Predicting Top Matches from Match Day 5 of the UEFA Champions League

The group stage of the UEFA Champions League is quickly coming to a close. With two match days left, it’s time to see who truly wants to reach the knockout rounds of Europe’s most prestigious club tournament. Some of Europe’s top teams have already claimed their ticket to the second round, while others are battling it out to join the party. Here’s a look at some of the top fixtures of week 5.

Manchester City vs Bayern München

The German giants have already secured a place in the knockout rounds leaving it to be an all or nothing game for Manchester. There is immense pressure on City to overcome their recent struggles on the international level. Anything less than 3 points, and City will be forced to focus their season solely on the Premier League. Bayern is currently plagued with injuries, but with City’s less than stellar form, it will even out. I believe Manchester’s European woes will continue for another year.

Bayern wins 2-0

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CSKA Moscow vs AS Roma

Another match that will decide Group E. Roma has only 4 points from 4 games just as Moscow does. Both teams will be hoping to add 3 more points and follow Bayern to the knock out phases. However, I don’t believe home field advantage will be enough for the Russians.

Roma take it 2-1

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Paris St. Germain vs AJAX Amsterdam

Although PSG is already at the top of Group F with 10 points, the French champions will hope to add 3 more points to stay in 1st ahead of Barcelona. Ajax with only 2 points is already out of contention for a place in the knockout rounds.

PSG win 3-1

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APOEL vs FC Barcelona

Standing in 2nd place of Group F with 9 points, Barcelona will be looking for a full 3 points to bump Paris down to 2nd. APOEL, (being the worst team in the group with 1 point from 4 matches) will be praying that they simply won’t get dismantled by the Spanish powerhouse. They better pray hard. Very hard.

Barcelona crushes APOEL 4-0

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Shalke 04 vs Chelsea

Chelsea is running on some very impressive form. With Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, almost anything is possible for The Blues. However, Shalke is not a team who should be overlooked, especially in Germany. It will be a hard fought match between the two.

It will end in a 2-2 draw.

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Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

A match up that has become very familiar the past few seasons. With Galatasaray and Anderlecht already out of the race for a spot in the Round of 16, it’s up to Dortmund and Arsenal to see who goes forward in 1st and 2nd place. Arsenal will want to make up for a loss to Manchester United in the Premier League, while Dortmund will want to stay ahead of Arsenal in 1st. It will be a tough one for Dortmund, especially after losing Marcos Reus to injury but I think they can pull it off.

BVB edges Arsenal 2-1

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Ludogorets vs Liverpool

It has not been a happy few weeks for Liverpool. On a run of poor form, Steven Gerrard and Co. will hope to make amends and stay alive in the completion. Ludogorets is no pushover though, as they already showed at Anfield. Home field advantage will make them more dangerous this time around.

Liverpool’s bad form continues as they draw 1-1

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Atletico Madrid vs Olympiakos

Olympiakos will be pushing for the win and to move even with Madrid on 9 points. However, Diego Simeone’s side will want to keep their spot at the top of Group A. Olympiakos will have to bring nothing less than 100% if they hope to win in the Spanish Capital.

Atletico takes it 2-0

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FC Basel vs Real Madrid

What more can be said about defending champions Real Madrid? They are firing on all cylinders and continue to tear teams apart. Already qualified for the next round, Los Blancos will more than likely sit out some of their stars, but they have enough depth to still make Basel cringe even at home.

Madrid easily wins 3-0.

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Top 15 Quarterbacks of All-Time

The Quarterback position is the equivalent to having a coach on the field. They call the shots and are essential to a championship team. All of the quarterbacks listed below have shown signs of leadership and greatness.

Honorable Mention

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Aaron Rodgers

He has already posted four 4,000 yard passing seasons (only two seasons without 4,000 yards). Rodgers won a super bowl and the other season missed 7 games; he has a Super Bowl ring and outside of his first year starting, has never had a losing record. His only season of not posting a 100+ passer rating was his first season starting. Aaron Rodgers is primed for greatness and has high potential to be a top 5 quarterback of all time. Only two seasons with 10+ interceptions too? We are witnessing greatness and it will only continue.

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15. Jim Kelly

Sadly Kelly’s name is always associated with the infamous Buffalo Bills team that made four straight Super Bowls and lost each year. You have to understand though, reaching four straight Super Bowl is not easy. Jim Kelly came from the CFL to the NFL and if I was to include his CFL stats, then Kelly would be a few pegs up.

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14. Roger Stabauch

Staubach lost a lot of years that could have garnered him even more success than he got in his illustrious career. Serving the Navy before joining the Cowboys, Staubach was a 27 year old rookie. He took the Cowboys to 5 Super Bowls and won 2 of them. Roger had arguably his best season in his last year when he recorded career highs for both passing yards and touchdowns, however, he declined a two year offer by the Cowboys following that season to avoid any long term injuries, after having 20 concussions in his career.

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13. Dan Fouts

Fouts stuffed stat sheets like few others could do. He set season passing yardage records in 3 consecutive seasons in the NFL. Until Dan Marino came, Fouts was the man putting up huge numbers. His biggest hit to his career has to be the fact that he never reached a Super Bowl, even though he had amazing AFC championship performances.

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12. Warren Moon

Warren Moon’s legacy should be even greater than it was. He was forced to play in the CFL for a few years, and he dominated it. Many executives didn’t believe in Moon thinking that black quarterback could not be successful in the NFL. Moon broke barriers for players in the NFL, and every African-American quarterback to this day owes him thanks.

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11. Fran Tarkenton

Tarkenton came in and racked up points immediately. He is the only person to ever throw for 4 touchdowns in their first game. He led the Vikings to three Super Bowls but lost all of them. He was a dual threat quarterback ranking 4th in career rushing yards of all quarterbacks. He’s 5th all time in wins for a QB despite his losses in the Super Bowl.

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10. Drew Brees

Brees was not always the great quarterback that you see today. He started out on the San Diego Chargers and was eventually given up on and traded to New Orleans. As soon as he arrived, Brees became a completely different player. I don’t think anyone would have said after he left the Chargers that he would end up in the top 5 for career passing yards and touchdowns. Brees led the Saints to a championship over the Peyton Manning led Colts, and if Brees can keep up his performance for the next few years, he could end up moving to up to the top 3 of passing yards and touchdowns.

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9. Otto Graham

Graham is the greatest winner the sport has ever seen. Graham reached the NFL title game every single year he played and won 7 of them. A lot of this is due to the lack of competitive teams at the time but regardless, this feat is impressive. He is arguably the greatest pro athlete to play for Cleveland as he lead them to more championships than any other player from any of the city’s professional teams.

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8. John Elway

John Elway ended his career the way every player would want to. He came out on top. After a long career of not quite being able to do it, Elway pushed through his final two years and won back to back Super Bowls. Elway early on developed as one of the premiere clutch quarterbacks in the game. He’s had many great moments throughout his career, but is best remembered for his AFC Championship game when he had “The Drive” against the Cleveland Browns to go to the Super Bowl.

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7. Steve Young

How do you fill the gaping hole left by Joe Montana? With Steve Young. The 49ers probably had the best luck ever when they lost their top 5 quarterback and found another top 10 one. The greatest left handed QB ever has a underdog story of how he became one of the greatest football players of all-time.

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6. Brett Favre

Brett Favre was the definition of a gunner. If Favre saw even the tiniest of seams he was going to throw it. If it went wrong he didn’t care and if he saw the same seam the next time out he would throw it again. Despite how bad that sounds it is what launched Favre into greatness. His gunner mentality brought Green Bay a championship and only twice in Favre’s extremely long career did he have a losing season.

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5. Johnny Unitas

Unitas is best known for “The Greatest Game Ever Played”. In the NFL Championship, Unitas beat the Giants in the first overtime game in NFL history. His numbers are not as flashy because of the time he was in, but there is no doubt Unitas was a top 5 quarterback of all time. He led the Colts to 3 NFL championships, and was a 4x MVP and 10x Pro Bowler.

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4. Dan Marino

Dan Marino helped evolve the game. Marino is arguably the greatest pure passer the NFL has ever seen. In his second year, Marino broke season records for passing yards and touchdowns. Both stood for at least 20 years. Marino is arguably the greatest pure passer on this entire list, but his biggest knock has to be the fact that he was never able to get a ring. In his one time reaching the Super Bowl, Marino threw two interceptions and lost 38-16. Known most for his quick release and uncanny awareness, Marino stands as the greatest quarterback to never win a ring.

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3. Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning is a perfectionist. Football is his life. Two weeks after the season is over, Peyton will be in the film room studying defenses. I believe he is the greatest regular season quarterback of all time. It’s his shortcomings in late postseason runs that make people question him. If you’re a stats guy he might be your greatest quarterback of all time. He is going to end his career at the top of 90% of passing records. In his second year with the Broncos, he ran statistically the greatest offense of all time. If Peyton could grab just another ring or two, then he could possibly be the greatest of all time.

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2. Tom Brady

Brady was an underdog. Selected in the 6th round from Michigan, Brady rode the bench until Drew Bledsoe went down. Brady has not looked back since then by winning three consecutive Super Bowl championships. He cultivated the greatest season ever by a quarterback when he threw for 50 touchdowns and nearly went undefeated for the entire season. Brady was great at winning with guys who were not perennial stars. He only had 3 guys in the receiving core to ever make a pro bowl (Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Randy Moss). Brady is still going and if he can win another one, then the topic of Brady being the GOAT could become a legitimate argument.

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1. Joe Montana

Joe Montana is the greatest quarterback of all time. Joe had ice water in his veins and always closed out games when his team needed him to. His regular season stats were mostly not over the top. He is in the top 5 of every passing Super Bowl stat you can think of. Montana had a gift for showing up when his number was called and he always delivered. Montana was the definition of greatness in a quarterback. He not only had the talent to be a great quarterback, but he was a natural leader, his toughness was second to none, and he has the championships to prove his greatness.

In Position To Succeed

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Coming into the season no one had the Cowboys making the playoffs. After the first week of play people were quick to anoint them as the worst team in Football. (I’m looking at y’all Mike Ditka, Ray Lewis, Chris Carter, Keshawn Johnson etc…)

Against the 49ers in game one of the season the Cowboys did look bad, but there were a lot of factors that played a role in their putrid performance.

Defensive tackle Henry Melton wasn’t playing every down (he still isn’t but it has increased), defensive end Anthony Spencer wasn’t active, cornerback Orlando Scandrick was suspended, Rookie defensive end Demarcus Lawrence was inactive and more importantly quarterback Tony Romo wasn’t quite ready for game action.

As a result they got smashed and people were quick to press the panic button.

If you paid close attention to that game you would’ve seen a lot of things. For instance, you would’ve noticed how they were dominating the line of scrimmage offensively; how they were effectively running the football; how they controlled the tempo of the game despite turning the ball over and how they minimized giving up the huge plays that plagued them last year defensively.

Add all of that in along with that fact that guys were going to be coming back from injury and you had a reason to feel optimistic about how good this team could be.

I penciled that debacle against San Francisco in as a wakeup call for the offense. And stated that from that point forward everyone was going to have a tough time stopping the Cowboys’ offense. Seems to be right don’t ya think?

The Cowboys followed the 9ers loss with a 28-17 win over the Titans, a 34-31 come from behind win over the Rams, a 38-17 rout over the Saints and a 20-17 overtime victory over the Texans. 

After winning four  straight, with Romo getting healthier and various defensive guys coming back, people still doubted.

Even at 4-1 people were still on the fences about whether or not this team could play. Week six against the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle was supposed to be the game that brought the Cowboys back down to reality. Instead it woke up the whole globe.

In a game that many thought was impossible to win the Dallas Cowboys went in and dominated the Seahawks in every aspect of the game. Seattle couldn’t stop Murray and Romo tore apart the defense when he needed to.

The defense contained Lynch to an extent and dared Wilson to beat them with his arm. The Cowboys won that game 30-23 in what didn’t appear to be as close as the scoreboard may allude one to believe.

After that shocking victory the Cowboys made believers out of a lot of people.

Analysts were calling them the team to beat. People were penciling them in for the Superbowl. And fans were in a frenzy. But even with that a few people were still a bit leery. Some experts wanted to see them win the next game to see if they could continue playing well after pulling off an upset.
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Following the win over the Seahawks the Cowboys defeated the Giants 31-21. That win sat the Cowboys atop the league with a 6-1 record exceeding everyone’s expectations including my own. (http://fortonsports.com/2014/08/29/reason-to-believe/)

Like all streaks the Cowboys’ 6-game ride came to an end. They lost on MNF to the Washington Redskins who had Colt McCoy playing QB 20-17.

Romo injured his back that game and the coaches made a poor decision, which to some people came to be the fault in why the Boys lost. Win or lose, Tony Romo was injured and things didn’t look good going forward.

The next game on the schedule was against the Arizona Cardinals where Brandon Weeden had to start at QB.

The Cowboys competed with the Cardinals for two and half quarters until finally giving in. Weeden couldn’t make the appropriate throws and Murray wasn’t getting much traction on the ground.

After playing inspired ball at first the defense started to fold as they saw the offense failing to convert their stops into scores. The Cowboys fell to the Cardinals 28-17. Thus embarking them on a two game losing skid.

Losers of two straight and with an injured Romo many thought the Cowboys were done. Everyone but the Cowboys that is….

They flew to London to play a game against the Jaguars. Feeling very good about their chances.

Some analysts, on the other hand said they would falter with or without Romo, while others stated they’d win the game regardless of who played QB.

In what was deemed as a “Must Win” game Tony Romo came back from injury and led the Dallas Cowboys to a 31-17 victory over the Jags. (The game was pretty much won at halftime.) The Cowboys were then 7-3 heading into their bye-week with time to rest, heal and regroup.
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Fast-forward to now and here they are sitting at 7-3 tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for the division lead.

As cliche as it might sound the Cowboys once again control their own fate.

Philly is dealing with a QB crisis with Foles being out and Sanchez in. The Giants are bad and the Redskins are god awful. With that being said it’s their division to lose.

They play the Giants (away) next. Followed by a Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Eagles. After that they play the Bears (away) in a Thursday night matchup. The Eagles (away), Colts (home) and Redskins (away) round out the rest of the schedule. (Notice how the games are spaced apart. Plenty of time to rest.)

The four games on the road may sound alarming, but the Cowboys are currently the only team undefeated on the road to this point. And if we’re being honest three of those games are against teams who aren’t .500.

And now that they’re no longer that prolific offense that tries to put up points and rely heavily on Romo’s arm , this team has a chance to change some of the December misfortunes that have hampered this team as of late.

With their physical, smash-mouth style of play the Cowboys should be able to win alot those games that should be played in cold weather.

With Romo getting healthier, Murray eager to close out the season, Dez becoming a prominent force, and the defense picking up it’s play as well as getting healthier this team should be ready to go.

The image changing starts now.

Is the schedule favorable to them? Yes. But that doesn’t/won’t mean anything if they don’t go out and seize it.

They have a chance to do something that hasn’t been done in years and that’s getting to the playoffs. We can talk about what they can do once they make it there but until then it should still be the one game at a time approach.

Day by day. Week by week. No looking ahead. If the Cowboys can follow this motto faithfully they’ll achieve their goal.

Baby steps first. And then you’ll be able to stride and run.
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Will The Cavs Figure it Out?

After stumbling out of the gate at 1-3, the Cleveland Cavaliers have won 2 straight albeit against Denver and New Orleans(who is actually a pretty good team). Everyone has been blasting the Cavs for the past week, knowing good and well that it is a process. Any assumption that the team will never be good, based after just six games is just downright ignorant. Despite there being some very alarming things that has been displayed so far.

The Cavaliers defense has been atrocious so far which has been the weakest element of the team. Teams have been able to do whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it. It is very early and saying they aren’t going to figure it out is premature ,but they have some serious work to do on that end of the court. With Lebron James at the helm I would think they will soon figure out how to be effective. Nobody will ever question how good Cleveland’s offense is, as they have already shown glimpses of greatness on that end.

As speculated by many, the Kyrie and Lebron dynamic would be a big obstacle and so far that has been the case. Kyrie has proven that he is an excellent scorer and can put up points with anybody, but the questions that surround him now is centered around his willingness to pass the ball and play off the ball. Lebron James despite, having three 30+ scoring games, has looked very passive and sometimes disturbingly so. The two stars must find a way to coexist together throughout a game without one of them disappearing in the offense for an extensive period of time. Even though last game they looked like they were starting to get a feel for one another, they must find a way to do it on a consistent basis in order to be truly great.

The last red flag that the Cavs have raised is their bench which has been one of the worst in the league so far. If Coach David Blatt has permanently moved guard Dion Waiters to the Sixth-Man role it would have be the best move he has made so far. With Waiters and Tristan Thompson of the the bench, Cleveland’s bench should be much more formidable than it has shown to be so far.

Cleveland has shown some bad habits as expected but they have a LOT of time to figure it out. I don’t know if they can figure it out in time to be ready to win a championship this year but they surely got the horses to pull it off.

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Why Manuel Neuer Should Win The Ballon D’Or over Messi and Ronaldo

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The FIFA Balon D’OR is arguably the most prestigious individual award a player can win, awarded to the best player that year had to offer. Zinedine Zidane, Ricardo Kaka, Ronaldinho, Luis Figo, the list of legendary footballers who have won this award goes on and on. January is soon approaching, and another winner must be named.

Each year, a list of 23 players is chosen as a shortlist for the award, and is eventually narrowed down to a final 3.

Here is this years list of 23 contenders:

Gareth Bale, Wales, Real Madrid
Karim Benzema, France, Real Madrid
Diego Costa, Spain, Chelsea
Thibaut Courtois, Belgium, Chelsea
Angel Di Maria, Argentina, Manchester United
Mario Gotze, Germany, Bayern Munich
Eden Hazard, Belgium, Chelsea
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden, Paris Saint-Germain
Andres Iniesta, Spain, Barcelona
Toni Kroos, Germany, Real Madrid
Philipp Lahm, Germany, Bayern Munich
Javier Mascherano, Argentina, Barcelona
Lionel Messi, Argentina, Barcelona
Thomas Muller, Germany, Bayern Munich
Manuel Neuer, Germany, Bayern Munich
Neymar, Brazil, Barcelona
Paul Pogba, France, Juventus
Sergio Ramos, Spain, Real Madrid
Arjen Robben, Netherlands, Bayern Munich
James Rodriguez, Colombia, Real Madrid
Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal, Real Madrid
Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany, Bayern Munich
Yaya Toure, Ivory Coast, Manchester City

Of these 23 fine footballers, there are 3 who stand out. Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Manuel Neuer. It is extremely probable that these 3 men will end up as the final 3 to win the prestigious award. However, German Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is the man who should be taking the prize home this time around.

 

“The Ballon d’Or tends to go to a player who has performed exceptionally well at the World Cup, someone who won it, so this year it should be for a Germany player. It was always that way until 2010 when Leo Messi won despite having a fairly average World Cup, so nothing is for certain.”

These were the words of UEFA president Michel Platini, and he has a very solid point. If anyone should win the Ballon D’Or, it must be someone who was part of the Germany Squad that won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. You might ask then, why not Thomas Müller, top scorer for the German side at the World Cup & winner of the Silver Ball along with Silver Boot? Or Mario Götze, who was the one that scored the winning goal to give Germany it’s fourth world championship. Although Müller is a huge part of the German National Team, and made a good impact at this years competition, he was not as decisive in the later stages of the tournament. Götze did win Germany the whole thing, but otherwise struggled and barely played prior to the final. That leaves Manuel Neuer, who could truly challenge Ronaldo and Messi to win the award.

Cristiano Ronaldo is favored by many to win a 2nd Consecutive Ballon D’Or, which would also be the 3rd of his career. This past season Ronaldo flourished for his club Real Madrid, scoring 31 goals in 31 La Liga games, as well as breaking records, one by scoring 17 goals in 11 games in the UEFA Champions League. Ronaldo played an important role in helping the Spanish Giants finally win “La Decima” or 10th UEFA Champions League in its history as well as capturing the Spanish Copa Del Rey. Ronaldo seemed unstoppable as he scored goal after goal to help Real have a very successful season. However, it wouldn’t be all smiles for Ronaldo by the time the World Cup came around. Portugal had been drawn into what many called “The Group of Death” along with Germany, Ghana, and the United States. Ronaldo had little to no impact in helping his country, as they fell 3-0 to Germany, drew 2-2 with the Americans, and narrowly beat Ghana 2-1. These results would not be enough, as in those 3 games Ronaldo only managed to score 1 goal, and the Portuguese crashed out of the tournament, failing to advance out of the Group Stage.

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Lionel Messi, still considered by many to be the best player in the world, and even of all time, is also a favorite to win the Ballon D’Or, which would be his 5th. In the 2013-2014 season Messi bagged 28 goals in 31 La Liga appearances, beaten only by Ronaldo. Although he produced dominant numbers for his team Barcelona, the Catalan and Spanish Club did not have a very good season. They lost the La Liga campaign to Atletico Madrid, who would also knock them out of the UEFA Champions League in the Quarter-Finals. They also lost in the Final of the Spanish Copa Del Rey to arch rivals Real Madrid. However, Messi would turn a poor club season around at the 2014 World Cup. Argentina were drawn into a fairly easy group deemed “The Group Of Life” along with Nigeria, Bosnia-Herzegovia, and Iran. Argentina were favored to win 1st place in the group and advance easily. They did just that, beating all 3 and advancing from the group with 9 out of 9 points. Messi played an important role in helping Argentina then reach the final, beating Switzerland in the Round of 16, Belgium in the Quarter-Finals, and the Netherlands in the Semi-Finals. He scored 4 goals in 7 matches and picked up the Tournaments Best Player Award, although his country would fall 1-0 to Germany in the final, a game in which Messi made almost no impact and missed the few chances he got that could have won Argentina their 3rd World Championship.

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Manuel Neuer, the Germany and Bayern Munich captain is considered by many the best goalkeeper the game has to offer right now. It shouldn’t be wondered why, as the young keeper has won the German Bundeliga, DFB-Pokal, UEFA Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, FIFA World Cup, as well as many other competitions all by the age of 28. He has truly won it all and has played a vital role for his team in gaining these accomplishments. In the 2013-2014 season Neuer collected 15 clean sheets and 72 saves in 31 Bundesliga matches, helping them win their 24th Bundesliga Title in record time when they defeated Hertha BSC on the 27th match day of the 34 in a season. They would also win the DFB-Pokal, beating rivals Borussia Dortmund 2-0 in the final. Although Neur and Co would fall to Real Madrid in the Semi-Finals of the UEFA Champions League, he would play a huge role in helping his country win the 2014 World Cup. Drawn also into the Group Of Death, Germany would face Ronaldo’s Portugal, Ghana, and the United States. They destroyed Portugal 3-0, drew Ghana 2-2, and beat the Americans 1-0. They would go on to defeat Algeria in the Round of 16, France in the Quarter-Finals, and World Cup hosts Brazil in the Semi-Finals. After defeating Argentina in the final, Neuer was awarded the Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament award, keeping 4 clean sheets in 7 matches.

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Currently the 2014-2015 season is underway. Cristiano Ronaldo has so far netted 18 goals in 10 La Liga matches, while Messi has just 7 in 11. Over in the Bundesliga Neuer has 8 clean sheets and 23 saves, also in 11 matches. Although all 3 continue to perform at an elite level, Manuel Neuer is the rightful owner to the upcoming FIFA Ballon D’Or, for both his great success at Club and Country level, as well as his extremely consisted level of play he’s exhibited the past year, and through out his whole career. He has revolutionized how goalkeeping is played. The dream keeper of any defense, the kind who doesn’t need to be asked to come out of his goal. He’s very decisive and hardly ever misjudges plays the opposition may throw at him, especially in important and clutch moments. A huge example was his punch-clearance against Gonzalo Higuain when they both collided while racing towards a ball in the World Cup final. If Neuer had reacted even a split second later he could have been given a red card with a possible penalty in favor of Argentina.

The number of clear goalscoring opportunities Neuer terminates before they even have a chance to truly start are incredible. No current day keeper can run off his line with the decisive effect and precision that Neuer has. None can accurately throw a ball well past the middle of the pitch. Too often is the brilliance of defensive players overlooked by the fancy plays and goals of attacking players. However, there is the old saying “Offense wins you games, defense wins you championships.” That is exactly what the world class Neuer does. He is the backbone of the championship winning formula Bayern and the German Nation Team have put together. It is time that these defensive masterminds earn the recognition they deserve, and none of them deserve it more than Manuel Neuer.

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The Top 15 Running Backs of All-Time

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15. Curtis Martin

Curtis Martin does not get enough credit. The man had 1,000 yards every year of his career outside of his final one in which he only played 12 games. He is the all-time leading rusher for the Jets and produced every single year of his pro career. He is the oldest player to ever lead the league in rushing. Martin was incredibly durable and had over 300 carries in all but 3 of the seasons he played. He was always reliable only having 29 fumbles out of over 4,000 touches.

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14. Thurman Thomas

Thurman was the star running back for the infamous 90s Buffalo Bills. He helped lead the team to 3 Super Bowl appearances. He was one of the first running backs to be featured in the passing game on a consistent basis. He had two seasons with over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 4 seasons with over 50 receptions. He was always unfairly compared to Barry because of the time period but regardless he was a great running back.

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13. Shaun Alexander

When I think of the Seahawks I think of Shaun Alexander. That comes along with being able to watch him each week and not the other Seattle greats such as Steve Largent. I was never a huge fan but for a 5 year stretch he was without a doubt the best running back in the league. He had arguably one of the greatest seasons ever for a running back. He had 27 touchdowns (was a record then), led the league in yards with 1,880 yards and led the team to the Superbowl. He is the first guy ever to rush for at least 15 touchdowns in five consecutive seasons. His power running style did not allow him to be as great as he could’ve been after wearing down. He had a dramatic drop after his record breaking season. Nonetheless he should not be forgotten because Alexander was an elite running back.

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12. Terrell Davis

Elway gets all of the attention for his two Super Bowls to end his career, but in reality the reason the Denver Broncos got back to back championships was because of Terrell Davis. His three year stretch from 1996-98 is one of the most prolific for a running back. He had two offensive player of the year awards , an MVP and a Super Bowl MVP award. T.D. not being in the Hall of Fame is a crime, hopefully it won’t be too much longer before he gains his rightful place in Canton.

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11. Marshall Faulk

Marshall Faulk took the receiving game for a running back to a whole other level. In 1999 he gathered over 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving. He was used in every type of offense and was essential for the “Greatest Show on Turf”. He had 4 seasons with over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and two years with a total of over 20 touchdowns. He never backed down even in big games having two hall of fame performances in each Superbowl he appeared in.

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10. Gale Sayers

His career was cut incredibly short retiring at the age of 28, but without a doubt could have been a top 3 running back of all-time. He was an all-around athlete. His power and deceptive speed would tear through the opposing defenses. Without a doubt one of those guys that you ask what could have been if not for injuries.

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9. Earl Campell

Is another guy who defined his Hall of Fame status very early in his career. In his first three season he had 5,081 rushing yards, 45 touchdowns, and 4.9 yards a carry. You almost felt sorry for defenders that stood in front of this freight train as he cannon balled through holes. Sadly his body could not take the beatings it received every Sunday.

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8. Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson is physically possibly the greatest ever. He can run over a linebacker, juke a defensive back out of his shoes and has the vision to find the hole that he can take advantage of. He owns the record for most rushing yards ever in a game with 296 yards. His most impressive season was without a doubt the season following Peterson coming off of an ACL surgery in which he gained the second most yards ever in a season averaging 6.0 yards a carry. The 6.0 yards a carry with the defense stacking the box on him is beyond impressive. He wasted this season due to off-field issues but I hope he jumps farther up this list, because he is totally capable of ending his career as a top 3 running back of all-time.

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7. O.J. Simpson

It’s funny that most people of my generation do not even know that O.J. was a football player and know him for his infamous trial. Nonetheless the “Juice” was a dominating running back in the 70s. In 1973 he had 2,003 yards in only 14 games averaging over 140 yards a game. This record will probably be one that will never be broken especially with the trigger happy passing offenses that dominate the league today. Take away what you have heard about him and look at his production and you may even argue that he should be higher.

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6. Eric Dickerson

Eric Dickerson came into the league and immediately made an impact. He reached the Hall of Fame with his numbers in his first 5 years in the league being a dominating force for the Rams and then later the Colts. From 1983-89 Dickerson never had less than 1,000 yards. He owns the record that so many have tried to break with his 2,105 yards in a season. Injuries came to Dickerson very quickly and he had a dramatic drop after his first 7 years.

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5. Emmitt Smith

Emmit was a great running back and nobody can deny that. Yes he had one of the greatest offensive lines in history but that should not take away from what he did as a Cowboy. He was impossible for defenders to bring down. He helped lead the Cowboys to 3 Super Bowl championships. His best performance is coming back into the game in week 17 against the Giants and led them to a victory coming back from a separated shoulder.

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4. La’Dainian Tomlinson

The “L.T.” I grew to love dominated all aspects of the game. He was a touchdown machine having over double digits from 2001-2009. He was the first running back ever to have 1,000 yards rushing and 100 catches in a season. He owns the record for most touchdowns in a season breaking Shaun Alexander’s record the year after Alexander had his amazing season. L.T. once scored 19 touchdowns in a six game stretch. That just completely astounds me. He holds the record for most consecutive multi-touchdown games in a row with eight. He is second all-time in touchdowns and would have been first if he tried to stay in the league longer than he should like Emmit did.

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3. Walter Payton

Walter Payton did everything you could ask of a running back. He could catch when it was needed, he was a great blocker, and without a doubt the 3rd best running back of all-time. He was also always there when you needed him at one point playing in 186 consecutive games. He is second all-time in rushing yards and fourth in all-time rushing touchdowns. He is known as the best all-around back to have ever played.

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2. Jim Brown

Jim Brown was a man among boys. So far ahead of his time, many believe him to be the greatest football player of all time. He lead the league in rushing every single year except for one. And retired owning nearly every single rushing record imaginable. He was the most unstoppable force imposing power and deceptive speed. He retired very early in his career; it’s crazy to think about how good his numbers could have been if he stayed around another couple of years.

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1. Barry Sanders

Barry was probably the most electrifying player to ever step foot into the league. He had a horrible offensive line and the rest of the weapons around him were below par. Despite that Barry made the most of every play. He was so fast that he could run to one side of the field, decide he doesn’t like it, and then turn it all the way to the other side of the field for a positive gain. He’s one of those players that nobody could hate because he was going against the odds every single time he stepped out on to the field. He retired surprisingly early and if he stayed for just another 2-3 years he would have without a doubt owned the record for career rushing yards.

The NFL’s Most Underrated

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The Detroit Lions have somehow stayed under the radar despite overcoming the enormous issues the team has had so far this season. They lead the division and have earned it no matter how ugly it has been. I picked this team to take the NFC North this year and I am not backing down from that pick. Surprisingly, with Reggie Bush (missed 2 games) , Calvin Johnson (missed 3 games) , Golden Tate, and Matthew Stafford you would expect the offense to be prolific. Instead the Lions rank 25th in total offensive yards, 31st in rushing yards, and 24th in points per game. This offense should be much better than it has been, and despite many people pointing the finger at Stafford I believe there’s more people to blame for the struggles of the offense than just the quarterback. There has been horrible play-calling, all kinds of injuries, and the whole offense outside of Golden Tate looks lost. Without Calvin Johnson they look dazed and confused about what to do. “Megatron” is the most important piece to this offense and with him back look for the offense to start putting points on the board.

This year has been all about the defense for Detroit. A lot of analysts seem to believe the stats do not tell the story of who has the best defense this year, but I beg to differ. They rank 1st in total defensive yards, 5th in passing yards allowed per game, 2nd in rushing yards allowed per game, and 1st in points allowed per game. You do not rank in the top 5 of every defensive stat and not be a legit stout defense. They held Aaron Rodgers to only 7 points which completely astounded me, and right when the Falcons looked like they might have found a groove the Lions did not allow them to score a single point in the second half in London.

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With all the injuries that have been going around, there should be no reason why they hold the division lead. They lost all 3 of their tight ends at one point, Stephan Tulloch, a very solid MLB, took out his ACL this year in an embarrassing fashion, after celebrating for a sack that was not even his, Nick Fairley an important piece on the defensive front, Joique Bell missed a game. Even with those key injuries they are still sitting at the top of the division.

Ndamukong Suh is looking to leave this upcoming offseason, and seems like nothing will change his mind. It will be a huge hit to the squad with him out, because when he brings his A-game to the field there is not a single guy in the league on defense I would rather have than him. He is the guy drawing double-teams and opening things up for other guys to attack the quarterback. For them to ever win anything they must have Suh. And if this is truly his last year there they need to make the effort to make the most of this season.

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The Chicago Bears have been a disappointment to everyone, and the Vikings lost their season as soon as Adrian Peterson stopped playing. This division will come down to the Lions and Packers. Both teams do not have an easy schedule going forward and it will come down to the last game of the season. The teams will face off in Lambeau Field in week 17 which undoubtedly will be a very important game for both teams. The Lions have shown they can stop Rodgers, and if they stay healthy I see no reason in why they cannot win in Lambeau.

The sky is the limit in Detroit, and even though I still have the San Francisco 49ers taking the NFC this year, I have a strong belief in this team. I have this feeling I got last year from the Seattle Seahawks (without that home-field advantage) who I had predicted would win the Super Bowl last season. The Lions have something I do not believe Seahawks ever had. They have a hall of fame receiver and a quarterback who can make plays down the field. If they can mesh the potential of an above average offense with a stout defense they will be the one team nobody will want to face in the Playoffs. Next week they face the Arizona Cardinals in Arizona. If Carson Palmer truly does have a torn ACL, then the Lions will have to take advantage of the opportunity in front of them. If they do that they will be standing atop the entire conference and people would be asking the question, “Are the Lions the real deal?” My answer in short is yes, but to prove my point they have to win this upcoming game against the best team in football the Arizona Cardinals.

Top 10 NBA Coaches of All-Time

Coaching is what leads players to greatness. Without Pat Riley there is no Showtime Lakers, without Red Auerbach the Celtic franchise isn’t what it is today, and without Phil Jackson there is no Michael Jordan. But which one rises above the rest? Which one orchestrated the greatest teams in history? Which coach helped guide greatness? Let’s find out.

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10. Red Holzman

Career:696 wins 604 losses Win%.535
Accolades:1969-70 Coach of the Year. 2x NBA Champion(’70,’73)

Holzman is without a doubt the greatest coach New York has ever seen. He won coach of the year honors and a championship in 1970 and another championship in ’73. Those Knick teams beat out the Los Angeles Lakers both times who were stacked with talent including Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich, and Jerry West. Overcoming the odds in ’70 when Willis Reed made a heroic comeback in game 7 of the finals to win the championship.

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9. Jerry Sloan

Career: 1221 wins 803 losses Win%.603

The pick & roll is the simplest play in basketball. Sloan perfected that play and used it for 22 years. He took a team to back to back Finals appearances in the 90s with Karl Malone and John Stockton. Sadly, they ran up against Jordan, nullifying Sloan’s best chance at ever having a ring. Later on the Jazz picked up Boozer and drafted Deron Williams to become a good team that had potential, but they kept running into the Lakers who went on to win championships. Despite that Sloan was able to hold a job in one place and do that for 22 years never really having bad years.

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8. Jack Ramsay

Career:864 wins 783 losses Win%.525
Accolades:NBA Champion (’77)

Ramsay lead the Blazers with Bill Walton to a championship overcoming many odds. He was a GM for the Sixers for Wilt’s first championship. He later got the chance to coach and things just went from there. His teams’ offenses were always near the top and he made bad teams contenders. His impact on the league extended past that season though as he became a mentor to all players. Many were felt by his passing last year coaches and players throughout the league.

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7. Chuck Daly

Career:638 wins 437 losses Win%.593
Accolades:2x NBA Champion (’89,’90)

Daly lead the “Bad Boy” Pistons to back to back championships. The team was about mentally taking down their opponents and physically draining them. He also was the coach of the ’92 Olympic team also, referred to as the “Dream Team”, and managed what was the greatest assembled talent basketball has ever seen.

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6. John Kundla

Career:423 wins 302 losses Win%.583
Accolades:5x NBA Champion (’49-’50,’52-’54)

He was the coach of the Minneapolis Lakers and helped to create the first true dynasty. Kundla alongside the first true big man George Mikan won 5 championships in a 6 year stretch. Even though he had six Hall of Famers on those teams, you cannot deny his impact on the game. Everything about the post game started on his team and became the formula for success for the next 50 years.

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5. Larry Brown

Career:1327 wins 1011 losses Win%.568
Accolades:Coach of the Year(’01) NBA Champion (’04)

If Larry Brown could have had like 4 or 5 championships I would have named him the greatest coach of all-time. The reason behind that is because he was the best at making the most of nothing. In the 2000-01 season he took a team that had Iverson and nobody all the way to the Finals and stole a game from the Los Angeles Lakers. He took the Detroit Pistons, who’s best player was Chauncey Billups (hardly a superstar talent), to a championship beating those same Los Angeles Lakers. Larry Brown was a perfectionist and strived for nothing less. He even took the Bobcats to their first Playoff appearance. Larry Brown will go down as one of the greatest basketball minds and teachers the sport has ever seen. He is the only coach to ever win a championship in both college and the pros. I wish he would stop trying to do something at SMU and step back up to the big leagues, but with his intolerance to owners, GMs and players getting money, that will more than likely not happen.

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4. Pat Riley

Career:1210 wins 694 losses Win%.636
Accolades: 3x Coach of the Year (’90,’93,’97) 5x NBA Champion (’82,’85,’87,’88,’06)

Pat Riley guided the Lakers to become what we know they were in the 80s. He lead the team to 4 championships. He did not stop there though. He later lead the New York Knicks to be arguably the 2nd best team of the the entire 90s decade. Just seemed like a roadblock was always in their way. If it wasn’t Jordan and the Bulls it was Hakeem and the Rockets. Despite that they were a tough outing for any team and their series’ against the Bulls are still recalled today. Riley later (in 2006) led Dwayne Wade and Shaq to a championship beating the Dallas Mavericks in 6. Nowadays Pat Riley is trying to build a team from the front office in Miami to make up for the loss of LeBron James.

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3. Greg Poppovich

Career:969 wins 445 losses Win%.685
Accolades:3x Coach of the Year (’03,’12,’14) 5x NBA Champion (’99,’03,’05,’07,’14)

Pop alongside Duncan created what we know of the Spurs today. Every fan wishes their team was like the Spurs. Players come in and do their job without any off-court drama. Pop had a losing season his first year in, but never looked back after that. After his first season he proceeded to have 16 seasons with over 50 wins and the only season he did not get 50 wins was in a lockout year where only 50 games were played. He led the Spurs to 5 championships and 6 finals appearances. Those are the only championships and appearances the Spurs organization has ever had. It’s crazy to think that Pop was very heavily criticized when he was the GM for the Spurs and fired Bob Hill and appointed himself as the head coach. I don’t think anybody is looking back on that decision as a bad one anymore.

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2. Red Auerbach

Career:938 wins 479 losses Win%.662
Accolades:Coach of the Year(’65) 9x NBA Champion (’57,’59-’66)

His 9 rings and complete domination of the 60s led the Celtics to become the most historical franchise in the NBA. He did everything in the organization. He got Bill Russell, he got Bob Cousy, Heinson he got all of them. The man knew talent, and he knew how to use it. He had a record of 8 straight years with championships and was regarded as the greatest coach of All-Time undoubtedly without any competition for 30 years.

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1. Phil Jackson

Career:1115 wins 485 losses Win%.704
Accolades:Coach of the Year(’96) 11x NBA Champion (’91-’93,’96-’98,’00-’02,’09-’10)

As much as I want to disputes this it’s very hard arguing with a guy who has 11 championship under his belt. I would love to see what Phil could do as a coach when he does not have a top 3 player in the league. Despite that he helped get Jordan and the Bulls over the hump and they became arguably the greatest dynasty in basketball ever. He also made Shaq and Kobe the most unstoppable duo of the early 2000s, and helped get Kobe the rings he needed to solidify his career without Shaq.

NFC East Evaluation

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With about a third of the season over with the sample size to evaluate teams is legit. It’s now time to a look at the NFC East to see how things are shaping up.

Cowboys:

After the last two losses to the Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals we saw that Romo is more valuable than we thought. Even with concerns on his back vs the Jaguars he looked like the old Romo throwing for over 250 yards and 3 TD’s. Dez Bryant was lost the last two games but regained his swagger in London with over 6 catches and over 150 yards and a TD. There’s no need to worry about the O-line either as Murray had his 9th 100 yard game this season and Randle had a huge 40 yard TD. The only concerning factor is the defense. I still don’t trust them. They need to get more pressure on the QB and they need to cover better. But it’s hard to argue the 7-3 record for “Dem Boys”. I’m still sticking with my prediction of a 11-5 record and a NFC East tittle. You have to applaud the job Jerry Jones has down with making this team able to compete.

Eagles:

The high flying Eagles are one of the most explosive offenses. With the departure of DeSean Jackson you would think that the offense would slow down, but it hasn’t. At first the Eagles were winning off of good defense and special teams while Lesean McCoy wasn’t shady and Nick Foles wasn’t producing like he was last year. But thank god for the pick up of Darren Sproles who’s putting up big numbers. Breaking the all time scrimmage yards record back in 2011 with the Saints he has exploded with the Eagles with rushing TD’s receiving TD’s and kick and punt returns. He’s the definition of an athlete. As the season concludes the Eagles Cowboys games will decide the winner of the NFC East even though I feel that both the Eagles and Cowboys will make the playoffs. Now that Foles is out indefinitely for the season the next man up, Mark Sanchez will lead the Eagles to the Playoffs

Giants:
There isn’t much to say about a 3-6 team but the Giants have a lot of young superstars in the making. Leading these stars are Odell Beckham Jr. The rookie star from LSU missed a couple games but has came back with 18 catches 262 yards and 3 TD. The season is pretty much over for the Giants but the future is bright. They drafted a good rookie running back in Andre Williams from Boston college and have drafted well in the secondary and linebacking core. If Jason Pierre-Paul can get back to his dominant early years I then believe the defense will become one of the leagues best defenses. But until then this team won’t go anywhere.

Redskins:
With the Redskins not much is positive. Even with the impressive victory in Dallas nothing much from this team has improved or changed this year. They have started three QB’s this season RG3, Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins which has lead to a 3-5 record. The O-line hasn’t been able to protect the QB, the running lanes for Alfred Morris has been none existent and the defense hasn’t been able to stop anyone. The best thing they have is the new addition of DeSean Jackson who has over 40 catches 700 yards and 4 TD’s. With the return of RG3 we can finally see him in the new system by Jay Gruden. To improve the Redskins need to keep RG3 healthy. He seems to have lost his confidence after that amazing rookie campaign. If they can get him playing like the offensive rookie again you’ll see everyone around him play to their potential. One example would be Alfred Morris. When RG3 and Alfred Morris came in the league together they had combined for more than 2100 rushing yards as they lead there team to a NFC east tittle. If those two can click then the Redskins will be right back to that 2011 form.

The NFC East always comes down to the final week . Even though I feel like two teams will make it to the Playoffs I’m still sticking with my prediction that the Cowboys will win the NFC East and the Eagles will get in as a Wildcard.