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Sports Then and Now

2016 NFL Preview: Will Defense Rule Again? 0

Posted on September 05, 2016 by Dean Hybl
Few would be surprised if the NFC Championship again comes down to the Carolina Panthers against the Arizona Cardinals.

Few would be surprised if the NFC Championship again comes down to the Carolina Panthers against the Arizona Cardinals.

Despite all the talk that an NFL team must have a top-level quarterback and offense to be competitive, the reality is that 11 of the 12 playoff teams in 2015 (all except for the Washington Redskins) ranked in the top half of the league in scoring defense.

The Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos were especially reliant on their defense as they finished 19th in the NFL in scoring offense, but allowed the fourth fewest points in the league.

Whether the Broncos can repeat that pattern in 2016 will certainly be put to the test as their offense could struggle. With Peyton Manning making TV commercials (and cupcakes) and Brock Osweiler off to the Houston Texans, the Broncos are giving the quarterback duties to former 7th round pick Trevor Siemian, who has played in one NFL regular season game and is yet to throw a pass in an official game.

The defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers also had a great defense in 2015 (ranked 6th in points allowed), but they also had the best quarterback in the league and scored an NFL-best 500 points. If Cam Newton continues to play at an MVP level and the defense can overcome the loss of All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman, look for them to again be the team to beat in the NFC.

Below are five additional interesting storylines to follow in 2016:

Has the Window Closed for the Green Bay Packers?
Since winning Super Bowl XLV following the 2010 season, the Green Bay Packers have made five straight playoff appearances, including a 10-6 record a year ago. However, with the exception of the 2014 season when they had the Seattle Seahawks on the ropes in the NFC Championship Game, they have been unable to get past the divisional playoff round.

With 32-year-old quarterback Aaron Rodgers entering his ninth season as the starter and other key veterans closing in on the latter stages of their careers, the Packers may be nearing the point where their chances to win another championship in the near future are narrowing.

There was a time when it seemed that Rodgers had his pick of great offensive weapons. However, last season the preseason loss of Jordy Nelson exposed a lack of receiver depth and Rodgers seemed to be a victim. He posted the lowest completion percentage of his career and the fewest passing yards of any full season since he became the starter in 2008. His 92.7 quarterback rating was also the lowest of his career.

After being sacked only 28 times in 2014, Rodgers hit the dirt 46 times a year ago, which could have contributed to his struggles. It will be crucial for the Packers to shore up the offensive line and give Rodgers more time to work his magic.

With Nelson back this season and Eddie Lacy looking for a rebound season after struggling with his weight a year ago, it will be interesting to see if Rodgers returns to the top of the league statistically or if he will continue a slight decline.

Last year the Green Bay defense ranked 12th in points allowed, sixth in passing defense and 21st in rushing defense. While Green Bay’s success is generally dependent on Rodgers and the offense, they will go only so far if the defense struggles.

Will the Cincinnati Bengals Ever Win a Playoff Game?
The Cincinnati Bengals have reached the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons, including the last five in a row. However, each trip has concluded with a loss in the wild card round and most of the losses haven’t even been close. Read the rest of this entry →

Brett Favre – All-Time Passing Yards Leader 0

Posted on October 27, 2015 by Tony Samboras
Though Peyton Manning is closing quickly, Brett Favre is currently the NFL's career leader for passing yards.

Though Peyton Manning is closing quickly, Brett Favre is currently the NFL’s career leader for passing yards.

In your quest to find a reliable betting strategy, you will be best served to look for betting systems that work over a long period of time. In the NFL, that is not an easy thing to do given the likelihood of major injuries and inconsistent play from the stars of the game. Consistency is always the key when selecting a betting strategy from a short list of betting systems that work.

The value of consistency can best be represented by looking at the football career of quarterback Brett Favre. He currently sits at the top of the list for career passing yards (71,838) with Peyton Manning zeroing in on the record with 71,215 yards. Favre also sits in second position for career touchdown passes with 508, second only to Manning’s amazing 537.

Brett Favre was drafted as the third pick in the second round by the Atlanta Falcons on 1991. He was anything but a darling to Falcons Head Coach Jerry Glanville who claimed from the beginning that Favre would just rot on the bench before he would ever play him. Of course, Favre did himself no favors when he threw four passes as a Falcon for zero completions and two interceptions, of which one was returned for a touchdown.

In the off-season, the Green Bay Packers saw Favre as the best alternative to its QB problems when compared to players available in the 1992 draft. They traded the team’s number one pick (19th overall) to acquire the man who would go on to become a legend in Green Bay.

As a testament to his durability and consistency, Favre played in 255 straight games for the Packers between 1992 and 2007. He then went on to play 16 straight for the New York Jets in 2008 and 29 straight with the Minnesota Vikings between 2009 and 2010 before succumbing to injury and retirement. Read the rest of this entry →

Remembering the NFL Minister of Defense Reggie White 1

Posted on October 12, 2015 by Mike Raffone

Minister of DefenseToday’s Sports Then and Now blog remembers the late Reggie White.

An ordained pastor and Pro Football Hall of Fame lineman, this NFL defender brilliantly embodied his fitting Minister of Defense nickname.

During a storied 15-year NFL career, the Minister of Defense delivered his football version of a fire and brimstone sermon by dominating opposing offenses.

Whenever Reggie White set foot on the football field, he constantly administered defensive pressure. And, when away from the gridiron, he tirelessly catered to the needs of inner-city youth and those less fortunate through his work as a Christian minister. rated White as the #7 NFL player of all-time, and ESPN Sports Nation named him the greatest player in Philadelphia Eagles history. His storied career validates their lofty choices.

White graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1984 after being named SEC Player of the Year during his senior season. The Minister of Defense then played two years in the now defunct USFL with the Memphis Showboats, earning the 1985 USFL Man of the Year Award.

After the USFL folded, White proceeded to the NFL and starred for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1985 – 1992. 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 →

Online Sportsbook Picks for NFC/AFC Conference Championships 2

Posted on January 14, 2015 by Bryan Sheridan
Kam Chancellor and the Seattle Seahawks are just two wins away from repeating as Super Bowl champs.

Kam Chancellor and the Seattle Seahawks are just two wins away from repeating as Super Bowl champs.

We’re mere days from the NFL Conference Championships and you couldn’t ask for two better matchups. In the NFC, the conference’s top seeds face off in a grudge match between two teams that have battled repeatedly, and controversially, in the last few seasons. In the AFC, Tom Brady and Belichick are planning for Andrew Luck and the Colts, who are coming off a victory over Peyton Manning in what was possible his last game…ever.

According to Vegas, the home teams are clear favorites in both games. Odds at online sportsbook TopBet have the Patriots and Seahawks each favored by at least a touchdown, but there is more to these games than meets the eye.

Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks

Aaron Rodgers is hurt, but he’s still the likely regular season MVP, and he just beat the Dallas Cowboys on one leg, throwing some of his most accurate passes of the year. Don’t count this man out.

The issue for the Packers against Seattle remains their run defense. The Seahawks ran all over the Packers in Week 1, putting up 207 yards, and while the Packers have (at times) found the ability to make plays against the run, most recently causing a key DeMarco Murray fumble, they are still unlikely to stop Marshawn Lynch from clearing the century mark. The Packers will need Rodgers to outscore Lynch if they hope to book their ticket to the Super Bowl. Read the rest of this entry →

Dallas and Green Bay Continue Storied Postseason Duels 14

Posted on January 11, 2015 by Chris Kent
Bart Starr scores the winning touchdown in "The Ice Bowl" in 1967

Bart Starr scores the winning touchdown in “The Ice Bowl” on this one yard plunge into the end zone.

The Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers. Need anyone say anymore? Despite that, there is plenty to talk about. Especially when the two of them meet in the NFL playoffs because memories abound. Chief among them is “The Ice Bowl” which was played on Dec. 31, 1967 at Lambeau Field. The winner was the champion of the NFL (which became the NFC) and advanced to Super Bowl II to meet the champion of the American Football League (which later became known as the AFC). This game is one of the most storied in the history of the National Football League. The postseason series resumes today when the Packers host the Cowboys in the NFC divisional playoffs.

The temperature at game time was -15 oF and the wind chill was about -48 oF. While Green Bay had the home field advantage that day, the elements were surely not friendly to either side. What edge the Packers had came from them just being used to it more during that time of the year compared to their visitors. It was so cold that attempts to heat the field backfired, transportation problems occurred, and equipment malfunctioned. Even though a tarpaulin covered the field in the days leading up to the game, it left moisture on the field which froze in a flash after the tarpaulin was removed. This created an icy surface on the field that got worse as the game wore on. The turf-heating system for the field malfunctioned and many players had difficulty starting their cars forcing them to make alternative transportation plans in order to get to the stadium on time. When the game did finally begin, referee Norm Schachter blew his whistle only to have it freeze to his lips. Upon freeing it from his lips, he ripped his skin off. The resulting blood just froze to his lips. The marching band from Wisconsin-State University LaCrosse (now The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse) could not perform their pre-game and half-time shows as their instruments froze and would not play. Several band members also got transported to area hospitals for hypothermia. This was literally a test of attrition and the limits of the human body were tested for every player, coach, official, fan, worker, and media person that day.

In the end, Green Bay won 21-17 on one of the most famous plays in NFL history. Bart Starr’s quarterback sneak from the

The bitter cold is shown hear from the fans' breath during "The Ice Bowl"

The bitter cold is shown hear from the breath of the fans cheering in the stands during “The Ice Bowl”

one-yard line on third and goal with 16 seconds left to play provided the winning score. Starr had called timeout prior to the play to discuss strategy with Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi. Knowing that the traction was difficult with the icy field, handing off to a running back or stepping back to make a throw would have been difficult. So Starr convinced Lombardi to sneak it in. In doing so, Starr followed a double team wedge block from right guard Jerry Kramer and center Ken Bowman against Dallas left defensive tackle Jethro Pugh to cross the goal line for the decisive score and a 20-17 lead. The extra point provided the final score. Dallas would down the ensuing Packers’ kickoff and could manage only two incompletions which ended the game. Jubliant Green Bay fans rushed onto the field knocking over players from both teams. It was the end to an iconic game in NFL annals.

Since then, Dallas and Green Bay have also had some lofty playoff history. For three straight seasons during the 1990’s, the Cowboys and Packers met in the playoffs. These meetings came at the height of the Cowboys dynasty period during the decade. Dallas won all three times and all three games were played at Texas Stadium in Irving, TX, the Cowboys prior home to their current plush digs at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX which opened in 2009. Behind the offensive brilliance of “the triplets” – Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin – along with a fast and aggressive defense, Dallas ended Green Bay’s season three straight years from 1993 through 1995 by a combined score of 100-53. The Cowboys beat Green Bay in the NFC divisional playoffs following the 1993 and 1994 seasons by respective scores of 27-17 and 35-9. The most memorable of those three games then came after the 1995 season when the two met for the NFC Championship. A very competitive game went back and forth into the fourth quarter before Dallas wore the Packers down en route to a 38-27 win. Smith ran 35 times for 150 yards and three touchdowns in the win which were all single game postseason career highs for him. Smith’s 35 carries and three touchdowns were also Cowboys single game playoff records which still stand as of this article. Read the rest of this entry →

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