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NFL Divisional Playoffs: Steelers vs Broncos (Preview)

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Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) vs Denver Broncos (12-4)

January 17th 4:40 PM ET/ 3:40 Central

Last Saturday’s victory over the Cincinnati Bengals was not only impressive, great & epic, it proved to be costly as well. Scoreboard wise the Steelers might’ve won 18-16 but in the minds of many this upcoming game against the Broncos is where the Steelers injury riddled season ends.

Healthy, the Steelers were/are an offensive juggernaut not too many if any teams would like to face. They posses not only an All-Pro Quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger but also an All-Pro Running Back in Le’Veon Bell & an All-Pro Reciever in Antonio Brown. They also have guys like Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant & Heath Miller who can make plays as well. Oh, and the Steelers also have a legit guy backing up Bell in DeAngelo Williams.

The bad thing about what I just listed is….The stars are hurt….

Ben Roethlisberger has a separated shoulder. (Injured in the Cincy game.)

Antonio Brown has a concussion so he’s out for the game. (Injured in the Cincy game.)

And Le’Veon Bell has been out since Week 8 with a season ending knee injury. (Injured in a game against Cincy actually.)

Even backup running back DeAngelo Williams is out this week due to a foot injury.

Tough luck.

The Broncos on the other hand are a lot more healthy.

Even with the inconsistent play at quarterback this season (Peyton Manning & Brock O) the Denver Broncos were still pretty damn dominant in part because of their defense.

On defense guys like DeMarcus Ware, Shane Ray, Derek Wolfe & Von Miller (linebackers/ defensive ends) can rush the quarterback while guys like Aqib Talib & Chris Harris Jr. can lock down the opposing teams’ receivers.

From top to bottom the Denver Broncos are the scariest defense in football.

On the season Denver has 52.0 sacks, 14int, 25 forced fumbles (13 recovered), two blocked kicks & 5 defensive TDs….

Prediction: bronx win 24-13

No Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell & DeAngelo Williams is going to hurt the Steelers ultimately. Throw in the fact that they have half of Ben & I don’t see them having much of a chance…. Peyton could still very much throw the game away. But that’s highly unlikely.

Steph Curry With The Shot

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We are less than 20 games into the 2015-2016 NBA season and people are already changing their MVP picks. It seems this year people counted out Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors a little too early. The Warriors are now 13-0, and Steph Curry is still lighting it up from downtown. However, is it too early to say that he is this year’s MVP?

Let’s look at his numbers in this year’s numbers:

  • Points per Game: 34.2
  • Assists Per Game: 5.8
  • Rebounds Per Game: 5.3
  • Steals Per Game: 2.5
  • Field Goal %: 52.0
  • 3-point %: 45.3
  • Free Throw %: 93.3
  • 3-pointers made per game: 5.2

These are some great, MVP level, numbers so I understand why many people are amazed by the way Stephen Curry is playing. Nevertheless, the bottom line is he has played 13 games so far. The Golden State Warriors have played 13 games of 82. An NBA season is a marathon not a sprint. So do not be over excited about the way Golden Sate Warriors are playing now because it will not be easy to keep this up for the rest of the season.

Don’t get me wrong, the Golden State Warriors are an incredible team and before the season started I had them as the 2nd seed in the playoffs under the San Antonio Spurs (and over the Los Angeles Clippers), however in my opinion it is still too early to say that Golden State Warriors are definitely going to the NBA Finals again, or that Steph Curry will undoubtedly be this year’s MVP and Final’s MVP, or say that the Golden State Warriors will go 72-10 (blasphemy). 

However, if they can keep this level of intensity up and the rest of NBA does not make adjustments then Warriors will be the team to beat in the post season.

Now I’m sure most of us tuned in to the Golden State games, especially their two games against the Clippers. The way the NBA is played today has dramatically changed from even just a few years ago. The simple fact is that the Warriors play it the best now, they have perfected the game. Now before the Warriors caused hype, the team that played the game the best to me was undoubtedly the Spurs, however since the Spurs key pieces are not what they used to be, the Warriors are in the spotlight. Let’s see if this team can pull it off down the stretch of the season and who knows may be they can go 72-10 (I doubt it), but if there was ever a team that can possibly achieve this feat it would be team like the Warriors, who don’t get tired from consistent banging on offense, primarily shoot outside shoots well, and play great team defense. The 1996 Bulls played differently, sure they shot at a good percentage, but those shoots were inside and they faced the wear-and-tear of driving into the lane or banging in the post that teams now do not have to deal with as much, which gives the Warriors a slight edge. However, 72-10 seems a little far-fetched.

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Share your opinions on Steph  Curry and the Golden State Warriors in the comment section.

 

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 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.

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

Lessons Learned From Sunday’s Clásico

Inside a Camp Nou with over 90,000 fans & to over 400 million viewers world wide, the always crucial Clásico did not disappoint. In what was an extremely competive and contested match, FC Barcelona came out with a 2-1 win over arch rivals Real Madrid to extend their lead at the top of the La Liga Table. Here are some of the take aways we can draw from the match.  

 

1- Defense for both sides is what ultimately decided who took the 3 points. 

The defense of both sides was the most important part of the game. Real Madrid’s back line had many crucial errors and an overall lack of discipline. The first mistake came early in the first half, when Sergio Ramos let Jeremy Mathieu escape from his mark and connect with a Lionel Messi cross to head home and give Barça a 1-0 lead. Then in the second goal, Ramos again commited a mistake. He allowed himself to fall back behind Pepe and the rest of the defensive line to allow Suarez to not be marked offside and latch onto a deep pass from Dani Alves. Pepe then could not accurately calculate Suarez’ run, in an attempt to get a hold of the Uruguayan’s shot, which would end up to be Barcelona’s second. Aside from this, both Pepe and Ramos were booked for unnecessary fouls from behind. Carvajal was also shown yellow for a needless tackle. Towards the end of the match, referee Mateu Lahoz seemed to almost pity the Madrid defense, as more fouls were committed by the Madrid back line that easily could have been worthy of another yellow and therefore, ejection from the match. 

Barcelona’s defense on the contrary was impeccable. Gerard Pique was an absolute rock, dismissing any danger that would come from Ronaldo and co with crucial and accurate tackles. Jeremy Mathieu also made important challenges, as well as providing the Catalan club’s first goal. Dani Alves kept Ronaldo quiet for grand part of the match and provided the assist for Barça’s second goal.   

Luis Suarez easily beats both Ramos and Pepe to put Barcelona up 2-1.

2- Karim Benzema & Luka Modrić are extremely influential. 

Benzema & Modrić were arguably Madrid’s best players on the field. The Frenchman may not have scored, but time and time again he challenged Barcelona’s back four, and easily played through the midfield when needed. Also, he gave the assist to Ronaldo’s goal. Modrić commanded the midfield, connecting well with Madrid’s other offensive weapons, as well as making key passes such as the one to Benzema to set up the Ronaldo goal. Both players looked alive throughout the match, & were a big reason Madrid completely dominated the first half. If the two players take advantage of the international break coming up, they can continue their good form and help influence Madrid’s attack force.  

 

3- La Liga is now Barcelona’s to lose. 

The outcome of this Clasico would have a huge impact on this seasons La Liga campaign. Should Madrid have won, they could have gone ahead of Barça by 2 points. Instead, they failed to take advantage of an excellent first half and let Barcelona stay in first place, now ahead by 4 points. With 10 games left in the season, Madrid will be hoping that Barcelona can slip up and lose points, with the Blaugrana having important matches later on in La Liga with Valencia, Atletico Madrid, & Real Sociedad. However, if the Catalan club can keep their composure and not let the Clasico win get to their heads, they should be able to close the season fine & end up as champions.  

Barcelona players celebrate Suarez’ goal.

4- Both sides can really challenge for the Champions League. 

Of course Real Madrid and Barcelona should always be considered candidates to win the UEFA Champions League. However, this game showed each side is extremely capable to chalenge favorites Bayern Munich to the title. Real Madrid dominated the first half, while Barcelona dominated the second. Although neither team was able to produce a full 90 minutes of good play, each side showed how dangerous they are in their respective half. If the two can play at the level they did in the 45 minutes they each claimed, it will extremely hard for any of the remaining teams to beat them.  

 

Conclusion 

It will be interesting to see how both teams finish up the season. A lot could still happen, so we’ll have to see if either one commits errors and makes the title race go on towards the very last few games. Let us know what you think in the comments below, share with friends, & follow FortOnSports on Twitter. 

One Step Closer To Berlin 

  

After weeks of a dramatic Round of 16 stage, the UEFA Champions League quarter finals have been set. The pretenders are now seperated from contenders, leaving players, coaching staffs, as well as fans aching for April to come. 

The first leg of each tie will be held on the 14th & 15th of April, while the second will be a week later on the 21st & 22nd. Here are the matches that we will be seeing 

  • Paris St. Germain (FRA) vs FC Barcelona (SPA)
  • Atlético Madrid (SPA) vs Real Madrid (SPA)
  • FC Porto (POR) vs FC Bayern München (GER)
  • Juventus (ITA) vs AS Monaco (FRA)


We are seeing some matches with history. The Madrid Derby has always been iconic & has been more important over the last few seasons with Ateltico wanting to get out of Real’s shadow. PSG against Barcelona has been a fixture we’ve seen more recently, with neither team being able to make a real statement. Porto vs Bayern, would be a repeat of the 1987 final. 

None of the teams left made it out of luck. There are no push overs. Each team should take their opponent very seriously if they want to advance. We’ll take a look at each tie and provide a preview, analysis, & prediction. 


PSG vs Barcelona 

These two teams have met seven times in the Champions League for the past three years. Each one has 2 wins, 2 loses, with the other 3 games ending in draws. The more recent games between the two came in the Group Stage of this years tournament. On the 21st of October PSG defeated Barça 3-2 at home. On the 10th of December at the Camp Nou Barça beat the French champions 3-1. This will most likely be the most tightly contested tie of the four. Both are on good form and loaded with talent on their team. It will be extremely close and could go either way. 

Barcelona advances to the Semi Finals.  

 

Atlético Madrid vs Real Madrid

A repeat of last tournaments finals. Real Madrid would win it 4-1 to obtain their tenth UEFA Champions League trophy, the most in history. This season in La Liga, Atleti swept Real, beating them 2-1 at the Bernabeu & a whopping 4-0 at the Vicente Calderon. They also eliminated Madrid from the Spanish Copa Del Rey 4-2 on aggregate. Madrid also just came off an embarrassing 4-3 at home to Schalke, while Atletico advance on penalties against Bayer Leverkusen. With only 1 win in their last 4 games in all competitions Madrid’s form may be a bit worrisome. However, the Quarter Finals are still a month away, & they must find good form before then if they want to make it. Atletico once again gets the best of Ronaldo & co. 

Atlético Madrid advances to the Semi Finals. 

 

FC Porto vs FC Bayern München 

Bayern München should be considered heavy favorites for this tie. Along with Barcelona, the German Champions are ahead of the pack in terms of talent, form, and virtually everything else. Müller, Götze, Alaba, & co have been excellent in recent weeks. After thumping Shaktar Donestk 7-0 on aggregate in the Round of 16, Bayern is feeling unstoppable & should be feared by the remaining teams. FC Porto is running on very impressive form right now as well. They beat Basel 5-1 on aggregate to get to the Quarter Finals. It should be an entertaining tie, but Bayern should prove to be too much for Porto. 

Bayern München advances to the Semi Finals.

 

Juventus FC vs AS Monaco

Italian champions Juventus will come up against up and coming French side Monaco. Juve are in a run of good form, thrashing Borrusia Dortmind in their own home 3-0 & advancing 5-1 on aggregate. Monaco, was able to hold off Arsenal and advanced off 3 away goals when it ended 3-3 on aggregate. Monaco showed they are a force to be reckoned with and Juve should not overlook them, even if they have superior star talent. Monaco is not experienced enough at this stage, & even with out Paul Pogba, Juve should be able to take this one.

Juventus advances to the Semi Finals. 

 

The Quarter Finals will be very entertaining. Each team will put in their all if they want to advance. These eight teams will have roughly a month to prepare themselves. Let us know who you think will advance in the comment section bellow, share with friends, & follow FortOnSports on Twitter. 

Top 10 Outside Linebackers of All-Time

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10. Andre Tippett

Tippett was a damn good player that had his career cut short to multitude of injuries. His third year in he recorded 18 sacks and followed that season up with 16.5 sacks the next year. From that point forward he was plagued with injuries. In 1985 he was crucial to the Patriots playoff run all the way to the Super Bowl. Causing havoc in anyway he could on the defensive end. He was best known for his jaw dropping hits that looked like they were ending careers out there. Tippett is considered one of the greatest Patriots to ever live.

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9. Cornelius Bennett

Bennett came on the scene being deemed the best defensive player out of college, and to this day is the highest picked Alabama defender ever. Impressive enough especially how many pro defenders Alabama pushes out every year. His numbers aren’t as good as they could have been with Bruce Smith another Hall of Famer on his team getting most of the attention on defense but it doesn’t diminish how great of a player Bennett was. He helped 5 teams go to the Super Bowl but lost all 5. Many others could have filled out this list at the number 10 spot but Bennett’s pass rushing ability and ability to stop the run was enough for me to put him over all of the rest.

Derrick Thomas #58

8. Derrick Thomas

Derrick Thomas for about a four year period was second to none as a pure pass rusher. Although I have seen many other lists and questioned why some put him within the top 3 he was without a doubt. Thomas came in an made an immediate impact winning rookie of the year in 1989. Thomas gets on this list because of how good he was in a short amount of time. If he could have sustained his production for a longer amount of time then he could have easily have been higher.

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7. Terrell Suggs

Suggs is a man among boys it seems like a lot of times. Suggs was part of a great defense headlined by Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. Many seem to forget about him a lot, but he deserves a lot of credit for that stout defense. He won defensive player of the Year in 2011. There really wasn’t even a close second that year when he recorded 14 sacks, 2 interceptions, 6 pass deflections, and 7 forced fumbles. He performed well in many playoff runs as well in 2010 recording 5 sacks in just two games. Suggs has been the enforcer on a great defense for many years. Hopefully he won’t be forgotten behind the other great players he got to play with.

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6. Rickey Jackson

I’m not gonna lie, if it wasn’t for his longevity he wouldn’t be over Suggs for me. Nonetheless though Jackson dominated in a different aspect it felt like every game. If he wasn’t knocking around the QB he was covering the flat and hook zones effectively. Jackson was the best thing in New Orleans for a long time. Sadly his team was awful for most of that time and when he went to the Niners he just wasn’t the same guy, but was able to get a ring he deserved just for having to play for the Saints as long as he did.

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5. Demarcus Ware

Right when I thought it was the decline for Ware he came out this past season with 10 sacks. Ware at one point was the most dominating pass rusher I’ve ever seen. Ware struck fear into QBs and it sucks that he was forced to play on a team that didn’t use his great years to their benefit. Even though I had been pulling for Brady all of this season I would have loved to see Ware get one as well. I still believe it to be an atrocity that Ware did not win defensive player of the year in 2008. He had 20 sacks that season with 6 forced fumbles, and he did all of that while be double teamed it seemed like every down.

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4. Kevin Greene

How in the hell Kevin Greene is not in the hall of fame is beyond me. Greene is 3rd in sacks and even though you can debate whether or not he was one dimensional when it came to linebackers, he is still one of the best rushers in NFL history. If you can find me a guy who got 15 sacks and 2 interceptions at the age of 36 and not in the hall of fame please come tell me. Greene was sort of a journeyman which you don’t find often within this elite class of linebackers. He started out on the Rams, then the Steelers, then the Panthers, then the Niners, and then back to the Panthers.

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3. Jack Ham

Jack Ham was the 3rd guy you thought of when thinking of the greatest defense of all time. Regardless though Jack Ham was one of the best coverage linebackers ever. His takeaways rank 1st of all non secondary players. Most of the time if you’re the 3rd best player on your unit, you tend to go unnoticed, but Ham had a flair for stepping up in the biggest of moments. The four championships the Steelers won in the 70s are in large part to Ham’s heroics in late game situations.

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2. Derrick Brooks

It’s hard to quantify how good Derrick Brooks was. He was a leader and that dominating Buccaneers defense was centered around him and Warren Sapp. In 2002 Derrick Brooks had 11 pass deflections, 5 interceptions and 4 defensive touchdowns. The way Brooks could read a QB was the way Peyton Manning can read a defense. His football IQ was just out the roof. Right as the Raiders tried to make an impossible comeback, Derrick Brooks read the route perfectly jumping it and returning Rich Gannon’s throw all the way back for a TD to seal the game. Without Brooks there is no way the Buccaneers are in that Super Bowl game.

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1. Lawrence Taylor

Let’s be honest. Did this come as a surprise to anyone? Taylor is in a very elite class of defensive players to win NFL MVP. He won defensive player of the year three times. There’s only one other guy I can think of that effected the game in as many ways Lawrence Taylor did. If it wasn’t locking down the flats or hook zones, he was right in the QB’s face it the QB managed to barely escape his grasp. LT had the strength to throw linemen out of his way, and somehow seemed quicker than everyone on the field with him. Just sit and watch an entire game from beginning to end and you’ll be as convinced as I am that there isn’t another player in the same conversation as LT outside of maybe Ronnie Lott. Many give LT the title as the greatest defensive player of all time, and any of those people have plenty of reason to do so.

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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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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