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Chiefs, Giants Among Surprises, Luck Ties Impressive Mark: Week 4 NFL Headlines 1

Posted on October 01, 2013 by Andy Larmand
The Saints' offense, led by Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles, has them off to a 4-0 start.

The Saints’ offense, led by Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles (43), has them off to a 4-0 start.

For the first time in 2013, the NFL traveled across the pond to Wembley Stadium in Week 4 for a matchup of a couple of surprise 0-3 teams and did not disappoint the locals. Also featured is Andrew Luck matching an impressive quarterback mark, a double-digit, fourth-quarter comeback in Houston, Denver scoring and then scoring some more and the Chiefs improving to 4-0. Perhaps more notably, the blue team in New York is now 0-4.

The 49ers and Rams began the week in an NFC West showdown on Thursday night and after two straight losses in Weeks 2 and 3, the Niners kept a three-game losing streak off of Jim Harbaugh’s resume with a 35-11 rout of St. Louis. Harbaugh has still never lost three in a row as 49ers head coach. The Rams finished the night with 18 total rushing yards on 19 attempts. They have now recorded less than 100 yards on the ground in nine straight games. Also, they were the first team since 2008 with 19-plus rush attempts and 18 or fewer yards. They were also the last team to do that. San Fran improved to 5-0 all-time when Colin Kaepernick throws two or more touchdown passes.

The Vikings scored a first-quarter touchdown for the eighth straight game as Christian Ponder connected with Greg Jennings from 70 yards out to help them get up, 10-0, on the Steelers in London. The eight straight with a touchdown in the first quarter is a team record for them. Pittsburgh is 0-4 for the first time since 1968. Jennings needs just two more 70-yard touchdown receptions to tie the all-time record of nine held by Jerry Rice.

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Five Fearless Predictions for the 2013 NFL Season 1

Posted on September 08, 2013 by Dean Hybl
After coming close a year ago, Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers will look to return to the Super Bowl.

After coming close a year ago, Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers will look to return to the Super Bowl.

The 2013 NFL season started with a bang as one of the all-time greats, Peyton Manning, matched an NFL record with 7 touchdown passes against the defending Super Bowl Champions.

With that as a prelude, expect the rest of the 2013 season to be exciting and perhaps filled with more records and amazing performances.

Below are five “Fearless Predictions” of things I expect to see in 2013:

A Step Back For Rookie Quarterbacks
There was a time in NFL history when quarterbacks were expected to spend multiple years learning the league and the system of their specific team before being thrust into the starting lineup.

However, over the past decade that practice has given way to higher immediate expectations for rookie quarterbacks and the expectation that a quarterback should be ready to play right away.

In 2008 rookie quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan each led their teams to the playoffs and the following campaign Mark Sanchez took the New York Jets to the AFC Championship Game.

The last two seasons have been especially fertile for rookie quarterbacks. In 2011 Cam Newton set a new rookie record for passing yards and Andy Dalton led the Bengals to the playoffs. Read the rest of this entry →

2013 NFL Predictions: Division Winners, Super Bowl Champs, Individual Awards and League Leaders 5

Posted on August 21, 2013 by Andy Larmand

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It’s almost here, but if you weren’t excited enough about the NFL returning in a couple weeks, here are a few more reasons. It’s time to make some predictions that will inevitably have clear cut outomes and boggle the minds of some while sparking some pretty intense debates. I think I have them all right, though. Here are my picks for all eight division winners, the four Wild Card teams, each conference’s championship matchup, the Super Bowl, league leaders and major award recipients.

AFC East (2): Patriots - Nine straight division titles when the team has been quarterbacked by Tom Brady? Yeah, make it 10 for New England. While they undoubtedly will be transitioning on the field this season, they are still fairly high above the other three teams in the division. Plus, their quarterback never runs into butts.

AFC North (4): Bengals - Get used to hearing “Dalton to Green” and get used to seeing the Bengals in the postseason (even if it is just for one game) for the third straight year. Cleveland will probably finish fourth.

AFC South (3): Colts - The Colts made an unbelievable turnaround in 2012 and it seems to me they are not done improving. Eleven wins last season was good, but I see them hitting at least 12 this year, including making a push to overtake the Texans late in the year with a huge win over them in Week 15.

AFC West (1): Broncos - Obviously. This one will probably be the biggest division win by any team this season. I say 14-2 for Denver with San Diego the closest to them at 7-9. Welker…and Decker…and Thomas might play a role in their success as well. Read the rest of this entry →

Baltimore Ravens Struggling to Bask in Super Bowl Glow 0

Posted on March 16, 2013 by Dean Hybl
The Baltimore Ravens broke the bank to keep quarterback Joe Flacco.

The Baltimore Ravens broke the bank to keep quarterback Joe Flacco.

The Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens sure haven’t done a very good job basking in the glow of their remarkable Super Bowl run. They have made some very questionable decisions that have impacted the team both on and off the field.

The Ravens certainly have been busy in the six weeks since defeating the San Francisco 49ers to win Super Bowl XLVII.

In a move that many felt they had to make, but some question as being excessive, they made quarterback Joe Flacco the highest paid quarterback in the NFL. By signing him to a six-year, $120.6 million contract, they have now given a player who in five seasons has spent more time being average than being great a contract higher than that of the quarterbacks generally thought to be the best in the game in Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.

They say timing in sports is everything and Flacco’s timing was perfect. With his contract expiring, Flacco was marvelous in the playoffs with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in four games as the Ravens rolled to the Super Bowl Championship.

If Flacco can perform like that every week for the next six seasons, then the Ravens have certainly made a good investment. However, Flacco’s own history suggests otherwise. During the 2012 regular season Flacco threw 22 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. He had only five games in the 2012 regular season where he threw a touchdown pass without also throwing an interception. And while Flacco threw three touchdowns with no picks in three straight playoff wins, he had previously accomplished that feat only three times in 80 regular season games.

With his new contract in hand, Flacco in 2013 will be judged in a very different manner than in previous years. In the past, the fact that he has never made a Pro Bowl and that his statistics were very good, but not great, really didn’t matter because the team has always been a winner. Flacco is the only quarterback to win a playoff game in his first five seasons and has a 9-4 career playoff record. Read the rest of this entry →

One Career Ends And Another Is Born: Super Bowl XLVII Storylines 0

Posted on February 05, 2013 by Andy Larmand
Ravens receiver Torrey Smith celebrates on the field of the Superdome following Super Bowl XLVII.

Ravens receiver Torrey Smith celebrates on the field of the Superdome following Super Bowl XLVII.

The good news? Super Bowl XLVII had just about everything one could have asked for in the final professional football game for 213 days. It featured a pair of brothers facing off against each other, an icon of a generation going out on top, an energizing rookie quarterback, a jaw-dropping halftime show, an intentional safety, a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and one 33-minute power outage. Not to mention a furious comeback in the second half that fell just short of making it the greatest Super Bowl ever played.

The bad news? It’s the final football game for 213 days. It was a great one though.

As always, we have a lot to get to in the last edition of the weekly NFL storylines being that this was the final game of the 2012-13 season. I’d just like to thank God for giving me the fingers to type this with. God is so great.

Joe Flacco, Super Bowl XLVII MVP, tied the all-time record with 11 touchdown passes in a single postseason in the first Super Bowl since 2002 without either Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger or Peyton Manning. Only he and Joe Montana have ever accomplished that. All five quarterbacks to ever throw eight-plus touchdowns and no interceptions in the playoffs have won the Super Bowl. Ray Lewis is going out on top if you haven’t heard. After 12 seasons, Lewis won his second career title. It is the longest span between titles by any player in NFL history. Baltimore has won four straight against the 49ers, outscoring them 103-50. San Francisco lost its first Super Bowl in their history and Baltimore improved to 8-1 all-time as the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. They also improved to 2-0 all-time in Super Bowls (won Super Bowl XXXV in 2000). When they won it all in 2000, they were the No. 4 seed as well and the last two Super Bowl champions have been the No. 4 seed in their respective conferences. The previous two meetings between these two teams featured a total of two touchdowns; this one had six.

Baltimore finished the regular season with a record of 10-6. In each of the last three seasons, the eventual Super Bowl champion finished the regular season with no better than 10 wins (Packers with 10 in 2010, Giants with nine last season). The NFC had won three straight Super Bowls before the Ravens win. The last AFC team to win a title before this was the Steelers in 2008. With 65 points being scored in the Super Bowl, the total from this postseason grew to 571, which broke the previous record of 530 set in 1995. No. 2 seeds had been 4-1 in their last five Super Bowl appearances before the 49ers’ loss. With Flacco winning MVP, six of the last seven Super Bowl MVP’s have been quarterbacks. Only Santonio Holmes in 2008 won the award as a non-quarterback. Baltimore became just the second team to ever win a championship after leading the league in penalty yards during the regular season (1974 Steelers). After 19.5 sacks in his first 13 games, Aldon Smith hasn’t recorded one since. In the Super Bowl, he had no sacks and made just two tackles. Six games are the longest he has ever gone without a sack.

No NFL team had ever even reached the Super Bowl after ranking 15th or worse in both total defense and total offense during the regular season. The Ravens were the first and they won it all. Flacco has no interceptions in his last 195 pass attempts. With a second-quarter interception of Colin Kaepernick, Ed Reed tied the all-time record with his ninth career postseason interception. Baltimore improved to 11-5 in road or neutral playoff games in their history, the best win percentage of any NFL franchise. The 49ers had 15 former first-round picks on their roster for the Super Bowl to the Ravens’ eight, but Baltimore beat them anyway. With his first-quarter TD catch, the fourth for him this postseason, Anquan Boldin tied the amount he had in the regular season. Kaepernick was able to set the record for the most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single postseason with 264. He came up just two yards shy of tying the all-time record for rushing yards by a quarterback in the Super Bowl as he finished with 62, but did have the longest ever TD run by a quarterback in the big game with his 15-yarder.

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Family Reunion In New Orleans And The Rest Of The Championship Weekend Storylines 0

Posted on January 22, 2013 by Andy Larmand
Super Bowl XLVII is set. The Ravens will take on the 49ers in the Superdome.

Super Bowl XLVII is set. The Ravens will take on the 49ers in the Superdome.

The good news? The Super Bowl is now less than two weeks away. The bad? It is the last NFL game until next September. On the second-to-last meaningful weekend of football, four teams – three that were there last year – fought for the right to travel to New Orleans and play in Super Bowl XLVII.

The 49ers and the Ravens would come out on top after the Falcons couldn’t hold a big lead and the Patriots couldn’t produce a single point in the second half. What do the two winners have in common? They are coached by a pair of brothers – who will be facing off in the Super Bowl with a pair of quarterbacks who have never been there before.

It wasn’t a good day for the high seeds and home teams as both the Patriots (28-13) and Falcons (28-24) saw their respective seasons come to a close.

For the first time ever, the San Francisco 49ers have reached the Super Bowl as the conference’s No. 2 seed with a comeback from 17 down against the Falcons in Atlanta. They will be making their sixth ever appearance in the big game and are 5-0 so far. Matt Ryan threw for 396 yards while posting a 114.8 passer rating – both franchise playoff records – but his three touchdowns were accompanied by one big interception to Chris Culliver late in the game. His record fell to 34-7 in his career at home. Colin Kaepernick didn’t have nearly the game he had last week as he ran the ball just two times for a total of 21 yards and threw for 233 and a touchdown. Coming into the game, Atlanta had allowed 8.9 yards per rush to quarterbacks in 2012. Kaepernick averaged 10.5 yards on his two carries. His passer rating of 127.7 topped Ryan’s, though, as he helped San Francisco to become the first team to reach consecutive conference championship games with two different starting quarterbacks since the Redskins did it in 1986-87. This was the first time since the Falcons migrated from the NFC West in 2002 that they have fallen to the ‘Niners. They have only won two playoff games in a season once – in 1998 (the only year they made the Super Bowl).

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    • Rod Carew: Hitting Machine
      July 5, 2014 | 3:42 pm
      Rod Carew

      Rod Carew

      With the Major League All-Star Game being played this year in Minnesota, we recognize as the July Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month one of the best hitters of the last half a century who was named to 18 straight All-Star teams, including in each of his 12 seasons with the Twins.

      Few have been as good at the craft of hitting a baseball as Rod Carew. During 19 major league seasons, Carew won seven batting titles and hit .330 or better ten times.

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