Sports

Why The AFC Championship Might Be Peyton Manning’s Last Game Ever

If the Denver Broncos lose in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, it could very well be Peyton Manning’s last game.

It would almost certainly be his last game in Denver, given that both he and Brock Osweiler are free agents. Neither would probably accept a backup position next year, and Denver would be foolish to hang on to another year of Manning while losing out on a potential decade-plus of Osweiler.

Peyton’s Legacy in Denver

Even though it seems like it was just yesterday that us Broncos fans stopped Tebowing and embraced our inner Manning, this is Papa John’s fourth year in blue and orange. Looking back, he’s done quite a bit.

Year 1: I’m still not ready to talk about this.

Year 2: For Bronco fans, there are few things better than beating the San Diego Chargers and Phillip Rivers, exponentially more so in the playoffs, but winning our first Brady-Manning playoff game and going to the Super Bowl afterwards was probably better. As fun as those were, what happened next was equally disheartening as they ended up on the wrong side of the only 43-8 game in NFL history.

Year 3:

Always a good sign when a prominent and trusted journalist with a good relationship with your team’s head coach reports that he’ll leave “if” they lose their playoff game later that day. That was a hostage situation that robbed us of another Brady-Manning AFC Championship.

Year 4: If Bronco fans had to list the 5 teams they hate the most, the consensus would form around Pittsburgh, New England, Kansas City, Oaklandlangeles, and San Diegolangeles. In four years, Manning secured playoff wins over three of them, with the potential to clinch the Brady-Manning playoff rivalry in favor of the Broncos this weekend.

Regardless of what happens on Sunday, it’s been a good run.

Bronco fans have a unique perspective on the Manning-Brady rivalry, because as a Colt, Peyton routinely eviscerated the Broncos to the point where they traded for Champ Bailey after Manning threw for over 800 yards and 9 TD’s in back to back playoff games against Denver. We’re not fans of Brady, but Peyton wasn’t exactly our favorite guy either.

Even in the face of recent HGH allegations, Peyton’s legacy is mostly secured in Denver. The debate about PED’s has certainly waned from its peak in the previous decade, as many people don’t really know what to make of doping in sports anymore due to its complexity, and because it seems to be so widespread.

Plus, the NFL has little interest in finding out whether Peyton Manning is taking PED’s, because if he is, so is a gigantic chunk of the league. This is a story that will most likely never be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Fans care about wins, and Peyton provided plenty of those for Bronco fans to go along with a laughable amount of NFL and franchise records. With two more wins, he would become a Denver legend. Without them, this was merely a fun, yet mildly disappointing episode in an otherwise long term relationship with our city’s favorite sports team.

Peyton’s legacy vs Brady

Far too many words have been committed to a debate that no one can really ever win, so I won’t waste any more space here, but given that I live in Boston and have to deal with the noise, I just want to remind my compatriots that a handful of field goals and a couple other plays not involving Peyton Manning or Tom Brady have swung this rivalry in favor of Brady in the Win-Loss column. Assigning the efforts of 46 men (not to mention the coaching staff) to 1 man is an inefficient way to compare two players. Such is the nature of a game that is decided by inches.

Denver Broncos vs New England Patriots

Believe it or not, but there are people other than Tom Brady and Peyton Manning playing in this game.

While everyone has been trying to push their way to the front of the line to pour more dirt on Peyton Manning’s career, few have talked about the real reason why the Broncos are hosting the AFC Championship Game: the best defense in the NFL.

Debating Manning has commanded so much of the conversation that it’s given many the impression that the offense is still the one we’ve become familiar with over the last decade-plus. It’s not. They’re not even running the same offense they were running when I wrote my column on the QB controversy a month ago.

Since then, Osweiler lead multiple comebacks in the biggest game of the season, jolting the Broncos out of their doldrums by running the Manning/Tom Moore offense to near-perfection. The entire offense fell apart the following week, turning the ball over 5 times before Manning came in relief of Osweiler. Peyton lead comebacks against the Chargers in week 17 and the Steelers in the Divisional Round while hopping in between Kubiak’s West Coast scheme, and Moore’s spread attack.

Denver will win this game if they can run the ball effectively, contain Gronk to simply a good game instead of an extraordinary one, and consistently pressure Brady and knock balls down at the line.

New England will win this game if they can take away deep passes and throws outside the numbers from Manning. That will free them up to put extra players close to the line to stop the Broncos best threat: their rushing attack. Offensively, so long as the Pats protect the ball they should be fine. Josh McDaniels’ offense is great, and even though the Denver defense is more than up to the task, it’s hard to see how Brady won’t get his points.

This game will most likely come down to the Denver offense and the New England defense. One thing to keep an eye on is the Patriots Achilles heel: their nearly non-existent running game. They trust their run game so little that they abandoned it while running out the clock with a one score lead last week, and Brady nearly threw one of the costliest interceptions in recent playoff history.

Denver’s Achilles heel this season has been Peyton Manning.

His arm strength has been a major issue since his neck surgery, but it was his decision-making earlier this season is what made him look like the worst quarterback in the league. If the Peyton Manning from fall 2015 shows up, Sports Illustrated’s prediction will prove to be prescient.

If the Peyton of the last two games shows up, then this has all the makings of a classic.

Cover Photo Credit: Jeffrey Beall/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

What’s Old Is New Again: How The Rams Moved Back To LA And What It Really Means For NFL Fans

Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood, Universal Studios and Chaz Bono, now has its own professional football team once again.

A vote last week among NFL owners rendered the final nail in the coffin for St. Louis fans; their Rams will relocate to Los Angeles for the immediate 2016 season.

For owner Stan Kroenke, the 30-2 decision serves as a victory to return his team to their previous home. It’s been 21 years since the Rams played their last game in Los Angeles, in which time Kroenke has repeatedly criticized the economic and fan support put forward by St. Louis and will now cough up $550 million in order to leave the city.

Waiting for him, however, is one of the largest entertainment markets in the country and enticing plans for an alluring new $1.8 billion dollar stadium located in Inglewood, 10 miles from downtown L.A. Until the completion of the stadium in 2019, the Rams will make their home in the L.A. Coliseum.

The narrative is thrilling and nostalgic for former Los Angeles Rams fans—who claimed the team for the majority of its existence—but is far more somber for St. Louis fans, victims of yet another NFL team to jumped ship on the city.

In 1988, the St. Louis Cardinals (yes there was an NFL team called that too) left and relocated in Arizona. Now, despite the city’s proposal for a new $1.1 billion dollar stadium along the Mississippi River, St. Louis fans are left in the same position as they were almost thirty-years ago.

The city has long been at odds with Kroenke and the NFL. Last Wednesday, Mayor Francis Slay spoke out saying, “At this point I’m so frustrated and disappointed with the NFL.”

Slay went on to call the league “dishonest” and added that he has no desires to re-involve himself with the NFL.

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will serve as the temporary home of the LA Rams until they open a new stadium in 2019. Photo Credit: InSapphoWeTrustFlickr (CC By 2.0)

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will serve as the temporary home of the LA Rams until they open a new stadium in 2019. Photo Credit: InSapphoWeTrustFlickr (CC By 2.0)

Kroenke’s feud with the city and its fans has continued despite the team’s departure. In an interview with the LA Times Kroenke stated that he wasn’t going to, “sit there and be a victim.”

However the move is not unlike many before it, leaving fans and taxpayers as the true victims.

The city and county will be forced to pay off bonds used to fund the stadium until 2021, but will do so without a team to cheer for. Instead, they’re left only with the memory of four winning seasons and one Super Bowl in the team’s tenure in St. Louis.

Fans in San Diego and Oakland may have reason to fear the same fate. Although the state of California will undoubtedly welcome its fourth NFL franchise in the near future, Commissioner Roger Goodell also gave the San Diego Chargers the option to jointly join the Rams in L.A.

The team has one year to accept the offer, which would then be passed to the Raiders should San Diego decline. Both teams were additionally granted a $100 million dollar incentive to build new stadiums in their current locations.

Only the coming months however, will prove whether or not the incentive money is enough to draw owner’s eyes away from the glamorous Los Angeles market. The league is about dollars and cents, and they will do anything to further their product.

The near future will also indicate whether the Rams’ move is a good one. Los Angeles undeniably offers economic opportunities, but it also carries its fair share of baggage. The results had in St. Louis will far from satisfy Los Angeles fans who have been spoiled over the years with the success of teams like the Lakers and Kings.

The fans, after all, they are the true life-blood of the league (whether they be in the seats or on the couch).

It’s time now for Stan Kroenke to deliver his new fans with a product that will succeed beyond the balance sheet.

Cover Photo Credit: Emmanuel_D Photography/Flickr (CC by 2.0).

Why LeBron Needs To Fight For Tamir Rice: A History Of Athletes As Social Justice Warriors

Athletes play an outsized role in our society. Their exploits dominate large portions of many lives and have a dramatic impact on our emotional security. In a sense, they’re family.

LeBron James grew up in Akron, was drafted by Cleveland, left to chase titles in Miami, only to return to Ohio to try to end one of the saddest streaks in sports (the 1964 Browns were the last team to win a title for the rock n roll capital of the world).

LeBron embraces being a pillar of the community, and in recent weeks, part of the community challenged that pledge, calling for him to sit out games in order to protest a tragic case.

The Tamir Rice incident can be described by a myriad of terrible adjectives, but the case follows a familiar script: a young unarmed black man was killed by the police.

Watch: Shooting of Tamir Rice video. (CNN Report): 

What makes this version of it so horrifying is that you can replace “man” with “child” and “killed” with “assassinated.” The video shows the act in all of its ugliness, clear as day.

However, a grand jury ultimately ruled that officer Tim Lohemann was not guilty. Lohemann was described by his previous police station as someone who “could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal.”

Policing is a difficult job with plenty of shades of gray, but given the words of other police officers and the video evidence, this particular incident seemed to be much more black and white.

The community called on LeBron to fight back against a force that has been operating since the dawn of humanity, and James’ response was underwhelming to many.

“To be honest, I haven’t really been on top of this issue,” LeBron James on the Tamir Rice case.

James said that he wasn’t really paying attention to the case:

“To be honest, I haven’t really been on top of this issue. So it’s hard for me to comment. I understand that any lives that [are] lost, what we want more than anything is prayer and the best for the family, for anyone. But for me to comment on the situation, I don’t have enough knowledge about it.”

Is it his responsibility to carry this burden? What could he even do?

We are entering a new era of athletic activism with the expansion of social media. Athletes have usurped the power of journalists to distribute and shape their message. LeBron has already taken advantage of this infrastructure to show solidarity with another young, black, innocent victim.

Photo Credit: LeBron James

The 2012 Miami HEAT protest the Trayvon Martin killing. Photo Credit: LeBron James

To determine what LeBron’s responsibility might be, a look back at the last century of this issue would be instructive.

Due to America’s history with slavery and its struggle with the ensuing fallout of a botched reconstruction and the Jim Crow era that followed, much of activism in sports has been centered on the fight for racial equality.

Jack Johnson, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Althea Gibson, and many many many others went through literal and metaphorical trials throughout the Jim Crow era, as their natural resistance to oppression served as models of what the next generation of athletes could come to expect from those in control.

Even if the power structure didn’t change, the next generation of activists increased their share of power with the expansion of TV.

The 1964 NBA All Star Game was the first to be televised, and it almost never happened. Bill Russell helped to organize a walkout unless the owners agreed to recognize the players’ union. They proved to everyone in sports that it was possible to fight back against injustice, win, and keep their job.

Tommy Smith and John Carlos painted perhaps the most famous image of athletic activism, wearing black gloves, and raising their right fist in a show of solidarity while standing on the 1968 Olympic podium.

A grafitti version of the famous "black power" salute from the 1968 Olympic Games. Photo Credit: Newtown grafitti

A grafitti version of the famous “black power” salute from the 1968 Olympic Games.
Photo Credit: Newtown grafitti

As powerful as Smith and Carlos’ gesture was, its impact on society could not compare to the ordeal of The Greatest, or as he put it:

“Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.”

“Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.”

Muhammad Ali nearly sacrificed the greatest boxing career of all time in order to protest the Vietnam War after being drafted in 1966; refusing to fight by citing his devotion to Islam and its firm stance against wars of all kind. Ali minced no words on his view of the United States government:

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No, I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slavemasters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end…I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years. “

Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title, boxing license, and his passport so he could not fight overseas, unable to box again until 1971.

His case would eventually go to the Supreme Court, and this battle against the government was the first thing that many came to learn about the Vietnam War. The man formerly known as Cassius Clay was a major influence on an era that irrevocably changed the American public’s relationship with our government.

It’s difficult to find another athlete from any era exercising their conscience at the risk of so much while having as large of an impact as he did.

The energy and frequency of high-profile protest decreased in the next era as more money flowed into sports, and everyone’s attitude could be summed up by the famous (reportedly true) Michael Jordan quote: “Republicans buy shoes too” and Charles Barkley’s line of “I am not a role model. Just because I can dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”

There were occasional bouts of activism, including one that serves as a cautionary tale for all players.

In 1992, Craig Hodges, Jordan’s championship teammate, wore a dashiki to the White House, presenting a letter to President George H. W. Bush pushing for the government to begin to seriously invest in the black community.

That season, Hodges shot 37.5% from deep (3.9% higher than league average), 94.1% from the free throw line, and committed just 22 turnovers in 56 games, yet he never played again as 27 teams all felt they had no room for the efficient 31-year-old shooting guard.

Fast forward to today’s conversation where people openly snicker at the thought of anyone hand writing a letter, and activism seems to be on the rise.

In this decade alone, Derrick Rose and countless other NBA players wore I Can’t Breathe shirts in the wake of the Eric Garner tragedy. The Clippers covered up their logo in protest of Donald Sterling.

The Phoenix Suns wore jerseys that said “Los Suns” in response to a draconian immigration bill passed by the state of Arizona.

The St. Louis Rams exited the pregame tunnel with their hands up in a show of solidarity with the Michael Brown protestors in Ferguson.

Andrew Hawkins wears a shirt in warm ups calling for justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford.

All of these players used the power of images and their celebrity to make a statement about the injustices they see in our society.

It’s not just symbolism that characterizes today’s protests either. Outspoken players like Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo have campaigned fervently in support of LGBT rights, the former claiming that it cost him his job in the NFL, and the latter even getting into a spat with a congressman over the topic.

All-World QB Aaron Rodgers aggressively raises awareness to try to end the decades long war in the Congo, and will even go out of his way to denounce discrimination in his home stadium.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell can see some parallels between today and Muhammad Ali’s era of activism:

“I grew up in the ’60s, where everybody was socially conscious. I believe in it. I’d be a hypocrite if I stood up here and told you any differently, because more than likely, some of those protests that Dr. King and some of the others that took a part in non-violent protests, is the reason why I’m standing here in front of you today.”

Athletes live privileged lives that are funded entirely by our adulation. Their celebrity exists only because the community deems it so.

Athletes live privileged lives that are funded entirely by our adulation. Their celebrity exists only because the community deems it so.

They have a moral obligation to give back to the rest of us, but because of the contentious nature of social change and existing power structures, activism is bad for business.

This balance is difficult to achieve, with athletes like Muhammad Ali and Craig Hodges serving as cautionary tales of how one’s career can be ripped away from them in an instant.

However, with the emergence of this new era of activism and the ability for athletes to control their own message, there is plenty of room for LeBron to advance his involvement in the Tamir Rice case, especially since so many of his contemporaries seem ready and eager to lead us into a new world.

Do you think LeBron should be more than just a player? Tell us in the comments below: 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for you us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Cover Photo Credit: Keith Allison/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Here’s The Top 5 Players At Each Position Right Now In The NBA

By Jay Rumph

Out with the old, and in with the new. The NBA has been fueled by some of the best rising stars this year, which is good news for the league.

There’s a new era of basketball in the NBA.

We’re just a couple of games into 2016, but we can already see who contributes the most to their respective teams.

Evaluating players from the beginning of the season until now, these rankings are based on players’ total contribution so far this NBA season. We bring you our favorite players at each position entering the NBA’s New Year.

We live for these types of discussions. Here’s the best of the best. Let the debating begin.

Point Guard: Stephen Curry

Photo Credit: Keith Allison/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Keith Allison/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Curry is single handling changing the game of basketball. Leading the Golden State Warriors to the best record in the NBA at 35-2. The reigning MVP, Curry is doing everything for the Warriors. He’s playing so well this season, people are making comparisons between him, and Michael Jordan. Although I think the comparisons are coming a bit too early, we can’t help but admire his overall greatness.

He has the ability to make an impact on any game at any moment. Besides his terrific shooting ability, Curry is also a great finisher around the basket. A prolific passer, he is able to get all his teammates involved on the court.

Putting up historic numbers, Curry is averaging 31.8, 5.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. He’s doing all of that, while shooting 52.0% from the field, and 45% from the three-point line. Not only is he the best point guard in the league, there’s no doubt that he is also the best player in the NBA. The favorite to win the MVP again this year is Stephen Curry. Curry would join a list of great NBA players that has won the MVP award in consecutive years.

Shooting Guard: Jimmy Butler

Photo Credit: Shinya Suzuki/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Shinya Suzuki/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Discussion of who the NBA’s best shooting guard has become the new topic in 2015-16 season. Klay Thompson recently said he was the best shooting guard in the league, but James Harden quickly dismissed that claim. There’s no doubt that Jimmy Butler is in the conversation. A versatile player, Butler is a lockdown defender on defense, and Jimmy “Buckets” on offense.

He’s averaging 28.5 points, 6.2 assists, and 4.5 rebounds since the beginning of 2016. The Chicago Bulls are now second in the Eastern Conference, because of Jimmy’s two-way game. Bulls’ have finally found their offense, from their best player, Jimmy Butler.

Small Forward: Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard, reigning Defensive Player of the Year, has become one of the best small forwards in the league. Another two-way player, Leonard can guard the opponents best player, and score on their best player. He has become the Spurs’ best player, and most important player. Let’s not forget how good the San Antonio Spurs actually are, but they are much better when he’s on the basketball court.

Leonard is averaging 20.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game this season. That’s not including what he does to opponents on the defensive end. He has the NBA’s best defensive rating at 90.2. He has proven that he is one of the NBA’s great players, this season is just another example of his humble dominance.

Power Forward: Draymond Green

Photo Credit:  Lpdrew/ Wikimedia commons

Photo Credit: Lpdrew/ Wikimedia commons

A major part of the Warriors’ success, Green is playing on another level this season. There’s nothing Green can’t do this year. This season, he is averaging 15.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game. He’s the league leader in trouble doubles this season with a total of eight. Green posted triple-doubles in two of the last four games this week.

The options are unlimited when the ball is in his hands. His ability to get his teammates involved helps contribute to the Warriors play style. Yes, Green is another one of those versatile players. He can play the point forward, and then slide up to the center position, when Golden State wants to play small ball. Draymond Green’s ability to contribute in all aspects of the game is one of a kind.

Center: Demarcus Cousins

Photo Credit: Ytoyoda/ Wikimedia Commons (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Ytoyoda/ Wikimedia Commons (CC By 2.0)

Bad attitude or not, Demarcus Cousins ability on the basketball court speaks for itself. Cousins has the most talent out of all the centers in the NBA today. He can score the basketball from the inside or outside. He’s a huge threat from three-point line, currently shooting 32% from behind the arc. He ranks fifth in NBA scoring averaging 25.2 points per game. Also he is averaging 10.8 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game.

His abilities at the center position puts him above any other player at the position. He can put the ball on the floor and create opportunities for his teammates. Improving his offensive game will only make him a major threat for opponents. Look for Cousins to continue his hot start entering the New Year. There’s still a lot of basketball games left, but hopefully Cousins and Rajon Rondo can lead the Sacramento Kings into the NBA playoffs.

These players make our list as the top players at their position. Do you agree or Disagree? Who’s in your top 5? Let us know in the comments below.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for you us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Cover Photo Credit: Keith Allison/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

NFL Playoffs Kicks Off With Four Exciting Matchups That Could Each Come Down To The Wire

The NFL playoffs kick off with a bang this weekend with a slate of four games that are expected to be fiercely competitive.

Here’s a rundown of what to expect in each of those games:

Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) vs. Houston Texans (9-7) (Saturday 4:35pm ET, ABC)

After both enduring exceptionally odd seasons, it’s only fitting that these two teams would now meet in the playoffs. This game is a rematch of a Week one matchup where Kansas City took the game 27-20. That would be the last time that the Chiefs would win for over a month.

The Chiefs proceeded to lose their following five games and saw franchise running back Jamaal Charles go out in the midst of a 1-5 start.

That Week One matchup also propelled the Texans into a world of chaos, largely centered around the quarterback position. In their loss against the Chiefs, quarterback Brian Hoyer was pulled and replaced with Ryan Mallet. In total the Texans tried four different players under center this season before finally surrendering the position back to Brian Hoyer, who is expected to start on Saturday.

Both teams, however, were able to engineer turnarounds.

The Texans finished 8-3 over their last eleven games and secured the dreary AFC South with a 9-7 record.

The Chiefs closed their season in impressive fashion, winning ten straight and outscoring opponents 278 to 128 in the process.

Still without Charles, the Chiefs have found structure in the efficiency of quarterback Alex Smith and the consistency of their run game, which is sixth best in the league. On the contrary, Houston’s success this season has been predominantly anchored by JJ Watt and their defense. Though, while the Texan’s boast the third best defense, they are far better at defending against the pass.

The dynamics between these two teams should make for a hard-fought game.

The dynamics between these two teams should make for a hard-fought game. Although they carry a formidable rushing attack, the Chiefs supplement it well with their passing game.

New addition Jeremy Maclin adds an additional threat and is coming off a 1088 yard regular season. Although Smith doesn’t make a lot of eye popping plays, he’s exceptionally efficient and has the ability to escape pressure with his legs. The key for Houston will lie in disrupting the Kansas City offense, though they will also need a noteworthy performance from star wide out Deandre Hopkins if they’re going to capture the win.

Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (12-4) (Saturday 8:15 pm ET, CBS)

IMG267446930_7ce78d8f52_o

Photo Credit: SteelCityHobbies/Flickr (CC by-SA 2.0).

In the playoffs, it’s hard to ask for anything better than a bitter and brutal rivalry game. The 12-4 Bengals, who were only one Denver loss away from a first round bye, now have to host their division counterparts and the third best offense in the league, the Steelers.

The two teams put forward an interesting regular season, splitting their series 1-1 with both teams winning on the other’s home field. The Steelers are victors of the most recent matchup, winning in Cincinnati 33-20 on December 13th.

The loss, however, handed the Bengals more than just a mark on their record as quarterback Andy Dalton left the game with a broken thumb.

Dalton has yet to return this season and will not start on Saturday.

Since that Week 14 game, quarterback A.J. McCarron has commanded the huddle and has thrown six touchdowns with two interceptions.

Preparing for the young quarterback is a Steelers defense that ranks third worst against the pass. Thus entails the opportunity for McCarron to hook up early and often with wide receiver A.J. Green. The wide out is capable of breaking big plays with 19 catches of 20+ yards this season and will terrorize Pittsburgh’s secondary all game.

Saturday will provide an interesting test for McCarron who won multiple BCS National Championships in his time at Alabama.

Saturday will provide an interesting test for McCarron who won multiple BCS National Championships in his time at Alabama. The quarterback has certainly proven himself proficient on a big stage, but will have to lead a Bengal team that has never won a playoff game in Marvin Lewis’ twelve-year tenure.

Even more capable of explosive plays is the Steeler offense led by Ben Roethlisberger and their passing attack.

The Bengals defense is one of the most consistently tough in the league, with a secondary that nabbed 21 interceptions this season, which ranks third in the NFL.

Seattle Seahawks (10-6) vs. Minnesota Vikings (11-5) (Sunday 1:05 pm ET CBS)

 

Seahawks at Ravens 12/13/15

Cover Photo Credit: Keith Allison/Flickr (CC by-SA 2.0).

It’s been an interesting season for the Seattle Seahawks, who initially looked hung-over off of a heartbreaking loss in Super Bowl 49 last year. Now, though, every indicator hints that the team has regained perhaps a supreme level of confidence.

At the head of the Seahawks recovery has been nothing short of a phenomenal effort put forth by quarterback Russell Wilson. In the last seven games Wilson has an astonishing 24 touchdowns with only one interception.

Although they lost running back Marshawn Lynch with an abdominal injury early in the season, the Seahawks offense has rallied around their quarterback and now ranks fourth best in total offense.

Sunday’s game will take place in Minnesota with a temperature forecasted at 2°F. The circumstances are courtesy of the Vikings season finale, a win in Green Bay where they firmly clinched the NFC North for the first time since 2009.

Although both teams have running backs that have been battling injuries, both Adrian Peterson and Lynch will likely play on Sunday.

Although both teams have running backs that have been battling injuries, both Adrian Peterson and Lynch will likely play on Sunday.

The two teams squared off fairly recently on December 6th, a brutally one sided 38-7 victory for the Seahawks. The Seattle defense held Adrian Peterson to only 18 rushing yards in the contest. The same defense now enters the playoffs ranked first in defending against the run and will look to have a repeat performance against the best running back in the league.

The bitter weather conditions may impact young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater- a Miami native, which will only help the infamous Legion of Boom.

Still, Vikings and Seahawks fans alike should be excited for a good game.

The Vikings seem to be following the blueprint that Seattle laid out two years ago in their Super Bowl pursuit; a heavy run game anchored by defense. Now, however, they must face a Seahawks team that looks equally as dominant and determined to recapture another Lombardi Trophy.

Green Bay Packers (10-6) vs. Washington Redskins (9-7) (Sunday 4:40 pm ET FOX)

Photo Credit: Mike Morbeck/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Mike Morbeck/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

These two teams have perhaps been the two most surprising teams all year, but for very different reasons.

Entering the season the Redskins were almost entirely written off from the playoffs and Green Bay was a Super Bowl favorite, but you’ve got to love the beautiful unpredictability of the NFL.

As we sit now, Washington –although at a 9-7 record— has the higher seed and will host Green Bay in Sunday’s wildcard matchup. After years of the RGIII soap opera, this was the first season that quarterback Kirk Cousins was given full control of the starting job. Consequently, Cousins responded with a really solid season.

The quarterback has 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on the year, but by far his best play has come as of late.

Since Week 10, Cousins has thrown 19 touchdowns and only two interceptions, a good sign for Redskins fans heading into the post season. He’s completing nearly 70% of his passes to a particularly deep and skilled receiving core.

The Packers, on the other hand, have widely disappointed this season. Their offense ranks 23rd in the league, an especially shocking statistic from quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The simple fact is that Rodgers has been regularly beat up while dropping back this season.

While still putting up 31 touchdowns, Rodgers has been sacked 46 times this year, which is second only to Blake Bortles.

While still putting up 31 touchdowns, Rodgers has been sacked 46 times this year, which is second only to Blake Bortles.

This game has a good chance to be just as surprising and unpredictable as the two teams playing in it. Despite Green Bay’s offensive struggles, they will face one of the worst defenses in the league, an opportunity that may just open the doors for someone as great as Rodgers.

No doubt the Redskins are the hotter team entering this matchup, but Sunday’s contest presents opportunities for both teams.

Cover Photo Credit: Mike Morbeck/Flickr (CC by-SA 2.0).

This Former College Football Star Has Some Tough Advice For High School Players

By Curtric “Spiffy” Evans

Football has always been a huge part of my family. I’ve been playing the sport for as long as I can remember so it’s safe to say it’s been my life. I was blessed with the chance to play Division I football at Boston College.

Football gave me the chance to do what I loved and obtain a top-tier education in the process.

When I look back to the recruiting process that took place while I was in high school, it’s a bittersweet feeling.

By the time signing day rolled around in 2011 I had earned over 40 Division I scholarships to schools like Stanford, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Tennessee and even some Ivy Leagues.

With some many schools were  inviting me to join their teams, it made high school interesting.

I recall receiving text messages throughout the days and nights from different coaches from all over the country trying to sway me to make their school my home for the next four to five years.

“Coaches change every year so to choose a school based on people is a big mistake.”

Tons of letters to both of my parents homes and even my grandmother’s house.

I have over 5,000 hand written letters from coaches that I saved to show my son one day.

The most memorable moment came when coach Tim Tyrell (the then coach at Chaminade- Madonna in Hollywood and a former player at Youngstown State) had Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel come to the school and speak with two of my teammates and myself.

A large part of my recruitment started from performing well at the Ohio State camp before my junior season, and that led to big opportunities later.

Competing against the top athletes in my class gave me a deep sense of perspective of my skill level and ultimately showed me I could play at the next level.

If I could do it over I would go to OSU being that they truly wanted the best for me.

Some advice I can offer for any high-school recruits, choose a school on how it best fits you not what they show you.

Coaches change every year so to choose a school based on people is a big mistake.

On your visits be sure to find out all the questions and your biggest advisors will be the guys already on the team.

Don’t shy away from leaving the state if you have a chance because going away definitely broaden my horizons.

And lastly, enjoy it. Once you sign you name and start summer workouts no more of the glamour that you thought would be waiting for you unless you work for it.

The life of a highly recruited high school athlete was one of great times and experiences of my life, while also being one of the most chaotic times as well. Don’t get lost in the chaos.

Who Is Leading The Tom Brady vs. Cam Newton MVP Race?

By Nick Hickman

Last Sunday was disappointing for Carolina and New England fans as both watched their respective teams come up short in divisional games. The pair of losses brought the Panthers to 14-1 and the Patriots to 12-3, although both teams still sit comfortably with a clinched 1st round Playoff bye.

Additionally, both teams wield the two players leading this year’s MVP race in Tom Brady and Cam Newton, neither of which disappointed despite their team’s loss.

Entering the week with 480 passing touchdown in his career, Brady promptly tied Brett Favre’s record for most passing touchdowns for a singular team by connecting with James White in the fourth-quarter of Sunday’s game against the Jets. The 9-yard touchdown sent the game into overtime where the Jets pulled out the victory. Brady completed 22 of 31 passes and ended with one touchdown and an interception.

The Panthers entered last Sunday’s matchup against the Atlanta Falcons having put up 194 points in their last five games with an astonishing average of 38.8 per. The Falcons—who lost 38-0 in their week 14 matchup with the Panthers—undoubtedly had redemption in mind as they held the Panthers to only 13 points and a loss.

Still, however, Cam Newton found a way to stand out, which is beginning to seem all too easy for the 6’5”, 245 lb. phenom. On the opening drive of the game, Newton ran in his eighth touchdown rush this year, becoming the first player in NFL history with 30+ passing touchdowns and 8 rushing touchdowns in a season. The run also carried Newton to 41 career rushing touchdowns, tying him with San Francisco great Steve Young.

Tom Brady hopes to be at another one of these pre Super Bowl press scrums in a few weeks. Photo Credit: WEBN-TV/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Tom Brady hopes to be at another one of these pre Super Bowl press scrums in a few weeks. Photo Credit: WEBN-TV/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Breaking records seems like only but a pattern for Cam Newton. In the matchup with the Giants two weeks ago, Newton became the first player in history with 300+ passing yards, five touchdown passes and 100+ rushing yards in a single game. Additionally, the quarterback has been responsible for 61.19% of the Panthers points this season.

It seems too that we’ve now become burdened with finding new records for Cam Newton to break. Before losing to the Falcons, Newton was the first player to hold an undefeated 14-0 record in both college and the NFL. Heading into the playoffs in the month of December, Newton boasts a record of 17-4. It’s about time we finally start recognizing the level of greatness in front of us.

And true, there’s no denying the greatness of number 12 in New England. After winning and being awarded the MVP of Super Bowl XLIX, Brady entered a several month-long legal dispute with the NFL—and while it’s worth noting that Brady largely won the battle after having his suspension nullified, the rest of the details only lead to a migraine.

But without a suspension in place, the only reminisce of the Deflategate scandal is the fire in Brady’s belly that has helped lead his team to the best record in the AFC. After this Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots will start the 2016 Playoffs with a bye and will likely threaten another Super Bowl run.

However, just as likely is the reality that Newton’s Panthers will meet them there.

This is a setup far different from last years playoff picture in which the Panthers held a 7-8 record entering the postseason. Their season ended in a 31-17 loss against Seattle in the divisional round. This season, however, the Panther’s have already doubled their wins from last year.

When you watch him on the field it’s undeniable that Newton often resembles a man among boys, it’s the reason we call him Superman. In only his fifth NFL season, Newton is the only player to total five straight seasons with 3,000 passing yards and 500 rushing yards. He averages 5.4 yards per rush, a feat desired by many NFL running backs.

Unlike many of his scrambling counterparts of the past, however, Newton has an impeccable ability to pass from the pocket and is second in the NFL in passing touchdowns with 33. It’s the combination of these two threats that make him so lethal.

“WHEN YOU WATCH HIM ON THE FIELD IT’S UNDENIABLE THAT NEWTON OFTEN RESEMBLES A MAN AMONG BOYS, IT’S THE REASON WE CALL HIM SUPERMAN.”

If you bring too much pressure on defense, Newton has the ability to pick your secondary apart. If you favor the passing and coverage game, you leave him the frightening possibility to run and make plays. He will beat you however he needs to.

With the best record in the NFL, there is no team that doesn’t take the Panthers seriously. It’s about time for us as fans, however, to attribute the Panthers and their quarterback the same level of respect. Newton is of a new breed. We have never seen such a combination of speed, strength, athleticism, skill and ability.

He’s taken his Panthers from a 7-8 record to a record of 14-1 and first place in the NFC. The man embodies the iconic image of a superstar and reminds us of so every time he selects a kid in the crowd and hands him his touchdown ball.

The race for NFL MVP is now nearing a finish line. Many more conversations and debates will be had, but nothing can take away from what we’ve already seen. The 2015 NFL season has given us many feats of excellence and excitement, including contributions from Brady.

However, the marathon that has already lasted 15 weeks has a clear frontrunner, and his name is Cam Newton.

Cover Photo Credit: Mike Morbeck/Flickr (CC by-SA 2.0).

Charles Woodson Announces Retirement After 18 Years Of Dominance

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Charles Woodson announced his retirement Monday from the NFL and his 18-year career will end with the Raiders final two games this season. “I’ve had an incredible career,” Woodson said. “It goes beyond words. I never intended on playing as long as I have, but this is the way it’s happened and I’m… Read More

Here’s A Guide To Today’s College Football Bowl Games

By Max Littman

The 2015 College Bowl Season kicks off on Saturday, December 19th.

Here’s a preview of every bowl game today so you know what to watch and what to expect.

Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl

Atlanta, Georgia 12:00 EST December 19th, 2015.

Alcorn State (9-3) vs.

North Carolina A&T (9-2)

This year marks the inaugural year of the Celebration Bowl and pits two premier FCS teams against each other. Alcorn State, the Southwestern Athletic Conference Champions, will face off against North Carolina A&T, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Champions.

Although both relatively unknown teams, both have performed admirably year and figure to be around the same skill level.

Both lost to ranked FBS teams by large margins at the beginning of the season with North Carolina A&T dropping to then #10 North Carolina 53-14 and Alcorn State dropping to then #16 Georgia Tech 69-6.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl

Albuquerque, New Mexico 2pm EST December 19th, 2015.

Arizona (6-6) vs.

New Mexico (7-5)

Arizona, coming off a grueling Pac-12 schedule, is favored to take this game against the home-town team, the New Mexico Lobos. Arizona is coming off a season where they lost against 2 top-25 teams, UCLA and Stanford, while also dropping to 4 other Pac-12 teams. The brightest spot for Arizona was their defeat of then #10 Utah at home 37-30.

The Wildcats are led by the return of junior linebacker, and All-American, Scooby Wright III who missed most of this past season with various injuries. He’ll be looking to stop New Mexico’s explosive tandem of running backs Teryion Gipson and Jhurell Pressley and quarterback Lamar Jordan who all very successfully ran New Mexico’s triple option offense.

The trio and the rest of New Mexico’s offense averaged a respectable 29 points a game, albeit against a schedule consisting of only one Power-5 team, Arizona State, which resulted in a 34-10 loss. New Mexico does have home-field advantage, which could help them pull of the upset.

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

Las Vegas, Nevada 3:30pm EST December 19th, 2015.

BYU (9-3) vs.

Utah (9-3)

The Utes and the Cougars had very similar 2015 seasons, which each finding success through stretches of the season but struggling at times. After losing to then #10 UCLA and Michigan, BYU won 7 of their last 8 games to finish as the second best independent football team in the FBS.

Utah on the other hand started out hot, beating a very good Michigan team, and went on to win 8 of their 9 first games.

The team though seemed to collapse near the end of the season, losing to UCLA and Arizona, before finally finishing off their season with a win against Colorado. Although on paper it’s a very evenly matched game, BYU may be in disarray during the game because it will be their coach, Bronco Mendenhall’s final game with BYU before he leaves to take the head coaching job at Virginia.

Adding intrigue to this game is the in-state rivalry between the two teams.

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

Montgomery, Alabama 5:30pm EST December 19th, 2015.

Ohio (8-4) vs.

Appalachian State (10-2)

This year’s Camellia bowl pits two relatively under-the-radar, yet potentially explosive teams against each other. Appalachian State is led by their excellent running game, 6th in the nation with 268 yards per game- and will look to match-up very favorably against a weaker Ohio defense. Appalachian State’s only losses came against Clemson and a disappointing loss to Arkansas St.

Without the loss to Arkansas State this team could have been an outside choice for a New Year’s 6 bowl game. Regardless their excellent run game and defense could be too much to handle for Ohio, who after a rough middle of the season looks to be on their way back.

Ohio finished second in the Eastern Division of the Mid-American Conference after a bumpy middle of the season capitalized by a blowout loss 62-24 to eventual MAC champions, Bowling Green St. Despite being heavy underdogs in this game they will rely on their quarterback Derrius Vick and their excellent wide receiver Sebastian Smith to lead them to an upset victory.

The AutoNation Cure Bowl

Orlando, Florida 7:00pm EST December 19th, 2015.

San Jose State (5-7) vs.

Georgia State (6-6)

The Cure Bowl this year features two lower caliber teams.

San Jose State is even lucky to be even going bowling after they only won 5 games in the 2015 campaign. Due to a massive amount of bowls and too few 6 win bowl-eligible teams this year, San Jose State was awarded a bowl bid due to their academic performance rating.

With their wins coming against New Hampshire, Fresno State, UNLV, New Mexico, and Hawaii they look to be one of the weakest teams in a bowl game this year. One of their few bright spots though is their running back, Tyler Ervin, who has 1,469 yards and and 13 td’s this year in an excellent showing.

San Jose State will be going up against a Georgia State team who became bowl eligible after winning their last four games behind their fantastic passing game. Their quarterback, Nick Arbuckle, is ranked 6th in the country for passing yards, amassing a very formidable 4,160 through the air this season.

Arbuckle’s favorite target is wide receiver Penny Hart. Hart has also excelled this year and is currently 22nd in the country with 1,095 yards on 71 receptions. This high-powered offense will be looking to blow away San Jose State’s defense in what could be a blowout game.

R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

New Orleans, LA 9:00pm EST December 19th, 2015.

Louisiana Tech (8-4) vs.

Arkansas State (9-3)

The home-state favorites Louisiana Tech look to prove themselves in this year’s New Orleans bowl against Sunbelt Conference Champions Arkansas State.

Louisiana Tech is led by former Florida quarterback, senior Jeff Driskel.

Driskel and his best receiver, Trent Taylor, have had a terrific year and lead the 15th best passing game in the nation. The Bulldogs’ defense though will almost assuredly have their hands full with a high powered Arkansas State squad who averages a very high 41 points per game.

Much of Arkansas State’s offensive production comes behind a very formidable rushing attack led by, Michael Gordon.

Arkansas State captured their conference with a big win over Appalachian State, and all three of their losses have come against teams who have been ranked at some point this season in USC, Mizzou, and Toledo. Since their loss to Toledo, they have won 8 games straight and finished undefeated in Sunbelt Conference play.

Louisiana Tech on the other hand has played a much lighter schedule and lost their season finale 58-24 to Southern Mississippi. The home-state team will have a lot to prove in what should be an offensive shootout in the swamp.

Cover Photo Credit: R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl/Facebook (CC By 2.0)

UK Government Open To Criminalizing Blood Doping

The U.K. government would be open to the criminalisation of doping, according to Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, potentially putting it on a collision course with UK Anti-Doping that is opposed to such measures. “We actually have very strong anti-doping procedures in place, and that’s what makes the UK Anti-Doping agency one of the best in the… Read More

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