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Sports Then and Now


Questions Are Abundant For AFC Contenders

Posted on August 10, 2016 by Dean Hybl
Even though Tom Brady will miss the first four games of the season, the New England Patriots are still the pick of many to reach the Super Bowl.

Even though Tom Brady will miss the first four games of the season, the New England Patriots are still the pick of many to reach the Super Bowl.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

According to Top Sports Betting Sites, even the absence of starting quarterback Tom Brady for the first four weeks of the season isn’t enough to knock the New England Patriots out of their familiar role of favorite to win Super Bowl 51.

Even though the Patriots lost last year to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game and Tom Brady recently turned 39 years old, many still believe there is enough left in the tank for the Patriots to propel them to their seventh Super Bowl appearance since 2000.

One potential reason for that has little to do with the Patriots themselves. Of their top AFC competitors, most have just as many question marks as the Patriots, if not more.

The defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos begin the 2016 season with a huge question mark at quarterback. Though Peyton Manning spent most of last season as a caretaker, rather than game-changing quarterback, he did provide experience and stability during their Super Bowl run.

The primary candidates for the position this year include former New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, Northwestern University product Trevor Siemian and first round draft pick Paxton Lynch.

Though Sanchez once led the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Games, his recent history has not been anywhere near as impressive. His final years in New York are best remembered for the infamous butt-fumble and he spent last season as a backup in Philadelphia.

Siemian got into one game last season for the Broncos while Lynch could be the quarterback of the future after being selected with the 26th pick of the 2016 draft out of Memphis.

While Denver certainly rode Von Miller and their strong defense to the championship last year, they cannot expect another Super Bowl season if there quarterback play is again unspectacular. Read the rest of this entry →

Alex Rodriguez: Is This Really How It Ends?

Posted on August 08, 2016 by Dean Hybl
The Alex Rodriguez era in New York will officially end on August 12th.

The Alex Rodriguez era in New York will officially end on August 12th.

It wasn’t supposed to end this way. Rather than completing his career in a generally meaningless game on a Friday night in August, Alex Rodriguez was supposed to exit either with a dramatic World Series performance or after eclipsing the “bogus” home run record of a disgraced cheater.

Instead, following a hastened Sunday morning press conference, Rodriguez will serve on the active roster for the Yankees only through August 12th before being released. While there is still a chance that he will be picked up by another team, the fact that he is still owed more than $25 million dollars over the next year means he will likely instead move to an advisor role with the Yankees.

It seems like forever ago, but it has actually only been eight years (2008) since Rodriguez was seen by most in baseball as the savior who would free the game from the purgatory of having Barry Bonds and his chemically supported body at the top of the prestigious career home run list.

Of course, we all know about his dramatic fall from grace. It started with a Sports Illustrated article and a somewhat confusing explanation in 2009 where Rodriguez admitted to taking PEDs given to him by a relative while with the Texas Rangers, but insisted it was a short-term thing and hadn’t significantly enhanced his performance.

While his explanation was hard for some to accept, for the most part people (most particularly Yankee fans) took it hook line and sinker. Especially when he overcame past playoff failures and helped lead the Yankees to a World Series title in 2009.

Interestingly, while Rodriguez still showed above average power for the next couple seasons, he never again hit .300 for a season (something he had done nine times between 1995 and 2008). He also started regularly missing time with injuries starting in 2009.

After reaching 30 home runs and 100+ RBI in 2009 and 2010, from 2011-2013 Rodriguez played in only 265 games (out of 486) and totaled only 41 home runs and 138 RBI in three years.

During this time, his insistence that using PEDs was not a regular part of his career also came into question as he was prominently mentioned in the investigation of the Biogenesis lab in Miami. It was his inclusion and supposed attempt to cover up his involvement that resulted in Major League Baseball coming down with a historic suspension that ultimately saw Rodriguez miss the entire 2014 season.

Despite some wondering whether the Yankees would want him back, the fact that they owed him $65 million guaranteed that he would return.

Playing almost exclusively as the designated hitter, Rodriguez actually had a solid season at the age of 39 in 2015. He appeared in 151 games, his most since 2007, and hit 33 home runs with 86 RBI. However, he struggled over the final two months of the season and went hitless as the Yankees lost the Wild Card Playoff Game. Read the rest of this entry →

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Pro Football Hall of Fame Still Missing Many Deserving Players

Posted on August 06, 2016 by Dean Hybl
Jerry Kramer has shockingly been bypassed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for more than 40 years.

Jerry Kramer has shockingly been bypassed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for more than 40 years.

With the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducting its newest class of enshrines, it provides the annual opportunity for discussion about which former NFL stars that seem worthy of being included in the Hall of Fame still are without busts in Canton.

Since he first became eligible in the early 1970s, former Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Jerry Kramer has been high on most lists of best players not in the HOF. As other Packers, as well as other offensive linemen with lesser career resumes, have received their HOF moment, Kramer has annually been denied.

A ten time HOF finalist, it has been nearly 20 years since Kramer last received serious HOF consideration. Some speculate that Kramer’s exclusion has been due to a glut of Packers from the 1960s. However, given that linebacker Dave Robinson became the 11th member of the 1960s Packers inducted just three years ago, that doesn’t seem totally accurate.

Given that the HOF selection committee has a history of vendettas (Ken Stabler was not selected until a year after his death), the explanation that seems more plausible has to do with Kramer’s foray into the world of journalism.

Following the 1967 season, Kramer and journalist Dick Schapp chronicled what turned out to be the last of the five championship teams of the 1960s in the award winning book Instant Replay. Two decades later, Kramer and Schapp revisited those players in the book Distant Replay.

There has been some speculation that journalists at the time resented Kramer treading into their world. In addition, because the Packers were known for their team mentality, having one player step out as a self-proclaimed spokesperson may have also created resentment.

Kramer’s on-the-field accolades would seem to unquestionably be HOF worthy. A five-time first team All-Pro offensive guard, Kramer was one of the lead blockers of the famed Packer Sweep. He also threw the lead block on one of the most famous plays of all-time to help the Packers defeat Dallas in the 1967 NFL Championship Game. In 1969 he was honored as one of the members of the NFL All-Time team for the 50th Anniversary of the league.

In recent years, his contemporaries Gene Hickerson, Billy Shaw and Dick Stanfel have received HOF selection while Kramer continues to wait for the call. Given that Stanfel is being inducted this year, slightly more than a year after his death at the age of 87, I hope the HOF Committee doesn’t wait too much longer before electing the 80-year-old Kramer.

While he is the most notable, Kramer is one of many former NFL stars who seem to have a strong case for HOF selection, especially when compared to others from their own era who have been inducted. Below is a breakdown of how some of those players compare with others from their own era who are members of the HOF.

1970s Wide Receivers:
Inducted: Lynn Swann (9 yrs, 336 receptions, 5,462 yards, 51 TD, 1 time All-Pro; Career-Highs: 61 receptions, 880 yards, 11 TDs)

Not Inducted: Drew Pearson: (11 yrs, 489 rec., 7,822 yds., 48 TD, 3 time All-Pro; Career-highs: 62 rec., 1,087 yds, 8 TD)

Cliff Branch: (14 yrs, 501 rec., 8,685 yds., 67 TD, 3 time All-Pro; Career-Highs: 60 rec., 1,111 yds., 13 TD)

Harold Jackson: (16 yrs., 579 rec, 10,372 yds., 76 TD, 1 time All-Pro; Career-Highs: 65 rec., 1,116 yds., 13 TD)

Otis Taylor: (11 yrs., 410 rec., 7,306 yds., 57 TD, 2 time All-Pro; Career-Highs: 59 rec., 1,297 yds., 11 TD)

While I have included only these four, in reality there are perhaps a dozen or more receivers who like Swann played much of their careers before the new rules started to increase the numbers for receivers in the late 1970s and are more deserving of being in the HOF than the former Pittsburgh Steeler. Read the rest of this entry →

Did the Dallas Cowboys Go Right With Ezekiel Elliot?

Posted on August 05, 2016 by Andrew Scott
After being chosen with the 4th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, there is a lot of pressure on Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys.

After being chosen with the 4th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, there is a lot of pressure on Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys.

Conventional football betting wisdom suggested that the Dallas Cowboys should have gone with a QB in the 2016 NFL draft; someone that they could groom to become 36 year old Tony Romo’s near-future replacement. Notwithstanding that, having the 4th overall pick meant that top QB selections Jared Goff and Carson Wentz were pretty much out of their reach. Moreover, Cowboys management must have felt differently, because they waited until the fourth round to select Mississippi State’s quarterback Dak Prescott (the 135th overall pick). Others thought they should have added a defensive player. But most agreed that the offensive line was more than fine as it was.

At the end of the day, Dallas went with running back Ezekiel Elliot from Ohio State – which is a sort of compromise, if you think about it. While not a direct addition to an already stacked O-line (which includes Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Doug Free), Elliot is the kind of player that can make the most of arguably the best offensive line in the league. For example, the 21 year old can carry the load on a three-down basis for an offense that wants to return to a ground-and-pound style. By any measures, Elliot and the Cowboys are the right fit for both parties. Football betting experts have already pegged Elliot as an early candidate for the 2016 Offensive Rookie of the Year, as well as rushing champion and rookie rushing record. In any other team with a different O-line, expectations simply would not be as high for Elliot.

According to Romo, Elliot is adapting well in the Cowboys training camp. “He’s done a good job. There’s a lot to learn in the offense. It’s not easy coming into the NFL and having a system, especially like ours, where we ask you to do so much in the run game and the pass game.” the QB said. “I think he’s handled it well. You can see his ability. We’re excited about him coming out and playing good.” Romo added that Elliot has been asking the right questions, but could always ask more. Either way, the veteran quarterback is “in his ear enough.” Like an earworm? There is something not quite right about having Tony Romo serenading you right in the ear, so let’s not picture that, shall we? Read the rest of this entry →

The 5 Best Sports for Kids

Posted on August 04, 2016 by Scott Huntington

Many variables contribute to how a child develops in their early years, and while reading, puzzles, and other traditional “brain boosters” are vital, sports are just as important. Sports are also important to a child’s development for many reasons — promoting a healthy lifestyle as well as teaching teamwork and cooperation are just a couple of them.

As early physical activity and competition can help shape a child’s behavior, the debate that every parent faces is which sport(s) to sign their kids up for. With such a wide variety to choose from, the pressure to pick the right ones feels pretty heavy.

Here are five great sports for you to sign your kids up for at a young age:

1. Soccer

2067_main-300x175@2xSoccer is considered one of the best sports for children to start at a very young age. It’s a low-maintenance, easy-to-teach game that encourages kids to just run around and have fun.

Unlike basketball, football and baseball, which require more finely-tuned motor skills to play properly, the core concept of soccer can still be enjoyed without perfect mastery of one’s foot-to-eye coordination. It’s the easiest game to teach to a child — run as fast as you can, kick the ball at the net and make sure the other team doesn’t kick the ball into your goal. Simple, right?

Soccer teaches children how to interact with others to work as a team. It also helps them become more coachable, learning to follow instructions and execute game plans.

Read the rest of this entry →

What Do Injuries Spell for NFL Betting Fans

Posted on August 04, 2016 by Andrew Scott
After missing the 2015 season with a knee injury, can Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson return to past form?

After missing the 2015 season with a knee injury, can Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson return to past form?

Fans who plan on betting on NFL football should know there are two crippling components in the league, injuries and suspension. Players misbehaving off the field is one thing, but players not playing due to something that is completely out of their control is soul crushing for both the athlete and the sportsbook user. While offseason injuries can usually be accounted for, a mid-game injury could have a drastic outcome for the game. Sometimes a player being carted off can open the lane for a future hall of famer, as was the case for Brett Favre. Other times it can cost teams the game and those betting on NFL football their money. In a sport as physical football it’s important to have an indication of which players are prone to injuries, and which players are recovering from injuries. A quick glance at NFL history will reveal just how devastating injuries can be to players, teams, and sportsbook users.

Indubitably the biggest injury sustained in the history of the NFL was suffered by Joe Theismann. In one of the most memorable hits ever delivered legendary linebacker Lawrence Taylor snapped both the tibia and fibula of the former Redskins quarterback. The film The Blind Side highlights this moment and states that this hit is the reason that left tackles usually receive the second highest salary on the team. Theismann’s career was ended and it took Washington 9 years to win another Super Bowl. The NFL lost a great quarterback, and those who picked the Redskins as favorites for NFL futures lost their money.

While not all injuries sustained in the NFL are that tragic, they can be just as costly to fans betting on NFL football. Last season Green Bay’s quarterback Aaron Rodgers went without his favorite target, Jordy Nelson. Rodgers was able to find success by putting up modest numbers and the Pack still made it to the divisional round, but there’s no doubting that if Nelson had been on the field the Packers would have gone further. This example proves the impact injuries have on a football team, even if that injury isn’t sustained by that team’s most valuable player. Read the rest of this entry →

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