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Friday, January 17, 2014

Rivalry Weekend on Another Level

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Rivalry Weekend on Another Level
By Wild on Sports Analyst Jennifer Jeffrey

NFC Conference Championship
Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49er’s

AFC Conference Championship
New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos


4 teams
2 young fresh quarterbacks battle to see who is on top
2 legendary old school quarterbacks playing to see who is best

2 rival coaches, 2 rival quarterbacks.

It’s going to be quite the “Rivalry Sunday”.

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and San Francisco 49er’s coach, Jim Harbaugh have been rivals for many years. Since they both coached college teams, where Harbaugh’s team ended Carroll’s University of Southern California’s dynasty. Now, they are battling for NFC supremacy.
The personalities of these 2 coaches trickle down onto the players of the teams.
Both teams have similar aggressive defenses and both have power running quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.
The Niner's went to 3 straight conference championship games in the first three years that Harbaugh started coaching.
The Seahawks finished this regular season, tied for the best record (13-3), under the direction of Carroll.

Jim Harbaugh played college football at the University of Michigan and was also a NFL quarterback from 1987-2000. He played for the Chicago Bears for 14 years, and then went to the Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens and lastly, the San Diego Chargers.
Harbaugh started his coaching career in 2004, when he coached the University of San Diego before becoming head coach for the Niners in 2011.

Pete Carroll started off in the NFL as a defensive back coach for the Buffalo Bills. Head coaching for the New York Jets in 1994, then became defensive coordinater for the 49er’s (ironic) that then led to Carroll becoming head coach for the New England Patriots.
Carroll is known for his aggressive play calling.

Russell Wilson was drafted by the Seahawks in the 2012 NFL Draft. His team started the 2013 season with the first 4-0 start in franchise history, then losing to the Colts in week 5.
Wilson finished his season with 26 touchdown passes, 9 interceptions and a 101.2 passer rating and became the first quarterback in the Superbowl era to post a 100+ passer rating in each of his first 2 seasons.

Colin Kaepernick was drafted by the Niner’s in 2011 and was a backup to starter Alex Smith. In 2012, Smith got injured leading Kaepernick to become the starting quarterback.
In the 2013 season opener, Kaepernick threw for a career high 412 yards and had 3 touchdowns. His performance throughout the season marked the first 400 yard passing with 3 touchdowns by a Niner quarterback since 1999.

Years of intense matchups, the coaches of these two teams lead their teams to the NFC Championship game. Neither coach has ever been in the Superbowl.
Both coaches say that they do not hate each other and have great respect for the other.
But, this is going to be a grudge match. Both teams will play hard, grit their teeth and fight.
Who is going to be defeated?
This rivalry may come to an end on Sunday or will it start a new era of cutthroat competition?

Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots will be another game of rivalries. This time it’s not the coaches, it’s the legendary quarterback’s rivalry that continue from Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.

Manning played college football for the University of Tennessee. The first overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft for the Colts.
His football career and statistics have him ranked as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time (that can be debated). From 1998-2010, Manning led the Colts to 8 (7 AFC south and 1 AFC East) division championships, 2 AFC Championships and 1 Superbowl win.
Manning has 4 NFL MVP’s, which is a league record and thirteen 400-yard passing seasons.
In 2009, Peyton was named the best player in the NFL (again, this could be debated).
In his 2013 season with the Denver Broncos, he passed Tom Brady’s record for the most touchdown passes.

Tom Brady played football for the University of Michigan. #199 pick, in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL Draft, Brady was selected by the New England Patriots. He was the fourth string quarterback to starter Drew Bledsoe. In 2001, the legend of Tom Brady was made.

In Brady’s 11 seasons as a starter, he led the Patriots to 5 trips to the Superbowl, winning 3 of them, also having 2 Superbowl MVP awards. Brady set the record for the longest consecutive winning streak in NFL history, with 21 straight win over 2 seasons (2003-2004). In 2007, Tom led his team to the first undefeated regular season since the beginning of the 16 game schedule. In 2010, he was ranked as the best player in the NFL (now, that’s better). This season has been quite the roller coaster for this team. From Hernandez to Welker to the injuries of way to many players. That is a whole other article (which I would like to write). Tom Brady drove this team to the AFC Championship with all of these horrible circumstances. Sometimes, people question how they even won these games. When you have a great leader, you have the opportunity to create an outstanding team.


This quarterback rivalry has been around for about a decade. They have met several times over several scenarios.
They both have great statistics; both are amazing players and have more in common than we all think.
It is not based on hatred; it is based on the utmost respect for each other.

Sunday’s game is a battle between legendary quarterbacks. But, to Brady and Manning, it’s just a game they need to win.

If you are a football fan, Sunday is going to be a great day to watch these 2 games.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

And Then There Were Four...

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And Then There Were Four...
By Wild on Sports Analyst Ryan Winters

Championship weekend is upon us and there are no surprise teams playing this weekend. Seattle, San Francisco, New England, and Denver are all supposed to be in this position. They have been four of the best teams in the league all season long, and most people’s preseason Super Bowl predictions are still alive. Still, in such an unpredictable league that has seen the last seed New York Giants spoil the New England Patriots perfect season in 2008, or the Arizona Cardinals limp into the playoffs only to lose the Super Bowl in the last minute against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009, how did this year’s championship teams get there? And what are the keys to getting to the big dance?

AFC

New England

The Patriots receiving corps has been decimated by free agency, injury, and first-degree murder charges this season, and Tom Brady’s play has been affected by it. In 2013, Brady was limited to just 25 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. Not bad numbers, but very pedestrian for Brady. Fortunately, the Pats have been able to rely on their much-improved defense and new-found consistency in the running game, led by the freight train known as LeGarrette Blount.

Blount has averaged 5 yards per carry this regular season and carried that production over into last weekend’s postseason victory over the Colts. Blount had 166 yards and four touchdowns against Indy, including an incredible 73-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Blount’s size and power makes him tough to bring down, but his speed and athleticism makes him that much more dangerous, and he must play a key part in Sunday’s game if the Patriots are going to wint the time of possession battle and upset Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

On the defensive side of the ball, New England has to find a way to slow down Peyton Manning. Defensive end, Chandler Jones, must make his presence felt on Sunday. Jones had a very solid 2013 campaign, with 11.5 sacks, and he needs to be in Manning’s face all night. If Jones, along with linebacker, Rob Ninkovich can keep pressure on Manning, and make Knowshon Moreno beat them, I like the Patriots chances in Mile High.

Keys to New England Victory
Ø Keep utilizing LeGarrette Blount and the run game and keep the ball out of Manning’s hands
Ø Pressure Manning
Ø Make Moreno beat you

Denver

For most of the season, watching the Broncos was like watching a game of Madden on rookie. Peyton Manning had the best statistical season ever by a quarterback, breaking every record and leading my fantasy team deep into the playoffs. Now he finds himself in another AFC Championship game, trying to do away with his reputation as a playoff choker. He will have to do so against a very solid Patriots defense, led by defensive end, Chandler Jones and linebacker, Rob Ninkovich. Manning is 10-11 in playoff games and while he is no doubt one of the greatest to ever play, he still has plenty of critics, who say that his postseason play leaves much to be desired.

Wide receiver Wes Welker can relate. Known for his consistency, Welker has had key drops in numerous postseason games. He dropped a third down pass in last year’s AFC championship against the Ravens that would have put the Patriots deep into Ravens territory and would have kept the drive going. He had another big drop in Super Bowl XLVI in Giants territory. Welker needs to step up against his old team on Sunday to take pressure off receivers Demariyus Thomas, Eric Decker, and tight end Julius Thomas, and open up the field for Peyton. Welker had a solid performance against San Diego last week, scoring in his first game back from concussion. That production needs to carry over into this Sunday’s championship game.

On defense, in addition to dealing with how to stop a red-hot LeGarrette Blount, Denver was dealt a major blow this week, losing cornerback, Chris Harris, for the season after he tore his ACL against the Chargers. After Harris left the game Sunday, Phillip Rivers got hot, exploiting holes in the secondary left by a sluggish Quentin Jammer. If the Broncos can’t figure out a formula that works in their hobbled secondary, Brady could easily put a cap on what has been an otherwise fantastic Broncos season.

Keys to Denver Victory
Ø Manning needs silence his critics
Ø Wes Welker needs to step up and prove he can be relied on in the clutch
Ø Stop LeGarrette Blount
Ø Back-ups in the secondary need to show up


NFC

San Francisco

All season long, the 49ers have relied on their stingy defense to win games. With Colin Kaepernick’s inconsistent play this season, linebackers NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks, and Patrick Willis have proven that they are the best linebacker corps in the league. They were especially unreal last weekend against Carolina. Brooks and Bowman were integral on San Francisco’s two goal line stands in the first half, with Brooks stopping Cam Newton on 4th and 1 on the first stand, and Bowman stopping Mike Tolbert on 3rd and 1 on the second stand. Willis added 11 tackles and an interception. All three will have to bring that same intensity against Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch on Sunday. Lynch is coming off of a club playoff best 140 yards against the Saints. While I don’t quite expect that kind of production against San Francisco’s front seven, he will still be “Beast Mode,” and the Niners have to find a way to keep him in check.

Colin Kaepernick was inaccurate during most of the first half at Carolina, before finally finding his rhythm. That won’t work against Seattle and the 12th man. Seattle’s defense will make Kaepernick pay for any mistakes he makes. He must take care of the ball and must make plays, whether it be with his arm or his legs. This isn’t likely to be a shootout, but the niners have to make sure drives end in points. The offensive line has to give Kaepernick time in the pocket and don’t make him rely solely on his legs. Kaepernick has a total QBR of 19 in Seattle throughout his career. Bottom line is he will have to be better if the Niners are going to get another shot at the Lombardi.

Keys to San Francisco Victory
Ø Linebackers need to be great once again
Ø Find a way to slow down Marshawn Lynch
Ø Kaepernick must start fast and finish strong
Ø Offensive line must win the battle in the trenches

Seattle

The Seahawks have been number one in the power rankings all year, and for good reason. Their defense has been borderline legendary, especially at home, and especially the secondary. And they will have to be legendary again on Sunday. Richard Sherman is the best cornerback in the league, and he will do his thing. But, on the other side is Byron Maxwell, who took over for suspended cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond six games ago. However, he has proven to be a fantastic cover corner, and that will be the key on the defensive side of the ball on Sunday. Seattle will have to win the turnover battle. Sherman and Maxwell must be stellar in man coverage on Sunday, and force Colin Kaepernick to hold onto the ball, giving the defensive line time to get to him, just as they have done all season. If they can do this, Kaepernick will have a long day.

On the offensive side of the ball, much like Colin Kaepernick, quarterback Russell Wilson has struggled as of late. His receivers haven’t helped him either. It still isn’t clear whether Percy Harvin will be back in the lineup after suffering a concussion last week against the Saints, but Wilson will need help from whoever he is throwing to. Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate need to make plays on Sunday, and Wilson needs to be accurate and decisive. I believe he will respond and have a productive afternoon. In the ground game, Marshawn Lynch is red hot, and will need to continue to be productive against the 49ers 4th ranked run defense.

Keys to Seattle Victory
Ø Win the turnover battle
Ø Force Kaepernick to hold onto the ball
Ø Receivers must make plays
Ø Wilson must play well
Ø Red hot Lynch must stay red hot

Predictions

New England at Denver
I believe this will be a close game, and Manning will play well, but Denver’s front seven will have trouble stopping LeGarrette Blount. This, in conjunction with the loss of Chris Harris, will be too much for the Broncos to overcome, and Brady will have another shot at that elusive 4th Lombardi trophy.
New England wins 31-27

San Francisco at Seattle
This should be a very exciting game to watch. I believe it will come down to the wire, but the Seahawks will win the turnover battle, and Russell Wilson play better than he has in recent weeks.
Seattle wins 27-20

NHL Power Rankings - Jan 14th

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NHL Power Rankings
 January 14, 2014

The Anaheim Ducks once again sit a top our NHL Power Rankings this week, a position they have now held for a full month. What they have been able to do lately is just incredible -- wins in 17 of their last 18 and a 19-0-2 record at home. WOW. #2 and #3 remain unchanged this week with the Blues and Penguins continuing their steady play and sting hold on their respective playoff positions. The Blackhawks and Sharks flip flop at 4 and 5 this week with the Sharks just 4-4 in their last 8 but remain clearly a favorite in the West.

The big movers this week are the New York Islanders (up 7 spots to #19) who have won four in a row and seven of their last eight. They are quietly playing their way back into the playoff race in the Metropolitan Division after being left for dead as recently as a couple of weeks ago.

Where does your team rank this week?

Rank
Last Week
1 Anaheim Ducks 1
2 St. Louis Blues 2
3 Pittsburgh Penguins 3
4 Chicago Blackhawks 5
5 San Jose Sharks 4
6 Boston Bruins 7
7 Colorado Avalanche 6
8 Tampa Bay Lightning 10
9 L.A. Kings 8
10 Vancouver Canucks 9
11 Montreal Canadiens 11
12 New York Rangers 17
13 Minnesota Wild 16
14 Ottawa Senators 18
15 Detroit Red Wings 14
16 Philadelphia Flyers 12
17 Carolina Hurricanes 22
18 Washington Capitals 19
19 New York Islanders 26
20 Phoenix Coyotes 20
21 Toronto Maple Leafs 15
22 Columbus Blue Jackets 23
23 New Jersey Devils 21
24 Dallas Stars 13
25 Florida Panthers 25
26 Nashville Predators 27
27 Winnipeg Jets 24
28 Buffalo Sabers 28
29 Edmonton Oilers 29
30 Calgary Flames 30

NFL 10 Takes Tuesday: Conference Championship

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NFL 10 Takes Tuesday
Conference Championship Edition
By Wild on Sports Analyst Billy Ball

Each week I give you my 10 takes from the weekend that was in the NFL.

1. Bill Belichick deserves coach of the year. All due respect to Bruce Arians, Joe Philbin and Chip Kelly -- they all deserve to be in the conversation, but when it comes down to it what Belichick has done is simply amazing. Lose the two best TE's in the game and one of the most dependable WR's Tom Brady has ever had, OK, lets remodel the offense. No really, lets completely change what we do. In a league that has morphed into a pass happy stats oriented  points-fest the Pats have bucked the trend and turned into a ground and pound offense. Where did LaGarrett Blount come from?  Lose half the defense, no worries, lets go grab a bunch of guys off the scrap heap and plug and chug our way to the AFC Championship game. Who would have thought losing Wilfork, Kelly, Mayo and Spikes wouldn't have an impact? The young guys are getting it done and a secondary that was the achilies heal a year ago now is picking off top tier QB's left and right. Granted, there are a lot of Belichick haters out there from the Spygate and the winning and riding Tom Brady's coattails. That can no longer be ignored and may actually get some national play if they can knock of Denver this week.

2. Marques Colston, COMMON MAN! After a big comeback and unexpected on side kick recovery Drew Brees completed a pass to Colston that would have put them around the 30 yard line with enough time left for one crack at the end zone. Instead of stepping out of bounds, Colston decided to try to extend the play by throwing the ball across the field to another receiver. Well, that throw was about 5 yards forward which is a penalty and an automatic 10 second runoff ending the game. Momentum was on their side but any hope the Saints had for a shot to extend the game ended right there and then. Know the rules and the situation! Common man!

3. Andrew Luck deserves more criticism for his playoff performance this season. As much talk as there has been about Andy Dalton, Philip Rivers and RGIII, Andrew Luck has kind of gotten a free pass. After throwing 9 INT's in the 16 game regular season, he threw 7 in his two game post-season. Granted, his teams were behind and he was trying to make plays. I get that, but there still needs to be accountability for sloppiness. He is a really good QB and has the potential to be truly great, but he is not there yet. Tom want to give a guy like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers a pass? Sure, I have no problem with that. They have been there for a long time and have shown they can continuously get it done. But Andrew Luck has not. He might down the road, but int he mean time he has not been as successful as fellow young QB's Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, all players he was taken significantly higher than in the draft and will forever be compared to.

4. These are fitting finals match-ups. If you are a fan of the Broncos or Patriots, it is only fitting that Manning or Brady gets to the finals by beating the other. Same goes for heated division rivals San Francisco and Seattle. It only seams right that to be the best you beat the best in the process.

5. Enough with the Aaron Rodgers is he gay or isn't he. I don't care if a guy is gay, straight, bi, white, black, green, blue or yellow. All that should matter and all anyone can fairly criticize him for is his play on the football field. What he does off the field is his own business. Let the man be. He owes it to no one to explain or openly preach about his sexuality. I know there are people on every side of the matter that want him preaching in their court. Hes not that out spoken guy and never has been. Why do you expect his to get on his soap box and preach now? That's just not who he is. Give the man some space.

6. I have no problem with Kaepernick doing Cam's Superman. Nothing wrong with a little gamesmanship so long as it doesn't cross the line. Kaepernick has just having a little fun, and in fairness there were players on the Panthers doing his signature move before he went with some fun of his own. I would much rather see Kaepernick having some fun after a big play than see Anquan Boldin or Steve Smith head butting guys or getting in an opponents face after every single catch. Have some fun with it, but know where the line is. Kaepernick never crossed it.

7. Any doubt this is a QB league? I touched on this last week but it really holds true. Four teams with true "franchise quarterbacks" 2 from the old guard, 2 from the new school all made it to the finals. See any teams left standing without a franchise QB? Didn't think so. It just goes to show why there will most likely be three QB drafted in the top 10 picks this spring in hopes that they have found their guy, the one to lead them where SF, SEA, NE, and DEN are now.

8. Is there a blue print for slowing the Broncos' offense? Hopefully New England has been paying attention to what San Diego had been doing on defense. In two games against them, San Diego held them to 20 and 24 points, their lowest point totals of the season.

9. John Harbaugh needs to take it down a notch. Great coach, no question about it but running out onto the field to get into the ref's face after an apparent blown call on an Anquan Boldin TD catch in the end-zone is taking it too far. Now, he was completely correct in his opinion of the call -- as replay showed -- but that is why we have instant replay in the NFL. Yeah, it would be great if the refs got the call right the first time but they are human. On very close bang-bang plays they are going to occasionally miss one. Stay on the sidelines Jim. You will get your chance to plead your case.

10. I have no idea who is going to the Superbowl, which is very exciting. Really, really great match-ups this weekend. No offense to Panthers, Chargers or Colts fans but those teams just don't offer the pazzaz that we have with our final four this year. The 49ers and Seahawks play a very similar style of play: really great defense and run-option style offenses. They play in the same division and hate eachother. If there is a team capable of beating Seattle in Seattle it is the 49ers. That said, no one has been able to do it to this point so until someone does, its very hard to pick against them. Same goes for New England/Denver. The Broncos blew a 21 point lead, something i doubt happens again but just just never know what you are going to get when Brady and Manning face off.

Here's to another great weekend of football! Enjoy the games this weekend everyone!

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