All posts by DESHAWN HORNBACK

A Legend on His Last Stand

This is a photo of Charles Woodson announcing his retirement.  This was at The Oakland Raiders Practice Facility in Alameda, California.  December 21, 2015.
This is a photo of Charles Woodson announcing his retirement. This was at The Oakland Raiders Practice Facility in Alameda, California. December 21, 2015.

“Charles Woodson is one those players that comes along and reminds you why you love the game.” Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie said it best after this past week Charles Woodson announced his retirement. Woodson has been elite on every level of football imaginable. Tonight will be his final game at the Coliseum, and it is
time we all reflect on what Charles Woodson brought to the game of football.

Charles Woodson flying for an interception against against Ohio State. November 22, 1997.
Charles Woodson flying for an interception against against Ohio State. November 22, 1997.
In college he became a starter two games into the season. He was then named to the All Big Ten first team by coaches and second team by the media leading his in interceptions and takeaways. He had a memorable game that showcased his ability to show up in the big games. Charles Woodson had two crucial interceptions against the 2nd best team in the nation at that time and rival Ohio State. A strong year by the kid out of Fremont, Ohio, but that was only the beginning. In his sophmore year he was named to the Chevrolet Defensive Player of the year, set a new school record of pass break ups, named to AP First Team All American, and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award. All of that aside though the year we all remember him for is 1997. In 1997 he had many games you can point out as the games that led to him being named the Heisman winner. Against the Michigan State Spartans, Woodson had an acrobatic sideline interception that became a highlight on Sportscenter for the next week. His game against Ohio State in particular was special.He had a 78 yard punt return, a interception in the end zone, and a 37 yard reception that ended up leading to the only offensive score that game for his team. That win became the win his team needed to appear in the Rose Bowl where Woodson again showed up big and got an end zone interception helping to lift the Wolverines over the Cougars and become National Champions. That year he won the Heisman with 268 more votes than Peyton Manning and other college greats Randy Moss and Ryan Leaf to become the only defensive player to ever win the award. Just for a little bit more of how crazy his impact was on the college level, ESPN had him ranked as the 11th best college football player ever. Whether or not you agree with that ranking or not the fact there is even an argument for a defensive back to be considered the 11th best college football player ever is damn impressive.

Woodson then became the 4th overall pick chosen by the Oakland Raiders. In his rookie season he led all defensive backs in tackles with 64, was third in the league in interceptions, had one interception returned for a touchdown and started all 16 games for the Raiders being the first one to do so for the franchise since 1971. He became the AP Rookie of the Year after that great start to what would be a historic career.

 Charles Woodson tackling Tom Brady on what would be remembered as the Tuck Rule play. January 19, 2002.
Charles Woodson tackling Tom Brady on what would be remembered as the Tuck Rule play. January 19, 2002.
In 2002 Charles Woodson became part of one of the most memorable and controversial plays in the history of the game. In a snowy blizzard of a game in the AFC Divisional Round on January 19, 2002, Brady was driving down the field and on a CB blitz Charles Woodson appeared to have stripped the ball from Brady. From most of the nation’s perspective it had been a clear fumble and would have sealed the game in the Raiders’ favor. The refs had overturned the call because what is now known as the Tuck Rule.

In 2003 Woodson and the Raiders managed to reach the Super Bowl where they faced off against their former coach, Jon Gruden. Woodson had appeared to be hobbled during the Super Bowl, but it was not his fault alone in the blowout loss against Tampa Bay and actually managed to grab one interception in the losing effort.

In 2006 Woodson signed on to a 7 year deal with the Packers and was not all that excited to go there at first but has since has since appreciated everything the fans and the organization have done for him. His time with the Packers started a new chapter of his career and many might remember him as a Packer rather than a Raider when it is all said and done.He had more interceptions in his first four years with the Packers than he did in his first 8 years with the Raiders. On November 15, 2009 Woodson became the first player to ever record two forced fumbles, a sack, and an interception within a single game against the Dallas Cowboys. He was also named NFC Defensive Player of the Month 3 times within that season becoming the first defensive player to ever win the award 3 times in a single season. That led to him being named the AP Defensive Player of the Year.

In 2010 Aaron Rodgers and the Packers suffered many injuries specifically to there defense but went on a miracle run through the playoffs. Woodson was locking down everyone he faced in the playoffs but ended up breaking his collarbone when diving to defend a pass to Mike Wallace. He gave a speech that everyone on the team said inspired the championship winning effort they put on in the second half. That led to Woodson earning his first and only Super Bowl title as a player.

Charles Woodson holding the Lombardi trophy after the Packers beat the Steelers 31-25. February 6, 2011.
Charles Woodson holding the Lombardi trophy after the Packers beat the Steelers 31-25. February 6, 2011.
Soon after that Charles Woodson had to take a step back and play safety to truly utilize his talents. On February 15, 2013 the Packers released Woodson and he signed a contract with the Raiders in what seemed to be the place Woodson wanted to retire. On December 21st, 2015, just 3 days ago, Charles Woodson announced this would be the end of the road for him as he knew his body was giving him the signs that he needed to retire.

Now is where we figure out where we place Woodson in history. Most seem to believe he is one of the 5 best corners to ever play and I personally have him at number 4. Ronnie Lott had this to say about Woodson and whether or not he is the greatest. “Hands down. His body of work has shown that time doesn’t affected him.” It is hard to argue with Mr. Lott’s analysis there as Charles Woodson has been an elite player ever since he stepped into the league and even as he is having his last stand. Charles Woodson will leave with more pro bowls than Deion Sanders and Richard “Night Train” Lane, have more interceptions than Ronnie Lott and Ed Reed, and the only player in history with 60 interceptions and 20 sacks ever. We are seeing a surefire 1st ballot Hall of Famer on his last ride out. Let’s all sit back and acknowledge the greatness standing before us.

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A Look at the MVP Race So Far

There has been a huge debate over the NFL MVP this season. You have the enigmatic Cam Newton, Carson Palmer on the still underrated Cardinals, the turnaround of Andy Dalton, and of course who many still believe to be the consensus MVP Tom Brady. We’re going to breakdown every candidate’s case this year and I will give my opinion at the end of it.

  Cam Newton:

Cam Newton has taken a step forward this year and it is to be noted most definitely. This year the Carolina Panthers are 10-0, and look like they are ready for a deep playoff run this coming postseason. Cam Newton is the face of the franchise and is making waves throughout NFL fans and social media, but let’s take a step back and look at this from the outside and wipe away the hype and media driven biases.

Cam Newton’s game log for this year

@ JAX 58% Com 175 yards 71.3PRat 1 TD 1 INT 35 rushing yards

VS HOU 49% Com 195 yards 71.3PRat 2 TD 1 INT 76 rushing yards 1 rushing TD

VS NOR 65% Com 315 yards 119.7PRat 2 TD 0 INT 33 rushing yards 1 rushing TD

@ TAM 50% Com 124 yards 97.5PRat 2 TD 0 INT 51 rushing yards

@ SEA 56% Com 269 yards 65.6PRat 1 TD 2 INT 30 rushing yards 1 rushing TD

VS PHI 58% Com 197 yards 59.2PRat 1 TD 3 INT 20 rushing yards 1 rushing TD

VS IND 46% Com 248 yards 76.8PRat 2 TD 1 INT 41 rushing yards

VS GNB 50% Com 297 yards 104.4PRat 3 TD 1 INT 57 rushing yards 1 rushing TD

@ TEN 81% Com 217 yards 114.3PRat 1 TD 0 INT 23 rushing yards 1 rushing TD

VS WAS 62% Com 246 yards 123.3PRat 5 TD 0 INT 16 rushing yards

Cam Newton these past 3 weeks has made a huge leap in the debate as he did own those games, and against New Orleans shined but otherwise has been average at best. Against Indiana, Philadelphia, and Houston in particular were bad games that would be criticized harshly if the team was not able to pull out the win. Many see the 10-0 record but do not look at the individual enough. Cam Newton has had 4 games that he played outstanding in, 3 games that he was horrible in, and 3 games he was average at best. Many Cam supporters will point to his WRs being below par and that is without a doubt something that should be noted. There are not many teams who will win with Ted Ginn as their 2nd option, but the team has gotten through without a single scratch. How is that? What exactly is the reason for the team’s success?

This season Carolina is 2nd in the league in yards allowed per play, 6th in total yards, and tied for 5th in points allowed per game allowing only 19.1 per game. The defense has not allowed a score off a single Cam Newton turnover. They have arguably the defensive player of the year on their defense Josh Norman and Luke Keuchley who by most is considered the best inside linebacker in the league. Where does Cam rank amongst his competition? Cam is 26th in passing yards per game, Tied for 6th in passing TDs, 17th in passer rating, and 28th in completion. Many will call foul on the completion percentage and point to his receiver core and say it is all on them because of how much they drop the ball, yet Carolina is 7th in dropped passes and 5 of the 6 QBs for the teams with more dropped passes have higher completion percentages than Cam. Cam has been a leader on and off the field for his team and I commend him for his maturation into a true leader worthy of being the face of a franchise.

 

 Tom Brady

Brady is having a historic season that seems eerily similar to his 07 historic season and has many talking about the possibility of the Patriots making another run at the undefeated season. Many were worried about the departure of many key pieces in the secondary effecting this team’s chances, but Brady has not only pulled them through but has thoroughly dominated the competition. Many have claimed that this is his race to lose but let’s look at things a little deeper.

Tom Brady game log

VS PIT 78% Com 143.7PRat 288 yards 4 TD 0 INT

@ BUF 64% Com 105.6PRat 466 yards 3 TD 0 INT

VS JAX 79% Com 118.1PRat 358 yards 2 TD 0 INT

@ DAL 74% Com 130.9PRat 275 yards 2 TD 0 INT 1 rushing TD

@ IND 62% Com 104.8PRat 312 yards 3 TD 1 INT

VS NYJ 63% Com 94.3PRat 355 yards 2 TD 0 INT 15 rushing yards 1 rushing TD

VS MIA 68% Com 133.2PRat 356 yards 4TD 0 INT

VS WAS 67% Com 96.0PRat 299 yards 2 TD 1 INT

@ NYG 62% Com 92.8PRat 334 yards 2 TD 1INT

So far this year Brady has had tremendous games all year long having 8 terrific games and 2 average ones. He has not missed a beat all year long never even having a 1:1 TD:INT ratio in a single game. His team is putting up the most points per game in the league and he seems to be on a mission after the deflategate debacle that went on all off-season long. Brady this year ranks 1st in yards per game, 2nd in passing TDs, 1st in passer rating, and 5th in completion percentage. Tom Brady this year has 24 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions, being extremely efficient and having this offense firing on all cylinders. I did not even mention that one of the teams that had more drops than the Panthers was in fact the Patriots who of course have powered through that and Brady still has completed 68% of his throws.

 

 Andy Dalton

Andy Dalton has completetly floored many of us playing at an elite level worthy of being called a top 5 quarterback in the NFL. It definetly is not where most of us saw him going at the beginning of the season. He has gotten a bad reputation for shrinking in the big moments, and while that may continue to be the case, the MVP is a regular season award that Andy Dalton has firmly put himself into the race for.

Andy Dalton’s game log

@ OAK 74% Com 115.9PRat 269 yard 2 TD 0 INT

VS SD 62% Com 126.1PRat 214 yards 3 TD 0 INT

@ BAL 63% Com 122.3PRat 283 yards 3 TD 1 INT 1 rushing TD

VS KC 71% Com 127.1PRat 321 yards 1 TD 0 INT

VS SEA 68% Com 95.9PRat 331 yards 2 TD 1 INT 1 rushing TD

@ BUF 67% Com 118.6PRat 243 yards 3 TD 0 INT

@ PIT 61% Com 64.7PRat 231 yards 1 TD 2 INT

VS CLE 78% Com 139.8PRat 234 yards 3 TD 0 INT

VS HOU 58% Com 61.0PRat 197 yards 0 TD 1 INT 31 rushing yards

@ ARI 56% Com 99.8PRat 315 yards 2 TD 0 INT 34 rushing yards

Andy Dalton looking at his games one by one you get a better look at how his overall season has gone. He has had 2 horrific games and has 1 average game and 7 terrific games that have been worthy of MVP canadicay. He got away with a bad game in Pittsburgh that became a defensive game and just got stomped by a less than stellar Houston team. Andy Dalton this year is ranked 8th in yards per game, 4th in passer rating, 6th in passing touchdowns, and 10th in completion percentage. While things can change it looks like Dalton will not reach double digits in interceptions and since coming into the league he has always had at least 13 a year, getting as high as 20 one year. Dalton has put up the tremendous individual performances and has his team high in the standings sitting with an 8-2 record which can be deemed worthy of being an MVP candiate. Long term it is hard for me to believe in the Bengals success and that has more to do with Marvin Lewis than anything else, because from what we have seen this year leads me to believe Dalton will be in the conversation for top 5 quarterback in the league for many years to come.

 

 Carson Palmer

Carson struggled to stay on the field last year and the Cardinals limped into the playoffs after the strong start Carson gave them. Right now he has his team at an 8-2 record in prime position for the 2nd seed in the playoffs and the best offense in the NFL.

Carson’s game log

VS NOR 59% Com 122.8PRat 307 yards 3 TD 0 INT 14 rushing yards

@ CHI 71% Com 115.5PRat 185 yards 4 TD 1 INT

VS SF  63% Com 102.5PRat 311 yards 2 TD 1 INT

VS STL 63% Com 84.7PRat 352 yards 1 TD 1 INT

@ DET 79% 154.2PRat 161 yards 3 TD 0 INT

@ PIT 64% Com 83.7PRat 421 yards 1 TD 2 INT

VS BAL 69% Com 122.1PRat 275 yards 2 TD 0 INT

@ CLE 61% 117.7PRat 374 yards 4 TD 1 INT

@ SEA 60% 96.1PRat 363 yards 3 TD 1 INT

VS CIN 65% 111.2PRat 317 yards 4 TD 2 INT

Carson has not had a bad game all year long only 2 average games and the rest of his 8 games being astounding. Carson could be arguably having his greatest season ever this year and Arizona absolutely needed it. If you want to see the true impact Carson has on this team you only need to look at last year’s numbers compared to this year. Carson only played 6 games last year and last year’s team missing him 10 games ranked 24th in total offense, 14th in passing offense, 31st in rushing offense, and 24th in total points scored. This season so far with Carson actually able to play all 10 games the Cardinals rank 1st in total offense, 4th in passing offense, 10th in rushing offense, and 2nd in points per game. This year Palmer ranks 5th in passing yards per game, 1st in passing TDs, 2nd in passer rating, and 16th in completion percentage. Carson has this team in the driver’s seat to make some noise deep in the playoffs while being the spearhead of the most deadly offense in the league.

My MVP Rankings and Why They Are Where They Are.

4th Cam Newton

Cam Newton this year has been extremely valuable to a putrid offense but has been saved by top 3 defense this year. He is the only person out of any of these 4 players who has been able to have multiple bad games and get away with it because his team’s defense so far this year has always found a way to come out on top. I am a huge fan of Cam, but to ignore all of that is denying facts. He just has not been on the same level as the other guys here and has been able to get away with bad performances and still somehow be on everyone’s top 2 MVP list. So far this year Cam has 7 games throwing under 60%, 2 games completing less than 50%, 2 games with more INTs than TDs, and has only eclipsed 300 total yards once this year.

3rd Andy Dalton

Andy Dalton has completely floored me with his play this year and instead of being the turnover machine he has been his whole career somehow has changed into this efficient machine for his team. He had 2 awful games one of which he got away with due to the state of the Steelers at the time. While I do see a huge gap between him and Newton and the man I have above him, he does deserve 3rd place considerations by everyone.

2nd Carson Palmer

Carson not only has shown us how important he is to his team but is having arguably the best season of his career. Last year it was painful to the Cardinals play and this year it has become a blast. This team is winning games convincingly and Carson is the reason for it as we have seen all year long. Who would have thought 3 years ago that a 36 year old Carson Palmer had a chance at being in an MVP race much less 2nd? If the man above him can falter even a little bit Carson has a chance at winning it.

1st Tom Brady

Brady has just been on another level this year and it looks like there is nobody who will stop him from reaching the Super Bowl again. He’s putting up historic numbers, playing extremely efficient, and doing this while having a patchwork offensive line. Even though there has to be a 2nd place I do not have any doubt that if the season ended today Brady would receive 100% of the first place votes.

Feel free to sound off in the comments of your own opinions. 

NBA Preview: Awards, Hype, Prediction Edition

With the NBA Season getting ready to start it’s only right that we answer a few questions in regards to awards, playoff seeding, finals predictions etc…. Please be sure to sound off and voice your opinions and enlighten us on your predictions.

Statistical Predictions:

Who will lead the league in scoring?

  
Hornback: Kevin Durant

Fort: Kevin Durant

Carter: Kevin Durant

Who will lead the league in rebounds?

  Hornback: Andre Drummond

Fort: Hassan Whiteside

Carter: Deandre Jordan

Who will lead the league in assists?

  

Hornback: John Wall

Fort: John Wall

Carter: Chris Paul

Who will lead the league in PER? (Player Efficiency Rating)

    
Hornback: Anthony Davis

Fort: Anthony Davis

Carter: Chris Paul

Who will lead the league in usage percentage?

  Hornback: LeBron James

Fort: Carmelo Anthony

Carter: James Harden

What will be the top 5 offenses?

   
Hornback:

  1. Warriors
  2. Clippers
  3. Thunder
  4. Hawks
  5. Spurs

Fort:

  1. Warriors
  2. Clippers
  3. Thunder
  4. Hawks
  5. Spurs

Carter:

  1. Clippers
  2. Warriors
  3. Thunder
  4. Rockets
  5. Heat

What will be the top 5 defenses?

    
Hornback:

  1. Jazz
  2. Warriors
  3. Bucks
  4. Grizzlies
  5. Wizards

Fort:

  1. Warriors
  2. Wizards
  3. Cavaliers
  4. Bucks
  5. Thunder

Carter:

  1. Bucks
  2. Bulls
  3. Pelicans
  4. Warriors
  5. Jazz

Awards Predictions:

Who will be this season’s Coach of the Year?

  

Hornback: Alvin Gentry

Fort: Erik Spolestra

Carter: Jason Kidd

Who will be this season’s Executive of the Year?

  
Hornback: R. C. Buford (San Antonio)

Fort: Pat Riley (Miami)

Carter: John Hammond (Milwaukee)

Who will be the season’s Rookie of the Year?

  Hornback: Jahlil Okafor

Fort: Emannuel Mudiay (Winslow very close 2nd)

Carter: Karl-Anthony Towns

Who will be this season’s Most Valuable Player of the Year?

  Hornback: James Harden

Fort: Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook

Carter: James Harden

Who will be this season’s Defensive Player of the Year?

  Hornback: Rudy Gobert

Fort: Dwight Howard

Carter: Anthony Davis

Who will be this season’s Sixth Man of the Year?

  Hornback: Isaiah Thomas

Fort: Louis Williams

Carter: Isaiah Thomas

Who will be this season’s Most Improved Player?

  
Hornback: Derrick Favors

Fort: Jordan Clarkson

Carter: Rudy Gobert

All NBA 1st Team

Hornback:
Steph Curry
James Harden
LeBron James
Anthony Davis
Dwight Howard

Fort: 
Russell Westbrook
James Harden
LeBron James
Kevin Durant
Anthony Davis

Carter:
Chris Paul
James Harden
LeBron James
Blake Griffin
Anthony Davis

All NBA 2nd Team

Hornback:
Chris Paul
Russell Westbrook
Kevin Durant
LaMarcus Aldridge
DeMarcus Cousins

Fort: 
John Wall
Steph Curry
Paul George
Lamarcus Aldridge
Blake Griffin

Carter:
Steph Curry
Russell Westbrook
Kevin Durant
LaMarcus Aldridge
Demarcus Cousins

All NBA 3rd Team

Hornback:
John Wall
Jimmy Butler
Kevin Love
Blake Griffin
Marc Gasol

Fort: 
Chris Paul
Jimmy Butler
Kawhi Leonard
Chris Bosh
Marc Gasol

Carter:
John Wall
Jimmy Butler
Kawhi Leonard
Pau Gasol
Marc Gasol

All NBA Defensive 1st Team

Hornback:
John Wall
Tony Allen
Draymond Green
Anthony Davis
Rudy Gobert

Fort: 
John Wall
Jeff Teague
Kawhi Leonard
LeBron James

Carter:
Chris Paul
Jimmy Butler
Anthony Davis
Rudy Gobert

All NBA Defensive 2nd Team

Hornback:
Chris Paul
Jimmy Butler
Kawhi Leonard
Serge Ibaka
Marc Gasol

Fort: 
Chris Paul
Jimmy Butler
Paul George
Anthony Davis
Deandre Jordan

Carter:
Michael Conley
Tony Allen
Draymond Green
Serge Ibaka
Deandre Jordan

All NBA Rookie Team

Hornback:
D’Angelo Russell
Emmanuel Mudiay
Mario Hezonja
Stanley Johnson
Jahlil Okafor

Fort: 
Emmanuel Mudiay
D’Angelo Russell
Justice Winslow
Karl-Anthony Towns
Jahlil Okafor

Carter:
Emmanuel Mudiay
Mario Hezonja
Stanley Johnson
Karl-Anthony Towns
Jahlil Okafor

Playoff Predictions

  
DeShawn Hornback:

  1. Warriors
  2. Spurs
  3. Rockets
  4. Clippers
  5. Thunder
  6. Grizzlies
  7. Pelicans
  8. Jazz

Ryan Fort

  1. Thunder
  2. Warriors
  3. Rockets
  4. Spurs
  5. Clippers
  6. Grizzlies
  7. Pelicans
  8. Mavs

Tyler Carter:

  1. Spurs
  2. Warriors
  3. Clippers
  4. Rockets
  5. Thunder
  6. Grizzlies
  7. Suns
  8. Kings

  
Hornback:

  1. Cavaliers
  2. Hawks
  3. Wizards
  4. Bulls
  5. Raptors
  6. Heat
  7. Bucks
  8. Detroit

Fort:

  1. Cavaliers
  2. Hawks
  3. Wizards
  4. Heat
  5. Bulls
  6. Raptors
  7. Bucks
  8. Pistons

Carter:

  1. Cavaliers
  2. Bulls
  3. Heat
  4. Raptors
  5. Wizards
  6. Bucks
  7. Hawks
  8. Pacers

Final Four

Hornback: 

Spurs vs Warriors
Cavaliers vs Wizards

Fort: 

Thunder vs Rockets
Cavaliers vs Heat

Carter:

Spurs vs Clippers
Cavaliers vs Heat

Finals Predictions:

  
Hornback:

Spurs vs Cavaliers Cavaliers in 7

Fort: 

Thunder vs Heat Thunder in 6

Carter:

Spurs vs Cavaliers Cavaliers in 6

AFC East Preview

 4.   New York Jets

I actually believe this team is moving in the right direction. They got Revis and Cromartie back which was huge for their team because of their veteran leadership, and neither one seems to be anywhere near of being out their prime. I believe in Rex Ryan, but I also believe in the need for a new voice in a locker room. Todd Bowles could be that guy. Problem is that I really really really don’t believe in any QB in the Jets locker room. Hell I don’t believe in anyone on that offense now that I think of it. They did very well this season with the draft and offseason additions, but as far as this season goes; I don’t believe in this team this year. Their schedule is nothing incredibly hard or anything, but this team is just not one to be scared of. Do I believe in the future of the Jets? Yes. Do I believe in them this year to win 5 games? No. I have the Jets going 4-12 being in last place of the AFC division.

  1. Buffalo Bills

Like I said in the last one, I believe in Rex Ryan. Even though I don’t find this to be the most ideal spot for him to go, nonetheless, I see the Bills at least staying in the same place if  not better next year. Their defense was stout last year which should continue with Rex; only issue is they lost Kyle Orton who became their savior on offense. This draft was decent for them, but of course the big splash was the trade for McCoy. The Bills already had a strong split back system and now it just got better with the accommodation of LeSean McCoy. McCoy, even with Fred, there is going to have to take a heavy load of the offense for the Bills and that worries me because he’s never been the most durable guy. McCoy has already had some issues with the Bills. I have the Bills going 7-9 placing 3rd in the division.

  1. Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are the most intriguing team in this division. I was close to saying they would win the division, but I’ll get into that further down. The Dolphins made the biggest splash this offseason landing Suh. Suh brings an entirely different element to this defense. Tannehill got a new contract which many are sceptical about and have the right to be. I’m huge on guys earning their pay before they get it, but everyone seems to be throwing that idea out of the window, however I do believe Tannehill will earn his pay. During the draft the Dolphins were able to draft their needs and did not really reach on anyone until the 5th round. The Dolphins are the underdog team this year. They’re so strong in so many areas. Only thing I’m really worried about is the head coach situation; who will be on the hot seat if this team doesn’t meet the expectations of the locals. I have the Dolphins going 10-6, second in the division and taking one of the wildcard spots.

  1. New England Patriots

I can’t take this division away from the Patriots regardless of the many losses this offseason. They lost their elite secondary with Brandon Browner going to the Saints and Darrelle Revis going back to the Jets. Their draft was okay, but I did not feel like they addressed their needs. However, tt is hard to argue with the results that have been produced from this organization. I will continue to give out what is owed to the Patriots, which is respect to arguably the greatest QB ever and greatest coach ever. This pick is solely based off of the fact nobody has been able to take the division from them in a long time. The first 4 games will hurt without Brady but somehow they went an entire season without him before and went 11-5. The schedule is nothing too rough so I see the Patriots once again winning the division, but not getting a first round bye this year.

AFC North Preview

  1.   Cleveland Browns

The Browns have been all over the place in the past 3 years. Overhauls in coaching staffs, player personnel, and the entire Johnny Manziel factor has brought a lot more attention to the Browns than I can remember in quite some time. None of it positive. I don’t like anything in particular about this team even last year but somehow they were in the playoff race much longer than anyone expected them to be. Crowell was a positive on the offense but without Gordon once again, I still do not see any positive factors on the offense.  They  drafted  Duke Johnson who will hopefully be able to take on the load of carries for the team. The defense has some nice young guys but we won’t see the results of that until a good 2-3 years from now, and at that point they could have four different GMs, two new owners, and 6 new head coaches. Humor aside I don’t trust this organization for anything in the past 50 years and neither should you. I have the Cleveland Browns going 5-13 and last in the division.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers

This division is tough. There’s 3 teams that can easily steal the division title, and the Steelers are definitely one of those teams. They have the best offense in the division that’s not even a question. Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Big Ben were either top 5 or 2 at their position last year. It’s odd to think about how high powered the Steelers offense and how average their defense is. There is nothing special about their defense once so ever. This is the same team that has made history in the league through their stout defenses. That is the only reason I have them here instead of higher. This team relies on Big Ben’s hot arm and Le’Veon Bell’s wonderful vision. The draft they had was okay. I liked what they did in the first 2 rounds but I’m not feeling too positive about the rest of it. I have this team going 10-6 just outside of the playoffs and 3rd in the division.

  1. Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens are a team that has consistently stayed relevant for quite some time now. Harbough keeps these boys ready on both sides of the ball. After the unfortunate Ray Rice situation, the Ravens had to find some answers somewhere for their running game. Forsett was that answer. Forsett kept the offense alive when he was finally given the chance to do something. His ability to find gaps and burst through the hole has always been at an elite level and in Baltimore he was finally able to showcase it. The Ravens have always been a team that doesn’t tear through their regular season schedule, but instead knows how to get hot at the right time in the postseason and make some noise. The Ravens have great young guys all over their defense and in particular, C.J. Mosley. The kid is just oozing with potential that has still yet to be seen and he had my DROY vote even though he didn’t win it. The WR core is even a less desirable one than before and although Steve Smith put up stats we have not seen from him in quite some time, I do not expect it to continue this season. They will need someone to step up in that core and I believe Harbough will find that man just like he found Forsett. I have the Ravens going 11-5, 2nd in the division, and losing in the second round of the playoffs.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals once again are just the best all around team in the division again. I have no hope in the franchise past the regular season, and even then the front office is incapable of making the right decision with a head coach who has yet to win a playoff game in the entire time he has been there. Oh, and Marvin Lewis has been on the Bengals as the head coach for 10+ years. Regardless of these many many shortcomings, when it comes to the regular season I see the Bengals coming out on top with their most recent core of guys. They have the best WR core in the division, best duo of RBs in the division, and probably the best defense in the division. The QB position is the only questionable factor, but Andy Dalton is not a bad QB at all. He is serviceable despite what many in social media will tell you. They do not have an easy schedule, but regular season I believe in them. I have the Bengals going 11-5, winning the division, and going down in the first round just as they have so many other times.

AFC South Preview

 4.   Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville is a REALLY bad team let’s just get that out of the way. This team really has never had success. The best years I can think of are the very early 2000s, and are the closest they have come to contending. It has gotten so bad that whichever station hosts the game in the local area has had a ticker at the bottom for the viewers saying they apologized for the inconvenience of having to show the game, but they had to fulfill their contract. That is the state of this team. It will take a long time to rectify this. The Jaguars really do not have anything going for them at all. I cannot think of any players that bring anything supremely positive outside of one and that clearly was not enough last year. The Jaguars will continue to struggle this year and will end up last  in the division, and I see a horrid 2-14 in their future.

  1. Tennessee Titans

The Titans surprised me this season picking Marcus Mariota in the draft. The talk around the team was that Mettenberger would be the QB they built around in the upcoming season. Instead someone up top decided to switch things up and Mariota is the future now. The Titans have been building nicely with a good young core and could potentially make noise in the future.The time for them is not upon us yet though, and this will be a struggle for many fans to watch as the Titans still have very few options on offense, and on defense there is a lot of holes. The best player on this team is Jurrell Casey and the gap between him and the next guy is far. It hurts me to say this because this is my team, but the Titans will go 5-11 this season and 3rd in the division.

  1. Houston Texans

The Texans almost made the playoffs last year which was a surprise to many with Clowney out for pretty much all year long. The Texans last year made some noise with their defense led by the monster that is J.J. Watt. They were in the playoff race much longer than they should have been. I like what the Texans did in the offseason. They grabbed Brian Hoyer who is a proven winner, Vince Wilfork who will provide veteran leadership to a team that sorely needs it, and they made sure to lock in Jonathon Joseph. In the draft they grabbed a corner who should be able to start day one and a guy that I am particularly cheering for, Jaelen Strong, a guy who is believed to be a first round talent. While I like a lot of the pickups nothing stands out to me on this team for this season. I’m sure JJ will continue to dominate the game in multiple ways, but I do not see that or anything else on the team being able to push this team over the hill into the playoffs.

  1. Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are easily the best team in this division and should take it with ease. Something truly traumatic would have to happen for this team to not win the division. The Colts got a huge vote of confidence from me by simply doing one thing. Getting rid of Trent “Trash” Richardson. Instead they now have Frank Gore, who has made a career of being a consistent running back. They also snatched up Andre Johnson, which is a pickup that was nice but makes me question they were thinking in the draft. With so many needs on the defensive side of the ball I do not understand the logic of grabbing a receiver with their first round pick when they were a top 3 offense this past year. Even with that, I liked the draft choices of D’Joun Smith, Henry Anderson, David Parry, and Josh Robinson. All of those picks were desperate needs for them. With all of that being said I have high beliefs for this team. I predict the Colts to take the division with ease at a 13-3 record, gaining a round one bye, and if they can avoid the Patriots I can potentially see them going all the way.

AFC West Preview

  1.   Oakland Raiders

Wellllll heyyyyyy I know this was a surprise huh? The Oakland Raiders have been a joke since Rich Gannon and Charles Woodson got screwed on the infamous “Tuck Rule”. The Raiders have a little bit of hope. David Carr has been a glimmer of hope showing signs of some great potential. That along with grabbing Amari Cooper in the draft the future’s looking brighter in Oakland than it has in quite some time. Now considering today and these upcoming Sundays? Oakland has pretty much no chance. It’s hard being arguably the worst team in the league and being in one of the league’s toughest divisions. The Raiders will be lucky to win a single division game and it is even less likely they have much success anywhere else in their schedule. I have the Raiders going 3-12 and last in their division.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs

Last season much of the Chiefs season went downhill from the first game. Many defensive key pieces got injured in their first game of the year against the Titans. Going into this season, Andy Reid got one of his old weapons back in Jeremy Maclin. Offensive mastermind, getting one of the most explosive receivers in the game, along with arguably the best running back in the league, should equal success on offense right? Wrong. As long as Alex Smith is the quarterback of this team the passing will always fall short. His inability to throw down the field will continue to plague this team’s offense this year. The offense the last 2 years have relied on the running backs and it will continue to be that way this year. On the other side of the ball Kansas City has been elite for the last 2 years and I see no reason for that to change. The Kansas City Chiefs have an incredibly hard schedule this season and I cannot see them surpassing 7 games this year, being 3rd in their division and outside of the playoffs.

  1. San Diego Chargers

Questions came up in the offseason whether or not Rivers would be with the team at the beginning of the season. Now the season is approaching and Rivers is still at the helm of the offense. The Chargers have one glaring issue, and that is the 4 game suspension of future first ballot hall of famer Antonio Gates. The Chargers grabbed Stevie Johnson and Jacoby Jones to go with Keenan Allen and Malcolm Floyd which should be able to fill the void for the first 4 games of the season; if Gates does not win an appeal to reduce the games. Rivers last year was the leading MVP Candidate for about the first 6 weeks of the season. Now, this season the Chargers hope for their QB to not only repeat that but to have it stretch out for the entire season. With the departure of Ryan Matthews, the Chargers decided to grab Melvin Gordon in the draft, who has a lot of upside. The Chargers are filled with a lot of maybes this year, but I believe they will come out on the positive side of those maybes and end the year 10-6 edging into the playoffs in a wildcard spot.

  1. Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning has been heralded by many as the best regular season QB of all time and I am one who agrees with that statement. Many believe Peyton may have finally hit that wall that happens to all athletes when they reach a certain age, but until I see it for myself I will have to shove all of those beliefs away. Denver still has pretty much everyone from last year. Near the tail end of the season they found a RB named C.J. Anderson who helped push the Broncos to some hard earned victories near the end of the season when Peyton was playing hurt. Now they get a full season with this dual threat RB which could help Peyton not have to do so much. On defense they have the same core of guys who will continue to give teams hell. This division is a lot like the AFC East in my opinion, that it is the same team that will continue to win the division until another team rises high enough to take them down. The Broncos will have a hold over the division once again going 12-4 and making it to the divisional round once again.

The Kid from Akron, Ohio

  

Man this kid out of Akron. No, not the kid who became a king, and not the kid who was on a national spotlight at the age of 18. The other kid out of Akron. The one who was a 3 star recruit; that wasn’t even ranked. This kid wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and go to Virginia Tech, but they would not guarantee him anything more than a chance to be a walk on. The same kid who was said to not have the same upside as Johnny Flynn or Ricky Rubio after having multiple explosive games at Davidson. The same kid who everyone tried to write off after multiple nagging ankle injuries that seemed like they would be the death of him. 

Now, this kid is the one who dropped 54 points in Madison Square Garden. This kid has broken the 3 pointers in a season record not once but twice. This kid is the one who we all took notice when in the 2013 postseason he single handily destroyed the Nuggets. This kid is the same one who helped lead one of the greatest teams ever to a 67-15 record. This kid is the one who was named the MVP of the 2014-15 regular season. This kid is now a champion.

Steph Curry has become transcendent across the nation. His disregard for taking the most inexcusable shots and being a wonderful gifted passer at the same time is something to behold. You’re going to have players 10-15 years from now that grew up wanting to be Steph Curry. Therefore, I want to end this debate right now. Nobody outside of Westbrook and Chris Paul is anywhere near the stratosphere Curry is in right now. Those two I can accept, but don’t mention all these guys who either have people get buckets on them daily (Lillard), or cannot ever have a winning record without LeBron playing with him (Kyrie).

We’ve all seen how the league is changing towards outside shooting, and Steph is the spear head of that change. Let this sink in for a moment. Before Steph was in the argument for greatest shooter of all time, the argument was always thrown up whether Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, or Larry Bird were the greatest. All extremely efficient but none of them ever took the shots that Curry takes. Curry nearly shot 50% this season, and all you have to do is look up any highlights against the Clippers and Chris Paul to know none of these shots are simple pull ups or spot ups. He’s arguably the best ball handler in the game and he utilizes that to create shots 30 feet from the basket. It’s something we’ve never seen and likely won’t see again for a very long time.

This past season, Steph averaged his least amount of minutes ever outside of the season he only played 26 games in. Most teams couldn’t even get him to play in the 4th quarter unless they were a worthy opponent. He shot 48% from the field, 44% from 3, and 91% from the free throw line. He averaged 23.8 points, 7.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.0 steals. He had a PER of 28, led the league in win shares per 48 minutes, and his team was a best 122 points on 100 possessions with Steph on the floor. Steph is on a wonderfully coached team along with crazy amounts of talent all around him. This shouldn’t bring him down as an overall player in any ranking. Jordan had one of the best supporting casts ever in the late 90s and we all agree that he is the greatest player to ever step on to an NBA court, so let’s not try and bring down Steph for the same thing.

In the playoffs, Steph brought his game to another level just like he has every year since destroying the Nuggets. Averaging 28.3 points, 6.4 assists, and 5.0 rebounds all on 45% shooting from the field and 42% from 3. He took the Pelicans’ heat out with that crazy corner 3, figured out Conley then dismantled the Grizzlies play by play, took the MVP runner up head on and came out on top, and took on that other kid from Akron, The King, and kept the Cavs from making any type of comeback scoring 19 in the 4th quarter of the closing game.

This baby faced assassin has a bright future still. The Warriors have a great young core around them that has a good 5+ years left on them. Watch out everyone in the West, because I can guarantee Steph will continue giving defenses hell, breaking the system, hitting shots that you allow 99% of other players in this league to take. Curry is a special talent that wasn’t recognized for most of his life despite being the son of the sharpshooter Dell Curry. He was that other kid who wasn’t being nationally televised in high school. He wasn’t expected to be the next Jordan. He wasn’t expected to even make the NBA as an unranked player and a 3 star recruit. Now he’s making everyone pay and he’s on top of the world.

Andre Iguodala: Everything You Didn’t Know

By now you’ve probably read or heard of the Iguodala story a thousand times over. This could possibly be a different take on Andre that you wouldn’t see from many other columns, blogs, or articles. I’m not unbiased when it comes to my man Iggy, and I will fully admit that. I am a Philadelphia 76ers fan before anything else. I grew up a fan of Allen Iverson and my love for the team stayed even after he left for the Nuggets. The Sixers needed someone to step up as the team’s best player and who better for the job than the young, extremely athletic wing with the same initials of A.I. ? Andre was never expected to be a star or the leading man for a team, but my Sixers threw all that responsibility on him pretty early.

Coming out of college, he was scouted as he could be a great defender, extremely athletic, but was very poor on the offensive end and nobody knew if he could translate his game to the NBA effectively. In college at Arizona, he won most valuable player on the team by votes from the rest of his teammates. He had 3 triple doubles in his sophomore season which is 2nd most in a single season of that conference (1st is Jason Kidd). Everyone knew he could effect many aspects of the game, but nonetheless looking back there were 7 guys picked over him that should not have been. Dwight Howard, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Shaun Livingston, Devin Harris, Josh Childress, Luol Deng, and (facepalm) Rafael Araujo were all picked over him. Obviously Howard is the one exception, but every single other guy mentioned doesn’t even start; hell 3 of them aren’t even in the league anymore.

During the Iggy era in Philadelphia, we went to the playoffs multiple times without much success because of the supreme lack of overall talent compared to our competition. Despite those multiple appearances without much surrounding talent, Iggy was only an allstar once. He never quite earned the respect he deserved from the coaches in the league. Even though Iggy was known to be an elite defender for many years, he only made all defensive teams twice. His best seasons went completely unnoticed when in the 06-07 season he averaged 18.2 points per game, 5.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 2.0 steals all while shooting 44% from the field. In the 08-09 season, he averaged 18.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 1.6 steals while shooting 47%. Both of those seasons Iggy received 0 recognition, and they were easily his two best years. In the playoffs, the team as a whole couldn’t quite get it done, but Iggy more than did his part. In 2010, facing the defending eastern conference champions, the Sixers managed to push this series to 6. Notably, Iggy had a game winner in Orlando in this series. He’s always been a clutch player believe it or not. You can look it up on YouTube he has more than you would expect. Our one saving grace was the 2012 season. which ironically was Iggy’s last season, when we took down the 1st seeded Bulls after Rose went down and came VERY close to beating the Boston Celtics; which even to my own surprise took 7 games for us to go down.

That following offseason began a new chapter for Andre in the infamous trade that netted the 76ers Andrew Bynum, the Nuggets got Iggy and some picks, and the Magic received the 76ers young center Nikola Vucevic (facepalm). The Nuggets ascended that year with young Ty Lawson making a huge jump, Danilo Gallinari being the main scorer for more than half the season, and once again Andre being the glue that holds everything together as the playmaker, the 2nd best rebounder, and guarding the best guy on the other team every night. The Nuggets became the 3rd seed and became an underdog pick for many. Then that’s when we all got to meet a guy named Steph Curry. Steph dominated the Nuggets, completely dismantling them. That offseason Iggy chose not to resign with the Nuggets but instead went to join the Warriors.

It was the kind of move I said at the time that could push the Warriors over the hump 3-4 years down the road from that point. Andre’s first season with the Warriors started out very well. He hit a game winner against the Thunder after a ridiculous Westbrook shot, then had a 2nd game winner against the Hawks. Then a leg injury seemed to hamper him the rest of the season. He was still effective, but not playing up to his standards. Then came the 2014-15 season.  With a head coaching change that had many scratching their heads, and even though I was in favor of a scheme change for more ball movement; I still wasn’t expecting this much of an overhaul. Kerr came in and asked the former all-star before the regular season to come off the bench. Initially, Andre took the role reluctantly but then soon began to thrive leading the 2nd unit. There was a legitimate argument that Andre should have been 6th man this year even though the stats were not anything special. You could not quantify his overall impact when he came into games.

Then the playoffs came where he played tremendous defense, in particular LeBron and Harden had a lot of trouble whenever Andre was standing in front of them. This Finals series became a story about Andre more than anything else. The Cavs plan was to double Steph any chance they got, keep a guy face guarding Klay, and have someone else drop down to protect the paint. The Cavs were doing their best to force Andre and Draymond to beat them. It took a few games for Draymond to step up, but Andre was answering the call from the very beginning. It just wasn’t enough and the Warriors were forcing a lot of unnecessary shots in the first 3 games. Out of those 3 games there was no doubt that through all of the struggles, Andre had performed head and shoulders above everyone else on his own team. He was playing like a veteran who’s been there before despite never reaching a conference finals before this season. His defense on LeBron, his timely buckets when the Cavs forced him to shoot, and the way he ran in transition is what earned himself the MVP.

This is a special time for me. In basketball, as a fan, I don’t seem to win when going for my teams or guys. I am a 76ers fan and the closest we’ve come to winning anything is when Iverson was trying to find a way to beat the best duo in history that was Shaq and Kobe (another argument for another day). Even though the 76ers are not holding up a trophy right now, it feels like a small victory for me. The guy I grew up with for a good portion of my life that was leading my team to playoff appearances has won a ring. But he didn’t just get on a good team to ride along for the ring. Andre Iguodala is the NBA Finals MVP. He has etched himself into history and possibly has a spot in the hall of fame waiting for him because of this. Although we’re suffering through one of the worst stretches in franchise history, the rest of my 76er fans should feel a small victory for the guy who tried to carry us for so long; that now has a Finals MVP.

Warriors (1) vs Cavaliers (2) The Finals Are Here

It’s all been coming down to this moment. The NBA Finals. All the storylines will come to an end with each team looking to capture the Larry O’Brien trophy with just 4 more wins. The Golden State Warriors are looking for their first title in over 30 years, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking for their first one ever. We have the most entertaining and best team by record for the entire NBA season against the best player in the world.
The Cavs have had to go through multiple injuries throughout this years playoffs but still have managed to come out on top in the East; all because of one player by the name of LeBron James. With Love completely out of the picture, they’ve had Tristan Thompson step up and make plenty of noise this postseason. Thompson’s offensive rebounding has sparked the Cavs and it looks like Cleveland could be even better than before if Kyrie can get back to 100%. Kyrie will have to be huge for the Cavs to have a chance against their opponents.

 

The Warriors have looked like the best team in the league all season long and that includes the postseason. Outside of two losses, (that have only helped the Warriors) they have steamrolled through all of their competition so far. Curry has been nothing short of spectacular this postseason, and Kerr has proven time and time again of how great of a coach he has the potential to be.

STARTERS:

PG: K. Irving vs S. Curry

SG: JR Smith vs K. Thompson

SF: LB. James vs H. Barnes

PF: T. Thompson vs D. Green

C: T. Mozgof vs A. Bogut

Keys:

Cleveland has to be perfect in this series. The Warriors are just too good at too many things for Cleveland to be anything but perfect in this series. Thompson needs to destroy on the offensive boards because that could cause Golden State to rotate out of their small lineup quickly. A lineup that has taken out many teams quickly.

Next, someone has to help LeBron. LeBron is going to have Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Shaun Livingston, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguadala all rotating on him. This series is going to be hell for LeBron with all those guys guarding him, so someone somewhere has to step up and help releive the pressure off the man. If they don’t, the series could look very similar to the prior Finals of 2007 or 2014.

This is Kyrie’s time to shine. The focus will be 100% on LeBron and this is when this man should be earning his paycheck. Golden State has tremendous defense all around, but it’s going to be centered on LeBron and Kyrie HAS to take advantage of that. If Cleveland is to have a chance Kyrie has to step up and score big time buckets for them.

JR Smith can be ridiculously good and ridiculously bad as most know. If he gets hot he can match some of the 3pt shooting on Golden State, but if he’s off he’ll shoot his team out of the game really quick. Cleveland fans are hoping for the former because if you have JR being efficient, LeBron doing his thing, and Kyrie taking advantage of his opportunities, then that’s a recipe for success.
In game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, we saw just how bad ISO ball can get in Cleveland. If they fall back on that like they do so often, then the Cavs simply won’t win. A solution? Move the ball. LeBron needs to do what he does best and that’s penetrate and kick to the open guy. If they fall back on running an ISO offense late in games, then the team will fall apart.

The Warriors are going against a tall task. Playing against LeBron James. Only 2 teams in the last 5 years have been able to beat him, and both times they were the championship winning teams those years. If the Warriors truly want to win, they will have to go through LeBron to do so. The Warriors need to rotate defenders on LeBron constantly. Never give him the same look and get fresh bodies that are able to at least give him trouble.

Steph Curry needs to continue what he’s done all postseason. Pick his spots, don’t force anything, and continue to be the vocal leader of this machine. If Curry can continue doing so, then the Cavs won’t have an answer for him. He’s too quick around screens, has the fastest release in the league, and his handles are on par with Kyrie’s.

The lineup situation will be very interesting. Tristan Thompson should be able to trounce the small lineup with his offensive rebounding, but Cleveland likes to fall on a small lineup of their own with LeBron at the 4. This will be a chess match between coaches and Kerr has won those all season long. Kerr cannot be anything less than what he’s been all season long which is one step ahead of the competition in preparing his team for what they must face.

Klay Thompson has to get his offense going. He was able to get through the Rockets without being needed to score too much, but this is the Finals. Klay has to hit his shots for the Warriors to be comfortable. To make things easier on Steph, Klay’s scoring efficiency is a must.

Prediction: Curry raises the trophy for Golden State after beating LeBron and the Cavs 4-1. The Warriors as an entire organization are on a completely different level right now. From the front office all the way down to the players; the Warriors are a beat above all their competition. I believe in the end, ISO ball will kill the Cavs while the Warriors thrive off of ridiculous Steph shots and precise ball movement. Regardless of what happens in this series, this is a successful season for both franchises as they both have gone farther than they were suppose to. We should all be entertained by these two superstars, LeBron and Steph, engaging in amazing basketball for the trophy.

You can see the other writer’s predictions below.
Ryan Fort: Warriors 4-1 but if Kyrie is 100% Cavs in 6.
R’Mon Allen: Cavs 4-2
Tyler Carter: Warriors 4-3
Jonathan Ayala:Warriors 4-2
Hashim Ashimi: Warriors 4-2