Saturday, February 1, 2014

Chili, Guacamole, and ABTs? Oh my! Super Bowl Preview

The Super Bowl is perhaps my favorite sporting event of the entire year. Not necessarily because of the commercials, or the halftime show (GET SOMEONE GOOD), or even the game itself. I love the Super Bowl because of the party. Every year, my family and a group of people from my church convene at my house to watch the Super Bowl. It is a great time of fellowship. Being Southern Baptists, we always have PLENTY of food. From Michael's chili to my Stacy DeFoor's Atomic Buffalo Turds (ABTs; li'l smokies inside of a jalapeno with cream cheese, wrapped in bacon and dipped in barbecue sauce) to my guacamole. I love all of it: the fellowship, the food, the friends. All of this to say, you probably did not come here to read about food, although we do always have good food. You probably came to read about the game itself, so let's take a look at the match-up.

Denver Broncos Season Review
The Denver offense had one of, if not the, best seasons an offense has ever had. Denver finished the season finishing first in points-per-game, total offense, and passing offense. They were also no slouch in the running game. Former UGA running back Knowshon Moreno had a breakout season, rushing for over 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Peyton Manning, however, led the way for the Broncos offense, passing for 5477 yards and 55 touchdowns, both records for a single season. Peyton was able to accomplish these feats with a great arsenal of receivers. Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, and Julius Thomas all caught more than 60 passes and scored at least 10 touchdowns a piece. Out of these four, Thomas was the star. Demaryius Thomas, a former Georgia Tech standout, led the Broncos with 92 receptions, 1430 receptions (a terrific 15.5 yards per reception), and 14 touchdowns. With Von Miller being injured throughout the year, not many people expected the Broncos defense to be very good at all. They were definitely not the best defense in the country; however, one place they did excel was against the run. Denver finished the regular season tied for seventh in opponent's rushing yards per game with 101.6 yards per game. The combination of this amazing offense and good enough defense led the Broncos to a 13-3 regular season record, and AFC West title, and the number one overall seed in the AFC.

Seattle Seahawks Season Review
While the Broncos made a living with their superior offense this season, the Seahawks found success in the complete opposite way. They got their 13-3 regular season record, NFC West title, and number one overall seed in the NFC behind the league's best defense. Seattle ranked first in the NFL in scoring defense (14.4 points per game), yards per game (273.6), passing yards per game (172.0), and interceptions (28). This stacked Seahawks defense has playmakers at every level of the defense. On the defensive line, they have Cliff Avril (eight sacks and five forced fumbles), Michael Bennett (eight and a half sacks and one forced fumble), and Chris Clemons (four and a half sacks and one forced fumble). At linebacker, the Seahawks have Bobby Wagner (120 tackles and two interceptions) and Bruce Irvin (four sacks, one forced fumble, and one interception). Both of those are great units, but the greatest defensive unit for the Seahawks in their secondary, which has become known as the "Legion of Boom." Led by Richard Sherman (eight interceptions) and Earl Thomas (105 tackles, five interceptions, and two forced fumbles), the Legion of Boom has claimed the title of the best secondary in the NFL. All of this to say, the Seahawks defense is REALLY good. Their offense is not too shabby either. In his second season, Russell Wilson had a good year, passing for 3357 yards and 26 touchdowns, while adding 539 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch had another phenomenal year, rushing for 1257 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Players to Watch
Julius Thomas: A breakout player for the Broncos this year, Thomas had a great year for the Broncos. He gave Peyton Manning an excellent check down option. He had 65 receptions for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. With the Legion of Boom, Peyton Manning will most likely not be able to find Demaryius Thomas, who has become his favorite target, very often. He will have to spread the ball around.

Shaun Phillips: The main pass rusher replacing Von Miller for the Broncos, Phillips led the team with 10.0 sacks. He was also able to add two forced fumbles and an interception. Being the right defensive end, Phillips will have the unfortunate task of going up against a very good left tackle in Russell Okung.

Percy Harvin: Percy Harvin has FINALLY been cleared to play in a game. After giving up a lot to Minnesota for Harvin, he did not contribute very much at all due to injuries. When he was in, however, he was one of the most dangerous players on the field. Harvin is a guy that the Seahawks can use in every aspect of the game, except for defense. He can catch the ball, run the ball, and return the ball. He will also force Denver to keep an eye on him at all times, possibly opening up other options for the Seahawks.

Richard Sherman: Richard Sherman not only led the "Legion of Boom," but he also led the NFL in interceptions with eight. It will be his job to get into the head of both Peyton Manning and whomever he will be covering throughout the game. As most know, Sherman is very good at that.

Match-up to watch
The Unstoppable Force (Denver's Offense) vs. The Immovable Object (Seattle's Defense): These two units are the best in the NFL at what they do. This should be an exciting match-up to watch. Whoever wins this match-up will win this game. There is no question about that. 

Denver wins if...
Knowshon Moreno can rush the ball. Denver will not win this game by being one-dimensional. They will have to use the running game to open up the passing game and vice-versa. Failure to do so will result in certain defeat for the Broncos. Knowshon Moreno is the key to this. Not only has Moreno been an effective rusher for the Broncos, but he has also impacted the passing game positively.

Seattle wins if...
Percy Harvin makes as big of an impact as originally thought. Harvin opens up the Seahawks offense. He gives the Denver defense one more thing to focus on. Percy Harvin does not even have to have a great game. He simply has to force Denver to over-commit to him and leave room for someone else to beat them. If Percy Harvin does not make an impact, the Seahawks will not have much of a chance.

3 Bold Predictions:
1. The "Legion of Boom" is held without and interception.
2. Peyton Manning does not eclipse 300 passing yards, but does throw for three touchdowns.
3. Demaryius Thomas wins the Super Bowl MVP, catching at least 10 passes for at least 120 yards and two touchdowns.

Final prediction
If you could not tell from my bold predictions, I think the Unstoppable Force beats the Immovable Object. The Seahawks will make it a competitive game, however, and it could easily go either way. The main reason I have a hard time picking Seattle to win this game is because I do not think they will be able to score enough points. The Seahawks offense has not impressed me during the playoffs, and I think they will disappoint again come Sunday. Denver wins this one, 31-17.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

With the sixth pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons select...

With the NFL draft quickly approaching and nothing else to write about this week, I figured I would go ahead and preview the Falcons' first round draft pick (sixth overall) and the history of that pick, so let's get started with a quick history lesson.

Out of 78 total NFL drafts, the sixth pick has produced 10 Hall of Famers, all of which listed below.

Hall of Fame Players Selected Sixth Overall
1936: Chicago Bears - Joe Stydahar, OT, West Virginia
1937: Boston Redskins - Sammy Baugh, QB, Texas Christian
1938: Detroit Lions - Alex Wojciechowicz, C, Fordham
1948: Detroit Lions - Y.A. Tittle, QB, LSU
1957: Cleveland Browns - Jim Brown, FB, Syracuse
1964: Minnesota Vikings - Carl Eller, Minnesota
1967: Denver Broncos - Floyd Little, HB, Syracuse
1971: New York Jets - John Riggins, HB, Kansas
1978: Green Bay Packers - James Lofton, WR, Stanford
1997: Seattle Seahawks - Walter Jones, OT, Florida State - 2014 Inductee

Listed below are players who have not been selected to the Hall of Fame yet, but ones that I believe have, or will have, an opportunity.

Notable Players selected at number 6 not yet eligible/finalists for the Hall of Fame
1986: New Orleans Saints - Jim Dombrowski, OT, Virginia
1988: Los Angeles Raiders - Tim Brown, WR, Notre Dame
1995: St. Louis Rams - Kevin Carter, DE, Florida
1999: St. Louis Rams - Torry Holt, WR, NC State
2001: New England Patriots - Richard Seymour, DT, Georgia
2006: San Francisco 49ers - Vernon Davis, TE, Maryland

Now am I saying that whomever the Falcons draft at number six is a sure-fire Hall of Famer? What about an annual Pro Bowler? Heck no. This is not the first time the Falcons have picked sixth in the draft. I am sure most Falcons fans remember the 2011 draft where Thomas Dimitroff traded up to the sixth pick in order to select Julio Jones, who I would say has done pretty well for himself. This was the second time the Falcons selected sixth overall, however. In 1977, the first time they held the sixth overall pick, the Falcons selected Warren Bryant, an OT out of Kentucky. I do not know about you, but I have never actually heard of him before researching for this blog.

Atlanta Falcons History with the Sixth Pick in the NFL Draft
1977: Warren Bryant, OT, Kentucky
2011: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

Now that we have looked at Hall of Famers (and potential future ones) drafted at six overall and players selected by the Atlanta Falcons sixth overall, let us take a look at the sixth pick overall the last six years (you see what I did there?).

Players Selected at number 6 the last 6 years
2008: New York Jets - Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State
2009: Cincinnati Bengals - Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
2010: Seattle Seahawks - Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
2011: Atlanta Falcons - Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
2012: Dallas Cowboys - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
2013: Cleveland Browns - Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU

We will take this player-by-player, starting in 2008 with Vernon Gholston. When he declared for the draft, Gholston was one of the top pass rushers in the entire country, totaling 14 sacks in his last season with Ohio State. He did nothing but improve his draft stock with a phenomenal NFL Combine, where he tied the highest bench press score with 37 repetitions of 225 pounds. The Jets thought they were getting the next great pass rusher. They could not have been more wrong. After three years, the Jets had had enough of Gholston and cut him. In those three years Gholston was only able to tally 42 tackles with no sacks. According to ESPN, over 600 players registered at least one sack during Gholston's tenure with the Jets.

2009 proved to be a much better year for the sixth pick in the draft with Andre Smith, the OT from Alabama. While he was not the "workout warrior" Gholston was at the combine, Smith has easily had the better career in five years with the Cincinnati Bengals. This "better career" did not start until 2011 for Smith. To that point, injuries and other circumstances had held Smith back. That all changed in 2011 when it was reported that in the offseason, Smith and Cincinnati starting LT Andrew Whitworth had a conversation. Smith allegedly said that it was his "time to step up." He definitely stepped up, earning the starting RT job and ultimately deserving a three-year $18 million contract at the end of last season.

2010 would see another OT drafted with the sixth pick overall. Russell Okung was very highly touted coming out of Oklahoma State. While there, he was selected first-team All-Big 12 twice (2008, 2009), selected first-team All-America twice (2008, 2009), and winner of the Jim Parker trophy (2009) and Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year (2009). Okung went on to impress at the NFL Combine, benching 225 pounds 38 times. After being injured during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Okung finally showed in 2012 why he was so highly touted, by being selected to the Joke of a Bowl, I mean Pro Bowl.

The next year's sixth overall draft pick is one that most Falcons fans have noticed the last couple seasons. With the sixth overall draft pick in the 2011 draft, the Atlanta Falcons made a gigantic splash and traded up in order to select WR Julio Jones, who is an absolute beast. In addition to having a phenomenal career at Alabama, he went on to have a great NFL Combine. There, he posted the longest long jump and the third-fastest 40-yard dash among receivers. What made this even more impressive is the fact that Julio did all of this while having a broken bone in his foot. Go ahead and call me a homer if you want to (I won't deny it), but like I said earlier, Julio is a beast. Through three injury-riddled seasons, Julio has averaged 15.7 yards per catch and has 20 total touchdowns.

Morris Claiborne and Barkevious Mingo were selected with the sixth pick in the 2012 and 2013 drafts, respectively. Since neither has been in the league more than two years, they only get one combined paragraph. With Claiborne, the Cowboys got the player that they considered the second-best player in the draft, behind QB Andrew Luck. With Mingo, the Browns got a pass rusher, who they thought would be a great fit in their new 3-4 defense under DC Ray Horton. While both have been decent, Mingo has clearly shown more promise thus far. Through two years, Claiborne has only registered two INTs. To put that to comparison, Casey Hayward and Janoris Jenkins, two CBs who were selected after Claiborne, have registered 11 total interceptions. To add to this, Jenkins also has three defensive touchdowns. Mingo also had a decent season registering five sacks in his rookie season. Only on rookie DE/OLB taken in the first three rounds did better than Mingo in terms of sacks.

Now that we have looked at the history of the sixth pick in the NFL draft, let us look at what options the Falcons will have this year:

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (6-6, 274): The phenomenal DE that seemingly fell off the map this year. I am not a huge fan of Clowney coming to Atlanta, not because of lack of ability, but because he would run into the same problem here that he did this year at South Carolina: double- and triple-teams. Looking at the Falcons' starting defensive line at the beginning of the year (Biermann, Babineaux, Peters, Umenyiora), there is not anybody on that list that will scare many offensive lines. The Falcons would likely line Clowney up in quite a few places in the defensive front seven. The only way I would support the drafting of Jadeveon Clowney, or any other pass rusher, would be if the Falcons went out and signed another defensive lineman in free agency to draw some double-teams away from Clowney.

Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA (6-4, 245): The former HB, Barr transitioned to pass-rush linebacker last year and made his presence known, leading his team in sacks (13.5) and tackles for loss (21.5). This year, while not as amazing, was still pretty good for Barr. He totaled 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. I feel about Barr about the same way I feel about Clowney. There is no point in bringing him in if we are not going to get him any help. At the same time, however, the Falcons have to get someone at some point (this goes for Clowney too). Barr, in my opinion at this time, is a better fit for Mike Nolan's defense than Clowney is. I am just cautious about Clowney's work ethic and ability to stand up and play some linebacker. By saying that, do not think that I think Barr is the best fit. That position is reserved to the guy below Barr.

Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo (6-3, 248): Mack is one of my favorite players in this entire draft. He is a better fit for Nolan's defense than Clowney and Barr. Mack not only had an excellent year rushing the passer, but he is also no slouch in coverage. To go along with his 10.5 sacks, Mack also added three INTs (two for touchdowns), seven passes defensed, and five forced fumbles. I said this for the last two and I am going to say it again, only I am going to change it slightly. Whether or not we draft a DE/LB, the Falcons HAVE TO sign another one in free agency.

Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M (6-5, 305): After almost declaring for the draft last year, Jake Matthews decided to come back for his senior year. To me, that was a good decision, considering how deep the OL class was last year. If you watched a Falcons game this year, you know that the O-line sucked tremendously. Jake Matthews would be an instant improvement at LT or RT. Were the Falcons to draft him, there are two likely scenarios: (1) Jake Matthews starts at LT with Sam Baker and Lamar Holmes moving to RT and RG, respectively or (2) Jake Matthews plays RT with Lamar Holmes still moving to RG and Baker staying at LT.

Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn (6-5, 305): In spite of losing the National Championship to Florida State, Greg Robinson still had a good game for Auburn, who was able to run for a total 232 yards. If Robinson is the pick, I expect the same scenarios as above.

Bonus Sleeper Pick #1: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame (6-3, 340): Who doesn't love sleeper picks? Louis Nix would be an absolute monster on Atlanta's defensive line. The Falcons might actually be able to stop the run.

Bonus Sleeper Pick #2: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri (6-5, 275): Why not two sleeper picks? Ealy is a guy that is growing on me, that I think will climb up the draft board and possibly be a top-five draft pick. He should be a good one wherever he ends up.

As of right now, I have absolutely no idea what the Falcons want to draft with that sixth pick. I am not totally sure that they will even keep the pick. I believe that there are scenarios where they could trade up or down in the draft. It will be exciting to see what they do in a few months.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Championship Sunday Preview

AFC Championship Game: Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots
Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning. Two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, meeting for the fifteenth time, and the fourth time in the playoffs. While the postseason series between the two is dead even at 1-1, the total record leans toward Tom Brady, with 10 wins as compared to Manning's four. This looks to be an offensive shootout, so let's take a deeper look at the match-up itself.

Denver X-factor: Wes Welker
The former New England slot receiver in his first year with the Broncos has had a pretty good season, catching for over 750 yards and 10 touchdowns. In the match-up between these two teams earlier this season, however, he was only able to bring in four receptions for only 31 yards. That is an average of 7.8 yards/reception, which was third-lowest total of the year. If the Broncos want to win, Welker will need to have a better game against his former team.

New England X-factor: Lagarrette Blount
Lagarrette Blount is an absolute beast of a running back. Against the Colts last week, the 250 lb. running back ran for a whopping 166 yards and four touchdowns. In addition to being a gigantic power back, he also showed excellent vision on his 73-yard touchdown run. Blount will be sure to make his presence known in this game, moreso than he did in the first match-up where he ran the ball twice for 13 yards.

Match-ups to watch:
Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady
Two of the best quarterbacks of all time going head to head for the fifteenth time, fourth in the playoffs. There's always been a debate about which of these two is the better quarterback: Brady, with his multiple Super Bowl victories, or Manning, with his multiple MVP awards. It will remain an ongoing debate, regardless of the outcome of this game. In three postseason match-ups, the winner of the game has gone on to win the Super Bowl.

Denver's front seven vs. Lagarrette Blount
Like I said earlier, Lagarrette Blount is an absolute beast of a running back. He has come a long way since punching a Boise State player while he was at Oregon, to being a 1000-yard rusher for Tampa Bay, and now is competing for a Super Bowl birth. If Denver's front seven cannot find a way to stop, or even slow down, Blount, it will be a long game. If Blount is terrorizing the Broncos defense, then Tom Brady will start exploiting play-action passes and it will be a long afternoon for the Broncos.

Denver wins if...
Peyton Manning and Knowshon Moreno propel the offense. Even with Peyton Manning's offensive records, Knowshon Moreno quietly rushed his way to his first NFL 1000-yard season. If Manning and Moreno can continue to produce like they have all season, New England will be hard-pressed to find a way to win this game.

New England wins if...
Lagarrette Blount runs wild. I have been talking about him for, what feels like, this whole blog. Lagarratte Blount is an absolute beast. The key to victory for the Patriots is Blount and the running game. If Denver's defense makes the Patriots one-dimensional, Denver wins easily.

Bold Predictions:
1. Knowshon Moreno rushes for more yards than Lagarrette Blount.
2. The winner of this game wins the Super Bowl in a couple weeks.

Score Prediction:
This will be a shootout all the way to the very end of it. The difference will be the running game, and if you look at my bold predictions, you will not be surprised that I am picking the Denver Broncos to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Denver wins 38-35

NFC Championship Game: Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers
NFC West rivals Seattle and San Francisco are meeting for the third time this season. In week 2, in Seattle, the Seahawks completely dismantled the 49ers 29-3. However, the 9ers got some revenge in week 14 in San Francisco, winning 19-17. Whereas the AFC Championship game looks to be an offensive shootout, this game looks to be a defensive struggle.

Seattle X-factor: The Twelfth ManSeattle is home to the loudest football crowd in the entire NFL. Earlier in the season, Seattle's twelfth man set the Guinness World Record record for the most crowd noise, with a whopping 137.6 decibels. That is almost the amount of a jet engine 100 feet away.

San Francisco X-factor: Navorro BowmanOne of the two beastly middle linebackers for the 49ers, Bowman finished fifth in the NFL in tackles with 145. He and Patrick Willis will once again have the unfortunate task of tackling Marshawn Lynch. If the 49ers want to win this game, they will have to, though.

Match-ups to watch:
Navorro Bowman and Patrick Willis vs. Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch
Like I said earlier, these two linebackers have the unfortunate task of attempting to tackle Marshawn Lynch. Lynch has shown time and time again just how difficult he is to tackle. If the 9ers want to win this game, Bowman and Willis will have to find a way to slow him down.

Colin Kaepernick vs. Russell Wilson
Another great quarterback match-up. These two young quarterbacks, though not taken in the first round of the NFL draft, have proven that they are both more than capable of leading their teams to victory, by leading their respective teams to the playoffs the last two years. There is a good chance that whichever quarterback plays better will win this game.

Seattle wins if...
They get inside of Colin Kaepernick's head. Seattle's tenacious pass rush will prove to be a handful for San Francisco, as they have been for a lot of teams. Couple that with Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas playing in the secondary for the Seahawks, and it appears that this may not be the hardest thing for Seattle to do.

San Francisco wins if...
They can slow down Seattle's rushing attack. I feel like I am talking about Lagarrette Blount again. Running the football is vital to winning in the NFL. If you do not believe me, just look at the remaining teams in the playoffs, and good grief does Seattle know how to run the football. If San Francisco wants to win, they will have to slow them down.

Bold Predictions:
1. Marshawn Lynch goes "Beast Mode" and rushes for over 200 yards and at least 3 touchdowns
2. San Francisco comes out one-dimensional, and it costs them

Score Prediction:
Before I started researching this game, I was dead set on picking the 49ers to win this game. After doing my research and writing this blog, I have no doubt that Seattle will be representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. Seattle wins 28-17.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

NFL Divisional Round Preview

What a heck of a wildcard weekend last weekend. Kansas City vs. Indianapolis easily ended up being the best game of the week, with KC losing Jamal Charles early and still being able to jump to a huge lead. Apparently, KC forgot who they were playing though. Since coming into the league last year, Andrew Luck came into the game with seven career fourth quarter comebacks. This would be number eight as Luck put the Colts on his back and carried them to victory, finishing with 443 yards through the air and four touchdowns. He also had a fumble recovery that he dove in for a touchdown, which was rewarded by being number one on Sportscenter's Top Ten Plays. Unfortunately for my picks, the Philadelphia vs. New Orleans game did not quite turn out like I wanted it to. Rob Ryan definitely had that Ain'ts defense prepared to stop Chip Kelly's dynamic offensive attack, limiting Lesean McCoy to only 77 yards on 21 carries. Shane Graham kicked a last second field goal to give New Orleans the victory. On Sunday, there were two more great games. San Diego came out and surprised everybody by beating the Cincinnati Bengals. San Diego did not win, as much as Cincinnati just lost due to multiple turnovers and untimely sacks. They turned the ball over four times and had another fumble they recovered. San Francisco played Green Bay about as close as I had predicted, winning 23-20. The best thing San Francisco did against the Packers, was holding Aaron Rodgers under 200 yards passing. It also did not hurt that Collin Kaepernick had an amazing game, passing for over 200 yards and rushing for almost 100. After an amazing wildcard weekend, I expect to see similar fireworks in the great match-ups this week in the divisional round. Let's take a look at them.

New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks
I am fairly certain that most, if not all, of you remember the last time these two met in the playoffs. If not, watch this and it should jog your memory. That run has become so famous that it now has its own Wikipedia page. This time around, I am expecting another great game. New Orleans is coming off of a very close victory over Chip Kelly's Eagles. Seattle is coming off a bye after clinching the number one seed. Both teams have performed very well on both sides of the ball this year. The biggest match-up for this game will be how the Seahawks front seven does against Drew Brees, Darren Sproles, and the Saints screen game. If New Orleans gets the screen game going today, it should be a fairly easy victory for them. I expect the Seahawks defense to come into this game well-rested and disciplined. Seahawks win 31-20.
Bold Prediction: Seattle's defense holds Darren Sproles under 75 total offensive yards.

Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots
I always love it when two rival teams meet in the playoffs. It always makes for a much better game, since you have the intensity of a playoff game AND a rivalry game. Andrew Luck may still have an adrenaline rush from the game last week against the Chiefs. Tom Brady and the Patriots have had an interesting season to say the least. From losing Wes Welker in free agency to losing Aaron Hernandez to prison, Tom Brady has been reduced to throwing to the oft-injured Rob Gronkowski and numerous inexperienced receivers. Fortunately, the Patriots brought in Lagarrette Blount, who has had a good season, averaging five yards a rush and scoring seven touchdowns on the ground. I expect to see a great game that will go back and forth all the way to the end of the game. The Match-up to watch is Andrew Luck going head to head with Tom Brady. Two great quarterbacks going at it. It should be a great match-up. Colts win 48-42.
Bold Prediction: Andrew Luck scores the last touchdown with under 30 seconds left to clinch a trip the the AFC championship game.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Carolina Panthers
Collin Kaepernick versus Cam Newton. Two fairly similar quarterbacks going head to head. Carolina surprised a lot of people by winning the NFC South this year, behind the arm of Cam Newton and the defense. As impressive as Newton has been this season, he has not even been the most impressive player on his team. That title should belong to impending free agent DE Greg Hardy. Going into this season, Greg Hardy had been solid, but not spectacular. The Ole Miss product only had 18 sacks spread out over three seasons coming into the season. Last year held a lot of hope for him, though, with 11 of those 18 coming last year. He had three big games this year: against the New York Giants, against the New Orleans Saints (the second time), and against the Atlanta Falcons (the second time). In those three games alone, he totaled 10 of his 15 sacks. The match-up to watch in this game will be how this fantastic defensive line, that also includes UGA product Charles Johnson, performs against an equally impressive 49ers offensive line. Carolina wins a very close game 28-25.
Bold Prediction: Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson combine for five sacks.

San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos
Two rivalry games in the playoffs? I must be dreaming. San Diego surprised everybody with first year HC, and former Denver Broncos OC, Mike McCoy, by sneaking into the playoffs, going 1-1 against the Broncos in the regular season, and then upsetting the Bengals in the wildcard round. Denver has not missed Mike McCoy one bit. After bringing in Wes Welker in the offseason, the Denver Broncos had one of the best offensive seasons ever. They were easily the best offense in the NFL this year, finishing first in points, total offense, and passing offense. Peyton Manning also had a record setting year, throwing for 5,477 yards (surpassing Drew Brees' record by one yard) and 55 touchdown passes (surpassing Tom Brady's record by five touchdowns). Needless to say, the Chargers are going to have to find some way to slow down Peyton Manning if they want any chance at winning this game, which is why this is the match-up to watch: Chargers defense against Peyton Manning. I have not really picked an upset game yet in the playoffs, so why not. I will take the Chargers going into Denver and escaping with a narrow victory 35-31.
Bold Prediction: As if a Chargers victory was not enough, I will also predict that the Chargers defense hold Peyton under 250 yards passing and 2 touchdowns.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Vizio BCS National Championship Game Preview

Tonight, the BCS comes to an end. Since its introduction in 1998, the BCS has definitely had its ups and downs. Looking to make this a game that no one will soon forget (cough cough last year), Florida State and Auburn go to war tonight to determine the best college football team in the entire country. The match-up itself is very fitting. Florida State, in addition to being one of the two teams in the last BCSNCG, was also one of two schools who played for the first national championship in the BCS era, along with Tennessee. Auburn, on the other hand is looking to extend the SEC's dominance in the BCSNCG to 8 consecutive wins to bring the BCS era to a close.

FSU Season Review
Coming into this year, not many expected Florida State to be nearly as successful as they have been. A lot of their success is due to Rs.-FR Heisman winning QB "Famous" Jameis Winston. The two-sport star sparked new life into this program that has not been seen since winning their last national championship in 1999 under legendary HC Bobby Bowden. While "Famous" Jameis has been spectacular, this Florida State team would not be playing in this game if it were not for DC Jeremy Pruitt and the FSU defense. The defense led all of college football in scoring defense and finished 3rd in total yards allowed. The highlight of the FSU defense is the Clemson game, where the powerful Clemson offense was held to 326 total yards of offense and only 14 points, while also intercepting two of Tajh Boyd's pass attempts. Can this same defense stop the dynamic rushing attack of the Tigers?

Auburn Season Review
First year HC Gus Malzahn has worked wonders this year. After leaving Auburn to become the HC at Arkansas State last year, Malzahn returned after the firing of former HC Gene Chizik after a 3-9 season last year. Not much was expected from this Auburn Tiger (or War Eagle or whatever) team this year. Gus Malzahn, however, caught everybody by surprise by winning 11 games in the regular season and then beating another surprise team, Missouri, in the SEC championship game. Lady Luck favored heavily on Auburn this year, especially in their last two games. Georgia and Alabama fans, this is the part where I tell you to skip on down since you probably are not going to want to read this next part. Against UGA, the Tigers jumped out to an early lead, but allowed them to catch back up only to break the hearts of Dawg fans throughout the country on a last second pass that two UGA players jumped up to try and knock down. This resulted in the ball being tipped forward into the hands of Ricardo Lewis who ran it in for a touchdown to win the game. The next game, facing Alabama, resulted in the game coming down to one final play. With one second left, one second that Nick Saban and the Tide fought so hard to get put on the clock, something happened that you would not expect even from a video game. Bama's back-up kicker Adam Griffith had his field goal try fall just a couple yards short into the hands of Chris Davis who ultimately returned it for a touchdown. Will Lady Luck keep looking on the Tigers?

Players to watch
Jameis Winston: The Rs.-FR Heisman winner will look to lead his team to victory tonight. As many know, Winston has had a phenomenal season, completing 67.9% of his passes for 3820 yards and 38 touchdowns in addition to 4 touchdowns on the ground. Perhaps his most impressive stat is his adjusted QBR, which comes in at an unheard of 90.4. If Auburn cannot contain him, it will be a very long night for them.
Kelvin Benjamin: The 6-5 234 lb. WR has become one of Winston's favorite targets this season, catching 50 passes for 957 yards and 14 touchdowns. Auburn will have some problems trying to find someone who will be able to match up with this massive hulk of a man.
Nick Marshall: The former UGA DB, has impressed at QB at Auburn to say the least. While his passing numbers this year were not overly impressive (1759 yards and 12 touchdowns), his rushing numbers are what helped Auburn win so many games this year. He finished the season with 1023 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
Tre Mason: The other Heisman finalist that will be playing in this game, Tre Mason like the rest of the players to watch has had a phenomenal season. He finished the season with 1621 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Match-ups to watch
Kelvin Benjamin vs. Auburn DBs: Benjamin towers over every single one of Auburn's defensive backs. Look for "Famous" Jameis to go to him quite a bit.
Auburn's luck vs. Florida State's dominance: No one can argue that Auburn has gotten lucky a couple times this season (especially if you root for Georgia or Alabama), and no one can argue that Florida State has been totally dominant this year (especially if you root for Clemson). Former Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez often said, "I'd rather be lucky than good." Will that hold true tonight?

FSU wins if...
FSU wins if they come and dominate just like they have all season long. They are going to have to make Nick Marshall and Auburn throw the football. If Auburn runs the ball successfully, it will not be easy for the Seminoles.
Auburn wins if...
Auburn wins if they make Jameis Winston look like a freshman. Nobody FSU has played this year has been successful at doing this, but it is the best shot Auburn has at winning this game.

3 Bold Predictions
1. Nick Marshall and Tre Mason combine for 250+ rushing yards, but only 2 touchdowns.
2. Kelvin Benjamin has a huge game, totaling 120+ receiving yards and 2 touchdowns.
3. "Famous" Jameis Winston leads his team to victory, throwing for over 300 yards, 4 touchdowns, and winning the BCS National Championship game MVP.

At the end of the day, I have to disagree with Lefty Gomez. This will definitely be the best National Championship in the last few years, but Florida State just has too much offensive and defensive fire power to lose this game. Florida State wins 35-24

Friday, January 3, 2014

NFL Wildcard Weekend

The NFL regular season has ended and the playoffs will be beginning tomorrow! Unfortunately for the Atlanta Falcons and their fans, both will be watching from home after a less-than-terrific season finishing at 4-12. This weekend should provide some good football games. Let's take a look at them.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Indianapolis Colts
Two teams that have held the last two top overall picks in the NFL draft, KC and Indy will be having a rematch of the week 16 matchup between the two, in which Indy won 23-7. The Colts are returning to the playoffs for the second year under Chuck Pagano while the Chiefs will be making their first appearance with Andy Reid at the helm. Both teams enter the game with 11-5 records, but have thrived in two different ways this season. The Chiefs have had one of the top defenses in the entire country this year, while the Colts got to the playoffs behind the arm of Andrew Luck. Expect the Chiefs to come out with a chip on their shoulder after losing to the Colts in week 16, but in the end the Colts' offensive firepower will prove to much for the Chiefs' defense to handle. Indy wins 31-21.

New Orleans Saints vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Sean Payton's return to the playoffs against Chip Kelly's first trip to them. This looks to be an offensive explosion with the minds of Payton and Kelly. Rob Ryan and the Ain'ts (er Saints) defense will try to do something that no defense has had very much success in doing: making Nick Foles look bad. Nick Foles has thrived under Chip Kelly's offense. Look for him to continue his success and Lesean McCoy to have a big day running the football in the snow. Eagles win 38-31

San Diego Chargers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
With Pittsburgh and Baltimore both missing the playoffs, the Bengals quietly won the AFC north this year with an 11-5 record. San Diego, under first year head coach Mike McCoy snuck into the playoffs with a 9-7 record. Biggest matchup in this game to watch will be how San Diego will be able to move the ball against a good Bengals defense in what is looking to be snowy conditions. In the snow, Cincinnati wins a close one 28-24

San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers
Here's the best matchup of wildcard weekend. The 9ers are trying to return to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row, but they will have to go through a very good Green Bay team that has Aaron Rodgers back in his second week since his injury. One more factor against the 9ers is that this game will be played in the snowy confines of Lambeau Field. Even though everything is seemingly going against the 9ers, I still expect them to win with running the football with Frank Gore and Collin Kaepernick. 9ers win 28-27

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Gator and BCS bowl game previews

Gator Bowl: UGA vs. Nebraska
In a rematch of last year's Gator bowl, UGA looks to win their second bowl game in as many years. They'll have to do it without star QB Aaron Murray and a host of other players. Look for UGA to try to exploit Todd Gurley against the Cornhuskers. UGA wins a bit closer than last year. 31-28

Orange Bowl: Ohio State vs.  Clemson
This game is going to go one of two ways: it could be a nail-biting shootout or Clemson could, well, pull a Clemson and lay an egg. I'm leaning more towards the second option. Ohio State wins easily. 48-17

Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Oklahoma
This is Bob Stoops' chance to show that the SEC isn't as great as everyone thinks it is. Well, at least he thinks they will. I, on the other hand, think Alabama blows them out of the water. 48-24

Fiesta Bowl: Baylor vs. UCF
Another game that seemingly has blowout written all over it. Well as Lee Corso says, NOT SO FAST! George O'Leary and that UCF D sliw down Baylor just enough for Blake Bortles and the offense to squeak one out. 38-35.
Rose Bowl: Stanford vs. Michigan State
First one to 20 will win this game. In a defensive struggle, Michigan State will be coming missing one of their most important players on defense: MLB Max Bullogh. look for Stanford to go up tempo a little bit and win. 21-10