Is the NFL truly ready for the first openly gay male athlete?

Is the NFL truly ready for the first openly gay male athlete?

A lot has transpired in recent weeks: Marcus Smart suspended for 3 games after pushing a fan in the stands; Derek Jeter announces this is his final year wearing Yankees’ pinstripes as he plans to retire after the 2014 season; the NBA All-Star break and the ongoing saga of the tumultuous  locker room of the Miami Dolphins.

But what has captured the eyes of America is a third to fifth round NFL prospect from Missouri who announced to the world he is gay.

Is the NFL ready for this? I say both yes and no.

Michael Sam and the NFL

Sam will go down as one the most protected players in all of professional sport. No one is going to publicly come out and say “I don’t want to play with a gay teammate. I don’t like what he stands for,” the NFL won’t allow it. Even though the public and/or NFL players have the right to speak out about this, it won’t matter.

Sam privately announced to his teammates that he is gay during the season. Some say this dismisses the argument of the “locker room distraction” because it was not brought up during the season. However,  that doesn’t mean players openly supported him. All locker rooms have a multitude of diverse backgrounds of race, religion, beliefs, and what they stand for. While some players will accept him, part of the locker room still wield the “this a man’s world” mentality. These are not college kids who abide by the rules of the coach and the athletic director, these are grown men who are paid millions of dollars and see the locker room as a place of brotherhood and manhood. Again, some players will accept him, but some won’t. That’s life.

Whatever the case may be, whoever drafts Sam better get use to the media prying the consensus of Sam’s affect in the locker room and how he is fitting in with the team.

The only thing that alarmed me about Michael Sam was people labeling him as a “hero.”

No.

You might can call it brave, but announcing your sexual orientation does not make you a hero. But let me say this, a hero is definitely what you make he or she out to be. I’ve personally seen others around me overcome steeper and more drastic situations that would deem them as a hero.

Let me ask you this. In a society where 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce, 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce and 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce, is a straight man that stays in it until the end despite the hardships that may have happened in the marriage, would you call him a hero?

A hero is what you make it.

From a football standpoint: if Michael Sam can play, put him on the field. Point blank.

Diversity Hirings

In an article published by ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, he mentioned the progressive step in the diversity hiring after a dip that prompted the league to double down on its interview policies and practices.

There are currently seven African-American general managers in the NFL: Ozzie Newsome (BAL), Rick Smith (HOU), Jerry Reese (NYG), Martin Mayhew (DET), Reggie McKenzie (OAK), Doug Whaley (BUF), Ray Famer (CLE).  As for as head coaches, four: Marvin Lewis (CIN), Mike Tomlin (PIT), and the recently hired Lovie Smith (TB), and Jim Caldwell (DET).

Part of this has been because of the Rooney Rule. The Rooney Rule requires National Football League teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. It is sometimes cited as an example of affirmative action, though there is no quota or preference given to minorities in the hiring of candidates.

The best two coaching hirings of the offseason in my opinion was the Washington Redskins hiring Jay Gruden and Caldwell to the Lions. No matter what color they are, these were the best hirings. The objective is not to force teams to hire minority candidates because the color of their skin, but to hire the most suitable and competent aspirant to lead the organization.

What is wrong with you, Darren Sharper?

Former NFL player Darren Sharper has been charged with raping and drugging two women in California, and disclosed he is under investigation in connection with five more drug-related rapes in three other states, according to the Associated Press.

Excuse me for being blunt, but women would literally throw themselves at Sharper if they knew he was a former NFL player. He was a T.V. personality, named an All-Pro six times and chosen for the Pro Bowl five times. He played in two Super Bowls, one with the Packers as a rookie and a second with the Saints.

Yet, despite all of this, Sharper made the decision to allegedly drug and rape women? And quite frankly, the fact that he is an African-American facing these alleged charges all but seals his fate.

Unless evidence proves otherwise, but that’s unlikely to happen in this case.

Is Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan considered elite?

Is Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan considered elite?

The cream of the crop, the pick of the litter, and the best of the best–any of those phrases describes the commonly tossed around word highlighting the game’s most talented, recognizable and standout players.

Elite. What constitutes a player, better yet a quarterback, as “elite?”

Is it three Super Bowl rings? That’s a no brainer, right? Is it multiple MVP awards? A quarterback leading his team to consecutive playoff appearances and division titles while chalking up gaudy numbers in the process? Or perhaps it’s the quarterback who thrives in the clutch to deliver a game-winning drive for the ages.

Remember in 2011 when New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning boldly stated that he considered himself as elite? When asked if he’s in the same class as Tom Brady–a three-time Super Bowl champion and arguably the best quarterback in the NFL–Eli said, “I consider myself in that class.”

That year, the youngest Manning went on to defeat Brady for the second time in the Super Bowl after New England had gone undefeated in the regular season. Many went on to dock Manning as a top-five quarterback in the realm of elites after that season. However, after a horrific 2013 season of throwing 27 interceptions and missing the playoffs, a whisper of Eli Manning’s name as elite was stir up the loudest laughter.

The latest successful self-procolamation as elite was by Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in 2012.

“I assume everybody thinks they’re a top-five quarterback,” Flacco told WNST in Baltimore, via SportsRadioInterviews.com in 2012.  “I mean, I think I’m the best.  I don’t think I’m top five, I think I’m the best.  I don’t think I’d be very successful at my job if I didn’t feel that way.

Flacco looked the part of an elite quarterback in that magical post-season run throwing for 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions in four games to ultimately win the Super Bowl over the San Francisco 49ers. Along the way, he defeated Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in the Wild Card Round, Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning in the Divisional Round and Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game.

Thus, he was deemed elite, and rich too. That offseason, he signed a signing a six-year, $120.6 million contract that made Flacco the highest paid player in the league in that time.

In hindsight, that was a colossal mistake, to say the least. After signing the biggest contract in NFL history at the time, Flacco was tied for 2nd in the league with 22 interceptions to only 19 touchdowns. Looking back at the Ravens 2012 Super Bowl run, only two things stand out to me: Ray Lewis’ last hurrah, and that 70-yard Hail Mary that was woefully misplayed by the safety.

Ask yourself or the closest person near you, is Joe Flacco elite? Was your or his or her answer no? I’m willing to bet it was.

Without knowing his name, what would you say about a quarterback who has four career playoff appearances in six seasons, a two-time pro bowler, 2008 offensive rookie of the year, and 24 career game winning drives, according to pro-football reference.

I tipped you off in the picture above showing Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan didn’t make the headlines because of a chest beating “I’m an elite quarterback” statement, but because of a statement made by former teammate and future first-ballot Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzales.

In an interview with ESPN the Magazine, Gonzalez had this to say about his quarterback of the past five seasons, “Matt’s an excellent quarterback, but he’s not elite,” Gonzalez said as he reportedly almost pinched together his thumb and index finger. “He’s this close. He’ll get there, but he has some learning to do.”

Before the start of the 2013 season, Ryan was paid like an elite quarterback by signing a five-year, $103.75 million extension in July that averages out to $20.75 million per year, second only to Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (who is elite, by the way).

The 28-year-old quarterback ranked in the top-10 in four out of his six seasons in the NFL in yards and touchdown passes, but the knock on him has been his 1-5 postseason record. The Falcons were a preseason favorite to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in the 2013 season, but the Falcons were bitten by the injury bug and had little to no pass rush to stop offense from scoring at will.

Even amongst a tumultuous season, Ryan still threw for over 4,500 yards and posted 26 touchdowns. However, 17 interceptions won’t cut it in today’s NFL.

Gonzales said Ryan is this close, but how close is “this close?” Is San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick this close to the elite status? Kaepernick led his team to the Super Bowl in his first year as a starter after taking over for Alex Smith, and led his team back to the playoffs after losing to the eventual Super Bowl winners in the Seattle Seahawks.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t get called elite enough if you ask me. Two Super Bowl rings in three appearances and a 10-4 playoff record is nothing to scoff at. Big Ben’s last ring came in 2010 over the Seahawks.

Speaking of the Seahawks, how about their 25-year-old quarterback Russell Wilson, is he elite? The second-year star led his team to the playoffs in his rookie season and led them to a Super Bowl win the following year, but with an all-time defense behind Wilson, how elite is he?

Should I dare ask if Peyton Manning is still elite? No one would dispute this, right? Even after his eye sore performance in the Super Bowl, a decade plus resume of prolific numbers, MVP awards and battling back from a possible career ending neck injury is a feat itself. As great as the Peyton Manning is, his 11-12 postseason record and 1-3 Super Bowl record tainted his legacy.

Again, what is elite?

The word is so loosely flung around that it is beginning to lose it’s luster. After one is crowned as elite, but then falters, the title is stripped from him.

If you ask 100 experts or analysts his or her opinion of what is elite, you would get 100 different answers.

Here is opinion 101: Elite is high-level consistency, having the mental toughness to overcome a multitude of situations, and the no. 1 presence on your team.

And championships, of course.

0202_super-bowl-seattle-seahawks-russell-wilson_650x4551

Until further notice, the old NFL adage will dig its cleats in the ground and stand firm–defense wins championships.

Those three words summed up the first three quarters of the Super Bowl as the Seahawks stifling defense were up an implausible score of 36-0 before Peyton Manning led Denver to it’s only touchdown of the game with about three minutes left in the third quarter. The five-time MVP was tormented, uncomfortable and unbalanced the entire game by arguably one of the most dominant defenses in NFL history in a 43-8 rout.

Manning set a Super Bowl record of 34 completions, no one will remember. Demaryius Thomas set another Super Bowl record with 13 catches in a game, you can toss out that record out as well. The only memory that will flash on the minds of spectators from now until forever years from now is a defense that shut down the most prolific offense in NFL history.

An offense that scored 606 points and 75 touchdowns–an NFL record–was shut out in the first half and scored a meaningless eight points by a defense that forced four turnovers, sacked the future Hall of Fame quarterback and yielded the Broncos high-powered offense to 4.8 yards per play. During the regular season, the Broncos averaged 8.3 yards per play.

The Legion of Boom and the Seahawks defense overall, will soon draw comparisons to the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, 1985 Bears and the legendary Steel Curtain defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 70′s. Seattle’ defense was too big, possessed brute strength at every possession , and frankly, they were simply just too good. We were all under the impression of a classic heavy weight title fight between the No. 1 ranked offense in the NFL against the No. 1 ranked defense.

But on the very first play of the game, Broncos center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball and it flew past Manning, who was trying to make an adjustment on the line of scrimmage, not call hike. The ball rolled into the end zone where Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno dived on it for a safety.

That play was the opening jab of a series of heavy punches to come. For the fifth time in six meetings between the NFL’s No. 1 offense and defense, the defense came out on top. The MVP Trophy should have been split 12 ways with a piece passed to each player on the Seahawks starting defense after that stingy performance, but NFL officials got it right by giving it to Malcom Smith who was credited with 10 tackles and returned an interception for 69 yards to the endzone towards the end of the first half.

The unsung hero was Percy Harvin who played only 40 snaps the entire season, but showed up when it mattered most by delivering the backbreaking 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff after halftime. Harvin impacted the game in all three phases gaining 137 total yards. I pinpointed this as a key factor that could throw a wrench in Denver’s defensive plans: How do you game plan for a player that has only taken 40 snaps? The Broncos would have had to go back to the 2012 season to watch game film on Harvin, but that’s when he was in Minnesota. They had no way of knowing how Seattle would deploy the dynamic weapon.

This astonishing victory was also a job well done for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll who brought the franchise it’s first Lombardi Trophy and became the third coach to win a Super Bowl title and a college National Championship.

Carroll had a previous stint in the NFL years ago when he was fired in 1994 by the Jets. In 1997, his Patriots team won the AFC East division title, but his subsequent two teams did not fare as well—losing in the wild card playoff round in 1998, and missing the playoffs after a late-season slide in 1999—and he was fired after the 1999 season.

But at Southern California (USC) he won two national titles. In only four years after taking over in Seattle and eight years after the Seahawks lost in their only previous Super Bowl to Pittsburgh, Carroll is again a champion on the biggest stage.

Besides his first historical Super Bowl win, the energetic coach who regularly runs up and down the sideline made another great move for the Seahawks’ franchise, drafting a 5-foot-11 quarterback in the 3rd-round in the 2012 NFL draft, Russell Wilson. Wilson repeatedly kept the Broncos’ defense on its heels by extending the play, keeping his eyes down the field and scrambling for a few first downs. Wilson became the first quarterback to pass for at least 200 yards, two touchdowns and complete 70 percent of his passes in a Super Bowl win without being named MVP.

And with 28 wins in his first two seasons–an NFL record–Wilson joins Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner as the only quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl in their second year in the NFL. The 25 year old quarterback was completely unfazed in his first Super Bowl appearance outgunning the dismantled 37-year-old veteran.

The moment Denver seemed to gain any momentum, Seattle stopped it in a heart beat. It’s normally a thing a beauty to watch Manning orchestrate his offense, but that was not the case Sunday. The embarrassing loss by the Broncos again raised questions about Manning’s ability to win the big one. He is 11-12 in the postseason and 1-2 in Super Bowls. After his video game performance of 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 yards passing in the regular season, only a Super Bowl victory can mend the failure of his recent Super Bowl performance. Nothing he does in the regular season next year won’t raise a single eyebrow from me. Don’t get me wrong, Manning will go down as a top-5 quarterback in NFL history, but his legacy is tainted on the biggest stage. It’s not that he loss, it’s how he loss.

Again, credit Seattle’s defense for the lockdown job on defense, but the scariest thing about the Seahawks and their defense–they will continuously grow, get better, and they are still young. Wilson, 25; CB Richard Sherman, 25; S Earl Thomas, 24; S Kam Chancellor, 25; CB Byron Maxwell, 25, DE Bruce Irvin, 26; LB and Super Bowl MVP Smith, 24; LB Bobby Wagner 23, and K.J. Wright 24. All of the players listed above are starters and in their early-mid 20′s. The Seahawks tied the 1971 Miami Dolphins as the youngest Super Bowl winners ever with an average age of 26.4 years. The Seahawks are the fourth youngest roster in the NFL this year.

Led by Wilson, I can see the Seahawks having the same amount of success as Roethlisberger and the Steelers when he first got in the league. Big Ben won two Super Bowls in his first four seasons and made three appearances in his first six.

Behind an all-time great defense, and the continuous growth of Wilson, this monstrous performance paints the picture of a possible dynasty.

Super-Bowl-2014-XLVIII-Seahawks-Sherman-vs-Broncos-Manning-1280x800

For the 48th year, a team of champions will hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Lombardi, the Hall of Fame coach who is widely considered the most prolific and most profound coach in NFL history once said, “winning is not everything, but wanting to win is.”

For the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, the want to win is greater than anything they could ever wish for in their lives at this very moment. Two contrasting styles: the Broncos want to gallop up and down the field scoring points at will, and the Seahawks wish to stifle opponents ceasing to yield a single yard.

Story lines run endlessly in this clash of the titans  as Seattle’s No. 1 ranked defense dawns the task of withstanding the league’s most potent offense in NFL history behind Peyton Manning’s 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 yards.

If the brash, shrewd and maybe unlikeable Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman plans to again back up his boisterous talk, this is the game to stand his tall 6-foot-3 frame.

Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker–along with tight end Julius Thomas–combined for 4,284 yards and 47 touchdowns. It’s not a one horse show with the Broncos (excuse the bad joke). However, the Legion of Boom, the quadruplet of Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Byron Maxwell, who has stepped in the place of the suspended Brandon Browner, accounted for 28 interceptions in the regular season, tops in the league. Not to mention eight picks by Sherman himself. Or how Denver about averaging 340 passing yards per game and the Seahawks only giving up 172 yards in the air per game? Something has to give right?

But the game is more than one dimensional, the solemn running back in Marshawn Lynch has been giving reporters the cold shoulder at Super Bowl Media Day. With temperatures hovering in the upper 30s to mid-40s, Lynch may be giving the Broncos’ defenders the cold shoulder by breaking tackles the whole game.

And that’s what it might take to win. Honestly, the weather is Seattle’s best chance of winning this game, and feeding Lynch in the frigid weather early and often is the key for Seattle. While Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson has shown flashes of becoming a top echelon quarterback in the future, unless his opportunistic defense shuts down Denver’s offense, the 25-year-old Wilson can’t go score-for-score with the 37-yeard-old-Peyton. (Largest age gap in opposing quarterbacks in Super Bowl history)

Manning has been battling the notion that he can’t win the cold one, and truthfully, the record speaks for itself. He is 8-11 in outdoor games this season. With his so-so outdoor record, and led by Lynch’s dominant postseason, keeping Manning off the field and not allowing him to get comfortable bodes heavy in Seattle favor.

However, there is a swept under-the-rug stat that isn’t garnering the attention it deserves. The Broncos have only had one player to rush for 100 yards against them in the whole season. (Chargers’ Ryan Matthews rushed for 127 yards in week 15 against Denver)

Will this game turn into a defensive struggle or a track meet? That remains to be seen.

At media day, Sherman told the wide-eyed reporter clamoring for a statement from the outspoken defensive back, “I’ve never seen experience play in games,” noting that his team had little experience heading into the postseason.

But when you have a future hall of fame quarterback, who is a lock for his fourth MVP trophy, experience is alive and well dressed in orange and blue and wears No. 18.

Prediction: Broncos 23, Seahawks 17. 

Eddie P’s Super Bowl Prediction

Super Bowl weekend. Two teams are left out of 32. In one corner, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. In the other corner, Richard Sherman and the Seattle Seahawks.

I’m not playing into storylines, but this is what this game will come down to – Denver’s offense against Seattle’s defense. Manning and his wide array of weapons have to find a way of getting around the Seahawks “Legion of Boom”. Sherman will most likely cover Demaryius Thomas, but Denver also has Eric Decker, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas.

Can Russell Wilson muster enough offense through the air to led Seattle to a win? That is to be seen. Wilson has garnered some flack in recent weeks. The Seahawks can surely run on the Broncos, but will Marshawn Lynch be enough?

I honestly do not think Seattle has enough defense to stop Denver. Manning will have some of his weapons taken away by Seattle’s defense, but there is plenty of ways for Manning to get into the end zone.

Winner: Denver Broncos 

Who is this year's MVP, LeBron James (left) or Kevin Durant (right)?

Who is this year’s MVP, LeBron James (left) or Kevin Durant (right)?

Now at the midway point of the season, with the 2013-2014 All-star weekend in New Orleans set to begin Feb. 14, let me tell you who I think is deserving of the NBA’s coveted awards.

Sixth Man of the Year

Rodney Stuckey, SG, Detroit Pistons

It’s honestly a toss up with this one. Jamal Crawford would get the nod as he regularly provides a spark off the bench, but he’s basically been a starter this season with J.J. Reddick recently returning to the line-up after sitting out six weeks due to torn ligaments in his wrist. My next choice would be New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans, who is playing well averaging 15.8 ppg in Pelican’s wins this season, but they likely won’t make the playoffs in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, which would eliminate him, as well as missing a few games due to injury. After signing a 4-year $44 million contract in the offseason, why is Evans coming off the bench anyway?

Eliminating Evans and Crawford has led me to the combo guard in Stuckey. The sixth year guard is currently third on the team in scoring (14.5 ppg) and shooting 83 percent from the free-throw line. Unlike the Pelicans, who have a 16-25 record in the West, Stuckey and the Piston’s are a game and a half back of the eighth seed in the East with a 17-25 record.  The Eastern Conference is horrific aside from Miami and Indiana, but if the Detroit can swindle its way into the playoffs, a piece of the credit goes to Stuckey.

Most Improved Player

DeMar DeRozan, SG, Toronto Raptors

The athletic swingman and former McDonald’s All-American is having a breakout year averaging career highs in points (21.8), minutes per game (38.0), 3-point percentage (.296), rebounds per game (4.6), and assist per game at 3.7.  The Raptors leading scorer has become the vocal point of the offense, fresh off a 40-point performance against the Dallas Mavericks.

Toronto is currently the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, and that doesn’t look to change barring any major setback, per se, DeRozan was injured. But let’s not wish that on anyone, especially not this underrated star.

Defensive Player of The Year

Roy Hibbert, C, Indiana Pacers

The immovable object that anchors the No. 1 defense in the NBA is Roy Hibbert. Teams are shooting a meager  40.9 percent at the rim against Hibbert, and the Pacers are giving up a league’s best 89.2 points per game. Hibbert is also second in the league in blocks, averaging a hair under three block per game. It shouldn’t come of any surprise that the league’s top defense is also the top seed in the East leading LeBron James and the Heat by 3 1/2 games.

Rookie of the Year

Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Philadelphia 76ers

The long and rangy point guard took the league by storm in the 76ers opening game of the season against the Heat as he was one steal shy of a triple-double with 22 points, 12 assist and 9 steals. He is the rookie leader in scoring, assists, rebounds and steals, but his play has slowed a bit as of late, dealing with fatigue as he leads all rookies in minutes per game at 34.6. Philadelphia depends on the rookie guard day in and day out, but with a 14-28 record, and a need to improve his perimeter shooting, his team is going no where this season.

Coach of the Year

Frank Vogel, Indiana Pacers

It’s no clear cut favorite to me. After a rocky start to the season and the infamous Spillgate, the Nets have won 8 of its last 10 games behind player-to-coach in one year in Jason Kidd. If Brooklyn steadily escalate in the seeding, he will garner strong consideration. Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek has done more with less with their prized acquisition on Eric Bledsoe, who is out with a torn meniscus. The Suns are currently the 7th seed in the West with a 24-17 record, and fresh off giving a 24-point beat down to the Pacers.

But, I’m giving this award to the coach whose team has the best record in the NBA (33-8), the most hungriest team in the NBA who was one game away from reaching the Final last season, and perhaps a darkhorse in the MVP race in Paul George.

Most Valuable Player

Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder

We are all a witness to one of the most lethal scorers in NBA history. “KD” or the “Slim Reaper” as others like to call him, has scored over 30 points in nine straight games, and gone over 45 points in the month of January. In January alone, he’s averaging a staggering 37 points per game. It was only a week ago when Durant bombed 54 points on Golden State. It’s no stopping the runaway favorite right now, well, that’s unless LeBron James (who’s shooting close to 60 percent from the field by the way) has something to say about this. But, Durant’s historic run has to come to an end sometime, right? By the way he’s shooting, that day doesn’t look like it’s coming anytime soon.

Who will capture the conference crowns and head to Super Bowl XLVIII?

Who will capture the conference crowns and head to Super Bowl XLVIII?

The NFL is slowly but surely stepping in the era of the young, mobile quarterbacks. Am I stating the obvious?

In the AFC, two veteran future Hall of Fame quarterbacks go head-to-head again, as Tom Brady, 36, travels to Mile High Stadium to take on Peyton Manning, 37, with both offenses known to score early and often.

And in the NFC, two young guns square off as the 26-year-old Colin Kaepernick and San Francisco head to Washington to take on the 25-year-old Russell Wilson. Both of these young quarterbacks will be under a microscope come Sunday, but it’s the defense that will decide this one.

Divisional Round Prediction Results

Brooks: 2-2

Perez: 2-2

Wooten: 4-0

Conference Championship Picks

 

Conference Champions Brooks Perez Wooten
San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks SF SEA SEA
New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos DEN NE DEN

 

Brooks Bits’

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos

Manning vs. Brady round 14. The Clash of the Titans. Mano-a-Mano. Papa Johns versus Uggs. Whatever you want to call it.

Let me pitch some numbers at you for this one. No need to rehash. We’ve been down this road 14 times.

Brady won the first six matchups from 2001 to 2005, only for Manning to reel off three straight, then Brady winning four of the last five. The duo have faced  off three times in the playoff with Brady winning two of them.

In their 14 bouts, Manning has thrown 27 touchdown passes to 19 interceptions, and Brady has thrown 23 touchdowns to 12 interceptions.

What affect will all of this have in their 15th face-off? Absolutely nothing.

But I’m going with the Broncos.

Why? Because Peyton hears the whispers of his pedestrian 10-11 postseason record. As the perfectionist he is, he cannot lose this franchise again, especially not after having the greatest regular season for a quarterback in NFL history.

Broncos 31-24

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks 

Is it safe to say these teams won’t don’t like each other?

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman: “There’s no love lost and there’s no love found,” the Seahawks cornerback said Wednesday. “I don’t know if there’s going to be handshakes after this one. It’s going to be intense and it’s going to be physical.”

I’m torn on this one, but because of one reason, the Seahawks are at home. The phrase “home field advantage” applies to every sense of those three words. Before losing to the Arizona Cardinals in week 16, the Seattle went two years before losing a game at home.

And the last time San Francisco traveled to Seattle, the Seahawks and the earth shaking 12th man spanked the 49ers 29-3.

I understand the viciousness and the physicality of Seattle’s defense, but this is not that same 49ers team they played in week 2. San Fran has won eight straight games dating back to the regular season. Colin Kaepernick has shaken off his early season woes and picked up the slack as of late.

But the same can’t be same about Russell Wilson as of late.

Over the last three games, Wilson’s stats are as followed

11-27 for 108 yards 1TD and 1INT against the Cardinals in week 16
15-23 172 yards and 1TD and 0INT against the Rams in week 17
9-18 103yards 0INT and 0INt against the Saints in the Divisional Round.

Marshawn Lynch is a beast, but he won’t beat the 49ers by himself. Kaepernick will make just enough plays to get over the hump in Seattle.

49ers 17-13

Eddie P’s Philosophical Take

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning. Tom Brady. These two quarterbacks have faced each other numerous times during the playoffs. Who got the best out of whom during their confrontations? Brady bested Manning. On this occasion, Brady will defeat Manning. Again.

New England showed it is not the air-it-out team that they have been in the past. Running back LeGarrette Blount completely ran over the Indianapolis defense last week. He can, and most likely will, gash the middle-of-the-pack Denver run defense. To add insult to injury, an already shot Bronco Secondary will be without corner Chris Harris. Receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola will slice it up.

The Patriots will win this game. Denver will not have much of a home field advantage.

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks

Just like the Manning-Brady saga, we might be seeing Colin Kaepernick versus Russell Wilson in the playoffs – they already face each other plenty during the season, both being in the NFC West– a lot much more in the future. Both quarterbacks are on teams with that are run oriented and have strong defenses. The two are also dual threats – with their arms and on the run with their legs.

During the season, San Francisco and the Seahawks split both games, 1-1. In their first meeting, Seattle put a drubbing on the 49ers, 29-3. Of course, that victory came at Century Link Field, with the help of the 12s. Now, where does the game this week take place? Seattle. Of course, the crowd will play a factor.

Before I sat down and wrote this, I had the 49ers winning. They have a strong defense, good big and physical receivers, and a workhorse running back. Seattle is built similarly, minus the receiving core. However, Kaepernick has not won in Seattle in his career. The 12s will affect San Francisco’s offense.

Seahawks win.

Words From Wooten

San Francisco 49ers @ San Francisco 49ers

I’ve decided to pick the Seattle Seahawks will win the game and go on to face the new AFC champ in Super Bowl XLVIII.

For one, the Seahawks are currently 16-1 at home over the past two seasons including the playoffs. The Seattle Seahawks are the team to beat people want to beat them to show everyone that yes, they can be defeated at home. They have intangibles that just don’t change, such as their 12th man.

Seattle’s 12th man, or their crowd, makes it hard for teams to communicate while the opposing offense is on the field. The Seahawks have, by far, the best chemistry in the league and Russell Wilson knows how to get himself out of tough situations.

All in all, this will be the second time this season that the 49ers are coming to Seattle and the first time they came this season, the 49ers didn’t do too well. Sad to say, we just may see the same results for the 49ers.

Is another drama-filled season looming for Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins?

Is another drama-filled season looming for Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins?

Most football fans, or perhaps everyone all across America, are gearing up for the respective conference championships this weekend as San Francisco travel to Seattle and New England set sail to Omaha, I mean Denver, to take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

I too will take pleasure in watching the two contrasting games as the NFC will feature bruising defensive play and the AFC will feature high scoring offenses as two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks go head-to-head.

But that’s a story in itself that I will expand upon tomorrow in my predictions.

Anywho, allow me to briefly share with you what has caught my attention lately.

Coaching Carousel

As of now, there have been six newly named head coaches in the NFL: Former Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has been hired as the Minnesota Vikings’ head coach; Detroit Lions have hired former Baltimore Ravens offensive and former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell; Tennessee Titans have hired Ken Whisenhunt as HC, former San Diego Chargers OC and Arizona Cardinal HC; Washington Redskins have hired Jay Gruden, former Bengals offensive coordinator; the Houston Texans dipped in the college ranks and hired former Penn State HC Bill O’Brie and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were smitten with former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith.

My favorite hires: Jay Gruden to Washington and Jim Caldwell to Detroit.

Gruden to the Redskins is a welcoming and fresh sight for Robert Griffin III. No more “I am Mike Shanahan and you are not.” No more it’s my way or the highway from an egotistical, future Hall of Fame coach who has lost his touch. Gruden has already named Griffin as the starter, which shouldn’t be a surprise, but it already shows he supports his quarterback.

I’ll speak on Griffin in a minute.

Detroit Lions new head coach Jim Caldwell (middle)

Detroit Lions new head coach Jim Caldwell (middle)

Caldwell to the Lions is exactly what this undisciplined and rambunctious team needs. The Lions were ninth in the NFL with 110 penalties this season, and after starting the season 6-3, leading the NFC North, they faltered down the stretch going 2-6 inevitably missing the playoffs. Caldwell reportedly broke down passes by Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford during the interview, an example of his commitment to excellence.

(R)eaction-G3

Now, back to Griffin. He had a porous sophomore campaign to say the least. Battling back from a lingering ACL injury, internal issues with his father in the locker room, teammates calling him out, and benched for the last three games of the season.

Griffin was focused on the brand of RG3 itself this offseason, instead of being fully committed on the field. 1377125871000-AP-Steelers-Redskins-Football-001Operation Patience? I get it, it was to inspire the fans, lift the organization and hint for an explosive comeback, but he let it all go to his head, and the heckling fans got into his head as well.

This is what Griffin posted on his Facebook account:

I usually don’t do this because everyone will have an opinion on what you do or don’t do. But to answer your question.
I wear a sleeve because….well the same reason Pierre Garcon wears a fang mouthpiece-S. Moss wears a hand warmer when it’s 70 degrees-Will Montgomery wears elbow pads-Alfred Morris wears shin guards-London Fletcher doesn’t wear sleeves in below freezing weather-Adam Carriker does bicep curls and tricep extensions before a game-Chris Baker dances before every game in the locker room-Logan Paulsen does 2 handed spikes when he celebrates touchdowns-Chris Chester does ninja spins to block people-Some guys wear sleeves & some don’t-Some guys wear wristbands & some don’t-Etc Etc
You see WE do these things because they make us comfortable. Not to be different. Been wearing a sleeve and glove for 10 years.
You see WE are a team.
You think I want it to be national news that I visit a beach? Or shop at Walmart? Or wore red shoes instead if green yesterday? Well I don’t. I’m “striving” for greatness just like my fellow teammates do. The “attention” that comes with being a QB in the league is what you are referring to. All the press conferences and talking to the media? Mandated by the league to have a press conference every week during the season and during team activities during the off-season.
Oh wait, you must be talking about the Commercials? Right? Oh ok so what was the deal with those in 2012? WE won the division. So in 2013 when WE get knocked down, and finish last it’s because of the commercials? If that is your reasoning I have nothing more to say. WE will get back up. That is what matters. I hope I answered your question well enough.
And that you keep supporting the team.
HTTR!!!

The fact that he even went out his way to respond to the criticism shows his inability to block out the noise and rise above the negativity. Griffin has to be more assertive with his actions on the field and not his words.

ACL/Knee Injury comeback

Getty Images

Getty Images

What a sight it was to see the former 2007 No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden, who has battled multiple knee surgeries, back on the court last night. His last played game was in 2009.

Albeit it was only 6 points and 2 rebounds in 8 minutes in an inexplicable loss to the Washington Wizards for crying out loud, his mere presence on the court was truly a feel good story. The case still remains how affective he will be for the duration of the season.

Boston Celtics point guard, Rajon Rondo mentioned on Twitter his return to the NBA after he tore his ACL in late January in 2013.

In other words, tomorrow (Friday) against the Toronto Raptors.

In a bit if hush news, Nerlens Noel, who was sixth overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft by the New Orleans 102613_nerlens-noel_600 Pelicans, who ultimately traded to the 76ers, was cleared for basketball activities by Dr. James Andrews. It’s still uncertain when he will return to live game action, but this is a positive sign for the talented rookie from Kentucky who has the potential to mesh with the favorite for Rookie of the Year in Michael Carter-Williams.