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Predictions for This NFL Season 0

Posted on August 24, 2021 by Zach Chambers

It’s right around the corner, and before you know it the NFL season will be upon us. There is nothing better than the fall when football returns, and Sundays are taken up with cheering, talking trash, and biting on your fingernails. With the NFL, the anticipation is not as good as the arrival, but it’s still fun to make predictions about what might happen in the coming season. Here are some bold, and maybe not so bold, prognostications heading into another exciting fall and winter of NFL football. 

Can Ezekiel Elliott Return to Prime Form in 2021?

Ezekiel Elliott Bounces Back In A Big Way

Last year was a rough one for the Dallas Cowboys, and Elliott was a big part of that. He’s won the rushing title twice already, even though he’s only 26 years old. However, last season he struggled, gaining fewer than 1000 yards and averaging only 4.0 yards per carry. To some, he might be considered washed up. However, there are plenty of reasons why he might bounce back and even win the rushing title yet again this year. 

To start, Dak Prescott will be back under center once again after a catastrophic injury early on in 2020. He’ll be throwing to their three-headed monster of a receiving corps, with Amari Cooper, Ceedee Lamb, and Michael Gallup. The ability to air it out will open up a lot of space for Zeke, allowing him to do what he does best. Plus, the Cowboys play in the weakest divisions in the league. This means that they should be able to win a lot of games. When they are in the lead, Elliott will get the ball a lot to run down the clock and lock down the wins. It should also be noted that Elliott had a very similar season in 2017 to the one he had in 2020, and he bounced back and won the rushing title the very next year. 

Julio Jones Takes The Titans To New Heights

If Julio Jones hasn’t been the best receiver in the NFL since he came into the league, he’s at least been in the conversation. With the Falcons, he was an instrumental part of one of the best offenses in the league year in and year out. Now he finds himself on the Tennessee Titans after requesting a trade in the off-season. 

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Drew Pearson: Mr. Clutch 0

Posted on August 07, 2021 by Dean Hybl

Drew Pearson

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former NFL wide receiver know as “Mr. Clutch” for his penchant for making big receptions at crucial moments of the game. After waiting for more than 30 years, he is finally earning his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2021 Hall of Fame Class.

During his decade with the Dallas Cowboys, Drew Pearson had a habit of making the big catch at the right moment to help the Cowboys time and again snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

The favorite target of Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, Pearson was widely recognized as one of the great receivers of his era. Though at the time of his retirement many expected Pearson to easily breeze into the Hall of Fame, his enshrinement was derailed by changes to the game which artificially inflated receiver stats and made the numbers he produced during a time when wide receivers weren’t catching 100 passes a season seem inferior.

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Four Cowboys Among Twenty-Eight Inductees Set to be Recognized at the Pro Football Hall of Fame 1

Posted on August 04, 2021 by Chris Kent
Football fans from everywhere will be flocking to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the annual induction ceremonies and festivities taking place August 5-9.

With 17 enshrinees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame among players, coaches, and executives who spent their whole careers or made their primary contribution with the franchise, the Dallas Cowboys have always been well represented in Canton, Ohio. This coming weekend of Aug. 7-8, three more primary Cowboys and a fourth who spent only one season in Dallas will be enshrined in the hallowed hall where their busts and bios will be preserved forever. These four Cowboys are part of 19 individuals who will be officially inducted this year. Dallas is one of several franchises with multiple enshrinees this year. Other franchises with multiple inductees who have at least some ties to them include the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, and Green Bay Packers among others. Both the classes of 2020 and 2021 are being inducted this summer due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that forced the 2020 enshrinement to be cancelled. The two classes total 28 inductees, nine who were elected posthumously. Special video tributes of these nine will be shown between the live speeches during the two enshrinement ceremonies. Each of them were enshrined in a separate ceremony on April 28 at the Hall of Fame.

Jimmy Johnson, Harold Carmichael, Cliff Harris, and Drew Pearson are the four former Cowboys being inducted this weekend who played or coached in Dallas. Harris and Pearson played their entire careers with the Cowboys and were teammates for much of the 1970s when Dallas appeared in five Super Bowls and won two. Johnson made his mark as head coach of the Cowboys for five seasons from 1989-93 leading them to the franchise’s only back-to-back Super Bowl Championships following the 1992 and ’93 seasons. Johnson also was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins from 1996-99. Carmichael played only one season for Dallas which came in 1984, his final season as a pro after playing 13 years for the Philadelphia Eagles.

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Looking at the 2021 NFL Draft: Beware of the First Round Quarterback 4

Posted on April 29, 2021 by Dean Hybl

Much like 2021, which is mysteriously now a quarter over, the 2021 NFL Draft seems to have snuck up out of nowhere to suddenly be upon us.

Trevor Lawrence is the clear first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but he will not be the only quarterback chosen in the top 10.

Perhaps because there was no NFL Combine in February and because other sports including basketball, baseball and hockey are all back in full swing at the college and pro levels, there doesn’t seem to have been quite as much pre-draft fanfare this year.

Sure, Mel Kiper, Jr. and the many other NFL Draft “experts” have been regularly updating their “draft boards”, but unlike last year where the NFL Draft was the only thing remotely related to sports that happened between mid-March and July, this year the attention of the country is not solely on the draft.

That being said, the NFL Draft usually signals the start of the frenzied NFL year. The 2021 schedule, which will include 17 games for the first time ever, will be announced just a few days after the draft. Though the players and union are trying to minimize the amount of structured off-season work for the players (an action that has been very evident on the field in recent years), there will also be some preseason camps between now and the end of July.

Unlike last year when Roger Goodell hosted the draft from his basement and we were treated to home cameras showing dogs, kids and family celebrations, Goodell and some of the players and team personnel will be together in-person in Cleveland for the draft. So, expect a hybrid event where there will be some of the hugging and celebrating we are used to be seeing at the draft mixed with some family celebrations and at-home coaches.

Looking at the draft itself, we have known for nearly two years that Trevor Lawrence from Clemson would be the first pick in the 2021 draft. Though the hiring of Urban Meyer as the new coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars created some discussion about whether he would prefer Ohio State product Justin Fields, it still appears inevitable that Lawrence’s name will be called first this year.

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How Tailgating Changed in 2020 4

Posted on April 15, 2021 by Martin Banks

For some folks, tailgating is akin to a religion. Fans show up in caravans and trailers the Friday night before the big game and make a weekend-long celebration — or used to do so.

Then, the novel coronavirus pandemic hit. Here’s how tailgating changed in 2020 and what new rituals you might consider keeping as things return to normal.

1. Elvis Has Left the Stadium

It was a sad year for sports stadiums. Instead of rows of roaring fans, they had silent cardboard cutouts standing watch while the real spectators tuned in from their living rooms.

Fortunately, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expects full stadiums this year, with no reduced capacities or closures foreseen. However, that doesn’t mean that every parking lot will fill to the brim on opening day. They might — cabin fever is a potent motivator — but many people will hesitate to return to crowded venues.

Others merely find they prefer the comforts of home. Unless you pay a king’s ransom, you can’t see much from many seats anyway. On television, you have instant replay and zoom.

Plus, you have full access to your indoor and outdoor kitchens, eliminating many food safety concerns. You need to keep foods like potato salad and ribs either cold or hot, respectively, which can pose challenges during transport. If they enter the danger zone between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, bacteria can grow — and no one wants to get sick.

2. Changing Campus Rules

If college ball is more your game, you might discover that you can’t participate in traditional tailgating activities at all. Many colleges banned the practice outright in 2020, and the decrease in on-campus problems may convince some to keep restrictions in place even after vaccines produce herd immunity.

Other campuses may keep the celebrations but shorten the timeline. For example, in 2020, Clemson restricted tailgating to only those who had parking passes. Season ticket holders received individual game day passes instead of the traditional version to maintain crowd control. They also kept the lots closed until 8 a.m for an 8 p.m. game and required guests to leave instead of tailgating afterward.

3. Events Become More Formal

Other schools chose to limit tailgating by decreasing capacity in alignment with attendance restrictions. For example, LSU allowed a limited number of parking passes on campus for games and allowed attendees to loiter by their vehicles, sipping on food and drink. However, they couldn’t set up the tents and televisions that typify the school’s rich tailgating heritage.

Until all areas lift restrictions, you may encounter similar setups. If so, and you don’t get tickets, consider giving homegating a try. This trend offers considerable advantages over stadium tailgates:

  • It’s easier on the piggy bank: Game day tickets aren’t getting less expensive. Plus, you have to pay rising gas prices and parking fees, possibly road tolls.
  • It’s far less hassle and work: Tailgating requires you to pack everything up and unpack it. In addition to washing dishes, you have to schlep them back and forth from your car. If you have tons of gear, you could pull a muscle setting up a parking lot tailgate.
  • It’s more comfortable: No matter how comfortable your camp chairs are, they pale in comparison to your couch or lounger. Plus, you don’t have to worry about insects or sunburn if you have a screened-in patio for your game-watching pleasure.

4. Intimate Gatherings Get Cozier

One final advantage of moving the tailgate to your home court is cozier, more intimate gatherings. Yes, the party-like atmosphere on game day is a blast — but you also need to contend with intoxicated strangers causing drama at times. You control the guestlist for your castle.

You’ll probably find that folks naturally segregate when you homegate. You’ll have the diehard fans glued to the big screen, while those with less interest in the competition can socialize, play games and enjoy each other’s company in another room.

Tailgating Changed in 2020 — How Will You Adjust?

The great novel coronavirus pandemic changed the face of tailgating. As things gradually return to normal, which of the new traditions will you choose to keep?

Happy 85th Birthday John Madden 5

Posted on April 09, 2021 by Dean Hybl
John Madden led the Oakland Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XI.

Whether from his days as a coach, broadcaster or simply as the name on a video game, John Madden is a football legend known by fans of all generations.

It seems hard to believe that Madden will celebrate his 85th birthday on April 10th. Almost as surprising is that it has been more than a dozen years since Madden retired from broadcasting after three decades as the preeminent color commentator on television. But, of course, his influence lives on in the leading football video game known as Madden NFL.

The journey for Madden from a 21st round NFL Draft pick to the most recognized person in the NFL is truly a remarkable one.

A talented multi-sport athlete, Madden was a boyhood friend of John Robinson, who would go on to a successful career as head coach at the University of Southern California and with the Los Angeles Rams.

Madden played college football at the College of San Mateo for a year, earning a scholarship to the University of Oregon. However, an injury forced him to redshirt and he ultimately finished his college career playing two seasons as a two-way player at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. He was also a catcher on the Cal-Poly baseball team.

The Philadelphia Eagles selected Madden in the 21st round (244th overall pick) of the 1958 NFL Draft. However, a knee injury suffered in training camp ended his dream of playing in the NFL.

After completing his degree, Madden became an assistant coach at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, California. He was promoted to head coach in 1962.

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Drew Pearson: Mr. Clutch
      August 7, 2021 | 6:59 pm

      Drew Pearson

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former NFL wide receiver know as “Mr. Clutch” for his penchant for making big receptions at crucial moments of the game. After waiting for more than 30 years, he is finally earning his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2021 Hall of Fame Class.

      During his decade with the Dallas Cowboys, Drew Pearson had a habit of making the big catch at the right moment to help the Cowboys time and again snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

      The favorite target of Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, Pearson was widely recognized as one of the great receivers of his era. Though at the time of his retirement many expected Pearson to easily breeze into the Hall of Fame, his enshrinement was derailed by changes to the game which artificially inflated receiver stats and made the numbers he produced during a time when wide receivers weren’t catching 100 passes a season seem inferior.

      Read more »

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