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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 →

Questions Are Abundant For AFC Contenders 0

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 →

Counting Down the Greatest Offensive Performances in Super Bowl History 3

Posted on February 06, 2016 by Dean Hybl
Max McGee caught more passes in Super Bowl I than he did during the entire 1966 season.

Max McGee caught more passes in Super Bowl I than he did during the entire 1966 season.

Sunday’s Super Bowl will feature a budding star quarterbacking one squad and an aged gunslinger likely facing his final showdown on the other. While we tend to focus on Cam Newton and Peyton Manning, the reality is that victory in the Super Bowl will likely hinge on the performance of someone far less known than either starting quarterback.

Super Bowl history includes a mixture of Hall of Fame players rising to the occasion on the biggest stage of the game and second tier players who picked the Super Bowl to have a career day.

This article marks part two of our look at the top 50 individual offensive performances in Super Bowl history. Of the 50 performances picked for the list, 32 were by players who either are in the Hall of Fame or should realistically expect to receive a bust in Canton at some point. However, when you look at the “best of the best” performances, 19 of the top 25 were by players who are Hall of Fame caliber.

Here is a look at our picks for the 25 best individual offensive performances in Super Bowl history. For this list we looked at statistics, but also considered game situations. That is why the Super Bowl where Joe Montana threw 5 touchdowns was highlighted in the first look at performances 50-26, but his most clutch performance is featured here. We did take into account whether the team won the game, but did not give any weight to who won the game MVP Award as there have been many occasions where you can scratch your head at who received that award.

Be sure to check out part 1 with numbers 50-26. I welcome your comments or ideas as to which performances you think should be on this list.

25. Max McGee – Green Bay Packers – Super Bowl I – 7 rec., 138 yards, 2 TD
It was no surprise that the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the first Super Bowl, but it was quite a shocker that one of the stars of the game was aging wide receiver Max McGee. Having caught just four passes in limited action during the season, McGee expected his biggest score of the weekend to be when he broke curfew the night before the game. Yet, after Boyd Dowler suffered a broken collar bone in the first minutes, McGee made history by scoring the first touchdown in Super Bowl history.

24. Kurt Warner – St. Louis Rams – Super Bowl XXXIV – 24-45, 414 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Before the 1999 season Kurt Warner had thrown all of 11 passes in the NFL. In Super Bowl XXXIV he threw the ball 45 times for 414 yards (still the single game Super Bowl record) to lead the Rams to a 23-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans. The Rams marched up and down the field, but were held to just three field goals in the first half and the Titans came all the way back to tie the score at 16. Warner then connected with Isaac Bruce for a 73-yard touchdown that proved to be the game winner.

23. Eli Manning – New York Giants – Super Bowl XLVI – 30-40, 296 yards, 1TD, 0 INT
With his team trailing 17-9 after the New England Patriots scored on the first drive of the second half, Eli Manning completed 17 of 23 passes for 176 yards to lift the New York Giants to their second Super Bowl victory over the Patriots in five years. He was especially impressive when marching the Giants down for the game-winning touchdown as he completed five of six passes for 74 yards.

22. John Elway – Denver Broncos – Super Bowl XXXIII – 18-29, 336 yards, 1TD, 1INT; 1 rushing TD
In his final NFL game, John Elway went out in style by passing for 336 yards and a touchdown and scoring another touchdown on the ground as the Broncos won their second straight Super Bowl. The Broncos seized control early with Elway’s 80-yard touchdown pass to Rod Smith giving them a 17-3 lead. Read the rest of this entry →

Counting Down the Greatest Offensive Performances in Super Bowl History: 50-26 2

Posted on February 03, 2016 by Dean Hybl
Joe Montana was supposed to be the "other quarterback" in Super BOwl XIX, but instead led the 49ers to a dominant victory over the Miami Dolphins.

Joe Montana was supposed to be the “other quarterback” in Super Bowl XIX, but instead led the 49ers to a dominant victory over the Miami Dolphins.

Since Super Bowl I in 1967, the “big game” has become the premier stage for NFL players to either create or cement their legacy. The first 47 Super Bowls are full of special Super Bowl performances. Some were by familiar names that used the Super Bowl to either put a stamp on a Hall of Fame career or propel them into a spot in Canton. But not every Super Bowl hero was a household name before their performance on the big stage. There have been several players whose otherwise unspectacular career includes one shining performance in front of one of the largest television crowds of all-time.

In this article and the second part (which will be posted later this week), we are looking specifically at the 50 best individual performances on offense in a Super Bowl.

To develop the list we did take into account game statistics, but also looked at game situations when analyzing which players and moments were worthy of inclusion. For example, though Joe Montana tossed five touchdowns as the 49ers routed Denver in Super Bowl XXIV, he actually was ranked higher in other Super Bowls because his performance in critical moments was instrumental to their victory.

In ranking performances whether the team won the game was considered, but there have been some Super Bowl performances by players on losing teams that were clearly among the most important. One thing that received little consideration was who was awarded the Super Bowl MVP as there have been numerous occasions when the MVP award has gone to someone other than the player who seemingly provided the best performance.

So below is a countdown of performances 50-26.

50. Kurt Warner – Arizona Cardinals – Super Bowl XLIII – 31-43, 377 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
For a fleeting moment, it appeared that Kurt Warner was going to be the first quarterback to lead two different franchises to Super Bowl victory. He and the Cardinals played well enough to win, but a late Pittsburgh drive denied them of victory. Interestingly enough, Warner holds the record for the top three passing yardage totals in Super Bowl history with his 377 yards in Super Bowl XLIII ranking second.

49. Rod Smith – Denver Broncos – Super Bowl XXXIII – 5 rec., 152 yards, 1 TD
While Terrell Davis and John Elway are the best remembered offensive players from their back-to-back Super Bowl wins, receiver Rod Smith also played an important role in their win over the Falcons. His 80-yard reception in the second quarter helped break the game open and he finished with 152 receiving yards.

48. Michael Pittman – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Super Bowl XXXVI – 29 rushes, 124 yards, 0 TD
While the defense garnered all the headlines during the Buccaneers victory over the Raiders, Michael Pittman was the workhorse for the offense. He rushed for 124 yards, including 75 in the first half as the Buccaneers established control of the contest.

47. Thurman Thomas – Buffalo Bills – Super Bowl XXV – 15 rushes, 135 yards, 1 TD; 5 rec., 55 yards
While the Buffalo Bills didn’t win Super Bowl XXV after missing a last second field goal, Thurman Thomas certainly did everything he could to put them in position to win. He rushed for a 31-yard touchdown to give the Bills a lead early in the fourth quarter and then trailing by two in the final minutes he rushed for 33 yards in the final drive that ultimately ended in the famous Scott Norwood wide right field goal. Read the rest of this entry →

Four Favorites to Win Super Bowl 50 2

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 →

Is the NFL Preparing to Burn Tom Brady at the Stake? 1

Posted on May 10, 2015 by Joe Gill
It appears that circumstantial evidence will be enough for the NFL to punish Super Bowl quarterback Tom Brady.

It appears that circumstantial evidence will be enough for the NFL to punish Super Bowl quarterback Tom Brady.

Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady will soon be nailed to the NFL Shield and will be made an example of.

Everyone outside the five New England States (well maybe not Connecticut) will salivate and feed their blood lust on the day of Brady’s crucifixion (suspension).

For what, what heinous act did he commit against the most powerful sports league on the earth?

Did he punch his wife in the face and knock her out cold like Ray Rice? No.

Did he whip his child with a tree branch like Adrian Peterson? No.

Did Tom Brady throw bleach on a woman’s face or drag her alongside a car like Terrell Suggs? No.

Did he sexually assault a woman in a bathroom like fellow Super Bowl Winning Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger?

That would be another resounding NO.

His ultimate sin…”more probable than not” was asking for his footballs to be a tad bit below the league’s legal limit. Read the rest of this entry →

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