Thursday, January 28, 2016

50 Stops To Super Bowl 50

Every year since Super Bowl XL, I have used this blog for my "Stops To Super Bowl" list.  Every year, I create a list of smart, dumb, inane and chat worthy items for you to use in any banter leading up to and during the Super Bowl.

This year, it is 50 Stops to Super Bowl 50 and I'm back with some more (and some of the same) little items for you about the upcoming big game.

#50-NO ROMAN NUMERAL:  As you probably know by now, this isn't Super Bowl L.  It is Super Bowl 50.  The NFL branded it this way because of marketing purposes.  The "50" looks better than the "L".  Also, the color has changed to gold this year.  The NFL logo has been in gold and the league has celebrated their past Super Bowls all year long.  

The NFL used the Roman numerals due to the fact that the game was in the calendar year following the regular season.  

If they stuck with the L, that would be the first one character Super Bowl roman numeral since Super Bowl X.  The only others were Super Bowls I and V.  Next year, the Super Bowl will go back to normal and be Super Bowl LI.

#49-CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH:  This will be the 12th Super Bowl hosted by the state of California.  Only Florida has hosted more (15).

This will be the fifth different stadium in Cali to host the game.  The Los Angeles Coliseum, Rose Bowl, Stanford Stadium, Qualcomm Stadium and, now, Levi's Stadium.  Florida also has had five different stadiums (Orange Bowl, Sun Life Stadium, Tampa Stadium, Raymond James Stadium and Alltel Stadium).  It is the fifth different city as well (Los Angeles, Pasadena, San Diego, Stanford, Santa Clara).  

This is the 2nd time the Super Bowl has been held in the Bay Area.  Super Bowl XIX was in Stanford, CA.  The two Bay Area teams (49ers, Raiders) have 8 Super Bowl wins in 11 appearances.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

No Team Has Hosted A Super Bowl? No Team Has Even Been Close!!!

New Orleans has played host to the Super Bowl ten times,
but the hometown Saints have only been to one title tilt.

No team has ever played on their home field in the Super Bowl.  It has never happened.  Never.  Most fans know that.  But if you really look into it, it hasn't even been close.  First, some stats on this.

*Of the 50 Super Bowls, 43 of them were played in a stadium that was a home field for an NFL team.
*Since the Jets and Giants share MetLife Stadium, they were both hosts of Super Bowl XLVIII.
*Super Bowl VIII was played in Rice Stadium in Houston.  The Oilers used to play there but were currently playing at the Astrodome.
*Five Super Bowls were played at the Pasadena Rose Bowl and one was at Stanford Stadium.  Neither was home to an NFL franchise at the time.
*The Los Angeles Rams did play in Super Bowl XIV which was in Pasadena.  The San Francisco 49ers played in Super Bowl XIX in Stanford.  Those are the closest examples of a team playing a "home Super Bowl".  Neither were their home fields but both were certainly in their geographic footprint.

Here is the year-by-year records of the teams who hosted the Super Bowl:

Friday, January 15, 2016

49 Moments For 49 Super Bowls

Vince Lombardi carried off the field after the Packers'
Super Bowl II victory over the Oakland Raiders.

Remember the hit show Friends?  The name of each episode always began with "The One Where ... " and then some moment from that week's program.  The Super Bowl is sort of like that.  Each Super Bowl has its own flavor.  Its own memory.  Sure, there is a lot more to a Super Bowl than just one play or one person, but there is usually a first thought that comes to mind.

So here is the Super Bowl episodes:


This wasn't even called the Super Bowl.  It was the NFL/AFL World Championship game.  The NFL was believed to be the superior conference and the Packers' 35-10 spanking of the Chiefs proved it.


The Packers easily handled the Oakland Raiders to win their 2nd straight Super Bowl.  The game would be the last for Vince Lombardi in Green Bay.  He would be the GM the following year before returning to coaching with the Washington Redskins in 1969.  He died in 1970.


Obviously, Super Bowl III will always be remembered as the one where the AFL beat the NFL in the title game.  Joe Namath's guarantee was spot on as the Jets beat the Colts and legitimized the AFL's existence.


Chiefs head coach Hank Stram was wearing a microphone as his team beat the Vikings in Super Bowl IV.  The sounds that they got were priceless.  "You can't do that in our league!"


This was the Blunder Bowl.  There were 11 turnovers in this one.  The Cowboys set a record with 10 penalties.  There was even a missed PAT.  This is still the only Super Bowl were a player on the losing team won the MVP award.


Richard Nixon called Dolphins coach Don Shula and drew up a play.  The Dolphins ran it ... and it didn't work.


Of course, Super Bowl VII is most noted as the one season where we saw an undefeated team.  The Miami Dolphins beat the Washington Redskins in a rather boring, non-descript game to finish the year 17-0.  There, of course, was the Garo Yepremian botched kick that turned into the lone Washington touchdown.


Hard to believe now, the the Miami Dolphins won this Super Bowl with a quarterback that threw just 7 passes.  Bob Griese did complete six of those passes in the 24-7 win over the Vikings.  This was Czonka's night.  Czonka ran for a then-record 33 times for a then-record 145 yards.


Super Bowl IX was unattractive.  The Vikings offense was pitiful and the game was a defensive struggle.  But Steelers back Franco Harris broke Czonka's records from the prior game (34 rushes, 154 yards) to begin one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history.


We all know that Swann catch.  The tip.  The fall.  The beauty.


The Raiders returned to the Super Bowl for the first time since Super Bowl II.  That tough, physical (sometimes dirty) defense mixed with a gun-slinging offense won a championship.  The game and the players were iconic.  From John Madden to Kenny Stabler to Willie Brown's huge pick-six.  When we all think of the Raiders, this game comes to mind.  That's how Al Davis would want it.


Super Bowl XII was the first to be played indoors and the first to be played at night.  It also featured a nice touchdown pass by Cowboys' running back Robert Newhouse.  That was the first TD pass thrown by a running back in a Super Bowl.


There are great plays in the Super Bowl, but there are some huge blunders (more will be on this list).  One of the biggest was Cowboys' tight end Jackie Smith dropping a sure touchdown pass late in Super Bowl XIII.  Dallas settled for a field goal instead, and they ended up losing by 4.


The 1970s had closed and with it some of the greatest teams in NFL history.  The Steelers were the best among them.  This Super Bowl was surprisingly in doubt late.  The Rams actually held a 19-17 lead going into the 4th quarter when Terry Bradshaw completed a 73-yard TD pass to John Stallworth to give the Steelers a lead they would never relinquish.


The Raiders were back in the Super Bowl, but this was a bit different.  Before the season, NFL commish Pete Rozelle had didn't allow the Raiders to move from Oakland to Los Angeles.  Al Davis and the Raiders then sued the NFL, citing the league's anti-trust laws.  The Raiders would later win, but there was quite the tension between the two men for several years.  So the anticipation of Pete Rozelle handing the Super Bowl trophy to Al Davis was at a fever pitch.  It happened, without any incident.


The game was played in Pontiac, Michigan at the Silverdome.  Good thing, since this was a very cold day. Only the second Super Bowl to that point that didn't take place in either Miami, New Orleans or the Los Angeles area and the first to take place in a cold-weather city.  The fans, of course, were fine inside the stadium but a snowy weekend caused a nightmare for fans and media to get to the game.


I Right, 70 Chip.  That was the play Redskins' coach Joe Gibbs called on 4th-and-1 in the 4th quarter and Washington trailing 17-13 to the Dolphins.  The play saw John Riggins not only pick up the 1st down, but he lumbered to a TD and a Super Bowl title.


The Redskins were back in the Super Bowl, but they would not repeat their title.  No, Marcus Allen and the Los Angeles Raiders ran all over Washington to a 38-9 win.  The game is also known for the Apple commercial, 1984, where ads became as synonymous with Super Bowl Sunday as the game itself.  But it was Allen's 191 yards rushing and 2 TDs ... one of which was a wicked 74-yd TD scamper ... that won the day.


Roger Craig scored 3 touchdowns in Super Bowl XIX, a blowout of Dan Marino's Dolphins.  But the most memorable moment was Craig high-stepping into the endzone for his final score.


The 1985 Chicago Bears are legendary.  That team nearly went undefeated and blew through the postseason.  They were so dominant that they made this video before even winning the Super Bowl.  It was brash, but it fit this team so well.  Hard to believe that not only was this the Bears lone title, but this group didn't even get to another Super Bowl.


It is ubiquitous.  Winning teams douse the coach with a cooler full of Gatorade.  Heck, now you can even bet on the color of Gatorade that gets dumped.  However, it was this Giants team that made it a thing.  They dumped it all over Bill Parcells after each of their victories in 1986, including their Super Bowl XXI victory of the Denver Broncos.


Still my favorite quarter of football (ed. note: I'm a Redskins fan).  The Redskins trailed 10-0 to the Broncos heading into the 2nd quarter when the Redskins would pile on 35 points.  Doug Williams completed 9 or 11 passes for 228 yards and 4 TDs ... in that quarter alone!  Timmy Smith, a nobody, rushed for 122 yards and Ricky Sanders caught 168 yards worth of passes (and two TDs) in that quarter.  This Super Bowl featured the biggest deficit a winning team ever faced (since tied), the most rushing yards by a player (Smith) and Williams was the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl (it took 26 years before it happened again).


One of the greatest Super Bowls, this game featured one of the best lines ever.  With the 49ers trailing the Bengals 16-13 with just over 3 minutes left in the game, Joe Montana gets into the huddle and says, "hey, isn't that John Candy?"  San Francisco would then go on an 11-play, 92-yd drive that ended with a John Taylor touchdown catch and Montana's 3rd Super Bowl title.


The Niners repeated their championship with a blowout of the Broncos, Denver's third Super Bowl loss in four years.  San Fran won 55-10, which remains the most points scored by a team in Super Bowl history and the largest margin of victory.  It may also be the greatest matchup of quarterbacks in Super Bowl history as Joe Montana faced John Elway.  Add in Steve Young's mop-up duty and it is a shoo-in.


This Super Bowl is remembered for two things:  Whitney Houston's rendition of the National Anthem and Scott Norwood's missed field goal to end the game.  Not much more I can tell you about it.


The Bills were back in the Super Bowl and they felt they were ready to beat the Redskins.  Well, except that their star running back couldn't find his helmet and was missing from the opening Buffalo drive.  That wasn't the only miscue to start this game (botched kicks from both teams, namely) but the Redskins cruised to a title.


Or you could say "The One With Don Beebe".  This utter spanking the Cowboys gave the Bills is mostly forgettable, but it should've been worse as Leon Lett let a sure TD return go awry when he was showboating and Bills' receiver Don Beebe chased him down and forced a fumble into the endzone.


Most people don't remember too much about this Super Bowl.  Yes, Atlanta had an ice storm during Super Bowl week and Emmitt Smith had a big day.  But this is known for the Bills final appearance in a Super Bowl ... four games in four years.  The Bills actually held a halftime lead, but Dallas outscored them 24-0 in the 2nd half.


Steve Young is one of the best quarterbacks of the Super Bowl era, but people were giving him a lot of grief for not winning the big one.  Fair, since the Niners chose Young when they cut ties with Joe Montana.  Young did it with a record setting performance.


Other quarterbacks have had bad Super Bowls.  But Neil O'Donnell was giving the Cowboys this one despite the Steelers outplaying Dallas.  Three interceptions, including two that made Larry Brown into a household name.  It got Brown a huge free agent contract with the Raiders.  Ironically, this was O'Donnell's final game with the Steelers as he would leave for the Jets.


Brett Favre's biggest moment was the Packers' 35-21 win over the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI.  While Favre wasn't the MVP (Desmond Howard was) or the most dominant player on the field (Reggie White was), Favre got loose.  He threw TD passes of 54 and 81 yards and his celebrating became part of his legend.


John Elway lost three Super Bowls in the early part of his career which came in three of four seasons.  Since the 1989 season, it took nearly a decade to get back.  Elway faced the defending champion Packers and were also trying to end the AFC's 13-year losing streak in the Super Bowl.  Late in the 17-17 game, Elway scrambled to pick up a 1st down and did his famous Helicopter Flip.  The flip showed how badly he wanted this and the Broncos would finish off the win.


Not much stands out about Super Bowl XXXIII other than an unfortunate pre-game incident involving a well-respected Falcons player and the fact that John Elway left on top.  As of now, it is the moment pointed to when a veteran wins a title.  Do you leave now on top?  It was asked to Tim Duncan when the Spurs won the 2014 NBA title.  Hardly any athlete, especially of that stature, gets to even make a decision like this.  Elway did.


One of the most thrilling endings in a Super Bowl, the Titans were "one yard short" to tying Super Bowl XXXIV.  Trailing the Rams 23-16 with no timeouts and just six seconds left.  Steve McNair threw a pass over the middle to Kevin Dyson.  Rams linebacker Mike Jones held on to the tackle and stopped Dyson on the 1-yard line as time expired.


The Ravens defense was all-time great, but this game will be most remembered as the game with three TDs on three consecutive plays.  The first one was the Ravens Duane Starks picking off Kerry Collins and returning it for a 49-yd touchdown.  On the ensuing kickoff, the Giants' Ron Dixon returned it 97 yards for a TD.  The following kickoff, the Ravens' Jermaine Lewis returned that kick for a TD.  Amazing.  In three plays, a 10-0 game turned into a 24-7 Baltimore lead.


This Super Bowl was pushed back a week due to the NFL moving a week of games after the attack on September 11th.  The Patriots were a Cinderella team who made the Super Bowl with a young, backup quarterback named Tom Brady and a some close calls in the playoffs.  They then get to face the Greatest Show On Turf Rams, who were 14 point favorites.  The Patriots and Tom Brady pulled off the upset with Adam Vinatieri's 48-yd field goal as time ran out for the improbable win.


In the offseason, the Oakland Raiders 'traded' Jon Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Oakland then hired assistant Bill Callahan.  Who knew the two teams would face off in the Super Bowl?  No one knew that, but Gruden apparently knew the Raiders' playbook hadn't changed since he left and Tampa jumped all over Oakland, forcing five turnovers and a dominant win.


Forget that the Patriots and Panthers played in one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever, this game will be forever known for Janet Jackson's boob showing during the halftime show and all the ramifications since.


This one is an urban legend that has people on both sides of the debate.  Did Donovan McNabb throw up during that final drive to tie Super Bowl XXXIX (which failed)?


The Steelers and Seahawks met in Detroit, but what many people remember is the questionable officiating.   Both sides complained about calls, though the feeling among most is that Seattle got the raw end of the deal.  At the time, I called this the worst Super Bowl ever.


There are a few bigger moments in this one.  It was Peyton Manning's lone Super Bowl win.  It was also the one where Devin Hester ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown.  But it was also the one Super Bowl that truly was in the elements.  The one Super Bowl played in rain.  While it certainly wasn't a monsoon out there, it was quite slick out there.  And that rain played a cool part in one of the greatest halftime shows ever -- Prince.


Yes, David Tyree's catch is the moment of this Super Bowl.  But the catch's greatness is magnified by who it was against.  The 17-0 Patriots were attempting to be just the 2nd undefeated team ever and first to win 18 games.  But that catch and some other big plays after it ruined the Patriots great season.


The Steelers have had some great catches in Super Bowl history.  But this Santonio Holmes TD snag with 35 seconds left may be the best.  It negated a wild 4th quarter rally by the Arizona Cardinals and gave Pittsburgh their record 6th Super Bowl title.


There may not be a better moment than seeing Drew Brees hold up his young son while confetti falls down in Miami for the Saints Super Bowl title.  Sure, there was the surprise onside kick and the Tracy Porter pick-six, but this picture captures this game.


Cowboy Stadium seemed like a great place to have a Super Bowl, especially this one.  It is huge and can accommodate the huge Packers and Steelers fanbases.  However, an icy winter storm crippled North Texas and even put the game in some jeopardy.  There was also a big stink about people who bought tickets for the game who had to sit outside the stadium and watch since their seats weren't ready by game time.   Also, there is nothing more Dallas Cowboys than their cheerleaders.  Well, since both the Packers and Steelers are among the six teams who don't employ cheerleaders, there weren't any at the Super Bowl ... a first.


Four years ago, the Giants upset the undefeated Patriots to win their 3rd Super Bowl.  This time, the 9-7 Giants became the team with the worst record to win a Super Bowl.


This is an interesting Super Bowl for all kinds of reasons.  First off, the Ravens had a 28-6 after returning the 2nd half opening kickoff back for a TD.  Then the 49ers had a furious comeback and nearly tied it at 31 late (a 2-pt conversion failed to keep it 31-29).  What happened in between was a Super Bowl first -- the power went out in the Superdome.  A 34-minute delay after the Ravens took that 28-6 lead rocked the game.


Yes, this was the one where the Seahawks completely dismantled the Broncos (and nearly became The One Where A Team Was Shutout), but everything leading up to and during the game was about it being in the New York area.  The first (and only) cold weather outdoor Super Bowl.  Actually, it had just the 3rd coldest kickoff ever and there really wasn't any other weather issues.


One yard.  One yard.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Redskins 2016 Schedule Is A Bitch!

The Washington Redskins are NFC East Champions.  Excuse me while I soak this in.  This was not supposed to happen. This team was a wreck coming out of preseason.  Next Sunday, the Redskins will host the Packers in the wildcard round and this magical, unexpected season could come to an end (or it could extend into the next weekend in Arizona or Carolina).

I'm going to enjoy every second of it, because I don't think it will repeat next year.  After all, my beloved Skins did not beat a winning team all this season.  That's fine.  It happens.  But next season's schedule will be a tough one.

Not only is the NFC East always tough to navigate, the Redskins get a 1st place schedule and all that rolls in with it.  The bad part is they also face the NFC North and AFC North this upcoming season.  That means the Redskins will play six playoff teams from this year, including four other division winners.  They'll get to face the two teams with the best records this season.

*COWBOYS (home, away):  Of course, the Cowboys twice.  Dallas should get their act together with a healthy Tony Romo and Dez Bryant.

*GIANTS (home, away):  New York could've/should've been the best team in the division.  They let sooooo many games slip away this season.  Now, they could have a new coach next season but the franchise shouldn't change too much.

*EAGLES (home, away):  No more Chip Kelly ... so could this team be better?  Depending on the new coach, there is talent on this roster to get back to where experts thought they'd be.

*PANTHERS (home):  The 15-1 Panthers were far and away the best regular season team this year and could be defending Super Bowl champs when this game happens.  We met earlier this season with Carolina trouncing the Redskins.

*CARDINALS (away):  Not only do the Redskins get to play the 15-1 team ... they get the 13-3 team as well.  Arizona may be the best team in the league this season.

*BENGALS (away):  This game will be played in London.  Cincinnati will be making their 5th straight playoff appearance this weekend.  One of the better offensive teams in the league.

*VIKINGS (home):  NFC North champions who bring in rushing champ Adrian Peterson.  This is a relatively young team that is on the right track under Mike Zimmer.

*PACKERS (home): Well, we will get a rematch of our playoff meeting with Green Bay next year.  Hopefully, the Packers will be looking forward to this game as revenge for their playoff loss to the Redskins.  Hopefully.

*STEELERS (home):  Big Ben and the Steelers get to come to Washington.  Last time they were in DC, it was the night before Barack Obama was elected President.  Pittsburgh is a trendy pick in the AFC playoffs this season.

*LIONS (away):  Detroit is one of those teams that I think is better than they looked this past season.  The Lions are possibly a surprise team for 2016.

*RAVENS (away):  Another team who surprisingly had a bad season.  Not to say that this team just had an off year -- this isn't a great team.  But it is a regional rival that should get the blood boiling.

*BEARS (away):  For the 2nd straight season, the Redskins will visit Chicago to play the Bears.  Washington won a key game this year to catapult their playoff run.

*BROWNS (home):  Who knows what the Browns will look like in 2016?  New GM, new coach and maybe new QB.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

NFC Is Hot Heading Into The Postseason; So Are The AFC's Wildcard Teams

The playoffs should be great.  In the AFC, you actually have the "bottom" three teams a bit in a better place than the top three teams.  

*Broncos have lost 2 of last 4
*Patriots have lost 2 straight; lost 4 of 6
*Bengals have lost 2 of 4; lost 4 of 8

Meanwhile, you have the Chiefs on a 10-game winning streak.  The Texans have won 7 of their last 9 games.  The Steelers have won 4 of their last 5 games and 6 of 8.  In the last half of the season, the Steelers and Texans have beaten the Bengals and the Chiefs and Steelers have beaten the Broncos.  The Patriots' four losses over the last six week have come to three non-playoff teams.  The two wildcard teams are pretty hot right now.

Plus, look at the quarterbacks.  The Bengals and Texans are playing with backups and the Broncos went back to Peyton Manning to win in Week 17 to give them home field advantage.  Tom Brady hurt his leg during their Week 17 loss to Miami.  

This should be a wild AFC postseason.

Over in the NFC, we have:

*Vikings have won 3 straight; 9 of 12
*Redskins have won 4 straight; won 6 of 8.
*Cardinals have won 9 of 10
*Seahawks have won 6 of 7; won 8 of 10
*Panthers are 15-1
*Packers have lost 2 straight; lost 6 of 10

This should be an epic postseason.  Aside from Green Bay, everyone is hot. Cam Newton should be he NFL MVP.  Carson Palmer should get a few MVP votes and should be the Comeback Player of the Year.  Russell Wilson has been on fire over the last six weeks or so.  Kirk Cousins broke all kinds of Redskins records and led the league in completion percentage.  Even Teddy Bridgewater has been playing very well heading into the playoffs.  And those woeful Packers?  They still have that Aaron Rodgers guy.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Are There Just Too Many Bowl Games? Or Not Enough?

We are nearing the end of bowl season.  We have a full slate today and then the National Championship game in about 10 days.  As usual, bowl season has had its ups and downs ... but is it the right amount of each?  Is the bowl season too long, not long enough or just right?

I've always subscribed to the thinking that there can never be "too many" bowl games.  Ultimately, the kids get to play in one last game (that's huge for a senior) and a place they may not usually get to go to.  They get a week worth of activities and some swag along the way.

Look at the Russell Athletic Bowl, where North Carolina played Baylor.  The game is in Orlando.  UNC may get to go to Florida to play Miami or Florida State once in a while, but how often does Baylor's players?  Orlando in December.  They also have some activities to get through, including some life altering ones, per the bowl's official website:
Located in Kissimmee, the Give Kids the World village houses children, and their families, with life-threatening illnesses and gives the players and coaches time to spend time with the kids and play games, ride rides and compete in a dance-off.
They also get quite a collection of gifts.  One is a $350 gift card to a local retailer of their choosing.  So they can get clothes, electronics, or even use it to buy loved ones Christmas presents.  They also get a watch, footwear, beach towel and other things.  Around the country, there are watches, cowboy boots, beanies, backpacks, pullovers, shopping trips, sunglasses, hats, speakers, cell phone cases and all kinds of other gifts.

That's cool for the kids.  Some don't get these kinds of opportunities often, even if you think they do at a major college program.  Not all of these schools are major programs.

This thinking is my main line of thinking.  It's good for the kids.

Of course, there is the part that looks bad.  The stadiums that are barely filled.  It looks bad on TV, especially with the wide shots of the stadium.  Some are in some no-exotic cities like Albuquerque, Boise, Birmingham, Shreveport, Montgomery and Annapolis.  Nothing against those cities, but they aren't Miami, New Orleans or San Diego.  Some bowls have rather unattractive names that just have that feel of a corporate cash grab. Hey, that's the world we live in.  The Famous Idaho Potato GoDaddy world presented by Dr. Pepper.

This year, there were a few 5-7 teams that made bowls.  That's where people are starting to have the biggest gripes.  The Cure Bowl (which is in Orlando, like two other bowls) ended with both teams having losing records.  Wasn't a bowl trip supposed to signify a darn good season?  Not anymore.  There are 80 teams playing in these 41 bowls.  Back in 1995, there were just 18 bowls.  Do the math and that means 25 ranked teams and just 11 unranked teams made a bowl game.  Now 5-7 teams get there.

There are even bowls in the works for Austin, Australia and Charleston, South Carolina.  Bowl games are good TV.  They are live events in an age where that's key to advertisers and the games are on during a weak period for programming.  Is it stretching this a bit too thin?  Only for people who just don't think mediocre football should be celebrated.

Again, I'm all about the end result: these kids from schools who normally don't get the opportunity have a blast.  Do you think Georgia State's football team gets to be nationally televised on ESPN as the lone game at the time often?

Just enjoy it.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

State Of My Teams 2015

The end of 2015 is near, which means it is time to take a look at the state of my favorite teams.  The good, the bad, the firesale.  So let's get to it.

NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS BASKETBALL:  I feel pretty good about the Heels.  While their preseason #1 ranking is gone and they have lost the lone two "true road" games this season thus far, I like what this team should be when March rolls around.  They are talented, deep and experienced.  The "ifs" are pretty easy to see.  If Marcus Paige and the rest can be healthy for the tournament.  If the team plays hard, especially defensively, every game.  If they can continue their good perimeter shooting.  All those could equate to UNC's sixth title.  Plus, if Brice Johnson keeps playing like he has over the last few weeks, then this team could be the best in the nation.

That's what is interesting about the Heels.  It is a NOW thing.  Next year's recruiting has picked up, but the 2016-17 Tar Heels won't be elite.  Paige and Johnson will graduate and Justin Jackson could go pro.  A look at 2015 as a whole saw some so-so play from last season that saw late leads squandered and the investigation into the program by the NCAA heating up.

NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS FOOTBALL:  What a season for Carolina!  Sure, it was book-ended by losses to South Carolina teams (South Carolina at the beginning; Clemson at the end).  There was an 11-game winning streak in the middle and some lofty offensive performances.  Now, several of the guys who made this a magical season will be gone after the Russell Athletic Bowl game against Baylor, but that doesn't take away from a year where UNC won the Coastal Division and gave Clemson (the top ranked and undefeated Tigers) a tough game in the ACC Championship.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS:  A wild year, to be sure.  The Redskins started 2015 in a rebuilding mode and it all looked bad.  The great promise of 2012 is gone.  Robert Griffin III was given his final shot at proving he was the future of the Skins.  The defense was overhauled.  There was a new GM.  The draft wasn't sexy, and neither was the free-agents being brought in.

Which was perfect.  Washington got more bang for the buck and head coach Jay Gruden's decision to dump RG3 during the preseason for Kirk Cousins has proven right for the team.  While this hasn't been a dominant season by any means, the Redskins are a win (today) away from being NFC East champions and a playoff team.  How?  This was a franchise stuck in the mud.  Nothing of value and having to find the quarterback of the future again.  The nickname was in the news again and Daniel Snyder's money grabbing was looking unattractive.  It just looked like another 3-13 year.

Now?  Well, there could be a playoff appearance, the Redskins are trying to keep Cousins as our franchise QB, RG3's contract will be off the books and the GM looks like a guy that can bring a lot of talent into the fold.

CINCINNATI REDS:  My final two teams aren't as feel good.  The Reds are rebuilding and for many around here, it is tough to watch.  I've always said the Reds were in a weird position as a franchise.  They cannot spend with the best in the league (or the division, like St. Louis or Chicago) but they don't have to keep rebuilding to make a run (like the Pirates).  A couple of years ago, the Reds attempted to be like the former, but are now turning into the latter.  The Reds gave huge deals to Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Homer Bailey but now having to sell off players like Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier to start over again.  The Frazier deal hurt Reds fans as he was a favorite.  But it is the reality of where the Reds are in the pecking order.  The Reds made a great attempt early in the decade and just couldn't get past the first round.  Now it is time to start over.

The problem is that it is tougher than you think.  The Reds still have Votto and Bailey who are getting paid a lot of money.  The deals for Phillips and Chapman fell apart so they are still Reds.  Feast or famine Jay Bruce and oft-injured Devin Mesoraco are among the more expensive players.  The 2015 season was a last-ditch effort to see if there was anything left in this team.  It didn't, and now Cincinnati is heading into a new era.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS:  The Lakers are in the same boat, albeit a nice, bigger boat.  The Kobe Bryant era is ending and he will be retiring at the end of the season.  While sad, it is good because it finally allows the team to move on to the next phase.  Not only was Kobe's contract (the biggest in the NBA) hurting the Lakers, his style of play was hindering the development of the young guys and a detriment to free agents.

Outside of a few players (namely Julius Randle, DeAngelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson), most of these guys won't be in Los Angeles when the good times roll.  The key for the future is (a) being bad enough to be able to keep their 1st round draft pick next summer (if it is outside the top three, it moves to Philly) and (b) being able to pull some big free agents into the fold.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Could The Redskins Really Win The NFC East?

In life, goals change.

When I was a little kid, I wanted to draw cartoons.  That was until I wanted to be a baseball player.  Then a basketball player.  Then working for Nike.  Then work in marketing.  Finally, I ended up doing none of those things and taking a job that paid well but has zero allure.  So on the side, I write about sports and the teams I love.

One of those teams I love is the Redskins.  Their goals have also changed.  If you told any Redskins fan that the season would end at 7-9, many would have been pleasantly surprised (including yours truly).  I mean, this was a franchise in August that finally gave up on RG3, the head coach was on everyone's chopping block, the nickname was being debated on every talk show and the owner was charging $50 envelope fees.  Yes there was talent on the roster, but there was no reason to think this team would be the best in the division.

Yet here we are.  The Redskins are a win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday away from winning the NFC East for the second time in four years.  I mean ... how?  What?  Really?  Sure, it is more an indictment of the division than the Redskins dominance, but this wasn't supposed to be.  It still may not.  A loss at Philly would be catastrophic for Washington.  Philly would own the tiebreaker and the Redskins would need to win at Dallas in the season finale and hope the Giants beat the Eagles.  But right now, the Redskins control their own fate.

So what will happen?  The Redskins have won 3 of 4 and are the hotter team.  The Eagles have lost 4 of 6 (though one of those wins came in New England) and their defense has been lit up over the last two months.  Bad Kirk Cousins is a memory.  Since that season-changing comeback win over the Buccaneers in Week 7, Cousins has thrown 16 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions.  Cousins also has more rushing TDs (5) than the Eagles' huge free agent pickup, DeMarco Murray (4).  I mean, just give them the division crown right now!

However, your gut says that this is the NFC East and Philly will be ready to knock the Redskins down a peg.  Many Redskins fans (including myself) are just enjoying the ride but are prepared for the rug to be ripped from under them any game now.  I admit, I was in that camp.  But, like the Redskins' goals, I've changed as well.  This may not be a team that will do much damage in the postseason but they are the cream of the crop in a division that went sour this season.  No matter, the Redskins beat the Eagles this Saturday.  ,

Redskins 24-22

Monday, December 21, 2015

What Week 17 Game Should Be Flexed

Week 15 is nearly over (the Lions and Saints face off Monday night in the week's finale) and the end of the season is near.  What game could be the flex game in Week 17 and the final game of the regular season?  The NFL likes to have a game with a lot on the line (mainly a playoff spot up for grabs).

1-EAGLES AT GIANTS:  The NFC East has practically owned the final game of the regular season slot since its inception.  This season could be no different.  Now, a lot of things have to happen for this to be the game.  First, the Eagles need to beat the Redskins this coming Saturday.  If the Redskins win that game, they win the NFC East and this game is moot.  However, an Eagles win puts them in the driver's seat.  If the Giants also win this coming weekend (a hard task at Minnesota), then this could be for all the marbles.  The only risk comes is if the Redskins lose to the Cowboys in Week 17 (after a Giants loss in Week 16), then this game could be meaningless as the Eagles would clinch prior to the game.

2-JAGUARS AT TEXANS:  This could be for the AFC South championship.  First off, the Texans could need this win to clinch the division.  But, like other games, its relevance could depend on the fortune of another team (this time the Colts).  But, if the Jaguars find a way to win Week 16 and the Texas and Colts lose Week 16, then this game is guaranteed to mean something.  See, a Texans and Colts loss plus a Jags win in Week 16 means that Houston is 7-8, Indy is 6-9 and Jacksonville is 6-9 entering the final week.  The Colts result earlier in the day wouldn't spoil this game at all.  Colts win and this game comes down to the Texans/Colts for the division.  A Colts loss means this game would be for the AFC South championship between the Texans and Jaguars.

3-VIKINGS AT PACKERS:  Could be for the NFC North crown.  However, both teams may already be in the playoffs by then so all this would be for is the division.  But, Minnesota may not be a playoff team ... yet.  Of course, that would take a miracle of the Vikings losing to the Giants in Week 16, the Seahawks losing their last two games and the Falcons winning their last two games (one of which is against the Panthers).

4-BUCCANEERS AT PANTHERS:  If there isn't a guarantee of a playoff spot anywhere, you could see the NFL elect to go with the 16-0 storyline.  Carolina's pursuit for the second 16-0 regular season in history could be the feast of the night. I wouldn't blame them.  However, the NFL would try to demand the Panthers attempt to for the undefeated season and not just rest their starters.

5-REDSKINS AT COWBOYS:  I doubt this would be the game.  If the Redskins beat Philly this Saturday, they clinch the NFC East.  A Redskins loss and the Eagles control the division.  Putting this game on Sunday night is risky because an Eagles win earlier in the day would eliminate Washington.

Monday, December 14, 2015

How Are QBs Getting Hurt When We Have All These QB-Protection Rules?

Tom Brady had his knee run into by Bernard Pollard in Week 1 of the 2008 season, and since then we've seen rules protecting quarterbacks get stiffer.  You can't touch their helmets, you can't tackle them low, you cannot hit them hard unless they pretend they aren't a quarterback for a second.

The thinking was that we were seeing all these quarterbacks injured and QBs, as you know, are the faces of the league.  Guys were getting hurt and it was bad business.

Yet it doesn't seem to have helped.

The 2015 NFL season has seen a lot of QB injuries.  Andy Dalton (Bengals) is the latest, breaking his thumb trying to make a tackle and will most likely miss the rest of the regular season.  He joins Tony Romo (Cowboys), Joe Flacco (Ravens), Josh McCown (Browns)

Peyton Manning (Broncos), Andrew Luck (Colts), Drew Brees (Saints), Sam Bradford (Eagles), Jay Cutler (Bears), Marcus Mariota (Titans) and Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) have also missed time this season.  You also had Geno Smith (Jets) injured with a punch to the face and a broken jaw prior to the season.

That's one-third of the NFL that's lost their starting QB to injury.  Some have come back, some are lost for the season and some are in limbo.  Several are Super Bowl winning quarterbacks.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

King Me: Transforming College Conferences Into 10-Team Memberships

The ACC logo in 1995 when only nine teams made up the league.
Now 15 teams are in the basketball league making for an
oversized conference where teams don't play each other as often.

I've felt this way for a long time.  I have felt that the college conferences should be no more and no less than ten teams.  Ten members.  Each conference.  That's it.  That's simple.

Now, in all of the conference realignment over the last 25 years, I've sat back and absorbed all the chaos.  As an ACC guy, I've seen what this can do to a league.  The ACC added Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Louisville over the last 15 years ... but lost Maryland along the way.  While the conference is neat to navigate at times (my Tar Heels get to face some great programs) it has also killed a lot of what I held dear in this league.  Playing everyone and visiting all those great stadiums and arenas.  The kinship of being in a league.

Now, North Carolina and Wake Forest don't play every year in football (to that point, they actually scheduled "non-conference" games against each other).  Clemson and UNC don't face off twice in basketball anymore.  The round robin feel of football and basketball is gone and conferences just don't feel the same anymore.

That's why I'm taking it back!  If I was King Of Sports, I'd make this happen.  The 10-team conference is set up perfectly.  It causes a 9-game football schedule in which each team gets to play every other conference member and a basketball schedule where you get an 18-game schedule where you face everyone twice ... meaning you visit every other conference member's gym.  We get true champions and a fair shake in the standings.

If you still love conference championship games in football, we can make it where the top two teams in the standings will face off in a title game.  Hell, throwing out the divisional format would usually mean better matchups in those title games.  Last year, for example, we could have had Florida State-Clemson and TCU-Baylor in title games.  I actually prefer that idea and the ACC has even toyed with proposing that under the current setup.

So what would the conferences look like?  Glad you asked.  I've realigned them using some thought and compassion.  I'm basically resetting things back to 1990 and starting from there.  I'm not looking at the now and lopping off teams in the current memberships.  Then I'm moving from there.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Looking At The Three Remaining Undefeated Teams


How they got here:  Some dismissed the Panthers because of their relatively underwhelming early schedule.  However, Carolina has now beaten the Seahawks in Seattle and the Eagles, Colts and Packers in Charlotte.

Most impressive win:  27-23 at Seattle.  Anytime you can win in Seattle is impressive.  Marching down the field with time running out and scoring a game winning touchdown is all the more sweeter.

How long could this last?:  Carolina has three of the next four on the road (Titans, Cowboys, Saints), with a home date with the Redskins lodged in there.  Those roadies won't be easy, but they aren't against the elite teams they've been facing of late.  They still have both matchups with the Falcons to look forward to.


How they got here:  Cincinnati has been flexing its offensive muscle.  Their bend-but-don't-break defense has been pretty good and Andy Dalton is looking like a MVP candidate has been making this a scary team.  This team is getting comparisons to the 1988 team that went to the Super Bowl.

Most impressive win:  27-24 vs Seattle.  Not trying to pick on Seattle, but many fans felt that this was where this team could falter.  This was a big game on a big stage and the Bengals have struggled in those situations.  It looked like this would be the case again, falling behind 24-7 in the fourth quarter.  But Andy Dalton led a comeback for the ages in Cincinnati and pulled out the overtime victory.

How long could this last?:  In two weeks, the Bengals go to Arizona to face Carson Palmer and the Cardinals.  That's going to be tough.  Aside from that, their Week 16 game at Denver looks to be the most daunting task.  


How they got here:  These are the defending champions and Tom Brady didn't have to serve that four-game suspension.  New England has been winning impressively all season long.  But this hasn't been the toughest of slates.

Most impressive win:  34-27 at Indianapolis.  No, this isn't the Colts that we though we'd have this season or even the one that the Pats beat for the AFC title a year ago.  But this was the revenge of sorts for Deflategate.  Plus it was a tough game ... probably the toughest test they've had this season.

How long could this last?:  The schedule toughens up now.  In the next three weeks, the Patriots travel to New York to face the always dangerous Giants and to see old rival Peyton Manning and his Broncos.  .

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ranking The NFL's 10 Biggest Disappointments

The Lions Matt Stafford has already been benched in a game this season.

What is a disappointment?  A team that didn't meet our expectations for where they should be at after Week 6 of the NFL season.  There is a variety of reasons the teams who are featured here are on this list.  Injuries have hit a few hard.  Age has hit a couple.  Tough schedules have felled others.  Some, it is just perception.  Some of these might snap out of it while others will realize that they are as bad as their record indicates.  So let's check out the list.


Sure, if before the season began I told you that the Cowboys would be 2-3, you'd put them much higher on this list.  However, the fact is that Tony Romo and Dez Bryant have been out and will be out for a while.

Good news:  They have already beaten Philly and the Giants, which will pay dividends down the road.  They get both again plus the Redskins twice.  At some point, they'll get Romo and (hopefully) Bryant back.  It isn't like the NFC East is a runaway by any means.  As long as Dallas can stay afloat, they can win this division.

Bad news:  But when will those two get back?  And how good will they be when they do?  The Eagles are warming up and the Giants let two games get by them or they'd be ahead by a nice margin.  And staying afloat means navigating through the next few weeks when they get the Giants (in NYC),  Seahawks and Eagles.  They could be at 2-6 really quick and needing an exceptional finish to make the postseason.  That will be hard to do with the Panthers and Packers down the line.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ranking All 30 NBA Logos

The NBA season is almost here and we have an opportunity to look at the NBA logos. I've been wanting to do this for some time, so here it is. Ranking the logos.

Now, this is all me and what I like. So here we go.


This is awful.  Their longtime one was bad too, but at least I get it.  This is just bad.  Looks like the NBA Live logo from the 1990s and 2000s.  Change it back.  Hell, even go back to the San Diego Clippers logo.  By the way, I count one basketball logo.  Let's see how many we'll find.


A bad, uninspired look.  Nothing on this makes me think of Oklahoma City or Thunder.  It looks like the old Bobcats and Nets logos mated.  Sure, it probably was a rush job when the Sonics moved to OKC, but you've had time to change it.  Please do.  Two basketball logos.

LeBron deserves better.  In fact, the Cavs went to this logo when they drafted LeBron in 2003.  Before that was the splash and the boring V-net logo.  While the uniforms were awful, I rather the splash era came back.  The Cavs just can't get this right.  Three basketball logos and one full name logo.


Two things: I like them making an old logo more modern.  However, there is absolutely nothing about this logo that is interesting.  Nothing.  At least the horsey is gone.  Hey, four for four on basketball logos and a second full name.  On we go!

Looking At The NFL's Undefeated Teams After Week 6

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady know a thing or two about starting seasons
off strong, but there are three other teams who are enjoying record starts.


How they got here:  It isn't like the Panthers have been blowing teams out all year.  Their first four wins were over underwhelming opponents and made people feel this team was fools gold.  However, their win over the defending NFC Champion Seahawks is making people's eyes perk up.

Most impressive win:  27-23 at Seattle.  Anytime you can win in Seattle is impressive.  Marching down the field with time running out and scoring a game winning touchdown is all the more sweeter.

How long could this last?:  Carolina has a relatively tough schedule ahead, though the next three are in Charlotte.  The Panthers will host the Eagles, Colts and Packers over the next three weeks.  Get through that and the schedule lightens up a bit until Thanksgiving.


How they got here:  Cincinnati has been flexing its offensive muscle.  Their bend-but-don't-break defense has been pretty good and Andy Dalton is looking like a MVP candidate has been making this a scary team.  This team is getting comparisons to the 1988 team that went to the Super Bowl.

Most impressive win:  27-24 vs Seattle.  Not trying to pick on Seattle, but many fans felt that this was where this team could falter.  This was a big game on a big stage and the Bengals have struggled in those situations.  It looked like this would be the case again, falling behind 24-7 in the fourth quarter.  But Andy Dalton led a comeback for the ages in Cincinnati and pulled out the overtime victory.

How long could this last?:  The Bengals have to go to Pittsburgh next week.  Usually a tough win for Cincy, but Ben Roethlisberger won't be playing for the Steelers.  From there, the two games to circle would be Week 11 at Arizona (against Carson Palmer) and Week 16 at Denver.  Both have stellar defenses and both have a lot to play for.  


How they got here:  Not the storyline you're used to.  It is Peyton Manning managing the offense and the Broncos top ranked defense that is carrying this team to an undefeated mark.  They aren't winning by wide margins, but they are winning.

Most impressive win:  31-24 at Kansas City.  This is to be their toughest AFC West test and they passed.  Arrowhead is a tough place to play and Manning showed a lot in the fourth quarter to keep people believing he can get to one more Super Bowl.

How long could this last?:  Not long.  Denver gets its bye week next week before heading on a brutal schedule.  They will host fellow undefeated Green Bay on Sunday Night football in Week 8, then traveling to Indianapolis for a matchup with the Colts (who knocked Denver out of the playoffs last year).  Soon after, they'll get the Chiefs again before getting the Patriots and Bengals to come to town.  Add in two games against the offensive juggernaut Chargers and this undefeated season could fall hard.


How they got here:  Doing what the Packers do.  Aaron Rodgers keeps making big plays and the Packers keep chugging along.

Most impressive win:  27-17 vs Seattle.  Maybe I need to stop picking on Seattle?  Sure, but this was a gorilla on the Packers' backs.  The season could have been derailed early with a loss in this Week 2 game, but Green Bay helped wash that sting off the meltdown of the NFC Championship game with this win.

How long could this last?:  Well, that Denver game in Week 8.  Like the Broncos, the Packers will get a bye next week before this showdown.  The very next week, the Packers will travel to Carolina to face fellow undefeated Panthers.  After that, it could be smooth sailing.  They have five games inside the woeful NFC North as well as a home title with the Cowboys (who could have Tony Romo by then) and then traveling to Arizona.


How they got here:  These are the defending champions and Tom Brady didn't have to serve that four-game suspension.  New England has been winning impressively all season long.

Most impressive win:  40-32 at Buffalo.  The Bills were poised to be a playoff contender and Buffalo is always a tough place to play for New England.  Add in the rivalry with Bills' new head coach Rex Ryan and this was the Pats' best victory yet.

How long could this last?:  Well, they could run the table again as the Pats have three straight home games.  However, there are some legit landmines.  Five of their final eight games are on the road, including trips to the Denver, Miami and twice to New York (Giants and Jets).  Yes, those pesky Jets get the Patriots twice, starting with next week's game in Foxborough.