Pro Player Insiders NFL Players Exclusive Lifestyle, News and Under the Helmet Access Fri, 19 Dec 2014 21:03:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ravens Man of the Year Nominee, Torrey Smith, Spreads Holiday Cheer Through Baltimore Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:29:17 +0000 Ravens Man of the Year Nominee, Torrey Smith, Spreads Holiday Cheer Through Baltimore: Fulfills Eight Local Families Christmas Wish List, Delivers 1,000 Stuffed Animals To Children

BALTIMORE, MD – Ravens 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee Torrey Smith celebrated the holidays by giving back this season. Teaming up with Torrey is a signature charitable program of the Torrey Smith Foundation that encourages fans to help Torrey give back. Through these efforts, the Torrey Smith Foundation and partners collected 1,000 stuffed animals to donate to local children in need, fulfilled the Holiday wish lists of eight families from local shelters and donated blankets to homeless veterans in the city.

For the last few weeks, the Torrey Smith Foundation has teamed up with Fallston Walmart for a toy and coat drive for children in need. Using items collected through the drive plus thousands of dollars toward other items, the Torrey Smith Foundation fulfilled the wish lists of eight families from local shelters. Children and parents received every item on their lists, completed with the help of shelter social workers. Items ranged from basketball hoops, to bicycles, to iPads, to PS4s, cleaning supplies, bed sheets and everything in between.

On Tuesday, Torrey hosted the eight families at Fallston Walmart at a private Christmas celebration. Each family had a Christmas tree stocked with gifts and every child opened one gift that day. Extra gifts were sent home with families to be opened at their personal Holiday Celebrations. In addition to gifts, participants also enjoyed a surprise visit from Torrey and Santa, crafts, a DJ, a photo booth, shopping with Torrey for extra toys and a Holiday Feast.

“There is nothing like seeing someone smile during the holiday season,” said Smith. “We feel truly blessed that we have the opportunity to make so many people happy.”

But that wasn’t all that The Torrey Smith Foundation had planned for Christmas. In November and December the foundation teamed up with Arundel Mills PetSmart®  and PetSmart Charities®  for a Stuffed Toy Drive. The drive lasted several weeks, finishing only when the stuffed toys were sold out. Nearly 1,000 toys were collected in total. Some were delivered to the Marion House on Monday. The rest were picked up by the Howard County Maryland Volunteer Fire Department to be donated to the Toys for Tots collection.

“We’re so grateful to have a community that loves pets and children alike,” says Jessica Vittek, Arundel Mills PetSmart Store Manager. “Teaming Up With Torrey was a great opportunity to partner for a good cause this holiday season.”

To round out the season the Torrey Smith Foundation brought warmth to homeless veterans by participating in the Hyatt Regency Baltimore blanket drive with the Franciscan Center and Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training.  To make a donation in your own name or in the name of the Torrey Smith Foundation, please contact the front desk at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore.

*There were several sponsors and anonymous contributors of both time and treasure, including MCS Services and the Fallston community, who helped make Teaming up with Torrey possible. As always, we are very thankful to our foundation supporters for helping us impact the lives of children up and down The Beltway.

The Torrey Smith Foundation is hard at work to plan 2015. First on the docket is the annual Battle of the Beltway Celebrity All Star Basketball Game tentatively planned for March 28th. More details coming soon.

About the Torrey Smith Foundation
The mission of the Torrey Smith Foundation is to provide educational support and resources to children up and down The Beltway. The goal is to have touched the lives of more than 35,000 children by 2016. Learn more at

About Walmart

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) helps people around the world save money and live better – anytime and anywhere – in retail stores, online, and through their mobile devices. Each week, more than 200 million customers and members visit our more than 10,500 stores under 69 banners in 27 countries and e-commerce websites in 10 countries. With fiscal year 2013 sales of approximately $466 billion, Walmart employs more than 2.2 million associates worldwide. Walmart continues to be a leader in sustainability, corporate philanthropy and employment opportunity. Additional information about Walmart can be found by visiting, on Facebook at and on Twitter at Online merchandise sales are available at and

About PetSmart Charities®

PetSmart Charities, Inc. is a nonprofit animal welfare organization that saves the lives of homeless pets. More than 400,000 dogs and cats find homes each year through our adoption program in all PetSmart® stores and our sponsored adoption events. PetSmart Charities grants more money to directly help pets in need than any other animal welfare group in North America, with a focus on funding spay/neuter services that help communities solve pet overpopulation. PetSmart Charities is a 501(c)(3) organization, separate from PetSmart, Inc.

The Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training (MCVET) is serving more than 250 veterans daily, through Five (5) distinct programs — a Day Drop-In Program, an Emergency Program (13 weeks), a Transitional Housing Program (up to two years), a Follow-up Program, and 80 Single Room Occupancy apartments (SRO). A natural progression will be to go from the Day Drop-in Program, to the Emergency Program, to the Transitional Housing Program, to the SRO. Veteran applicants from outside MCVET’s program, including female veterans, are also accepted into the SRO program, provided they meet the eligibility requirements. As the veterans enrolled at MCVET travel through this continuum, they receive an array of services that support our primary goal of empowering them to return to the families and communities.

]]> 0
NFLPA Community MVP: Patrick Chung Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:05:27 +0000

Editor’s Note: The NFLPA Community MVP recognizes players who are making a positive impact in their local communities. Each week, the NFLPA will celebrate one player who recently demonstrated his commitment to giving back to his community, and will make a donation to the player’s foundation or cause in support. This week’s #CommunityMVP is New England Patriots strong safety Patrick Chung, who held his first Patrick Chung Open Mic Holiday Party last Monday, which raised over $75,000 for his foundation, Boston Children’s Hospital and The Dimock Center.

New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung grew up around music. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Chung has a deep affection for the musical culture of his home country. This was fostered by his mother, Sophia George-Chung. Some may recognize the name; George-Chung was a popular reggae singer in the 1980s, best known for her hit “Girlie-Girlie.” She instilled a passion for music in Chung at a young age, one that he now seeks to share with children around his New England community.

When Chung reached the NFL, he found that he had a unique platform to share his passions with children. Chung formed his foundation, Chung Changing Lives, to give children access to a variety of character shaping experiences. Although providing children with opportunities to explore music is a primary goal of the organization, it offers kids a diverse range of benefits and experiences.

“We went with the name Chung Changing Lives because we didn’t want to choose just one specific cause,” Chung “We feel we have an opportunity to change lives, make an impact. We are really trying to help with anything one step at a time; whether it be an interest in arts and music, academics, athletics, health, etc. There are countless things out there.”

In the spirit of music and giving, Chung held his first Patrick Chung Open Mic Holiday party last Monday at Showcase Live in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Hundreds of guests and a bevy of Patriots stars came together to perform karaoke hits, participate in a raffle and auction, and meet and mingle with the players. Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Devin McCourty, Brandon Browner, Chandler Jones, and Rob Ninkovich were just a few of the players in attendance.

Ticketed guests were able to bid to perform onstage with their favorite player, a highlight of the night for many. In all, more than $75,000 was raised for the Chung Changing Lives foundation, Boston Children’s Hospital, and The Dimock Center, for which over 40 toys were also collected for their Dimock Center Toy Drive.

Sophia George-Chung made a special appearance as well, performing for the first time in nearly 20 years. Reflecting back on the night, watching his mother perform was one of the most special moments for Chung, along with his opportunity to perform with patients from the Boston’s Children Hospital.

“We performed ‘Firework’ by Katy Perry!” Chung said. “It was also fun to watch some of our guests’ performances with myself or my teammates – some of my teammates shouldn’t quit their day job! Yet, Rob Ninkovich and Brian Tyms can really sing! Everyone was just having a great time attempting to sing and dance while raising funds for three causes during the holiday season.”

Last week, Chung hosted another special holiday event. Although he knew that the Open Mic Holiday event would raise an immense amount of money for the Boston Children’s Hospital, Chung wanted to add a personal touch to his donation. He knew that the vast majority of young patients from Boston Children’s Hospital would not be able to make the trip to Foxboro for the karaoke event, so instead, he brought the karaoke to them.

Along with his friend, fellow Patriots tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, Chung spent last Tuesday afternoon at Boston Children’s Hospital with patients, their families, and staff for an afternoon of karaoke. The two Patriots players wore festive holiday hats and sang along with the children to every song, before posing for pictures and signing autographs.

“They all picked different types of songs to sing, from holiday songs to Disney,” Chung said. “Everyone had smiles on their faces and that means a lot to me. I was a little nervous to do the karaoke, but the kids helped me loosen up. Even through their health concerns, the kid’s spirits shine so bright and that’s really moving for me.”

Before leaving, the two Patriots spent some time in the newly opened Ryan Seacrest Studios, the hospital’s internal radio program. It was an opportunity for them to interact with every child at the hospital.

“Patients who weren’t able to make it down for karaoke were able to call in from their beds to ask me any question they want,” Chung said. “That was very cool. They also played my mom’s song before we wrapped up the show.”

Thanks to Patrick Chung and his foundation, it was a special week for everyone at Boston’s Children Hospital.

In the spirit of music, the landmark program for Chung Changing Lives is its Summer Music Academy for Real Teens (SMART), held annually at the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center. It is a free, six-week summer music program for teens aged 12-16.

“I believe kids should be more constructive nowadays,” Chung said. “That’s one of the reasons we wanted to start a summer music camp for teens, to allow them to have something to do during the summer when they are out of school. Play video games after you get work done.”

Chung says that SMART is the core program of Chung Changing Lives, and he is proud of its continued success.

Applications for SMART become available in April. To learn more about the program and Chung Changing Lives, please visit

]]> 0
Around the AFC West, Week 16: Playoff Edition Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:53:27 +0000 The NFL season has just two weekends left of regular season football, and there is still so much to be decided in the AFC playoff race.

Three out of four teams in the AFC West are still very much alive (division leading Denver, and wild-card hopefuls Kansas City and San Diego; sorry Oakland) which makes this week’s match ups all the more critical to the season.

Is the AFC North going to send three teams to the post-season this year, or will either the Chargers or Chiefs be able to sneak their way in, especially with an almost playoff or bust game coming up between those two AFC West rivals in Week 17?

And what about those Broncos, who are in the playoffs (almost), but still behind the New England Patriots for first seed and home-field advantage throughout?

Let’s go around the AFC West; Week 16 playoff edition!

Standings (with last week’s results)

Denver Broncos…….11-3 (W, 22-10 v. SD)

Kansas City Chiefs…8-6 (W, 31-13 v. OAK)

San Diego Chargers..8-6 (L, 10-22 v. DEN)

Oakland Raiders……2-12 (L, 13-31 v. KC)

Denver Broncos

There is good news and bad news in terms of the Broncos working their way towards the top seed in the playoff out of the AFC.

The good news is that with one more win, Denver would clinch a first round bye after they just clinched the division with their win last weekend.

That accomplishment shouldn’t be looked down upon, however, the Broncos do need help if they want to earn the number one seed, and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs (Denver is currently 7-0 at home this season).

They need the New England Patriots, also 11-3, to slip up during their last two games (losing at least one) and the Broncos would have to win out in order for them to clinch the top seed out of the AFC.Manning vs Brady

New England, who doesn’t have an easy schedule by any means, still has a much “easier” path to the top spot with who their opponents are for their last two games of the season.

New England has to travel to face the New York Jets (3-11) before ending the season at home against the Buffalo Bills (while an impressive 8-6, it is still a team the Patriots have owned over the last decade).

The Broncos on the other hand have the AFC North division leading Benglas (9-4-1) on the road this week before ending their season at home against the Oakland Raiders (2-12).

The Patriots 43-21 win back on November 2nd over the Broncos is why they are ahead of them in the standings.  If they finish with the same record, New England holds the head-to-head tiebreaker, earning the top spot in the AFC.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs snapped a late-season three game losing streak last Sunday with their win over the Raiders and improved their record to 8-6

That win alone gets them right back on track, as they still control their density outright in the playoff pictures.  If the Chiefs win their final two games, they would make the playoffs automatically.

They are one of three teams in the AFC, but defeated the other two already this season (in Buffalo and San Diego).  Chiefs Andy Reid

The concern for Kansas City is that their two remaining opponents, the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) this week and the San Diego Chargers (8-6) the week after, is that they both are very talented , hungry teams and KC is certainly going to have to earn their spot if they want to make it to the post-season.

A loss to the Steelers, wouldn’t end their season this week, but it would make them have to rely on outside help to still have a chance.

Win out and you’re in.

And just in case you are wondering what teams Kansas City fans should be rooting for to lose this week, they are Baltimore (who is playing a third-string quarterback in the Houston Texans), Bengals (vs. Denver), San Diego (at San Francisco) and Buffalo (at Oakland).

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers are on their own late season losing streak, dropping their last two games (Patriots and Broncos).

The Chargers need to win out to have a chance.

rp_Philip-Rivers-San-Diego-Chargers-2014-NFL-Playoffs-300x168.jpgWith games against the San Francisco 49ers (7-7 but just eliminated in the NFC race) and Chiefs left on the schedule, the Chargers still have a slim chance of getting in, but they are going to need a lot of help to even stay alive in the race.

The best the Chargers can do is 10-6, and they are chasing down the Ravens (9-5) and Steelers (9-5) for the two wild-card spots.  They need both teams to slip up at some point, along with a lot of the other teams still in the race losing as well.

The Steelers could clinch a playoff spot with a win over Kansas City, which would make it even harder for the Chargers to sneak in.

The Ravens could also clinch a berth, with a win this week and loses by the Steelers and Bengals.

So, kind of either way you slice it, it is almost a guarantee at least one wild-card slot is awarded to team after this weekend’s games.

Their late season struggles could be what ultimately dooms them this year, as they watched their playoff chances take a serious hit with those two consecutive loses.  Just last week, the Chargers controlled their own density.

That certainly isn’t the case anymore as they are on the outside looking in.

Oakland Raiders

In Oakland, where the season is already over, you would love to see your young team end their season on some high notes, as they looked like a building group that could have a decent amount of success in this league in the coming years.

You might be slightly wrong in that thinking though.

It’s all about the draft for the Raiders.

It seems they finally found a quarterback in Derek Carr, and have young pieces scattered at various positions throughout the depth chart. This team is young and it’s solid young core could be lead by Carr and Khalil Mack for the foreseeable future.NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Oakland Raiders

Yes, this was another necessary rebuilding year, as the Raiders continue to try to build a competitive roster after years and years of bad decisions and mismanagement, but this team, at least on a talent standpoint, is one of the better units the team has fielded in years.

And while that might not be saying too much compared to how bad some of those teams were, this unit certainly looks to be on the right track.

Another strong draft class would be in the teams best interest, as they are currently battling for the first overall pick of the 2015 draft with the Buccaneers (2-12) and the Titans (2-13, losing last night to the Jaguars).

I am not saying they should try to lose, but as a fan while you want to see improvement, your draft standing is certainly more important at this point of the year in another lost season.

Let’s be honest, the team is still a few pieces away, so winning one or even both of their last games would allow them to build some momentum for next season, but it wouldn’t really help the future of the team too much in the grand scheme of things.

If you’re a Raider fan all you can really do is root for loses the last two games of the year (against Buffalo and Denver) so that you still have a great shot of selecting number one overall.

This team has already shown glimpses this year of what it can become.

They need to keep adding young talent to their already young and developing core.

Losing out would give them the best chance to select whoever they want at No. 1 and keep the rebuild on the right path.


]]> 0
Sen’Derrick Marks Is The Hero In Jaguars Home Finale Win Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:11:58 +0000 Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks spent most of six-year career as a Tennessee Titan. But tonight none of that mattered, as his takedown of Titans quarterback Charlie Whitehurst ended the game and gave the Jaguars a 21-13 victory at EverBank Field.


Tonight’s win ended the Jaguars’ (3-12 overall, 1-4 AFC South) two game losing streak and gave them a little more hope going into the offseason.

The Titans (2-13 overall, 1-4 AFC South) on the other hand, are on a nine-game losing streak with this loss included. The Titans haven’t won a game since October 12, 2014 and like the Jags, they are sure to do some major house cleaning this offseason as far as players and with some members of their coaching staff. A team cannot (barring free agency) go into another season and keep the same parts with a team that went 4-12, 3-13, or 2-14. The NFL or any level of football doesn’t work that way.

As for the game, Leon Washington, a player known for his kickoff return skills for the balance of his 10 year career, got tonight’s scoring started. He got in between two Jags defenders to catch Whitehurst’s (24 of 35 for 287 yards, 1 touchdown and no thefts) 8 yard scoring pass with 7:23 to go in the first quarter. It was 7-0 Titans. That scoring reception was Washington’s first non-kickoff return scoring play since the 2012 season.

Veteran Jags tight end Marcedes Lewis, who began the season on the Reserve/Injured Designated for Return List, showed that he still can be an exciting receiving threat for his team. Near the tail end of the second half, Lewis despite solid, suffocating coverage from Titans strong safety Daimion Stafford, positioned his body near the top left corner of the end zone and grabbed in the air, Bortles’ 4 yard scoring pass. This took place with just 31 ticks left in the first half and cut into the Titans lead at 10-7.

The Jaguars $4 million (his salary for the 2014 season) back Toby Gerhart (12 carries for 53 yards and 1 score) finally (sort of) started earning his expensive salary, as he bulled his way forward and then spun off a Derrick Morgan attempted tackle, with him finally stepping into the end zone for a 1 yard touchdown run. It was 14-10 Jacksonville with 9:27 left in the third quarter. That was Gerhart’s first touchdown run this season since the Jags lost to the San Diego Chargers back on October 28, 2014.

Morgan (5 tackles, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble) atoned for his missed tackle of Gerhart back in the third quarter, when he beat Jaguars right tackle Sam Young pretty badly around the corner to sack Bortles for a 6 yard loss back to the JAX 14 yard line. That important sack by Morgan forced a 4th and 16 punt by Bryan Anger. That sack took place with around 12:40 left in the fourth quarter.

This was the type of game Morgan a former defensive end and now a 3-4 pass rushing outside linebacker needed. The former first round draft pick of the 2010 NFL Draft (16th overall) has been seen by Titans fans and media as a bust. The reasons they think that:

  • He’s never had a double digit sack season.
  • He has only led the Titans in sacks once coming into the 2014 season (2012-6.5 sacks and an inside linebacker in Akeem Ayers almost equaled that total with six of his own).
  • He did though, help resurrect himself and his career tonight, as he obtained 2 sacks which gives him 8.5 for the year. With defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (5 sacks on the year) his closest competitor for the team lead in sacks and with one game left in the season, it’s a good bet Morgan will lead the team in sacks. Plus it is hard for a defensive tackle to get 3.5 sacks or more in a single game, no matter what type of defense a team plays.
  • Almost every year he has been on the Titans, a lesser talented defensive end has beaten him to the punch as far as leading the team in sacks.
  • One more thing, Casey led the Titans in sacks in 2013 with 10.5. Casey is an excellent defensive tackle and has been since high school at Long Beach Poly (California), but leading a defensive line and a team in sacks is supposed to be a defensive end or a 3-4 pass rushing outside linebacker’s job.

Meanwhile, too bad the Titans didn’t take advantage of Morgan’s sack on their ensuing drive, because Jags running back Jordan Todman (5 carries for 71 yards and 1 score) made them pay for it.  On the first play of the Jag’s next drive, Todman took a Bortles handoff, followed a right guard Brandon Linder influence block to the left, and then the back sped untouched down the left side for a 62 yard touchdown run. The Jags upped their lead to 21-10 with 9:19 left in the contest.

That touchdown run was huge for Todman, because not only did that touchdown run boost the Jags’ lead and momentum as well as take the heart out of the Titans comeback attempt, but it also was the first touchdown run of the 2014 season for Todman.

At the conclusion of their ensuing 8-play 75 yard drive, Titans placekicker Ryan Succop came in and booted a chip shot 23 yard field goal to cut the Jaguars’ lead to 21-13 near the six minute mark of the fourth quarter.

Whitehurst with 1:07 left in the game and with 80 yards to go—after Anger’s 37 yard touchback punt—had one last chance to try to help his team tie the game and possibly send the game into overtime. But on 1st and 10 with eight ticks left in the game, Marks (3 tackles and 1 sack)sacked Whitehurst for a 9 yard loss back to the JAX 44 yard line. Game over.

]]> 0
‘Searching for Bobby Fischer’: Understanding the opponent Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:34:59 +0000 According to Playboy‘s Brad Darrach, who wrote the narrative nonfiction piece “The Day Bobby Blew It” (1973) — a profile about the Cold War between chess champions American Bobby Fischer and Russian Boris Spassky, Fischer was seen as a very eccentric and arrogant paranoid recluse, obsessed with chess (and perhaps money too).

“‘Greedy little punk’ and ‘spoiled brat’ began to be muttered over typewriters and the public bought what was told,” Darrach wrote. “… nobody could believe that the most recondite of games, an intellectual sport about as popular as differential calculus, was making front-page headlines day after day; that half the world was waiting breathlessly for two young men to sit down on a solitary butt of lava in the North Atlantic and push little wooden soldiers across a miniature make-believe battlefield.”

That’s might be the Bobby Fischer you remember if you were following the headlines during the ’70s. But that’s not the one portrayed in Steven Zaillian’s directorial debut, “Searching for Bobby Fischer” (1993).

This Bobby Fischer, seen through the eyes of precocious six-year-old chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin (Max Pomeranc), was a saint and an enigma.

Based on Fred Waitzkin’s novel, “Searching for Bobby Fischer: World of Chess Observed by the Father of a Chess Prodigy,” Zaillian’s film is about the evolution of young player under the watching gaze of his father (played by “Criminal Minds’” Joe Mantegna) and instructor (Ben Kinsley).

They’re the ones who tell him that he shouldn’t pull out his Queen too early and that he can’t play speed chess with the men in the park anymore. They’re the ones who tell him to switch schools. And they’re the ones he implicitly loves and trusts.

Josh isn’t Bobby Fischer, insists his mother (played by Joan Allen). Josh intentionally loses a game to his father and offers his opponents a way to tie for championships. He doesn’t hold his competition in contempt either, like how his mentor Bruce Pandolfini (Kinsley) says Bobby Fischer did.

Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 1.20.54 PM“He’s not afraid of losing,” his mother tells his husband. “He’s afraid of losing your love. How many ball players grow up afraid of losing their fathers’ love every time they come up to the plate?”

Like a young Ender Wiggins, Josh understands his opponents — and even loves them (This, after all, was how Ender won his game in Orson Scott Card’s novel).

Josh plays the games, going to war for his father, commanding legions of tiny men, bringing back dozens of shiny trophies and medals. He watches his peers shy away from him, fearful of his reputation.

“I don’t hate them,” insists Josh, his big greenish eyes pleading.

“You have a good heart,” says his mom, “and that’s the most important thing in the world.”

After all, chess, like any sport, is just a game. And like any game, you win some and you lose some.

“Searching for Bobby Fischer” (1993) is Steven Zaillian’s directorial debut. The film was written by Zaillian based on Fred Waitzkin’s book. 

]]> 0
They’re The Patriots Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:31:01 +0000 “Time heals all wounds”. I understand it, but I really don’t. This phrase has rattled in and out of my life for over a decade now. Though this is no memoir about personal struggle, defeat or despair, the saying does offer us some significant association to the beloved boys in Foxboro. Yeah, you got it, your New England Patriots.


Every year I am curious to see which fan base is naive enough to take the bait. That’s right, swallow the hook. I will never know the sensation of enveloping a jagged hook with enflated confidence that this could be THE YEAR for my team. Not a year goes by that it couldn’t be the Patriot’s YEAR in the National Football League. You are not going to like me, but the New England Patriots have a legitimate opportunity to win the Super Bowl every single year. Trust me, I’m that rambunctious lunatic that invests more time into the Total Patriots Encyclopedia than I do spending time with my family. Sad life, time to embrace the Foxboro realm .


But seriously, I’ve juggled that saying around for maybe a week or so


]]> 0
Into &Over NFL Week 15 with @Cagaddis Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 INTO: 

Buffalo Bills safety Bacarri RamboBuffalo Bills Defense:
A loss last  week would have knocked the Bills out of playoff contention. This meant the Bills couldn’t afford to make any mistakes against the Packers and they didn’t. They held Aaron Rogers, the odds on favorite for NFL MVP, to the lowest completion percentage(41%) of his career; his lowest QBR rating (17) since 2012 and for the first time in his career he threw multiple interception and zero touchdowns.

The Playoff Hunt:
As a Bills fan I haven’t been able to really experience the excitement of a late season playoff push for the last few years. I love that Every game matters whether its for the last wild card spot or home field advantage teams are fighting to keep their season alive. The best part are all the crazy playoff scenarios; I’ve even embraced the fact that the winner of the NFC South will more than likely have a losing record.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at New York GiantsOdell Beckham Jr:
Beckham is continuing his campaign as the stand out in what is an extremely talented wide receiver rookie class. This past week against the Redskins Beckham caught 12 passes for 143 yards and recorded his first career three touchdown game. What is more impressive is in his last seven games Beckham has 61 receptions 866 yards and 6 touchdowns.


This Horrible Call:
As a former player I hate to admit this, but one call can change the entire course of a game, and thats exactly what happened in Seattle. It turned what should have been a Seahawks field goal into a touchdown and the 49ers were never able to recover. Player safety is a very important issue but it is also important to protect the integrity of the game.
bad call[Photo credit @SBNATION]

The Bears Fake Punt:
There are plenty of teams in the NFL with worse records but none are more disappointing than the Bears. There are coaches talking negatively about players in the media, players fighting each other in the locker room and their coach will most likely be fired by the end of the season. If their problems off the field weren’t bad enough, on Monday night they tried to run a fake punt with only 10 players on the field. They have enough trouble with  all 11 players on the field so needless to say 10 didn’t work out any better. Not only  were they short of the first down they also got a penalty for an illegal formation.

Manziel vs BengalsJohnny Football:
I was excited when the Browns announced that Manziel would be the starter this week. I expected him to provide a spark of excitement to the Browns offense…boy was I wrong. We’ve seen some pretty bad quarterback play this season (I’m looking at you Geno Smith) but Manziel has by far been the worst. His QBR rating of 1.0 was the lowest for any quarterback this season.


]]> 0
Top Prospects to Watch Out For in Las Vegas Bowl Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:30:41 +0000 While some casual fans will just watch the three college football playoff games, the other 36 bowl games should provide a lot of entertainment. The non-playoff bowl games will also give fans an opportunity to see future NFL stars they didn’t see during the regular season.

During the next few weeks, I will be pointing out the biggest pro prospects from varies bowl games. Today, I will be writing about the top prospects to watch for during the Las Vegas Bowl (Utah Utes vs Colorado State Rams).

Nate Orchard, Senior, Defensive End, Utah

Utah defensive end Nate Orchard is probably the most talented prospect playing in the Las Vegas Bowl. Last week, he won the Ted Hendricks Award, which is given to the top defensive end in college football.

Orchard finished second in the country in sacks this season with 17.5. He was also the second-leading tackler on the Utes with 81.

Orchard would probably be best used in the NFL in a 3-4 scheme where a team could use him as an edge rusher. Although he has good size at 6’4, 255 pounds, he isn’t a true defensive end on the next level. Orchard is a projected as a late first, early second round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Garrett Grayson, Senior, Quarterback, Colorado State

One of the main reasons Jim McElwain got the head coaching job at Florida was because of his development of Garrett Grayson.

Grayson finished the 2014 season with 32 touchdowns against only six interceptions. The quarterback also finished second in the country in passer rating (171.3) to Heisman winner Marcus Mariota. Grayson has the size (6’2, 220 pounds), mobility and accuracy you want in a signal caller.

Right now, Grayson is projected as a fourth round pick, but he will have a few chances to improve his draft status. Not only could his draft stock improve after the Las Vegas Bowl, Grayson will also have a chance to impress scouts during the Senior Bowl on January 24.

Devontae Booker, Junior, Running Back, Utah

The 5’11, 209 pound Booker finished second in the Pac-12 in rushing with 1,350 yards. Scouts have compared Booker’s game to former Giants running back Tiki Barber and current Houston Texan Arian Foster. With Booker’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield (39 catches and two receiving touchdowns), the comparison isn’t bad at all.

Booker has one season of eligibility left, but at 22-years-old, he may decide to enter the NFL Draft early. The junior is projected anywhere from the third to fifth round.

Eric Rowe, Senior, Cornerback, Utah

Eric Rowe had a solid season for the Utes in 2014 as he was fifth on the team in tackles with 53, three of them for a losses. He also recorded an interception, recovered a fumble and led the team with 11 passes defended.

Rowe could be drafted as a safety or a corner. He played safety during the first three seasons of his college career, but switched to cornerback during his senior season.

Tom Hackett, Junior, Punter, Utah

Tom Hackett led the nation with 35 punts inside the 20-yard-line and 19 punts inside the 10-yard-line. His 47.0 yards-per-punt average was second in the country. Because of his excellent 2014 season, Hackett became the first Ute and Pac-12 player to win the Ray Guy Award, which is given to the nation’s top punter.

Follow Antwan on Twitter @blackredsoxfan

]]> 0
I Can & I Will @Bwagz54 Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:30:21 +0000

I Can & I Will

— Bobby Wagner (@Bwagz54) December 2, 2014

]]> 0
Bills Notes: Marcus Thigpen Impact, Marrone Defends Hackett Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:24:54 +0000 Almost 25 months after Marcus Thigpen, playing for the Miami Dolphins returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills in November of 2012, Thigpen, who has been on Buffalo’s roster for only three weeks, returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown on Sunday versus Green Bay to help Buffalo get a win.

Marcus Thigpen return against GB

Thigpen spent two seasons (2012-2013) with Miami, was on the New England Patriots’ practice squad from September 3 to the middle of September, and spent some more time with the Dolphins on their practice squad from the end of September to the end of October. After spending the next month on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad and active roster, Thigpen was claimed off waivers on November 26, and has been the team’s punt returner since, replacing Fred Jackson to allow the veteran running back to focus on offense.

Thigpen was listed as a limited participant in practice on Thursday with a foot injury, though head coach Doug Marrone said Thigpen will be ready to go on Sunday, barring any setbacks. Marrone talked about Thigpen’s impact on the team today.

“When we lost Leodis [McKelvin] for the year, Fred [Jackson] was back there and he was injured,” said Marrone on the punt returner situation before Thigpen arrived. “We were on the lookout to bring someone in, as a part of our plan to try to get better and win. Fortunate for us, I think Tampa Bay wound up releasing him and we wound up getting him. He’s a guy that’s done it. He’s been in this league and that’s what he’s done. He’s done kickoffs, he’s done punts and he’s a very good punt returner. We know that, with the way we were playing, that’s a big part of what gives us an ability to win, with the field position.”

The impact of a big-time special teams play, along with consistent play on that side of the ball in terms of few coverage breakdowns, kicker Dan Carpenter with a league-high 32 field goals, and punter Colton Schmidt with 29 punts inside the 20, which ties for the league-lead, has helped immensely this season, helping Buffalo re-establish itself as a team with great special teams.

“When you get a team and set the team, the most important thing is making sure that all three phases and all three coordinators understand, going into a game, how we’re going to win this game,” said Marrone. “Obviously, we all know that you’ve got to score one more point than the opposing team, but there’s a lot more to it than that. With the way we’ve been playing, field position is a big thing for us and we talk about it every week with our players, especially on special teams.”

While the special teams and defense (No.5 in total defense and No. 4 in scoring) have been outstanding this season, the offense is just 18th in scoring (21.6 points per game), 19th in passing yards (224.4 yards per game), 23rd in rushing (97.5 yards per game), and 23rd in total offense. While the circumstances of a quarterback change, an offensive line that had had some issues on the interior due to bad guard play, along with left tackle Cordy Glenn not as dominant as last season, and a group of young receivers still trying to find their way to be consistent, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has been criticized for a lack of creativity in play-calling and lack of results.

While Hackett does call the plays, Marrone said if there is any blame, it’s on him, not the offensive coordinator.

“If it was there was a problem with one thing, it would be very easy to fix,” said Marrone. “It’s really collective. That’s probably 99 percent of all the problems that occur when you’re on a team. Sometimes a play will point out somebody, but at the end of the day when you’re evaluating all the plays, it’s just a matter of trying to get 11 guys to be as efficient as they can. Then, when everyone has a clean opportunity to get it done, does that player get it done or not? That’s how you evaluate it. For us, it’s been up and down and we’re just going to continue to try to get better.”

In terms of how he would evaluate Hackett’s performance this year and through two seasons, Marrone didn’t get into specifics about what will happen beyond this season, but was willing to point out some unique challenges the unit has faced in his tenure.

Those are things that I would talk with Nathaniel about,” said Marrone. “We go through a process after the season, like everybody knows. We’ll sit down and talk. It’s been two years now. We’ve played I don’t know how many quarterbacks. We’re playing with a quarterback that wasn’t in our training camp. I think all of those things are pretty big challenges when you’re trying to get things going from an offensive standpoint.”

A place of immense criticism of Hackett has been how he used C.J. Spiller as more of an inside runner than on the outside. If Spiller does return to the field, which is unclear at this point, how the team utilizes a four-headed monster of Spiller, Jackson, Bryce Brown and Boobie Dixon in the backfield against Oakland, or decide to go to a three-man backfield will be interesting.

“I think he looks good,” said Marrone. “He really does. It’s just a matter of waiting until the end of the week and making a move there. The only concern I have is – it’s not really being in shape, but to be able to play and run plays in and out, in and out, in and out and to make sure his conditioning is right at that level. It seems to be okay. I think it will just get better. I know he looks explosive. He’s moving well.”


]]> 0
A Rivalry Renewed: Green and White Take on the Patriots in Week 15 Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:22:13 +0000 Though the 2014 season hasn’t gone the way Rex Ryan and the Jets thought it would go during training camp, the Jets have a chance to end this season on a positive note. The Green and White play their final home game of the 2014 season against the AFC East champion New England Patriots this Sunday. Though the Jets are well out of playoff contention and the Patriots have already clinched a playoff spot, this game still holds a great deal of importance for both sides.

With a Patriot win Sunday, they’ll look to leapfrog the Broncos and secure first place in the AFC. This would give them home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and a first round bye. With a lot on the line for Belichick and the Patriots, Rex Ryan’s Jets would love nothing more than to play the spoiler. It’s no secret that Ryan is on the verge of being let go by Jets ownership after this season, which is all the more reason for him to try and take the Patriots down for potentially the last time.

After a hard fought battle against the Titans in Tennessee last week the Jets grabbed their first road win of the season, but Rex Ryan was already looking ahead to Week 15. Rex was quoted after the game saying “We’re going to fight every game. We’ll fight next week against New England.” Starting quarterback Geno Smith also stressed that the Jets aren’t planning on handing the Patriots another W on Sunday. “We’re all a close knit bunch” said Smith. “We’ll never back down from any battle. We believe in one another.”

As head coach of the Jets, Rex Ryan is 4-8 against the Patriots. This less than stellar record includes Gang Green’s heart breaking loss in Foxboro earlier this season. However, rivalry games like these go beyond the numbers and with a rivalry as intense as this one, there is no favorite to ein. Throw every stat, record, and trend out the window because come Sunday both teams, and especially the coaches, will put everything on the line to win. Rex’s “tough you-know-what… Real fans want to win” response to those questioning why the Jets haven’t tanked for the number one pick in the draft should say it all. Sure, the Jets aren’t fighting for a playoff spot, but this rivalry isn’t any less intense than it has been over the last five seasons. This game could very well be the end of the Ryan vs. Belichick era, amplifying the importance of this rivalry game. Eric Decker told members of the media, “You can feel the intensity. You can feel the fire within everyone–.”

Expect a run heavy attack from the Jets on Sunday as Gang Green will look to avoid all-pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, who was once Ryan’s crown jewel. To add to the drama coming up on Sunday, there was speculation this off season that Revis could have been a Jet in 2014 after getting cut by the Bucs. However, GM John Idzik let him walk, and since not investing in a timeshare on Revis Island this summer, the Jets have had one of the worst secondaries in the NFL this season. On top of that, Revis will now come to MetLife Stadium on Sunday through the opposing team’s tunnel. Rex Ryan was quoted earlier in the year talking about Revis in a Patriots uniform saying, “I’m a little sick to my stomach.” However, one of Rex Ryan’s best ever defensive players is currently closing in on 1,000 career total tackles. Linebacker David Harris is just two tackles shy of this landmark and there’s no better stage to achieve such a milestone than at home against your rival.

The Jets can steal a win on Sunday if they control the clock and leave Brady on the sidelines. When Brady does get on the field, the defensive line has to bring pressure or the secondary will be useless against the Brady/Gronkowski duo that’s been unstoppable as of late. Unfortunately, the Jets may again be without star defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, who has not played for several weeks with a nagging toe injury and was still limited in practice on Wednesday. On offense the Jets need to get back to smash mouth football and run virtually the same offense that they did against the Pats earlier this season in Foxboro when they ran the ball effectively setting up easy throws for Geno Smith.  The previous meeting between the Jets and Pats was easily the best game Geno Smith has played all season and one of the Jets most impressive offensive showings this season. Also if the injured Percy Harvin can go on Sunday it would give the Jets an extra weapon on offense they didn’t have against New England the first time around.

Rex at pats

If the Jets keep steady on offense using their percolating running game and show discipline in the secondary, they can certainly be competitive on Sunday.  In football, as in any sport, there is no team more dangerous than a team with nothing to lose, and in a rivalry such as this, there is no favorite. These two points in combination with an electric home crowd and a hungry Rex Ryan make for an exciting final installment in the 2014 edition of this Jets and Patriots rivalry.


]]> 0
NFC North: Week Fifteen Fri, 19 Dec 2014 01:00:20 +0000 NFC North Standings

1. Detroit Lions 10-4 (4-0)

2. Green Bay Packers 10-4 (4-1)

3. Minnesota Vikings 6-8 (0-5)

4. Chicago Bears 5-9 (1-3)


Minnesota Vikings vs Miami Dolphins (Vikings are the underdog at +6.5; over/under: 42.5)

Last week the Vikings had their chances to beat the NFC North leader, Lions, but just could not put Detroit away.  The Vikings defense proved to be up to the challenge for most of the game, but the offense lacks the big play ability needed, to put a dent in that confident Lions defense.  Mike Zimmer leads his team into Miami to play the Dolphins who were thoroughly embarrassed in the second half of their game against the Patriots.

The Miami Dolphins defense gives up 122 yards on the ground and the expectation from the Vikings defense would be to run up the gut of this Dolphins defense for most of the game. The last thing offenisve coordinator Norv Turner wants to do is put his rookie quarterback in too many long yardage situations facing a Cameron Wake pass rush and a pretty strong Miami secondary.


This Vikings team is a competitive one and who knows how much wind was knocked out of this over-achieving Dolphins team last week?  This game won’t be fun to to watch, but the Vikings have a better chance of going 8-8 this year than the Dolphins do at making the playoffs.

Game Prediction: Vikings 22, Dolphins 17    Better’s Pick: Vikings +6.5 and the under


Green Bay Packers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Packers are the favorite at -10.5; over/under 48.5)

So now the talk about Green Bay is that they are NOT as good on the road as they are at home.  Big surprise.  This goes for most teams in any sport.  Truth is, the Buffalo defense was the best they’ve seen in weeks and with that, the Packers timing on offense was off and dare we even say – the Packers offense looked a little “shook” going against a physical Buffalo team?  Whatever it may be, the Packers once again hit the road and find themselves in Tampa Bay.

Green Bay had some lost opportunities last week, including uncharacteristic drops from wideout Jordy Nelson but this is far from a melt-down scenario.  This Packers offense is averaging 31 points a game and over 380 yards a game, meanwhile, the Tampa Bay defense pretty much gives up those numbers on average – and allow 250 yards a game through the air alone.

Bucs coach, Lovie Smith is familiar with the Green Bay Packers after coaching against them for all those years as head coach with the Bears but that doesn’t mean it will help him.  Lovie lost his last 6 games against the Mike McCarthy run Packers – this time expect more of the same as this will be a Packers team that is looking to make a point on the road this week.

Game Prediction: Packers 38, Buccaneers 14    Better’s Pick: Packers -10.5

Detroit Lions vs Chicago Bears (Bears are the underdog at +7; over/under 45.5)

With two weeks left in the season it’s fair to predict that the Bears will remain at five wins the rest of the way because the entire team does not care.  The Chicago Bears organization is as dysfunctional as the Washington Redskins’ and this Chicago Bears team plays as well as the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Bears were manhandled by  Detroit on Thanksgiving and the outcome should not be any different this time around.  Rookie corner Kyle Fuller has regressed since his fast start in September and was taken to school by Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson last time they matched up on the field (Johnson finished with 146 yards and 2 touchdowns).


This Detroit offense hasn’t been the most consistent unit in the NFL despite all their talent, but as predicted last time on this site – it doesn’t matter when you play against this horrendous Chicago Bears defense.  The GM doesn’t like the coach, the coach can’t control his staff, his staff has no control of it’s players and the Chicago Bears fans are sick of all of it.  Expect a usually loyal fan base in Chicago to get ugly early when things spiral out of control in the first half for the Bears.

Game Prediction: Lions 35,  Bears 14      Better’s Pick: Lions -7


G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio


]]> 0
Bills Notes: Spiller Status, Players Getting Second Chances Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:13:50 +0000 Midway through a week between a landmark win and a trap game against a two-win squad in which a loss would end the team’s postseason hopes, the Bills are still trying to figure out if one of its most explosive players, C.J. Spiller, will return to the playing field, according to head coach Doug Marrone.

“I’m not going sit up here and say he didn’t look good,” said Marrone. “He looked good, but he’s still working his way back into the football part of it.”

On the season, Spiller has 287 yards on 69 carries (4.2 yards per carry), but if you take away the 53 yard run he had against Minnesota in Week 7 in which he broke his collarbone, his average dips to 3.44 yard per carry). Thus, an offensive line that has had its problem in both the running game (only 3.8 yards per carry, 26th in league) and in the passing game (35 sacks allowed, 15th most in NFL), needs to “get better”, Marrone, an offensive lineman for five years in the NFL, said.

“There’s been times in games where there’s been spurts where you think, ‘Okay, here we go,” said Marrone. “We’ve finally got it going,’ but there’s been a setback, for whatever reasons. Those guys will continue to work hard. We need to challenge them this week. We’ve got a tough challenge going against Oakland’s front. We’ve got to be able to respond well and play with that consistency that they need, where people will say, ‘Hey, you know what? Those guys are doing a good job.’”

A player on the offensive line that has been as consistent as the team could have hoped is right tackle Seantrel Henderson, who came in as a seventh-round draft choice despite being a blue chip recruit out of high school.

“Obviously, he’s not a seventh round type of talent,” said Marrone. “I think everyone understands that. He’s played extremely well. Now you see he plays right tackle, but the league has changed so much, where you can get dominant pass rushers on that side. He’s played against the Cameron Wake’s, the Von Miller’s, the Julius Peppers’. He’s played against those players and has played well. He’s continuing to get better. The only concern I had was him being able to get through the season, because he really didn’t play a lot of games last year at Miami. He’s done a good job of holding up. I don’t think he’s even been on the injury report, to my knowledge. He’s going under-the-radar because of where he was drafted.”

Buffalo Bills safety Bacarri Rambo

Another area the team has been great all year has been its ability to get players who haven’t been successful elsewhere to make an impact, like waiver claims Marcus Thigpen, who returned a punt for a touchdown versus Green Bay, and Baccari Rambo, who substituted for an injured Duke Williams and picked off two Aaron Rodgers passes.  Marrone called Jerry Hughes, who has 9.5 sacks in his second year with Buffalo after 10 last season, and forced and recovered a fumble for a touchdown in a key win versus Cleveland this season, is “one of the best examples”.

“I think sometimes change lets things happen,” said Marrone. “A lot of times, usually after the first time, let’s say things don’t work out for a player, they either learn or they don’t. I think it changes from player to player, but generally that’s what I think. Then, all of the sudden, when that light goes on, you can get yourself a pretty good football player on your active roster. I think it’s case-by-case for the most part, but generally you only have a certain amount of time to show what you can do. Once you get the stigma of not being able to play on one team and then go to another team and not be able to play, it becomes difficult.”

Rambo said on Wednesday that he is playing “every down” like his last.

“I’m just thankful and blessed to be here with the Buffalo Bills and I’m just very thankful and blessed for the opportunity that they gave me,” said Rambo. “The second chance.”


Quarterback Kyle Orton, who has struggled recently with one touchdown to five interceptions in his last three games, is “excited to have a chance” to get to the postseason, though a very small one at that.

“I’m excited to be where we’re at,” said Orton. “I’m excited to be winning football games and there’s nothing better than coming down the last couple of weeks knowing that you have to win.”

With his three years in the AFC West, mostly with the Denver Broncos, Orton has plenty of experience in playing against the Raiders, but his previous experience versus the division hasn’t helped this year, as the Bills have lost versus the Chiefs and Broncos with Orton under center.  While Oakland has had its recent struggles, Orton certainly has appreciation for what the Raiders and the Black Hole represent in the league.

“There’s a lot of history there,” said Orton. “Fun to play there. Mr. Davis really…revolutionary guy if you go all the way back to everything he did in this league…a revolutionary guy in this league and I certainly appreciate that fact.”

One player who appears to be helping Oakland get back some respect is rookie linebacker Khalil Mack, who has 68 tackles and three sacks this season, and his a very versatile player that Orton is wary of in both pass rush and coverage.

“Behind the end of the line of scrimmage and they like to bring him as the fifth man quite a bit,” said Orton of who they use the rookie in pass-rush situations. “He’s got good matchups against running backs, he’s got good matchups against tight ends and certainly has pass moves to beat D-Tackles as well so he’ll be a big part of the game plan.”

Bills Spiller CJ DZ

In terms of the entire offense, Orton is taking the process game by game, though having someone like Spiller potentially playing would be a huge positive.

“A weekly battle to improve and improve consistency and that starts with me,” Orton said of trying to get the offense on track. “It’s our job to score points and we’ve got to do a better job at that and that means that I’ve got to do better, so I’ll work as hard as I can to get my own game and to get this offense where they need to be.”

“It’s huge,” Orton said of Spiller being back. “Obviously everybody knows he’s an explosive player, a dynamic player, good in the receiving game and in the running game so we’re excited to have him back.”

Whatever the offense does, however, the Bills’ best chance would be to depend on a defense that has allowed just 47 points in the last three games, with the young linebacker duo of Nigel Bradham and rookie Preston Brown playing very well. While Derek Carr is also a rookie for the Raiders, the young signal-caller has 18 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions, with Bradham saying Buffalo’s defense “definitely can’t sleep on him”.

“(Derek) Carr is good quarterback,” said Bradham. “He’s hot and he’s going to be a great quarterback in this league. He’s learning. Like you said, he’s a young guy and of course he made some mistakes…rookie mistakes like we all do so you have a guy like that back there who has potential, you never know what you’re going to get. He made some great throws too.”

As good as Carr has been, however, if the Bills can play against him the way they did against Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers the last two weeks, they should be able to severely limit Oakland’s offense, hopefully enough to give a struggling offense less pressure to be consistently great.

]]> 0
NFL: NFC West Week 16 Game Previews Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:32:48 +0000 Last week the Arizona Cardinals continued their magical carpet ride with a 12-6 win over the St Louis Rams, while the Seattle Seahawks defeated the San Francisco 49ers for the 2nd time in 3 weeks, this time by the score of 17-7. This sets up a monumental battle in Arizona this week as Seattle travels there to play the Cardinals in what will very likely decide the #1 seed in the NFC. So with that being said, and an exciting Week 15 in the books, and only 2 more weeks to go in the regular season, let’s get right to the NFC West Week 16 Game Previews:


Arizona Cardinals (11-3) vs Seattle Seahawks (10-4) -8


It wasn’t pretty. It was downright ugly. But in the end, it took 4 FGs from Chandler Catanzaro and a great defensive effort by the Cardinals to push them to the 11 win mark, which likely gets them into the playoffs. The bad part about last week is starting QB Drew Stanton going down with a sprained ACL and MCL. He will likely miss approximately 4 weeks. It’s a deadly blow to a team that is already playing without normal starting QB Carson Palmer and starting RB Andre Ellington.

The hottest team in the league is probably the Seattle Seahawks. Their team is hitting on all cylinders at the right time and their defense is playing on another level than the rest of the league. They had no significant injuries last week, so they will be coming in at mostly full strength. Once again, Richard Sherman and the “Legion of Boom” shut down Colin Kaepernick and the entire 49ers offense, holding them to only 105 total yards passing.

Anyone looking at this game that isn’t a Cardinals fan is probably going to say that there is zero chance that the Cardinals have to win this game, even playing at home. With Ryan Lindley starting at QB and Kerwynn Williams starting at RB, the Seahawks defense should have a field day. I don’t expect the Seahawks to take the Cardinals lightly despite the devastating injuries, so I think this one may end up being as ugly as everyone thinks unless the Arizona defense plays out of their mind, which isn’t impossible.

Prediction: Cardinals 3, Seahawks 16


San Francisco 49ers (7-7) vs San Diego Chargers (8-6) +2.5

Super Bowl XLVII - Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers

My original prediction at the start of the year of the 49ers not making the playoffs finally seems to be coming to fruition. The Niners have lost their 3rd straight last week and are out of the playoff chase. Colin Kaepernick had yet another game with no TDs and as I’ve been saying the past couple week, the team has seem to quit out there. With all of this controversy with the GM, Coach, Offensive Coordinator and the QB, they now have to face the San Diego Chargers, who still have eyes on a playoff berth.

The Chargers are still fully in the middle of a race for the wildcard spots in the AFC. They find themselves one game behind the Ravens and Steelers, who are both at 9-5. This is one of those games where they will either lose and put them away or win and probably win next week, just to fall barely outside the playoffs. This should be a close game late with Rivers driving for either the game tying or winning points, but I feel a late turnover causing the end of the Charger’s playoff hopes.

Prediction: 49ers 27, Chargers 24


St Louis Rams (6-8) vs New York Giants (5-9) +5


If the Rams weren’t in the NFC, they could be compared very favorably to the Cincinnati Bengals. Their bad start to begin the year, tied to the multiple injuries at the most important positions, have done them in. They still have a good defense and are still fighting as hard as if they could still make the playoffs. That’s a big feather in the cap to their coach, Jeff Fisher. They will call this a big success if they can finish the year .500.

The Giants are just trying to finish the season with something to look forward to. They found that in Odell Beckham Jr. A combination of him and Victor Cruz should prove to be a formidable WR duo next year, but for this year, their season is lost and the only big question is if, longtime coach and 2 time Superbowl winner, Tom Coughlin will be back on the sidelines. As usual, I expect them to play tough, but will come up short in the end.

Prediction: Rams 20, Giants 17

]]> 0
NFL Match-Up Mania: Week 16 Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:27:02 +0000 The discussions of my disdain are beginning. Which team will have a first round pick in the next NFL Draft? Who is the MVP this year? Who was snubbed from Pro Bowl consideration in 2014? What is it that angers me about these questions? What is it that fills my soul with sadness as I search for their answers? It is that football season nears its conclusion. That soon all that the sports world may have to offer me is Ice or Hardwood. . .   either that or I need to get into Arena football . . .? At any rate, I’m still here kicking and screaming against undefeated Father Time to bring you the Week 16 installment of the Student of the Game’s Match-Up Mania.

 Chiefs v. Steeelers

We have every reason to believe that the Steelers will win this game. Running the football with purpose, Le’Veon Bell is a precious gem within the balanced Pittsburgh offense that also carries 2-time Super Bowl winner, Ben Roethlisberger, one of the NFL’s best receivers in Antonio Brown and dark horse Rookie of the Year candidate Martavius Bryant.


Heck, the Cheifs and their 14 game streak without a TD to a wide receiver seems to play right into the hands of the Steel City defense. But one thing that about the Kansas City offense under field general and King of the Checkdown, Alex Smith, is that there aren’t many turnovers. Put that together with Jamaal Charles, arguably the NFL’s most electric player, and a brawling defense that works to stop you so Charles can outscore you (With occasional help from Travis Kelcie and Anthony Fasano)

If you like bruising style football, I’d expect that this is the game for you. . . for at least the first half anyway.

Seahawks v. Cardinals

For all intents and purposes, this football game will decide who wins the NFC West. If the Seahawks win, they will hold the tiebreaker head-to-head and need to only get passed the Rams to guarantee the division championship. The Cardinals winning makes thing a lot more interesting.

Quintin Mikell, Ryan Lindley

However, with Arizona’s 4th 2014 starting quarterback, Ryan Lindley, leading this offense against a vicious Seattle defense, a combination of low scoring for the Cardinals and solid field position for Seattle’s offense make a big party for the 12th man as the season winds down.

Colts v. Cowboys

While the Colts may have clinched the AFC South, the Cowboys find themselves still in need to win out in order to fend off the Eagles in the NFC East. In short, Dallas needs this game more than Indy. . . but that’s not what interests me in this contest.

With Murray in the backfield, the Cowboys offense has a sense of balance

I’m looking to see if the defense in “Big D” is truly the second to none or merely second best in the state of Texas behind JJ Watt and the Houston Texans. Personally, I think facing off against MVP candidate quarterback Andrew Luck is a perfect litmus test. Combine that with questions surrounding running back, DeMarco Murray’s injured left hand affecting his ability to play and there’s even more of a burden for defenders wearing a star on their helmet.

Sure, quarterback Tony Romo will throw to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten for some production, but will be unable to control the clock and give the defense rest as when Murray is healthy. This means Dallas’ unit must be that “good enough” defense. Be just enough to keep their offense in striking distance. I think they rise to the challenge to keep pace in their division.

Broncos v. Bengals


While Peyton Manning hasn’t had a stellar performance in the past few games, he and the Broncos on both sides of the ball have at least been consistent. This is far more than we can say for the Cincinnati Bengals. The Red Rifle, Andy Dalton seems to flip back and forth between Pro Bowl and pro bust status from week to week. Despite this, his Bengals are still a force in the tight race for the AFC North. However, regardless of what Dalton does, I determine that defense is the demise of Cinci as Peyton sends them packing from playoff potential. There’s just too many injuries to keep the Broncos’ offense in check.

Honorable Mention

Falcons v. Saints


These are the leading 2 entities in the waste of space known as the 2014 NFC South. If this game ends up a draw, it wouldn’t bother me as neither team deserves to win this game on general principle. With the Falcons limited on both offense and defensive lines due to injury, the Saints have a chance, but I see the Falcons able to move the ball easier thanks to a bad Saints defense. The division lead hangs in the balance.

Ravens v. Texans


I’m anxious to see how real of a threat the Ravens are . . . and there is no better way to test that than facing JJ Watt and the Houston Texan defense. If he slows Ravens runner Justin Forsett while also hurrying Joe “the Fowl” Flacco into floating up ducks, we’ll see if they are a legit postseason presence or a team that benefited from four easy wins with the NFC South on their schedule.


]]> 0
College Football Bowl Games What to Watch Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:39:45 +0000 With the bowl season nearly upon us, we remember some of the memorable moments from years past. While we often see those flashes from the bigger bowls, like Vince Young’s heroic performance in the 2006 Rose Bowl, even the smaller bowl symbolize not only a big mark for the school’s football program, but can put players on the map for the NFL draft, as plenty of eyes will be on them. Throughout this article, I’ll break down the first five games, all of which will take place on December 20th, and point out a few players in each game that could be playing on Sundays.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl – 11:00 AM ET
Nevada vs Louisiana-Lafayette
Nevada comes in with a 7-5 record overall and 4-4 in the Mountain West conference. After a 3-3 start to the season, Nevada rallied to a 4-2 finish to earn a bowl trip. They are led by dual-threat quarterback, Cody Fajardo, who amassed 2374 yards passing and 997 rushing yards, along with 31 total touchdowns. Expect Nevada to run it plenty as they averaged 215 yards on the ground per game.

The Ragin’ Cajuns from Louisiana-Lafayette come in with an 8-4 records and 7-1 mark in the Sun Belt. After facing a difficult non-conference schedule that included trips to Ole Miss and Boise State, LA-Lafayette finished with a solid run in conference play. In a similar style of offense, Lafayette will feature a heavy dose of running between Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris, along with plenty of quarterback-keepers from Terrance Broadway.

Prediction: With neither defense being particularly impressive and both teams looking to run it a lot, expect a low-scoring affair. Since the game will be close to home for the Ragin Cajuns and under the leadership of Terrance Broadway, I like the Ragin Cajuns to take this one.
Louisiana Lafayette: 27 – Nevada: 24

Players to Watch (both in the game and in terms of the NFL):
Nevada QB Cody Fajardo – The quarterback class this year is top heavy with some elite prospects like Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, and Brett Hundley. However, Fajardo has a shot to be a late round pick. At Nevada, he throws a lot of short passes and his passing ability at the next level is definitely a question mark. With this said, he has shown his athleticism plenty throughout his college career. Look for Fajardo to have a shot at joining fellow Nevada alum, Colin Kaepernick, in the NFL.

LA-Lafayette RB Alonzo Harris – Despite not being as effective as fellow running back, Elijah McGuire, Harris has received substantial carries over his four-year career. This year he posted 737 yards and 12 touchdowns. He likely would be an undrafted free agent, but does have experience that could make him a training camp surprise. Watch McGuire as well, as he could easily become a bigger name in the coming years.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl – 2:20 PM ET
Utah State vs. UTEP
Having been ravaged by injuries, particularly at the quarterback position, Utah State will go into their fourth-consecutive bowl appearance starting freshman Kent Myers. Despite the plethora of injuries, the Aggies managed to finish with a 9-4 record. They have a pretty balanced offense and are led on defense by linebacker Zach Vigil, who was the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year.

UTEP hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2010, where they lost to BYU 52-24. They have been one of the most improved teams in college football this year, going from only having 2 wins last year to a 7-5 mark this year. Expect a heavy dosage of Aaron Jones, who carried the rock 217 times this year for 1233 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Prediction: Had Utah State been completely healthy, I’d like them to win this one easily, but they are going to need to play a solid game to come out on top, particularly in stopping Aaron Jones. I like the more experienced Aggies to come out on top though.
Utah State: 31 – UTEP: 21

Player to Watch (both in the game and in terms of the NFL):
Utah State Inside Linebacker Zach Vigil – As mentioned before, Vigil is the key to this defense and will need to be big in stopping UTEP’s running attack. He leads the Aggies in tackles this year with 145. At 6-2, 232 lbs, he possesses the body to be an inside linebacker at the next level. He is an instinctive player that has a chance to be a late round pick.

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl – 3:30 PM ET
Utah vs. Colorado State
Utah has put together an impressive year, accumulating victories over Stanford, UCLA, USC, and Arizona State. They struggled down the stretch with some of their tougher Pac-12 games. Quarterback Travis Wilson threw for 2012 yards including a 17-4 touchdown to interception ratio. Wilson has performed respectably after starter Kendal Thompson was lost to injury. The running game is dominated by Devontae Booker who amassed 1350 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Expect Colorado State to be looking to put some points up in a hurry. Their offense is no secret as they had the 8th most passing yards per game in college football. The tandem of quarterback Garrett Grayson and wide receiver Rashard Higgins is one of the best in football. Add in a steady running game from Dee Hart and the Utes better be prepared.

Rashard Higgins

Rashard Higgins has been one of the elite college receivers with 1640 receiving yards and 17 TD’s.

Prediction: I expect this to be one of the more exciting early bowl games and definitely one worth watching. Utah has been the more balanced team all season, only having one loss to a non-ranked team. However, Colorado State’s electric offense can put up some big plays in a hurry. In the end, I see the Utes coming out on top thanks to a strong defensive effort.
Utah: 34 – Colorado State: 28

Player to Watch (both in the game and in terms of the NFL):
Utah Cornerback Eric Rowe – The senior defensive back has stepped in after Keith McGill was drafted last year. He has experienced plenty of playing time at Utah having received significant action in his freshman year. Rowe is a strong tackler, but hasn’t necessarily shown some of the ball-hawking abilities scouts like to see. Look for Rowe to possibly be a mid-round pick.

Colorado State Quarterback Garrett Grayson – Grayson put up an impressive senior campaign throwing for 3779 yards and 32 touchdowns. At 6-2, size isn’t necessarily an issue and he has proved to be a mobile quarterback. Along with winning the Mountain West Player of the Year award this season, Grayson could shoot up draft charts in the coming months.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – 5:45 PM ET
Western Michigan vs. Air Force
Western Michigan represents another team who made an amazing turnaround by improving their win total from 1 to 8. Sophomore quarterback Zach Terrell leads the impressive passing attack, while Jarvion Franklin has been very impressive running the ball. Franklin has put up 1525 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Air Force also made a tremendous improvement this year, turning around a 2-10 season last year into a 9-3 record this year. As expected, they feature a heavy running attack piling up a per game rushing yardage mark of 272, good for 8th in the nation. While their quarterback, Kale Pearson, did throw for 1513 yards, expect a lot of carries for Jacobi Owns and quarterback-runs out of Pearson in this one.

Prediction: While Air Force will run it plenty, don’t be surprised when a decent passing play occurs. With Air Force’s option offense limiting turnovers, the game will be decided whether they can force any turnovers by Western Michigan’s Zach Terrell.
Air Force 30 – Western Michigan 27

Player to Watch (both in the game and in terms of the NFL):
In this matchup, I don’t see any names worth monitoring in the departing class for this season, but Jarvion Franklin of Western Michigan is definitely one to keep an eye on. The freshman running back has seen big playing time right out of the gate and hasn’t failed to impress. He has been one of the elite running backs, not just out of the Mid-American Conference, but all of college football. He already set a single season school record for rushing touchdowns in a season and should continue to get better.

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl – 9:15 PM ET
South Alabama vs. Bowling Green
While on paper, this game is not one of the most attractive games, it is an opportunity for one of these teams to finish the season with a winning record. South Alabama, 6-6, has played a weak schedule and has struggled mightily in their only noteworthy games.

Bowling Green, 7-6, will probably view this year as a down year after winning 10 games last year. However, a matchup with a beatable South Alabama team could give them an eighth win. They come into the game on the heels of a three game losing streak and will need to avoid quarterback James Knapke from throwing any costly interceptions.

Prediction: Both teams come into this game struggling, but one of the major differences is South Alabama never having played in a bowl game before and this game marking Bowling Green’s third straight bowl game. I like Bowling Green’s experience in big games in this one.
Bowling Green: 24 – South Alabama: 13

Player to Watch (both in the game and in terms of the NFL):
Bowling Green Inside Linebacker D.J. Lynch – Lynch dealt with injuries earlier in the season, but is back down in the middle of Bowling Green’s defense. He was second team All-MAC last year and is one of the few potential draft prospects from either team. While his size isn’t ideal for his position at just 6 foot tall, good workouts up until the draft could land him a role as an undrafted free agent.


Follow me on Twitter: @_BrandonOgle

]]> 0
“You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all your art of war.”~Napoleon Bonaparte @shawnemerriman Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:30:16 +0000

“You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all your art of war.”~Napoleon Bonaparte

— Shawne Merriman (@shawnemerriman) December 2, 2014

]]> 0
NFL Community Update- December 17 Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:04:15 +0000  


For the 26th year, the Dallas Cowboys conducted their annual children’s hospital holiday visits on Dec. 9, spreading a little cheer and delivering toys. The entire Cowboys roster, Cowboys Cheerleaders, mascot Rowdy, executives and significant others divided into groups to visit hundreds of children at four area hospitals: Children’s Medical Center, Medical City and Texas Scottish Rite in Dallas, as well as Cook Children’s in Fort Worth. Each child received an authentic Cowboys game sock stuffed with goodies courtesy of the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation. The annual initiative is a favorite of the Cowboys both for players and staff, putting smiles on faces and offering some much-needed distraction for young patients and their families.

New England Patriots Rob Gronkowski, Patriots Holiday Party Photo Credit: NFL



For the 21st consecutive year, the Kraft family and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation hosted a holiday party at Gillette Stadium on Nov. 26 for children in need. More than 250 children from the Salvation Army and community centers across New England were invited.


Patriots players joined Patriots cheerleaders and Pat Patriot to help serve dinner, sign autographs for the children and take part in a variety of holiday-themed games, including build-a-tree, where the players and special guests were decorated with garland, ornaments and other items to resemble a Christmas tree. The night was capped with presents for all of the children, their choice of a variety of teddy bears and a special visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus.


“It’s special,” said Patriots tight end ROB GRONKOWSKI. “I mean coming here, helping out the kids, giving back to the kids is a great experience.”

Carolina Panthers Grant Photo Credit: NFL



The Carolina Panthers awarded the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) a $55,000 grant to support the Heads Up Football initiative. The grant was announced during the NCHSAA’s 2014 state high school football championship press conference in Chapel Hill. 


“The NCHSAA is a national leader in promoting safety for its schools and student-athletes,” said Panthers Director of Community Relations RILEY FIELDS. “The Panthers share similar values and are committed to enhancing player health and safety at the youth and high school levels.  We are pleased to partner with the NCHSAA to provide new opportunities for high schools.”


During the past two seasons, nearly 1,000 high schools have adopted Heads Up Football, including the Wake County Public School System and Pitt County Schools.

Chargers Offensive Line Season of Giving Photo Credit: NFL



The Chargers offensive line kicked off the holiday season on Dec. 8 by taking children shopping at Macy’s. Each child was given $400 to purchase family Christmas gifts. The children were selected by STAR/PAL, a non-profit organization that provides more than 10,000 youth services annually in inner-city neighborhoods throughout the county of San Diego.


Offensive Line Coach JOE D’ALESSANDRIS initiated the event when he joined the Chargers. Throughout the season, the O-line is “fined” for certain indiscretions, such as wearing a hat in a position meeting. They pay the “fine” and at the end of the year the amount raised is used for this event.


“It’s great to see the smiles on their faces,” D.J. FLUKER said. “I enjoy being here. I didn’t really see many gifts as a kid, and it’s funny because one time I raised gifts for a needy family, and none of us knew that the family ended up being my own! So it feels great to give kids tonight things that I didn’t have.”


Houston Texas Rick Smith Jamey Rootes Play 60 Grants Photo Credit: NFL


Texans President JAMEY ROOTES and General Manager RICK SMITH recognized the four schools who received PLAY 60 grants from the team in a check presentation during the Nov. 30 game between the Texans and Tennessee Titans. Grants totaling $40,000 were awarded to Clifton Middle School, DeZavala Elementary School, J. R. Reynolds Elementary School and Pro-Vision Academy. Nearly 50 schools in the area applied for grants worth up to $10,000 to help purchase the equipment they need to get kids moving during the school day. The Houston Texans participate in several programs throughout the year to help further the PLAY 60 message and to help kids across Houston get active and stay active.

Buffalo Bills Toyota Rookie Club C.J. SPILLER (#28), DAN CARPENTER (#2), (#25) Da'Norris Searcy, (#70) ERIC WOOD



The Bills Toyota Rookie Club hosted 100 children from 10 local organizations at the winter-wonderland themed Jim Kelly Club at Ralph Wilson Stadium for the annual Buffalo Bills Holiday Party for Children.


After enjoying dinner with the children and sharing their favorite holiday memories, more than 20 Bills rookies and veterans, including C.J. SPILLER, DAN CARPENTER and ERIC WOOD, passed out presents to each child in attendance with the help of Santa Claus.


“The Toyota Rookie Club Holiday Party for Children is always one of our favorite events of the season. The excitement our guests exhibit over the gifts they receive and the players they meet is something we truly value,” said GRETCHEN GEITTER, Bills vice president of community relations. “We are thrilled to welcome back our guests and to continue to work with the local agencies that are doing such wonderful things for our local youth.”




The Detroit Lions, in partnership with Warrick Dunn Charities’ Homes for the Holidays (HFTH), presented a brand new, fully furnished home to a family in Detroit on Dec. 9.

Detroit Lions staff, players, and members of the Detroit Lions Women’s Association had one week to purchase home décor and furnishings and stage them for the final presentation. Detroit Lions partners Gardner White, Meijer and Subway were also on hand to assist with filling the home with furniture, décor and groceries.

The family arrived on that morning to a large crowd of Detroit Lions staff, volunteers, players, and alumni to welcome them. Lions players ANDRE FLUELLEN, DARRYL TAPP, JAMES IHEDIGBO, JORDAN THOMPSON and alumni HERMAN MOORE and LEM BARNEY presented the Harris family with a check to use toward the down payment of their new home before handing over the keys.



The Otho Davis Scholarship Foundation (OSDF) recently awarded the third annual Dick Vermeil Lifetime Achievement Award to DR. PETER DELUCA for his outstanding contribution and dedication in the field of sports medicine.


DR. PETER DELUCA is in his 18th season with the Philadelphia Eagles and 13th as the head team physician and head Orthopaedic Surgeon. He is also the head team Orthopaedic Surgeon for the Philadelphia Flyers.


HAROLD CARMICHAEL, President and Trustee of the Otho Davis Scholarship Foundation, praised DeLuca, saying, “He always takes exceptional care of the players on the Eagles, and is my and my family’s doctor as well.”  Mr. Carmichael went on to say that DeLuca’s, “‘training table’ side manner is second to none. He puts our players first and is a real pro.  We are delighted to be able to honor him with the prestigious Dick Vermeil Award this year.”


“It is an honor to be the recipient of the Dick Vermeil Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of the care that I have and will continue to provide to athletes,” said DeLuca. 



More than 4,000 volunteers gathered recently at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the fourth annual Million Meal Marathon. Volunteers packed nutritious meals that will be distributed through Gleaners, Midwest Food Bank and Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana to help end hunger for the one in four Hoosier children who are food insecure. Colts players CORY REDDING, MATT OVERTON, KHALED HOLMES, KELCY QUARLES, BJOERN WERNER and DAVID ARKIN as well as Colts Cheerleaders volunteered at the event.


Redding said, “I don’t think any kid should go to bed hungry. Events like the Million Meal Marathon help us get closer to the goal.”


By mobilizing the energy and compassion of Indiana children, teens and adults to package these meals, Kids Against Hunger creates an experience whereby volunteers are taught how they can make a difference in the lives of the poverty-stricken worldwide.

Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan Holiday Shopping Photo Credit: NFL



Atlanta Falcons quarterback MATT RYAN and the Atlanta Falcons Rookie Club, sponsored by UnitedHealthcare of Georgia, hosted “Shop with a Pro,” on Dec. 16. It is a program offering disadvantaged and homeless children the opportunity to bond while shopping with professional athletes during the holidays. The Atlanta Falcons players provided 35 children from Atlanta Action Ministries each with a $150 gift card and accompanied them at a local sporting goods store at the Mall of Georgia in Buford, GA for an evening of shopping and holiday fun.  





Ravens players TERRENCE BROOKS, OWEN DANIELS, JUSTIN FORSETT, GINO GRADKOWSKI, and ASA JACKSON joined Ravens staff and partnered with Parks & People Foundation to plant trees and remove litter in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of Baltimore. The tree planting was followed by an environmental information session, attended by EUGENE MONROE, TYROD TAYLOR and JUSTIN TUCKER, and led by Healthy Harbor, a Waterfront Partnership Initiative whose goal is to create a cleaner, greener future for Baltimore’s streams and harbor. The first part of the session included a discussion of the “State of Baltimore’s Harbor.” The group went outside to see how oysters are grown for the Healthy Harbor Oyster Partnership and walked to the Inner Harbor Water Wheel, where inventor and operator John Kellett spoke and answered questions. The events were part of the Ravens’ GamePlanEarth, a week of environmental initiatives led by the Ravens to help make Baltimore a more sustainable city.


]]> 0
Final Pro Bowl Fan Voting Numbers Released Wed, 17 Dec 2014 23:00:08 +0000 With the fan portion of the voting (counts for a third of the voting, just like coaches and players) concluding on Monday, the official numbers for the top-10 vote-getters, along with the top vote-getters at each position were released today (via Josh Sanchez, editor and chief at

Players and coaches vote for their choices on Friday, so it will be interesting to see how the final picks look in comparison to what the fan vote decided. With how it stands now, among the 38 players at the top vote-getting spot at their positions, nine are from the Cleveland Browns, five are from the Green Bay Packers, four are from the Dallas Cowboys, three are from the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, and Pittsburgh Steelers, and two are from the New England Patriots, with nine teams having one player among the top vote-getters at a position.

As ESPN Detroit Lions reporter Michael Rothstein pointed out, the recent comments regarding fan voting of Lions free safety Glover Quin, whose view that fan voting shouldn’t start until Week 13 was covered in one of our previous Pro Bowl columns, may have helped his cause, as he was 10th in fan voting at his position after previously not being listed among the top ten vote-getters at free safety. The official announcement of who has been selected to the Pro Bowl by the fans, coaches and players will be made on Tuesday, December 23 at 8 p.m. on NFL Network.

]]> 0
Tamba Hali Named Chiefs Nominee For Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award Wed, 17 Dec 2014 18:03:20 +0000 The Kansas City Chiefs have announced that LB Tamba Hali is the team’s nominee for the prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide. Hali is joined by candidates from each NFL team in consideration for this illustrious accolade.

A selection panel, comprised of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue; Connie Payton, widow of Walter Payton; Pro Football Hall of Fame members Frank Gifford and Anthony Munoz; 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award winner Charles Tillman; and Sports Illustrated writer Peter King will announce three finalists this month. The winner will be announced at the fourth annual NFL Honors show in Phoenix, Ariz., the site of Super Bowl XLIX.

The 2014 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award winner will receive a $25,000 donation from both the NFL Foundation and Nationwide in his name to a charity of his choice. The other two finalists will receive a $5,000 donation in their names, while the other 29 nominees will receive a $1,000 donation to their selected charities.

“We are very proud to have Tamba represent the Chiefs Kingdom as this year’s nominee for the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. “As a player, with his teammates and in the communities he serves, Tamba demonstrates tremendous heart. He does not seek personal recognition for his tireless hard work. He prefers action over words. So, we are delighted to see him nominated for one of the most prestigious honors in our game.”

Fueled by pure passion, Chiefs LB Tamba Hali’s never-quit motor has served him well on the football field. In the years since being selected 20th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft, he has fine-tuned his game, transforming himself into one of the league’s most feared pass rushers. His 79.5 career sacks rank third in team annals behind only franchise stalwarts LB Derrick Thomas and DE Neil Smith. He joins Thomas, Smith and LB Justin Houston as the only players in franchise history to have at least three seasons with double-digit sack totals (2010, 2011, 2013). Additionally, this game changer has forced 31 fumbles as a professional, a figure only Thomas has eclipsed in a Kansas City uniform. He registered a conference-leading 14.5 sacks in 2010 and went on to capture three consecutive Pro Bowl berths following the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons.

Off of the field, Hali is just as unyielding when it comes to assisting others. That mindset was instilled during his childhood. Hali’s homeland of Liberia trudged through a bloody civil war for most of his adolescence. So, at the age of 10 he left Africa to live with his father, Henry, who had earlier fled to America. Yet, the shy Hali never forgot his roots. This October, he joined with Heart to Heart International, a global humanitarian aid organization, to announce the construction of a 70-bed Ebola treatment unit in Africa for those stricken by the disease. Hali personally donated $50,000, which financed more than half of the project. He’s also using his star status to spread the word about this dire need.

This clinic is just the latest in Hali’s continued support of his economically depressed birthplace. He has partnered with his mother, Rachel, on multiple occasions to get vital supplies, clothing and other necessities distributed in West Africa. Such relief efforts have become common for Hali to finance as he knows the desolate poverty many hailing from this war-torn region have endured.

Hali’s giving nature isn’t confined to international aid. His well-rounded approach has also seen him become a go-to member of the local community. He has teamed with Kansas City’s Bishop Sullivan Center to purchase and serve meals, focusing on sustainable food made with healthy ingredients. He also frequently assists families tied to this support agency, such as donating a dining table so a family can eat together or new clothes so another can look the part at a job interview. Hali has also given back to his alma mater, Teaneck High School, in Teaneck, N.J., donating shoes for the entire football program, financing the school’s freshman football team with a $15,000 gift and donating $40,000 to finish off its Athletic Hall of Fame.

“I’m honored to be nominated for such a prestigious award,” Hali said. “The Kansas City community means a lot to me. Our fan base has given me and my family a tremendous amount of support over the years, and I’m going to give back as much as I can. I’m thankful to even be considered among the other five Chiefs greats that have won this award.”

The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, named for the legendary Chicago Bears running back, is unique among league honors as it represents the only league award that recognizes a player’s off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence. While the accolade has been bestowed annually since 1970, no franchise has garnered more honorees than the Chiefs. Former Kansas City players who have taken home the Gladiator statue include LB Willie Lanier, QB Len Dawson (1973), LB Derrick Thomas (1993), G Will Shields (2003) and G Brian Waters (2009).


]]> 0