous starter at right back, Glen Johnson, and you've got yourself a brilliant transfer by Liverpool.

5. Yohan Cabaye, $15m, Crystal Palace
For Crystal Palace to capture a 29 year old rotation player from PSG really speaks to how far the mid-to-low table BPL teams have come over the past few years. Just two years ago, Cabaye was at Newcastle and probably could have transferred to one of the top 5 in the Premier League if he'd wanted. Now, a mere two years later, he's been picked up by Crystal Palace (Crystal Palace!!) for just 15 million dollars. What a phenomenal capture. 

4. Matteo Darmian, $19m, Manchester United
I actually had my doubts about Darmian when this transfer was confirmed, but the forward-thinking right back has done everything possible to reverse my opinion of him in the first few weeks of the season. He has offered dominant display after dominant display to lead Manchester United to three straight clean sheets and has also been alert in attack. With Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester City lacking any real form or consistency at the right back position, Darmian and Clyne are undoubtedly the two best in the BPL right now and they were both captured for the lovely fee of 19 million dollars.

3. Xherdan Shaqiri, $18m, Stoke City
I said this about the Cabaye transfer too, but let me say it again -- look how far the mid-to-low BPL teams have come! Shaqiri is only two years removed from being a Bayern Munich player and only one year removed from playing for Inter Milan. He also had an incredible 2014 World Cup, leading Switzerland with relatively little help. Lastly, he's still only 23 years old! (that's the second exclamation point I've used in this paragraph because I'm so surprised by this transfer) I really like the transition that Stoke are making from a rough team that played for draws to an aesthetically pleasing team that plays with attacking intent, and there's no doubt that Shaqiri, when on his game, is both aesthetically pleasing and forward-thinking. Does he have some sort of attitude problem that has caused him to be cast off from Bayern and Intern? Maybe. But if Stoke can solve him then they've got themselves a gem for only 18 million dollars.

2. Dimitri Payet, $16m, West Ham
I liked this transfer by West Ham at the outset and I like it even more now that I've seen a few weeks of Payet. As an attacking playmaker, he's a silky smooth dribbler with good pace and a brilliant eye for passes, which is exactly what West Ham were looking for after letting Stewart Downing go. He lead the Ligue 1 in assists last year and if he had a better supporting cast at West Ham there would be a legitimate possibility that he'd top the Premier League. Watching him play is a joy and for only 16 million dollars, I'm not sure that the Hammers could have found anybody better to fill their attacking midfielder role.

1. James Milner, Free, Liverpool
Sure, Milner's not a long term solution - at 29 years old he likely only has a couple more years of top flight soccer, but on a free transfer I'm not sure that you need a player that's going to grow because there's no incentive to earn back any transfer fees (if you paid $10m for him you might be hopeful to gain that $10m back at some point, but that's clearly not the case on a free). As for his ability and motor, until he begins to decline, he will be in my opinion one of the top 50 players in the BPL. Last year he was probably even higher on that list, as he played all over the pitch and scored all sorts of crucial goals for Manchester City. If Liverpool can get that sort of value from him this year, I don't care what he offers for the future, he will have been way more than worth it.

Friday, August 21, 2015

2015-2016 Fantasy Football Love/Hate

I know it's been a while. You may not even remember me anymore. My name is Gabe Schmittlein. I'm back. Matthew Berry just came out with his Fantasy Football Love/Hate article for the upcoming season and I was inspired to give all the dedicated readers of the NFL Report my own view on the landscape of fantasy football. So -- Matthew Berry, my muse -- this one's for you.


Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers and Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts --
Rodgers and Luck can be looped in together because they are far-and-away the top two fantasy options at quarterback this year. Brady is suspended/not-suspended/who-the-hell-knows, Peyton Manning's arm strength is right down there with the Mark Sanchez's of the world (that's not good), and Drew Brees has a receiving core made up of guys who are not Jimmy Graham. Mid-level options behind Rodgers and Luck are there, but even guys like Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, and Matthew Stafford represent steep drop-offs in value from Rodgers and Luck and don't represent extraordinarily higher values than their late draft quarterback counterparts like Ryan Tannehill or Sam Bradford. The first few rounds of fantasy football drafts are all about maximizing value in positions where value can be most effectively maximized (if ya see what I mean)... For example, running backs are often drafted so high because there tends to be a sharp drop-off in fantasy quality, while receivers are drafted lower because the difference between the 1st and 20th best receiver is marginal when compared to the difference between the 1st and 20th best running backs. So take Rodgers and Luck. Or Don't. But don't be a sucker and take Peyton Manning in the second round.

Wide Receivers in the Second/Third Round --
Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Jordy Nelson, A.J. Green. Alshon Jefferey. T.Y. Hilton. With the usual high splurge on running backs, those are all the wide receivers that could be available in rounds two and three. Picking up most of those guys in the second round would represent a good value and getting any of them in the third round would be incredible. Be aware that there is a decently sharp drop-off after these wideouts, so you don't want to be the one guy in your league to go quarterback in the second round (don't. pick. manning.) and have to draft after all of these guys are gone.

Jeremy Maclin --
He's going way way way too low right now. Maclin thrived last season with Mark Sanchez at the helm, and I don't see Alex Smith being a huge downgrade from him. Sure, Chip Kelly's scheme played a part, but Maclin was great under Andy Reid when he was in Philly too. Matthew Berry said that Maclin was going in the eighth round in most ESPN leagues, down with Mike Wallace, Jarvis Landry, and Allen Robinson. Ridiculous is what that is. Hey, if you can get Maclin in the eighth round, that represents awesome value, but I'd even be happy if you took him as early as the fifth or sixth round. Pro-tip - if you're playing with a bunch of guys on auto draft, he'll likely fall right into your hands in the eighth round, so at least there's some good news with him being ranked as low as he is.


Tight Ends Not Name Gronkowski or Graham --
Ugh. See Rodgers and Luck paragraph above. Or I'll just type it out in a slightly different way down here... Gronkowski and Graham represent a massive value gap between them and the rest of their position, so I'm fine with either of them in the first couple rounds. However, guys like Travis Kelce, Greg Olson, and Julius Thomas that are being drafted around the fifth round don't seem to be providing a maximized value over a tight end that you could be drafting in the tenth round (Zach Ertz is totally gonna get it going this year!!). On the other hand, the difference between a wide receiver/running back in the fifth round and the tenth round is going to be huge.

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions --
The Abdullah hype train has been very real the past couple weeks, but I struggle to see where his value is going to come. He's not going to get many touchdowns, as Joique Bell is one of the more accomplished goal line backs in the league, and he's not going to get as many touches as you'd hope, once again because of the aforementioned Joique Bell. I guess he provides some value as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, but it isn't enough to warrant the sixth round (about) draft slot that he's been getting in most leagues. I do like Abdullah in the long term, but it's going to take time for him to win carries away from Bell, who I actually think is being drafted too low right now.

Defenses and Kickers --
Matthew Berry said this in his Love/Hate article, but I believe I said it in my Love/Hate article prior to last season, so if anything he's copying me. Please please please don't draft a defense or a kicker before the last couple rounds. Berry listed a whole catalog of people who he hates more than those who draft defenses and kickers in the first ten rounds, and it was all very cute. I'll say this, though, (and I mean it for real) I hate those sort of people more than I hate cleaning off the inside of peanut butter containers so they can go in the recycling. Sorry to one-up you Berry, but I hope you understand that I don't mean any harm because we're fighting on the same side. The opportunity for maximizing value in positions where value can most effectively be maximized is almost negligible when talking about defenses and kickers. In terms of defenses, it makes much more sense statistically to just pick up a defense that has an easy matchup every week, while for kickers, our ability to predict their year-to-year success is really really poor so you're better off (once again) keeping your eye on the waiver wire.