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Four Favorites to Win Super Bowl 50 0

Posted on August 27, 2015 by Brooke Chaplan
Now that he has a new contract and one of the best tight ends in football, Russell Wislon should be headed to a big season in 2015.

Now that he has a new contract and one of the best tight ends in football, Russell Wilson should be headed to a big season in 2015.

With the NFL season just around the corner, America is getting excited. Thousands of people will pack stadiums around the country to root for their favorite teams, shops will be littered with excitable fans picking up their favorite star player’s Webobble custom sports bobbleheads or video games. Concession stands and restroom lines will make you feel like you’re actually waiting for the newest amusement park ride, but you do it all for the team! To get the NFL season started this year, we present some of this year’s NFL Favorites.

Seattle Seahawks
Last year’s runner up is this year’s favorite. The Seahawks boast (and what many consider to be) the league’s best defense. They’ve managed to keep together their core group of players and are still adding pieces to the puzzle. One of those pieces the Seahawks acquired this off season, is Jimmy Graham. Jimmy is one of the league’s best tight ends, and will surely add another dimension to Russel Wilson’s receiving arsenal.

Green Bay Packers
With the league’s best offense last year, Green Bay comes in at number two. The Packers had a disastrous collapse in last year’s NFC Championship game, and let the Seahawks sneak by them into the Super Bowl. Green Bay has locked up Aaron Rodgers’ and two favorite targets in multi-year deals, though the loss of Jordy Nelson to a season-ending knee injury will hurt. Fortunately, Rodgers still has Randall Cobb, who has emerged as an elite receiver,  along with powerful running back Eddie Lacy, who rushed for 1,139 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Read the rest of this entry →

What Are The Odds? Looking at the Top Preseason Contenders for the College Football Playoffs 0

Posted on August 26, 2015 by Jim Hurley
Ohio State has been anointed as the favorite to again raise the College Football National Championship trophy.

Ohio State has been anointed as the favorite to again raise the College Football National Championship trophy.

The anointing of Ohio State for a repeat national championship has begun—the Buckeyes were the first unanimous preseason #1 in the history of the AP poll when that venerable organization released its voting results earlier this week. Las Vegas is no less bullish on the Bucks, slotting Ohio State is a decisive 2-1 favorite to win it all in Glendale on January 11. There’s no question Urban Meyer has a terrific team. But does that make them a terrific bet?

Ohio State is not a perfect team. They have youth on the offensive line, with two sophomores in starting roles. They have to replace a pair of defensive lineman, something that can’t be overlooked in the run-heavy Big Ten.

While Meyer has a well-documented embarrassment of riches at quarterback, even that comes with its own challenges—he can’t afford to have the locker room split between J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, even if Braxton Miller made everyone’s life easier by agreeing to switch to wide receiver.

Then there’s the suspensions. Four players will miss the season opener on Labor Day Night at Virginia Tech, including All-American defensive end Joey Bosa. If Ohio State gets through this game, which they remain favored to do, then that issue is past them. But it’s one more fly in the ointment.

None of this is to suggest that the Buckeyes are uniquely vulnerable or that they shouldn’t be ranked #1. What I am suggesting is that 2-1 is a very short price when the season is just beginning. You can likely wait until the beginning of the Playoff and get close to the same price, but without any lingering questions.

Public handicappers have to look elsewhere for value. Here’s a brief rundown of how the challengers to Ohio State are viewed in Las Vegas, and some pertinent thoughts on each group of teams:

THE PRIME CHALLENGERS: TCU (6-1), Alabama (13-2): This is rarefied air for the Horned Frogs, with their #2 preseason ranking in the AP poll being the highest in their history. The Crimson Tide are more interesting. It’s a short price, but about as good as anyone will get with a Nick Saban-coached team. If early games, like the September 5 prime-time affair with Wisconsin at Cowboys Stadium show an improved ‘Bama defense, the Tide are worth a serious look. Read the rest of this entry →

Frank Gifford Was A Legend On the Field and In the Booth 0

Posted on August 09, 2015 by Dean Hybl
NFL Hall of Famer Frank Gifford has passed away at the age of 84.

NFL Hall of Famer Frank Gifford has passed away at the age of 84.

The sports world has lost a sports legend with the passing on Sunday of former New York Giants Hall of Famer Frank Gifford at the age of 84.

A star at the University of Southern California and then on one of the glamour teams in the NFL, Gifford went on to become a key part of the most talked about announcing trio in football history.

A native Californian, Gifford attended Bakersfield High School and Bakersfield Junior College before becoming an All-American halfback for the Trojans.

Selected by the New Yok Giants in the first round of the 1952 NFL Draft, Gifford immediately became an important building block on a Giants team that by 1956 was among the best in the NFL.

Initially playing both offense and defense, Gifford earned Pro Bowl honors in just his second season. He would go on to earn Pro Bowl honors for seven straight years and was a four-time first team All-Pro.

In 1956 Gifford was named the NFL MVP as he rushed for a career-high 819 yards and led the NFL with 1,422 yards from scrimmage. The Giants won the World Championship with a dominating 47-7 victory over the Chicago Bears in which Gifford caught passes for 131 yards and a touchdown and also had 30 yards rushing.

The Giants reached back-to-back NFL Championship Games in 1958 and 1959, but lost both times to the Baltimore Colts. Read the rest of this entry →

Pro Football Hall of Fame Welcomes “Workhorse” Class 2

Posted on August 08, 2015 by Dean Hybl
With eight inductees, the 2015 Hall of Fame Class is the largest since 1967.

With eight inductees, the 2015 Hall of Fame Class is the largest since 1967.

With no quarterbacks and only one first ballot selection, the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame class isn’t quite as glamorous as some others in recent years, but it is an important group of workhorse inductees who all enjoyed long and successful careers.

After a period from 1991-2005 when the HOF selection committee created a glut of worthy inductees by picking no more than five people in 12 of 14 years, they have spent the last decade filling the HOF with both glamorous and workmanlike candidates. The HOF has admitted at least six candidates every year since 2006.

The 2015 class of eight selections marks the largest class since 1967 and includes six former players as well as two executives. Bill Polian and Ron Wolf are the first football executives who were not owners to be selected for the HOF since Jim Finks in 1995.

While the marquee player from this class is certainly Junior Seau, all six players enjoyed long and distinguished careers. Several have been eligible for the HOF for several years, but had to wait for others to take their rightful place before it was time for them to receive their busts.

Moving forward, there are still some outstanding players “in the que” as well as several new candidates that will be eligible in the next few years, so it will be interesting to see if the HOF selection committee continues to push the number of new enshrines each year or if they pull back slightly in the coming years.

Regardless, the 2015 class is one for the ages and helps tell the story of football history over the past several decades. Below are brief capsules of each selection:

Jerome Bettis: Known as “The Bus”, Bettis ranks sixth in NFL history with 13,662 yards rushing. He was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and twice was a first team all-pro selection. An eight-time 1,000 yard rusher, Bettis spent his first three seasons with the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams before being traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He rushed for a career-high 1,665 yards in 1997 and was a mainstay for the Pittsburgh rushing game for a decade. His final game was Super Bowl XL as he helped the Steelers win the Lombardi Trophy.

Tim Brown: Based on statistics alone, Brown certainly belongs in the Hall of Fame. He ranks fifth in NFL history with 1,094 receptions, sixth with 14,934 receiving yards and seventh with 100 receiving touchdowns. Between 1993 and 2002 he caught at least 76 passes every year (NFL high 104 in 1997) and had nine 1,000 yard seasons. Brown was a nine time Pro Bowl selection, but never received All-Pro honors. While Brown was a great talent and had great statistics, it seems hard to justify him as a HOF member when other great receivers from previous eras who were key parts of championship teams, most especially Drew Pearson and Otis Taylor, have not yet been recognized in Canton. Read the rest of this entry →

Examples in Excellence: Most Inspiring Coaches of the Last Decade 0

Posted on July 24, 2015 by Brooke Chaplan
Jill Ellis has been successful building the U.S. Women's Soccer Team into a team of stars.

Jill Ellis has been successful building the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team into a team where everyone plays their role.

The greatest sports coaches have the power to inspire their athletes to be better than they’ve ever been and change the whole dynamic of a team. We’ve all seen what an amazing leader can do for an otherwise scrappy team, and here are just a few of the most remarkable examples of the last decade.

Build Teams with Great Players, Not One Great Player
Jill Ellis experienced incredible training as a young coach at UCLA when she was mentored by John Wooden. Now she is the manager of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team.

Ellis creates a clear team concept and teaches each player their role within it. At her father’s suggestion, she learned communication outside her sport. For a while, she was a technical writer. Now she can explain her team vision and help her players to be their best within it. Her background was able to prepare her for seeing a big picture and what each part needs to do to organize a working machine.

Leadership by Listening
Steve Kerr was the first rookie head coach in the NBA to win the championship since 1982. The Golden State Warriors were a team of current and future all-stars, but they needed someone who could pull all the pieces together.

Kerr created a system based on the strengths of his players to maximize the team’s performance. He also empowered his coaching staff to share their ideas and listened to everyone. Most significantly, in the NBA Finals, an assistant coach wanted to change the starting line-up to help them deal with the previously unstoppable LeBron James. Kerr accepted and implemented the idea. Not only did it work, Kerr publicly identified his assistant as the source of the idea. This is one example out of dozens of Kerr giving credit to others for the team’s success.
Read the rest of this entry →

Is it Time to Like Brett Favre Again? 0

Posted on July 18, 2015 by Dean Hybl
Brett Favre told Sports Illustrated that he could still play in the NFL.

Brett Favre told Sports Illustrated that he could still play in the NFL.

I don’t know if you’ve had the same reaction, but for at least the last five years (and probably for all seven years since he left the Green Bay Packers) every time I see Brett Favre in a commercial or hear his name mentioned in any context, I do an internal eye roll and automatically tune out the discussion.

Earlier this month when the cover of Sports Illustrated showed a grinning Favre and promised insight into whether he thinks he could still play (of course he does), I had to set the magazine aside as just the thought of Favre returning to the NFL gave me a twitch.

That someone who was so beloved and enjoyed by football fans for over a decade somehow became the crazy uncle that no one wants to acknowledge or discuss is really one of the strange stories of the recent NFL.

There is little dispute that Favre was one of the quintessential players of the NFL from the early 1990s through the late 2000s. Even if you were not a Green Bay Packer fan, you knew about Favre and dazzled in his exuberance and talent.

He was the gunslinger who occasionally shot himself in the foot, but more often put the bullet directly in the heart of his opponents. He won a Super Bowl as a 28-year-old and very nearly made it back late in his career with both the Packers and later the Minnesota Vikings.

However, for many football fans, it was his inability to exit gracefully that is still remembered and is the reason he often is omitted from lists of the top quarterbacks in NFL history.

Though he had hinted at retirement a year earlier, it was not until March 4, 2008, just weeks after Favre had thrown an overtime interception that helped the New York Giants defeat the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, that Favre announced his retirement.

Had Favre’s story ended there with a tearful goodbye and a career full of Packer memories, his place in history would certainly have been secure.

However, as is well documented, Favre spent the next three seasons turning the idea of retirement into a national joke.

Just three months after retiring, he told the Packers he wanted to come back. That led to a heated battle that burned many bridges between the quarterback and the team he had led for 16 years. The Packers had committed themselves to Aaron Rodgers (which turned out to be a pretty good decision) and hoped Favre would honor his decision to retire (they even offered him a $25 million marketing agreement to walk away).

Favre was clear that he was no longer interested in retiring and wanted to return to the NFL. If the Packers were not going to give him the starting quarterback job back, then he wanted them to release him so he could sign with any team. Rumors were swirling that he wanted to play for the division rival Vikings both because of their head coach (Brad Childress) and because they played the Packers twice during the season. Read the rest of this entry →

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