Last night, the focal point of the show was the buildup to a SummerSlam match between a non-wrestler and a crappy wrestler, and oddly enough, it was amazing. John Cena showed up and gave us the best segment he’s done in years. And Bo Dallas lost. Not sure I can process all this…but I’ll try anyway.
Let’s start with the good for the AFC South. There’s only one way up from the bottom and that is up. Last year’s sorriest division can’t get any worse and that’s the good news. The bad? The four teams combined for 24 wins and the Colts counted for 11 of those victories. That was last year and this is a new year so let’s get into it.
Born: April 14, 1966 in San Angelo, TX
High School: Valley High School in Las Vegas, NV
Drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the second round of the 1984 amateur draft
Played for the Braves, Cubs, Padres and Dodgers
All Star Appearances: 8
NL Cy Young Awards: 4
Gold Glove Awards: 18
NL Wins Champion: 3
NL ERA Champion: 4
Greg Maddux dominated the 1990s and won more games than any other pitcher in baseball during the decade. His unprecedented streak of 17 consecutive seasons with at least 15 wins may never be matched. He won more Gold Gloves than any other player in history with 18 awards. Maddux is the only pitcher in Major League Baseball history to record over 300 wins, over 3,000 strikeouts and fewer than 1,000 walks. He represented the Cubs in two All Star games and the Braves in six mid summer classics. He won four consecutive NL Cy Young Awards from 1992-1995. The Professor finished his career with a record of 355-227 with a 3.16 ERA to go along with 3,371 strikeouts.
With 35 days left till the College Football kickoff we turn our attention to the LSU Tigers. Playing in the SEC West is no cake walk and losing so many starters to the NFL would result in a down year for most teams, but not LSU. Make no mistake; LSU will be right back in the thick of things in 2014. Will they have what it takes to win the West or even the SEC Championship? Let’s dive in and see what it will take. Continue reading
This is more of a personal essay than I normally like to write, but I wanted to explore some of the various aspects of fandom in preparation for the inevitable return of Fall sports. Thanks for reading.
It still makes me physically ill to think about. Nearly five years later, and really the moment took all of two seconds. But whenever I recall it, my stomach turns and knots up and I want to puke.
One game. One play, in fact. One second in the sixty minutes that make up a football game that five years later still hurts.
I was in my regular seat at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field in Starkville, Mississippi on September 26, 2009. My Mississippi State Bulldogs were under the reigns of first year head coach Dan Mullen. Mullen had already produced some good results, with two wins in the first three games. There was optimism in Starkville that hadn’t been felt in several years.
The Bulldogs had ended up with the toughest schedule in the country that year. In fact, it was a schedule so nasty that the NCAA would later call the 2nd toughest in the past 10 years. So fans weren’t OVERLY optimistic. And on this particular afternoon, they were having to go up against the Louisiana State University Tigers, ranked in the top 10 and looking fierce. We didn’t have high hopes for the game, but we were optimistic. Cautiously optimistic. Continue reading
#1) FIVE Myths that you should pay little attention to this preseason
- Coach Speak: Don’t fall victim to one of the classic blunders – The most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia”, but only slightly less well-known is this: “COACHES LIE!” Everyone’s favorite quote last year belonged to OC Nathaniel Hackett of the Buffalo Bills, “It’s real simple: We’re going to give (C.J. Spiller) the ball until he throws up.” The fact is that coaches lie; sometimes it’s intentional deception (yeah we’re looking at you Belichick), other times they just think one thing will happen but circumstances dictate otherwise. The chagrined fantasy owners that hung their season’s hopes on this single quote should learn from this mistake. Here’s one for this year: Don’t you fall into this trap. Andre Ellington is not Adrian Peterson, folks. He’s 5’9” and weighs less than 200 lbs. Mark it on the wall, not only will he not get that many touches per game, but he also will be more effective if he’s kept fresh with far fewer touches per game. Heck, Jamaal Charles didn’t even get up to 22 touches per game last year, and he’s the only bell-cow of comparable size to Ellington. This is a pipe dream, and please don’t fall prey to the one of the oldest fantasy blunders in the book.
- Player Speak: “I’m going to rush for two thousand yards this year.” “I see no reason why I can’t catch 20 TDs this season… that’s my guarantee.” This talk is a dime a dozen. Let’s base our expectations on past indicators and talent levels more than a player’s unrealistic aspirations. It’s fun to listen to the Chad Ochocincos of the world, but let’s let it be what it is… entertainment value only.
- Strength of Schedule: Every year publications and articles alike will tell you why certain match-ups are going to be cake walks and others are going to be brutal. The fact of the matter is, they simply don’t know. Don’t fool yourself in thinking you have any type of accuracy when judging schedules before the season starts. The NFL is a reshuffle league. Those that thought the Kansas City Defense was going to be a cupcake matchup last year looked pretty silly once the pads were on.
- Contract Year talk: This is one of those confirmation bias examples where people say after the fact that Player X performed better because of his contract incentive. Let’s face it guys, with salary caps and contract structures these days… players are playing to keep their careers alive nearly every time they step on the field. Until someone completes a league-wide study demonstrating a significant statistical difference among contract players vs. the rest of the league, then continue to treat players homogeneously when it comes to contract years. I often hear this thrown in when people stump for a specific player. Something like, “I love this player, this offense, and it’s a contract year. I’m expecting big things.” You don’t know how a player is motivated by money, so let’s not pretend we can read the tea leaves of which incentives motivate a player.
- Hate on player size: If a player is good enough to play in the NFL, team execs will give him a shot. It really is the ultimate meritocracy. Drew Brees is putting up some all-time numbers and is nowhere near the 6’0” height he is billed at. Russel Wilson just won the Super Bowl and might be 5’11’ with his long-grass cleats on. See if these sound familiar, “Adrian Peterson is too tall at 6’2” with an upright running style, so he’s bound to be injury prone.” -FALSE “A strong breeze would blow DeSean Jackson over. He looks 160 pounds, soaking wet. Good luck in the NFL, kid.” -BIG PRODUCER. You’ll hear much of the same this offseason about players like Tavon Austin. He may be just 5’8” but there’s no chance he doesn’t weigh within 5 pounds of DeSean Jackson, and his team believed in him so much that they traded up to get him in the top-10 of the draft last year despite his diminutive stature. Plus he’ll rarely get jammed off the line, as he plays in the slot. Players like MJD, Ray Rice, Darren Sproles, Steve Smith, Wes Welker, etc. have been proving wrong the league expectations for small players for years. If your analysis begins and ends with height or weight, you’re leaving a ton on the table.
#2) FIVE Players you should pay lots of attention to this preseason
I was getting all hot and bothered to put Jamaal Charles at the top of this list with all his recent holdout talk, but this just happened:
Chiefs are giving RB Jamaal Charles a two-year extension that makes him 2nd-highest paid back in league and ties him to KC for four seasons.—
Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 23, 2014
- Rob Gronkowski- There’s no question what he’ll do if he’s on the field, namely, huge numbers. This is the ultimate health question, and I doubt we’ll gain a ton of clarity on the knee issue until just before the season starts. Knowing Bill Belichick’s love for cloak and dagger reports, it’ll unfortunately be 30 minutes into the first game of the season before we actually know how ready he is to play. Remember all the back injury talk last year when he was supposedly cleared to play 3 full games before he actually did? Don’t let that snake bite you again.
- David Wilson- He finally got medically cleared from his neck injury in the last couple days and now we need to see if he shows the spark he’s capable of in the preseason. I could see a situation develop in the first month of the season where the Giants are slinging it while playing from behind… David Wilson comes in and takes a swing pass 65-yards to the house and from then on we see a dramatically reduced role for Rashad Jennings. As of right now there’s talk of Rashad Jennings being the between the 20’s carrier, Wilson being the change of pace back, and Andre Williams being the goal-line guy. That 3-headed monster is a recipe for a fantasy nightmare.
- DeSean Jackson/Pierre Garcon- The question is who’s going to be getting the X receiver and who’s going to be the Z receiver in this Jay Gruden offense. In other words, who’s going to have the A.J. Green role of this new offense and who’s going to have the Marvin Jones role. Early reports are that D-Jax is going to be the go to guy. If that’s the case, then Garcon will be getting even fewer looks than I have baked into his rankings. Keep in mind that he led the NFL in receptions (113) and targets (181) last year, and that was the main thing that drove his value.
- Chris Johnson- It’ll be hard to know how the J-E-T-S plan to use CJ’s after-burners. Is he going to be THE guy in this offense (like we’ve already heard some indeterminate coach speak about), or if he’ll be splitting carries. Look for context clues and how he’s deployed in the preseason for a better understanding.
- Emmanuel Sanders/Montee Ball- These two are ultimately tied to the best offense in football, and that’s why it’s so important. Can Sanders pick up the offense and take on a substantial portion of Eric Decker’s void. As far as Montee Ball goes, I’ll be looking closely at his ball security and pass protection during his limited time in the preseason. Ultimately, if he loses the faith of the coaching staff or more importantly, Peyton Manning… then he’ll be the biggest 1st round bust this season. Let’s not forget how quickly Ronnie Hillman became an afterthought with those 3 preseason fumbles in ‘13.
#3) FIVE Players I like more than most based on their early ADP
- Reuben Randle- You can’t give the Giants a free pass on the absolute dumpster fire we saw last season. But I also see no way that they can be nearly as bad last year. With Nicks out of town, and only rookie Odell Beckham to push Randle for looks behind primary option Victory Cruz… I see Randle as a guy that can significantly raise his 611 yards and 6 TDs from last season, as the rising offensive tide will lift all boats and his role looks to increase simultaneously. There’e an affordable price tag to chance it here. Current ADP-145.
- Alfred Morris- I’m a high floor guy when it comes to my first and second round players. I just don’t like taking the risky, higher ceiling player in my first four picks of the draft. Statistics have shown that the high probability fantasy playoff teams are the ones that connect on their first 3 draft picks. It’s just hard to win without those guys performing. Alfred Morris is the guy that’s not going to be a top-3 back this year, but he’s also not going to finish outside of the top-20 at the RB position. Give me bankable production this early in my draft. Current ADP- 25.
- Joique Bell- The front office signed him to a 3 year – $9.3 million deal this offseason, so we know they have plans to utilize him heavily. He’s a bigger RB than his counterpart Reggie Bush, but he can still do all the things that Bush can (they became the first backfield duo in history to put up both 500 Rushing and Receiving yards each). Detroit knows that they’ll need to limit Bush’s touches to keep him fresh and at his best in the late season, so Jukin’ Joique will be guaranteed touches. But on the other hand, Bush is getting older with the career touches piling up and is certainly a risk to miss some time. So we’ve got a guaranteed split in the mean time, with a possibility of being a featured back with a Bush injury. That’s the kind of juice that’s worth the squeeze. Current ADP- 71
- Michael Floyd- I love the value of the young and talented receiver to the wizened veteran receiver that garners most of the defensive attention. The Reggie Wayne role to Marvin Harrison, or the Randy Moss role to Chris Carter, if you will. In this case it’s Michael Floyd to Larry Fitzgerald. Floyd is bigger, faster and had more yardage than Fitz last year. Yet, NFL defenses will key in on Fitzgerald, allowing Floyd to run free on the opposite side of the field. He’s the Cards main vertical threat… Expect 1,000+ and 6 as a floor here with upside for much more. Current ADP- 65
- Roddy White- Oldie but goodie category. He’s getting on up there in age, but unlike RB’s, good wide receivers can age gracefully. He proved the high ankle sprain that plagued him last season was behind him by season’s end when he began producing again. Julio Jones lining up opposite will keep the double teams to a minimum. But even if Julio gets a ton of targets, the departure of Tony Gonzalez will allow for a healthy dose of targets toward old reliable. This could be a big bounce back with top-10 WR value being drafted nearly 50th overall. Lot’s to like here. Current ADP- 49
Photo courtesy of Mark Runyon | Pro Football Schedules
#4) FIVE Players I like LESS than most based on their early ADP
- Marshawn Lynch- Coming into the 2013 season, analysts were fading Arian Foster because his workload of 956 carries from 2010-12 was absurd. Well Lynch has a whopping 1,094 touches in his past 3 seasons! He carried the ball 401 times last year when you include the playoffs. You can see where this is going. Remember Larry Johnson? There’s a cliff year coming, and with his abusive running style it’s coming sooner rather than later. Plus you’re looking at a guy that hasn’t exactly been a beacon of health throughout his career, since he’s had some pretty serious back issues in the past. Some people will cheat him up for the consistency he’s shown the past few seasons, but I’m trying to read the tea leaves for this season, not the last few. Wyatt Earp says that the cliff is coming, and HELL is coming with it. It’s okay if I’m wrong this year, and the cliff’s actually two years out, but it’s not advisable to play with fire so early in your draft. Current ADP- 5
- Rob Gronkowski- Yeah, I get it. He’s an absolute monster when he’s on the field. I just don’t trust his extensive injury history. Even if the knee’s behind him. What about the back issues, the arm issues. So many surgeries, so little time played. He’s only 25 years old.. but he’s fast becoming the Tight End version of Percy Harvin. Current ADP- 32
- Andre Johnson- Another impending cliff story. He’s got an injury history that’s not the best. He’s got erratic QB play. He’s openly upset at the team for not upgrading its QB situation. He’s never been a big TD contributor. DeAndre Hopkins will improve and be more of a focus for the offense this year. Too many negatives for me to view him as a top-10 WR this year… yet some are still drafting him like it. Current ADP- 34
- Peyton Manning- It has nothing to do with his performance… which will undoubtedly be stellar as long as he and his bony-fusioned neck stays injury free. It’s just a matter of, if you take away that opening 7 TD performance and think like everyone else on the planet that those numbers are not repeatable… then you can’t consider him much better than Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers. In my opinion there’s not a full round difference between Manning and those other two. So they all are late second or early third rounders to me… yet, Peyton’s being drafted 8th overall on average right now. Current ADP- 8
- Frank Gore- It’s now a crowded backfield. They’re talking about dropping his carries by 50. His career usage is intense. He’s 31 years old. I don’t think we’re going to see 1,100 and 8 TDs like he’s been so bankable for in the past. At some point in the draft he will become a boring bargain player, it’s just not at this going rate. Current ADP- 47
#5) FIVE football analysts that when they talk… I listen.
- Greg Cosell of NFL Films
- Scott Pianowski of Yahoo! Fantasy Sports
- Ray Flowers of Fantasy Alarm
- Eric Karabell of ESPN
- John Hansen of FantasyGuru
Finally!!! Football is here, and I’m ready!!!
I’m excited about a lot. And as a Lions fan, hope always springs eternal, then gets stomped out pretty quickly. BUT, if it’s a good year, our hopes will fade round about Thanksgiving. But I digress.
Today I will be previewing the good ol’ NFC North and how it may look this year. Now, while I don’t have a crystal ball, I’ll do my best!
So, last year was a pretty interesting one for the division. Aaron Rodgers was out, Cutty was out, Matt Stafford was in, and who was QB of the Vikings again? Do the Vikings even know?? Oh yeah…. it was the Ponder, Cassel, Freeman carousel.
Anyway, let’s look at the Vikings.
They finished last in the division last year with a record of 5-10-1, and made some coaching changes in the off season, bringing in new (first time) head coach Mike Zimmer and coaching veteran Norv Turner. They drafted Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater, both of whom will be decent additions to the team, and they also drafted Jerick McKinnon who hopefully will be able to help Adrian Peterson in the backfield. So based on how they drafted and their coaching changes will it be enough to help get them out of the cellar? If Zimmer and Turner can help improve their QB situation, it could be enough. But one thing that could still hurt them is the fact that they lost Jared Allen to Da Bears. If there is one thing you need in this division this year, its defense. My prediction for the Vikings this year: 6-10
Moving on to the Monsters of The Midway.
This team finished last year 8-8. Slightly disappointing for them, but also one must remember that Jay Cutler was out for several games with an injury, along with Lance Briggs. And the retirement of Brian Urlacher was also a noticeable loss. So those things presented first year head coach Marc Trestman with some challenges. The 2014 season brings some promise. They picked up Jared Allen from Minnesota, Jay Cutler signed a 7 year deal, along with kicker Robbie Gould. They improved their defense during free agency with the additions of people like Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, and Ryan Mundy. They also drafted pretty decently by getting once again more solid on defense with Kyle Fuller, Ego Ferfuson and Will Sutton. The Bears defense sort of scares me. But I think it will be their defense that will win the games for them. Their offense is good, but their defense is better. My prediction for the Bears this year: 9-7.
Next up…The Packers.
These guys limped their way into winning the division last year with an 8-7-1 record. Injuries to key players such as Jermichael Finley, Casey Hayward, Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, and of course Aaron Rogers affected this team. They ended up putting 15 players on IR last year. But I’m not really thinking the same record for this year. You just can’t bet against Aaron Rogers, barring another injury. Again though, just getting everyone back healthy again makes this team better automatically, without adding key free agents and draft picks. But they were able to pick up Julius Peppers and Matt Flynn and drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Davante Adams. Pretty good pickups if you ask me. My prediction for The Pack: 11-5
Rounding out the division are the Lions.
This team. All the talent in the world, but can’t get out of their own way. They finished a disappointing 7-9 last year, after pretty much having the division in their laps. But this year they come back with a brand new coaching staff put in place to help Matt Stafford live up to his potential. The Lions signed Golden Tate during free agency, and also brought in James Ihedigbo for their secondary. The Lions also drafted Eric Ebron to also give Stafford another person to throw to, and also Kyle Van Noy as another addition to the defense. If Suh and Fairley play as they were touted to do, and if Stafford is able to NOT throw as many interceptions this year, this team could do some damage in this division. My prediction for The Lions: 9-7.
I think the NFC North is going to live up to its name this year. This is going to be one tough division to get through, especially with the additions that the Packers and Bears have made on defense. But it’s going to be fun to watch. And. I. Can’t. Wait.
Follow Sonja on Twitter @Mom23RN
As we continue through the west in our 2014 SEC Football Preview we take a look at the defending SEC Champion Auburn Tigers. What an amazing ride Auburn fans went on last year as the Tigers went from winless in the SEC in 2012 to winners of the SEC in 2013. Can they repeat as conference champs in 2014? Let’s dive in and see what we think. Continue reading
Being a fan of the WWE is like being a fan of a really inconsistent sports team. One week, they come out and look great, everyone’s firing on all cylinders, and you watch and feel like good decisions are being made. The next week, they look like they’ve never done this before. It’s maddening.
When looking back fondly on Wrasslin’ in the late 90’s I always remember wrestlers that were over with fans. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Ric Flair, The Outsiders, Sting (But I hated the crow angle!), Triple H, I could go on forever.
There was nothing better than turning on Monday Nitro, or Monday Night Raw, and flipping back and forth between the two. Whether there was drama with the NWO, or Stone Cold was catching beers over his shoulder and pouring them all over Vince McMahon, you were locked in to whatever was going on. Continue reading