Archives For NFL

Top 5 Super Bowl Commercials

Tyler Raborn —  Monday, February 4, 2013 — 12 Comments

Here’s my top 5 Super Bowl commercials…

5. Mercedes-Benz, “Soul”

4. Tide, “Miracle Stain”

3. Budweiser, “Brotherhood”

2. NFL, “Leon Sandcastle”

1. Dodge Ram, “Farmer”

Top 10 Tweets: Super Bowl Edition

Tyler Raborn —  Monday, February 4, 2013 — 5 Comments

Here’s my top 10 tweets of the night from the Super Bowl, in chronological order:

Anytime a major news source shows a personality, you’ve got to appreciate it… especially when they poke fun at Roger Goodell:

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Halftime begins; men go to the restroom and cooler, while women giddily gather around the television:

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For the millions who googled “members of Destiny’s Child,” here’s what you were really thinking:

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The blackout begins:

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America got a chance to witness New Orleans’ distaste for Entergy firsthand:

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Oreo winning the “real-time” advertising game:

Oreo

You knew it was coming, a Katrina joke:

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…and another:

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Larry Fitzgerald explains why Joe Flacco has been willing to heave the ball up into any type of coverage this postseason:

Larry Fitzgerald

And finally, we now have proof that Les does know how to read a game clock:

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Hypothetical: If you had been given the opportunity to start an NFL expansion team before the 2012 season, how would you allocate your $120.8 million salary cap to your new roster? Would you use $13.25 million (nearly 12%) on a wide receiver, like the Cardinals? Or $19.035 million (over 15%) on a defensive end, like the Colts?

Strategically structuring contracts to maximize the talent on NFL rosters is an art in itself. Each owner, general manager, and coach have their own opinions on how money should be spent. Yet, most teams seemingly agree that the quarterback position should have the most money per player allocated to it.

Yet, how do you evaluate the success of an investment in a quarterback?

You evaluate quarterbacks relative to their peers, and you pay them according to that success relative to their peers.

The quarterback is the most highly valued position in the game, and thus, quarterbacks are paid on average more than any other position in the league. Fortunately, due to the NFL’s salary cap rules, teams may sign players with a signing bonus that may be prorated across the life of the contract. Thus, the amount of money allocated to the salary cap is not always the amount of money a player was actually paid that year. This allows teams to offer players a large sum of money up front without the salary cap taking a “hit” for the signing bonus in its entirety. For example, in July of 2012, Drew Brees signed a 5-year contract worth $100 million with a $37 million signing bonus. Here is what Brees is scheduled to actually receive each year under this contract:

Year

Base Salary

Signing Bonus

Workout Bonus

Total

2012  $3,000,000 $37,000,000  $0 $40,000,000
2013  $9,750,000 $0  $250,000 $10,000,000
2014  $10,750,000 $0  $250,000 $11,000,000
2015 $18,750,000 $0  $250,000 $19,000,000
2016 $19,750,000 $0  $250,000 $20,000,000

But, since the Saints may prorate the signing bonus across the life of the contract, here’s the actual “hit” the Saints’ salary cap is taking from Brees’ contract:

Year

Base Salary

Signing Bonus

Workout Bonus

Cap Hit

2012  $3,000,000  $7,400,000  $0  $10,400,000
2013  $9,750,000  $7,400,000  $250,000  $17,400,000
2014  $10,750,000  $7,400,000  $250,000  $18,400,000
2015  $18,750,000  $7,400,000  $250,000  $26,400,000
2016  $19,750,000  $7,400,000  $250,000  $27,400,000

This mechanism allows teams to maneuver contracts and “even” out the Cap Hit to fit the salary cap. The 2012 NFL salary cap was $120.6 million. Thus, the Saints had $110.2 million to allocate to the rest of the team for this past season. Keep in mind that if the Saints were forced to use the amount they actually paid Brees in 2012, it would remove $40 million from the team’s 2012 salary cap instead of $10 million.

The reason the Cap Hit is more important in this analysis than (1) the amount a player was actually paid or (2) the average salary they will be paid over the course of a contract is that the Cap Hit is specifically representative of the cap room a player is taking up in a given year. Thus, it informs us as to the amount of money that is available to allocate to other players on a specific team.

So, now that we’re all salary cap experts, let’s talk about a valuation process for the most pivotal position on the field: the kicke… quarterback. The Quarterback.

There is no exact method in determining a quarterback’s performance over the course of a year. In 1971 the NFL came up with the “Passer Rating,” which rated quarterbacks on a scale of 0 to 158.3. The formula for this rating was:

Passer Rating = [ (4.16667 x [ ( 20 x Completions ) + Yards + ( 80 x Touchdowns ) - ( 100 x Interceptions ) ] ) / Attempts ] + 2.083

This rating system contained some major flaws. To illustrate these flaws, here’s 3 examples:

1. Quarterback A throws 10 passes. He completes 5 of the passes for a total of 100 yards with 0 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.

A's Passer Rating = [ (4.16667 x [ ( 20 x 5 ) + 100 + ( 80 x 0 ) - ( 100 x 0 ) ] ) / 10 ] + 2.083

A's Passer Rating = 85.4 (Rounded to the nearest tenth)

2. Quarterback B throws 10 passes. He completes all 10 of the passes for a total of 50 yards with 0 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.

B's Passer Rating = [ (4.16667 x [ ( 20 x 10 ) + 50 + ( 80 x 0 ) - ( 100 x 0 ) ] ) / 10 ] + 2.083

B's Passer Rating = 87.5 (Rounded to the nearest tenth)

3. Quarterback C throws 10 passes. He completes 8 of the passes for 90 yards with 1 touchdown scored on a 62-yard screen play to the running back and 2 interceptions, which both are returned for touchdowns.

C's Passer Rating = [ (4.16667 x [ ( 20 x 8 ) + 90 + ( 80 x 1 ) - ( 100 x 2 ) ] ) / 10 ] + 2.083

C's Passer Rating = 97.9 (Rounded to the nearest tenth)

At a glance…

QB

Comp.

Att.

Yards

TD

Int.

Rating

A 5 10 100 0 0 85.4
B 10 10 50 0 0 87.5
C 8 10 90 1 2 97.9

As is evident in the examples, this passer rating gives too much weight to completion percentage. It also accounts for specific occurrences that are not attributable to the quarterback, such as an on-target pass that goes through the hands of the receiver and is intercepted or an 80-yard touchdown that was scored on a shovel pass to the running back.

So in an effort to create a more reliable quarterback rating system, ESPN teamed up with AdvancedNFLStats.com and FootballOutsiders.com to create the Total Quarterback Rating (“QBR”). QBR takes into account the “contexts and details of throws” and is scored on a scale of 0 to 100, where the average NFL quarterback would be a 50. While QBR is not perfect, it is a far better representation of a quarterback’s performance than the classic passer rating, so we’ll use it to measure quarterback performance.

Here are the 36 quarterbacks that played enough during the 2012 NFL season to qualify for ESPN’s QBR, along with their respective cap hits:

PLAYER

QBR

Cap Hit

Peyton Manning 84.1  $18,000,000
Tom Brady 77.1  $8,000,000
Colin Kaepernick 76.8  $1,164,610
Matt Ryan 74.5  $12,990,000
Aaron Rodgers 72.5  $9,000,000
Robert Griffin III 71.4  $3,839,836
Alex Smith 70.1  $9,500,000
Russell Wilson 69.6  $544,850
Drew Brees 67.9  $10,400,000
Eli Manning 67.4  $9,600,000
Andrew Luck 65.0  $4,015,000
Ben Roethlisberger 62.8  $9,895,000
Tony Romo 62.7  $8,469,000
Matt Schaub 62.6  $11,700,000
Matthew Stafford 58.9  $9,842,083
Cam Newton 54.2  $5,005,659
Christian Ponder 53.8  $2,308,795
Josh Freeman 53.1  $7,915,000
Ryan Tannehill 52.3  $2,302,500
Jay Cutler 51.9  $9,600,000
Sam Bradford 51.6  $15,595,000
Andy Dalton 50.7  $1,185,045
Matt Hasselbeck 48.5  $7,500,000
Jake Locker 48.1  $2,860,455
Joe Flacco 46.8  $8,000,000
Michael Vick 46.0  $13,900,000
Ryan Fitzpatrick 45.8  $6,000,000
Nick Foles 45.3  $525,812
Carson Palmer 44.7  $4,716,667
Blaine Gabbert 40.9  $2,727,647
Philip Rivers 40.6  $15,310,000
Matt Cassel 36.5  $7,575,000
Chad Henne 29.9  $2,600,000
Brady Quinn 27.4  $1,500,000
Brandon Weeden 26.6  $1,469,500
Mark Sanchez 23.4  $7,853,125

Logically, the best quarterback in the league is worth the most money, so a team should be willing to allocate the highest percentage of their salary cap to the best quarterback. Along the same logic, in a perfect world the second best quarterback should have received the second highest salary (or respective cap hit). But it’s not a perfect world, so in order to illustrate this relationship, I ranked 2012’s highest QBRs and Cap Hits from 1 to 36:

Rank

QBR

Cap Hit

1 84.1  $18,000,000
2 77.1  $15,595,000
3 76.8  $15,310,000
4 74.5  $13,900,000
5 72.5  $12,990,000
6 71.4  $11,700,000
7 70.1  $10,400,000
8 69.6  $9,895,000
9 67.9  $9,842,083
10 67.4  $9,600,000
11 65.0  $9,600,000
12 62.8  $9,500,000
13 62.7  $9,000,000
14 62.6  $8,469,000
15 58.9  $8,000,000
16 54.2  $8,000,000
17 53.8  $7,915,000
18 53.1  $7,853,125
19 52.3  $7,575,000
20 51.9  $7,500,000
21 51.6  $6,000,000
22 50.7  $5,005,659
23 48.5  $4,716,667
24 48.1  $4,015,000
25 46.8  $3,839,836
26 46.0  $2,860,455
27 45.8  $2,727,647
28 45.3  $2,600,000
29 44.7  $2,308,795
30 40.9  $2,302,500
31 40.6  $1,500,000
32 36.5  $1,469,500
33 29.9  $1,185,045
34 27.4  $1,164,610
35 26.6  $544,850
36 23.4  $525,812

Using the table above, I created a scatter plot, with the X-axis representing QBR and the Y-axis representing the Cap Hit. Once all of the points were on the chart, I had excel create a “trend line” to represent the average relationship between Salary Cap Hit and QBR. Interestingly, an exponential relationship exists between Cap Hit and QBR. This is due to teams’ willingness to pay exponentially more money for the more elite quarterbacks. The trend line can be seen in the scatter-plot chart below:

Salary Cap Hit and QBR Relationship

As you can see, the trend line’s formula in the chart is:

y = 3,214.6(x)2 - 51,907x - 419,885

To demonstrate the applicability of this formula, here’s an example:

In 2012 Jake Locker had a QBR of 48.1. Since QBR is the X-axis of the chart, we’ll plug Locker’s QBR into the formula to determine how large of a salary cap hit his performance warranted:

Salary Cap Hit = (3,214 x (48.1)2) - (51,907 x 48.1) - 419,885

…I hate to ruin the fun as you scramble to find your old TI-83 calculator, but here’s the answer:

Salary Cap Hit = $5,360,489

In other words, relative to other quarterbacks in the NFL, Jake Locker’s performance at quarterback was worth a team taking up to a $5,360,489 cap hit for him, thus I deemed this amount a player’s “Cap Hit Value” for a given year. Here’s the “Cap Hit Value” for all 36 quarterbacks in 2012:

PLAYER

QBR

Cap Hit Value

Peyton Manning 84.1  $18,790,761
Tom Brady 77.1  $15,526,756
Colin Kaepernick 76.8  $15,393,910
Matt Ryan 74.5  $14,394,647
Aaron Rodgers 72.5  $13,553,369
Robert Griffin III 71.4  $13,101,627
Alex Smith 70.1  $12,577,781
Russell Wilson 69.6  $12,379,195
Drew Brees 67.9  $11,716,024
Eli Manning 67.4  $11,524,509
Andrew Luck 65.0  $10,627,615
Ben Roethlisberger 62.8  $9,837,993
Tony Romo 62.7  $9,802,841
Matt Schaub 62.6  $9,767,753
Matthew Stafford 58.9  $8,514,685
Cam Newton 54.2  $7,049,863
Christian Ponder 53.8  $6,931,755
Josh Freeman 53.1  $6,727,542
Ryan Tannehill 52.3  $6,498,012
Jay Cutler 51.9  $6,384,790
Sam Bradford 51.6  $6,300,549
Andy Dalton 50.7  $6,051,297
Matt Hasselbeck 48.5  $5,463,938
Jake Locker 48.1  $5,360,489
Joe Flacco 46.8  $5,031,383
Michael Vick 46.0  $4,834,257
Ryan Fitzpatrick 45.8  $4,785,618
Nick Foles 45.3  $4,665,146
Carson Palmer 44.7  $4,522,702
Blaine Gabbert 40.9  $3,674,304
Philip Rivers 40.6  $3,611,279
Matt Cassel 36.5  $2,807,930
Chad Henne 29.9  $1,741,750
Brady Quinn 27.4  $1,411,026
Brandon Weeden 26.6  $1,313,681
Mark Sanchez 23.4  $965,448

Obviously, some of these quarterbacks were paid much less than their Cap Hit Value, while some were paid much more. I’m going to call the difference between a player’s Cap Hit Value and their actual Cap Hit “Net Value.” While the Cap Hit Value represents the average amount teams paid for a particular QBR, the Net Value represents whether teams actually gained money or lost money on their investment.

For instance, the Seattle Seahawks took a $544,850 Cap Hit for Russell Wilson, yet he played up to the market value of a quarterback worth $12,379,195. Thus, his Net Value for the Seattle Seahawks was $11,834,345. While on average other teams had to pay an additional $11.8 million in 2012 to receive the caliber of play Russell Wilson provided the Seahawks with, Seattle was able to use that $11.8 million elsewhere. In essence, Net Value is simply how overvalued or undervalued a quarterback was in a particular year.

Here’s all 36 quarterbacks in order by their Net Value in 2012:

Player

QBR

Cap Hit

Cap Hit Value

Net Value

Colin Kaepernick* 76.8  $1,164,610  $15,393,910  $14,229,300
Russell Wilson* 69.6  $544,850  $12,379,195  $11,834,345
Robert Griffin III* 71.4  $3,839,836  $13,101,627  $9,261,791
Tom Brady* 77.1  $8,000,000  $15,526,756  $7,526,756
Andrew Luck* 65.0  $4,015,000  $10,627,615  $6,612,615
Andy Dalton* 50.7  $1,185,045  $6,051,297  $4,866,252
Christian Ponder* 53.8  $2,308,795  $6,931,755  $4,622,960
Aaron Rodgers* 72.5  $9,000,000  $13,553,369  $4,553,369
Ryan Tannehill 52.3  $2,302,500  $6,498,012  $4,195,512
Nick Foles 45.3  $525,812  $4,665,146  $4,139,334
Alex Smith 70.1  $9,500,000  $12,577,781  $3,077,781
Jake Locker 48.1  $2,860,455  $5,360,489  $2,500,034
Cam Newton 54.2  $5,005,659  $7,049,863  $2,044,204
Eli Manning 67.4  $9,600,000  $11,524,509  $1,924,509
Matt Ryan* 74.5  $12,990,000  $14,394,647  $1,404,647
Tony Romo 62.7  $8,469,000  $9,802,841  $1,333,841
Drew Brees 67.9  $10,400,000  $11,716,024  $1,316,024
Blaine Gabbert 40.9  $2,727,647  $3,674,304  $946,657
Peyton Manning* 84.1  $18,000,000  $18,790,761  $790,761
Ben Roethlisberger 62.8  $9,895,000  $9,837,993  $(57,007)
Brady Quinn 27.4  $1,500,000  $1,411,026  $(88,974)
Brandon Weeden 26.6  $1,469,500  $1,313,681  $(155,819)
Carson Palmer 44.7  $4,716,667  $4,522,702  $(193,965)
Chad Henne 29.9  $2,600,000  $1,741,750  $(858,250)
Josh Freeman 53.1  $7,915,000  $6,727,542  $(1,187,458)
Ryan Fitzpatrick 45.8  $6,000,000  $4,785,618  $(1,214,382)
Matthew Stafford 58.9  $9,842,083  $8,514,685 $(1,327,398)
Matt Schaub* 62.6  $11,700,000  $9,767,753  $(1,932,247)
Matt Hasselbeck 48.5  $7,500,000  $5,463,938  $(2,036,062)
Joe Flacco* 46.8  $8,000,000  $5,031,383  $(2,968,617)
Jay Cutler 51.9  $9,600,000  $6,384,790  $(3,215,210)
Matt Cassel 36.5  $7,575,000  $2,807,930  $(4,767,070)
Mark Sanchez 23.4  $7,853,125  $965,448  $(6,887,677)
Michael Vick 46.0  $13,900,000  $4,834,257  $(9,065,743)
Sam Bradford 51.6  $15,595,000  $6,300,549  $(9,294,451)
Philip Rivers 40.6  $15,310,000  $3,611,279  $(11,698,721)

*Made playoffs as a starting QB (Alex Smith made playoffs, but not as a starting QB)

The most fascinating part of this chart is that every one of the top 8 quarterbacks, with respect to their net value, made the playoffs. This illustrates the principle that teams who effectively evaluate talent and draft or sign quarterbacks (or really any position) for lower than their eventual performance on the field have more money to spend in other areas, and thus, more overall talent on their roster. While this conclusion is a simple generalization, common sense seems to deem it meritorious.

To close quite simply, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Tom Brady, and Andrew Luck gave their teams the most “bang for their buck” in 2012, while Matt Cassel, Mark Sanchez, Michael Vick, Sam Bradford, and Philip Rivers played far below their pay grade.

But Philip Rivers, if you’re reading this, don’t despair… in 2010 Jamarcus Russell did not play a down for the Oakland Raiders and was paid $19.92 million for a Net Value of $(19,919,100), all of which was applied to the cap (thankfully for the Raiders, it was an uncapped year). Let’s just hope Jamarcus Russell makes this return he’s talking about, so that I can do this next year, and he can shatter any semblance of a record low that you may currently hold, Philip.

————

By: Tyler Raborn

Ray Lewis: The Man

Philip Matthews —  Wednesday, January 9, 2013 — 2 Comments

He waits.

You can imagine the anticipation gazing through a tunnel of smoke with 71,379 people ready to erupt upon your arrival.

And then it happens.

“13-time Pro-Bowler. Two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Linebacker #52 Ray Lewis.” The P.A. announcer exclaims as Ray Lewis shoots through the haze, accompanied by Nelly’s “Hot in Here,” and performs his renown “squirrel” dance to perfection–even with a torn right triceps.

It was an average game for the legend, as the Ravens defeated the Colts to prolong Ray’s “last ride,” as he put it. But nonetheless, it was an unforgettable day for all those lucky ones in attendance–fans, players, and coaches alike.

Greatest of all time? This is a very weighty phrase that if thrown around lightly can instantly kill the credibility of the one saying or writing it.

It can easily be argued that Ray is the greatest middle linebacker of all time. Along with Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary, there’s no question #52 has a case to be at the top of this list. His numbers and accolades carry a reputation of their own: 13 Pro Bowls, 10-time AP All-Pro, two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Super Bowl MVP, and easily a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

However, for a second, let’s focus on the growth of Ray Lewis the man, not so much the football player. I believe it can also be argued that over the course of his 17-year NFL career, Ray Lewis has had one of the greatest maturations of all time.

What’s interesting in all of this publicity surrounding the career and last ride of Lewis, and deservedly so, lies the fact that we don’t hear anything about the past. No, we don’t see the images of him in an orange jumpsuit in Georgia before he agreed to a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice after being initially indicted on murder and aggravated assault charges from an Atlanta homicide in 2000. These charges were all acquitted, and the incident seemed to quickly recede, as Ray proclaimed his innocence and eventually won back his reputation via the court of public opinion. We don’t hear about his struggles with women, or his six kids of four different mothers.

No, these images are distantly in the rearview mirror, due in large part to the change that has taken place inside of Ray. A change that has propelled him to vow to be a better example and father figure, as well as mobilized him to take part in countless community-building and charity actions, including one in Ethiopia to help create a sports program for land mine victims.

So just why do we love Ray Lewis? I think some of it is definitely the dominance on the field, the captivating dance, and the exhilarating speeches that could make any red-blooded human ready for war.

All of these certainly make Ray Lewis the fascinating figure he is, but I believe that in addition to these captivating aspects, we love him because we can relate to Ray Lewis off the field. Is he perfect? By no means. But, then again, neither are we. I’m not even saying he is the best role model. But, we live in an imperfect world in dire need of grace from above daily, and I think somewhere along the line of his storied career, Ray has begun to grasp that and live it out.

Unless he’s talking about being blessed and fortunate for the opportunity, his press conferences have shifted from being about #52 to being about his gratitude towards the fans, teammates, coaches, and the organization. Most importantly, he’s shifted his focus towards his family and being the father that he never really had to his sons. He speaks more of God and his goodness than the trials and adversity he’s been through. After the Ravens defeated the Colts in Lewis’ final game in Baltimore, he paraded around the field in a shirt with “Psalms 91” on the front, which points to God being our refuge and fortress in time of need.

And as we eagerly watch this last ride of #52 patrolling the middle of the field this postseason, we’re already rehearsing what we can tell our kids and grandkids about him. We can only hope that Ray Lewis III, who is now starting his career at the University of Miami, makes our memory of his father a bit clearer and continues to learn from his father’s mistakes, as he grows in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.

Because we know his father, Ray Lewis, will be there every step of the way.

————

By: Philip Matthews

My Top 10 Sporting Events

Spencer Boothe —  Sunday, January 6, 2013 — 6 Comments

As a sports fan, there is always something on TV that I can watch. However, some of those events are more appealing to me than others. Some events I can tolerate, while others I would do anything to be able to watch (I thought about inserting some corny over-exaggeration here, but I’ll just let you use your imagination). So I decided to make a list of my top 10 favorite sporting events. Now I am a Mississippi State, Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Team USA fan, so this list is assuming that my favorite teams are NOT involved in that event. Obviously, if my favorite teams are involved, then I would be much more interested. Also, since I am in SEC country here in Mississippi, there is a little SEC bias. So here goes:

10. SEC Baseball tournament- As a former high school baseball player, baseball was always my one true love when it came to playing sports. However, watching baseball has never been as appealing to me as actually playing. I enjoy watching the SEC tournament because I know all the teams and have watched many of them play throughout the season. As for the tournament, it is interesting for me, but it’s not something that I feel like I have to watch.

9. World Series– Along the same lines as the SEC baseball tournament, I just don’t LOVE watching the World Series. I generally do watch the majority of the series, but it is generally for an inning or two at a time.

8. World Cup Qualifying– From my previous article, it is fair to assume that I am a soccer aficionado. Well, that assumption is correct. I really enjoy the sport, but I am much more of a fan of the international game, rather than club seasons. The World Cup is the mecca that every country in the nation longs to play for and win, and every country has an opportunity to get there during qualifying. 207 national teams from around the world have the opportunity to be among the final 32 that make it to the World Cup. The World Cup takes place every four years, so qualifying is taking place in between events. I really enjoy watching the qualifiers because every team is playing to advance, or to have to sit at home during the big event.

7. SEC Basketball Tournament– I am a big college sports fan, in general. Much more so than professional sports because in college players are playing to win rather than for their paychecks (I know that is debatable, especially here in SEC country). The SEC tournament is the end of the basketball season, and it is one last chance for teams to increase their seeding in the Big Dance, push themselves to the right side of the bubble, or steal a bid from someone else by winning the tournament. There is so much emotion during the tournament because for seniors it may be the last game they ever play. Every team wants to go to the NCAA tournament, and the SEC tournament is the last chance to impress the selection committee, or to win an automatic bid.

6. SEC championship game (football) – In recent years, SEC champion=BCS national champion. So, basically, watching this game is like watching the national championship game. It is always fun to watch the best team from the West play the best from the East for their shot to play for the BCS title. Even when it is not a de facto semifinal match, the game still determines the SEC winner and who will go to, at worst, the Sugar Bowl.

5. BCS National Championship– Now for the actual national championship game. As I just said, the winner of the SEC championship game usually wins this one, as well. But that is not always the case, and one of these days it will change (maybe Notre Dame this year. Probably not, though.) The national championship game is usually a hard-hitting affair for all the marbles, and it is a game that I always enjoy watching. Another thing I like about the broadcast is that they always show a “Year in Review” montage of all the big plays from the college season. It is also the last chance we get to watch football for roughly 8 months, so it is something that I cherish.

4. Bowl Season– You’re asking, ‘how can this guy like all the bowl games more than the actual championship game itself?’ Well, I do. I’m one of the people who actually enjoy watching all of the bowl games. As a huge college football fan, I enjoy watching as many games as possible. So you think that an Arizona vs Nevada matchup is boring? Well, I think that it could be awesome, and I’m going to watch it because you never know what’s going to happen. Some of the best plays of the season come in the small bowls that no one is watching. I’m watching, and I always will.

3. Super Bowl– I’ve already said that I like college sports much more than professional sports, and that is true. However, the Super Bowl is the exception. The talent in the NFL is so much better than it is in college football, and the game is so much faster. I am absolutely amazed by the freak athletes that play in the NFL, and the two teams in the Super Bowl are the best of the best. This is the last football action that we have until the preseason for the next year, so it is one last time for the guys to get together, grill out, and watch some football. Oh, and the commercials involved don’t hurt either.

2. World Cup– Yep, soccer again. I told you I love it. The World Cup is the only event in the world that the best players from each country play against each other to see whose country is superior (other than the Olympics, which I don’t care about, and other small sports that the USA doesn’t take part it). I love watching from the group stages to the knockout rounds to the finals while 32 countries battle to find out who is the world’s best. The fact that it is a tournament consisting of nations rather than professional teams is a huge reason why I am such a fan of the World Cup. Also, the fact that it takes place only every 4 years makes it that much more prestigious to me.

1. March Madness (NCAA Basketball Tournament)– And last but not least, as if there was any doubt, March Madness is my favorite sporting event. From flipping the channel between 4 games at one time on the first weekend, to the final buzzer of the championship game, I love every minute of it. The win or go home mentality makes every game as intense as possible, and who doesn’t love an upset? The first weekend of the tournament is as fast paced and unpredictable as anything else in sports (sorry NASCAR, you aren’t a sport). Does the best team in the nation always win the tournament? No, but 68 teams have a chance to win it. And whichever one of those teams actually does hoist the trophy will absolutely deserve it. I love watching every game of the tournament, and I always make sure my schedule is empty come March.

What say ye?

————

By: Spencer Boothe

Just 9 More Yards

Caleb Brasher —  Friday, January 4, 2013 — 3 Comments

This last weekend, I found a new level to my own depravity. As I watched Adrian Peterson attempt to break the record for most rushing yards ever in a single season held by Eric Dickerson, I found myself lost in anticipation.

The odds could not have been more against AD. He blew up his knee last year and it usually takes about 24 months to fully recover from what he did to his knee according to the surgeon who performed the surgery, Dr. James Andrews.

Not only that, he plays on a team where he is the team. You don’t have a legitimate passing threat to worry about; you have Adrian Peterson. And yet he continued to run all year. All the way to this last drive for the record.

He began the final drive needing 45 yards to break the record. 45 yards to go down in NFL folklore. 45 yards to have a Disney movie made about him with Jaime Foxx as the lead role. 45 yards to greatness.

The drive began to dwindle, and it appeared that little could be done for the record to fall. Then Adrian did what Adrian does: he ran through people. He shot through the line on his way to a 29 yard run, leaving him just 8 yards short of the record, 9 yards short of breaking it.

But then they brought on the kicker…

My heart sunk as I knew that the record would not fall today. Dickerson would remain on top. AD would fall just short. I watched as Blair Walsh’s field goal soared through the uprights and the game was over, the record still in tact.

Then a thought went through my mind that went something like this, “Man, he only needed 9 more yards to greatness. Oh well. Maybe next year.”

Maybe next year?!?! Was I really saying that? Did I really believe that??? Have I grown so romanticized in our Hollywood, American culture that in order for me to remember Peterson’s season and tell my grandkids about it is if he had broken that record, if he had only gotten 9 more yards?

9 yards is nothing. 9 steps. 8.2 meters. 27 feet. 324 inches.

One time in elementary school, the wind was blowing just right, and I spit 9 yards. It is nothing. And yet it is everything.

But I found myself peering into my soul to see what it was that sparked that thought. Now to be transparent, 95% of me was and is blown away at what AD did this year and could arguably be the greatest season any NFL player has ever had, but there is still that lingering 5% that wanted more. Not much more, just 9 yards more.

We love legend and we love stories of triumph. Unfortunately for our society, the triumph must always end with the underdog on top in the final scene. There is no other option. Anything less than victory is defeat. Or in the words of the philosopher Ricky Bobby, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Say what you will about how ridiculous that mindset is, but think about if any part of you believes that.

I think the small part of me that began to already forget what Adrian had done was because it wouldn’t make a good movie. In the movie, it would come down to his final run. And he would burst through the line just like he did in the actual game. But then as the defenders began to wrap Jaime Foxx up, he would drag his opponents with nothing more than heart and determination. Much like Spike did in “The Little Giants.” It would of course be in slow motion and “Can’t Stop Me Now” by Afrojack and Shermanology would start playing in the background. I am tearing up just thinking about it.

But that’s not what happened. Adrian didn’t break that tackle and Afrojack didn’t drop that beat. Instead, Adrian Peterson will be in second place in NFL history. And that just doesn’t sound as good. It sounds a little too much like real life for us. We want something dramatic and triumphant and odds-defying. We don’t want normal and disappointing and runner up. And yet that is what we got. But let us not lose the legend in search of the legendary.

He is unlike any other player in our time. And if you were able to watch him this season, tell your kids about him. Tell them about how you got to see the greatest individual season in NFL history. And when they ask you, “But didn’t somebody rush for more yards than him?”, all you have to say back to them is “You know, there is someone who ran for more yards than he did, but no one ever ran for those yards quite the same way he did.”

What is 9 yards? It is a mirror that showed me how I long for the dramatic escape from reality that only Hollywood can provide. It is so small that it is right there in reach and yet now entirely unreachable. It is “disappointing.” It is second place. It is first loser. But you know what it is not? It is not forgettable. I believe it is the greatest season any player has ever had.

So while those measly 9 yards may make AD second place, it does not make him second best.

———-

By: Caleb Brasher

We are less than nine months away from your 2013 NFL fantasy draft.  So what better time than now to put together a list of the top 50 fantasy players for 2013.  Obviously a lot will change in the coming months- but here we go:

  1. Adrian Peterson: A once in a generation player whose best comparison may be Jim Brown.
  2. Arian Foster: The best zone runner in the league, Foster gets it done week after week.
  3. Doug Martin: Martin is an every down back that spent nearly the entire 2012 season without two pro bowl guards in Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks. Their return will mean big things for Martin in 2013.
  4. Ray Rice: Rice and Martin are very similar players and the Ravens are a better team when they lean on Rice instead of Flacco.  If only they could find an offensive coordinator who understands this.
  5. Calvin Johnson: The best wide receiver in the league, Johnson’s touchdowns were down in 2012, but he surpassed Jerry Rice’s record for receiving yards in a season.  Additionally, he is the primary target on a team that just set the record for passing attempts in a season.
  6. Marshawn Lynch: Beast mode runs hard, seeks contact and represents what the Seahawks are as a team.
  7. Drew Brees: Brees led all fantasy players in points in 2012. Having to keep up with teams, thanks to a porous defense, played a large part in this, but I don’t anticipate the defense getting exponentially better and having an offensive guru like Sean Payton back can only help.
  8. Tom Brady: Brady may be the most consistent fantasy player in the league.
  9. Aaron Rodgers: If Brady is the most consistent then Rodgers is likely second.  Like Brady, he has a plethora of options to throw to in a pass-first offense.
  10. Alfred Morris: He’s not the most talented running back, but Morris runs hard, and being a good zone back in the Shanahan offense has historically translated into a lot of rushing yards.
  11. Brandon Marshall: Cutler + Marshall = Lots of Fantasy Points
  12. AJ Green: Green is an elite talent in an improving receiving corps. He is on the same level as Calvin Johnson with a less capable QB.
  13. Trent Richardson: Apparently Richardson played most of the season with broken ribs. Are you kidding me? Richardson is an absolute stud.
  14. Rob Gronkowski: Gronk scores TDs and spikes footballs. Gronk cannot be covered in the redzone.
  15. Peyton Manning: Peyton has proved that the neck surgeries were only a minor hiccup in a stellar career.  Manning has recreated the high scoring offense of his Colts days with the Broncos and reminded us that he is one of the best of all time.
  16. CJ Spiller: Spiller may be the most under-utilized back in the league. Injuries to Fred Jackson allowed Spiller to really shine in 2012, and one would think that a new coach would see what we all saw in 2012 and allow him to take over the primary running back responsibilities in 2013.
  17. Jimmy Graham: Graham may be the most consistent tight end and he provides a very solid redzone option for Brees.
  18. Jamaal Charles: Charles is a home run threat each time he touches the ball.  He’s not as consistent as some players but is a threat to blow up every week.
  19. Dez Bryant: Dez really came into his own in 2012 and will be a force going forward.
  20. Cam Newton: Cam looked like a disappointment early but came on very strong late in the season.
  21. Demaryius Thomas: Peyton’s new Marvin Harrison, Thomas is an elite talent with an elite QB.
  22. Julio Jones: Lots of people questioned Thomas Dimitroff for trading up to grab Julio. The more we see of Jones, the more it looks like the right move.
  23. Percy Harvin: Harvin is not always healthy but is an explosive WR when he is on the field.  If only Ponder could get him the ball down field…
  24. Roddy White: I covet consistency in my fantasy players and Roddy exemplifies consistency in a wide receiver.
  25. Maurice Jones-Drew: Due to a combination of his holdout and injuries, MJD had a disappointing 2012, but we all know the talent that he possesses.
  26. Lesean McCoy: McCoy is a well rounded running back in the mold of Brian Westbrook.  A big determinant of his 2013 success will be who ends up being the new Eagles coach.
  27. Matt Forte: Forte is similar to McCoy in that he is a talented runner and receiver.  Much like McCoy, a new coach could significantly impact Forte’s 2013 fantasy value for better or worse.
  28. Frank Gore: Gore proved that he had more in the tank than many believed and remains the primary option on a running team with a solid, young offensive line.
  29. DeMarco Murray: Murray has injury issues but the talent is there.
  30. Steven Ridley: Ridley was surprisingly productive for a New England running back in 2012, but starting a Belichick running back is often a crapshoot.
  31. Andre Johnson: Johnson finished 2nd in the league in receiving yards and came up just 2 yards shy of 1,600.  He played in all 16 games this year but injuries are always a concern.
  32. Vincent Jackson: Jackson is in an offense that likes to chunk it down the field with a quarter back who can get it to him.  He ranked 1st in the league in yards/reception with 19.2.
  33. BenJarvus Green-Ellis: The Law Firm came on very strong at the end of the season, running for over 100 yards in 4 of his last 6 games.
  34. Michael Crabtree: Crabtree finally got the chance to show what he could do when the 49ers put in a quarterback that could get him the ball.
  35. Eric Decker: Decker scored 5 touchdowns in his last three games and led all Broncos receivers in touchdowns.
  36. Chris Johnson: CJ1k has game breaking speed but puts up duds far too often.
  37. Reggie Bush: Bush only had two 100-yard rushing games in 2012 but he is always a threat to catch the ball coming out of the backfield.
  38. Victor Cruz: Cruz doesn’t do any one thing especially well, but he is a good all around receiver.
  39. Knowshon Moreno: Moreno finished the season strong after McGahee went down.  If he can keep the starting running back job going into next season, he will be a solid option going forward.
  40. Darren McFadden: McFadden cannot stay healthy but he is a special player when he is on the field.
  41. Vick Ballard: Ballard proved to be a serviceable, if unspectacular, back for the Colts.
  42. Robert Griffin III: I likely have RG3 lower than most, but I prefer consistency over upside in the early rounds.
  43. Steven Jackson: I don’t know for certain if Jackson will remain with the Rams but if he does, he will continue to rack yards like he always does.
  44. Ahmad Bradshaw: Bradshaw may have lost some carries to David Wilson and Andre Brown in 2012, but he is still productive when he gets the majority of the work.
  45. Tony Romo: Romo may be the most scrutinized player in the NFL, but he is a solid fantasy football option year in and year out.
  46. Randall Cobb: Cobb solidified his role in the Green Bay offense in 2012 and thanks to his versatility will be a significant contributor going forward.
  47. Marques Colston: Colston has been plagued by injuries throughout his career but is an excellent wide receiver when healthy.
  48. Matt Ryan: Ryan had his ups and downs in 2012 but finished as a top 10 quarterback.
  49. Matthew Stafford: Stafford broke the record for attempts in a season, and it appears as though Schwartz will be around for 2013.  Lots of attempts = lots of opportunity for points.
  50. Shonn Greene: I do not like Greene’s talent, but he performed fairly well this year and is currently the best option on the roster.

———-

By: Bryce Daves

2012 All-NFL Team

Tyler Raborn —  Tuesday, January 1, 2013 — 5 Comments

My All-NFL Teams are assembled by selecting the players that I believe were the best performers that season. Some years may include two tight ends, two running backs, and one receiver, while others may be a 5-wide set. Essentially, I try to pick the best 11 players that year that I could field on each side of the ball. (Plus a kicker, punter, kick returner, and punt returner) This year it turned out to be a single back, 3-wide set on offense and a 3-4 defense. Enjoy.

OFFENSE

QB- Peyton Manning (DEN)

Peyton Manning ended the 2012 NFL season with 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, which contributed to a 105.8 quarterback rating- the second highest rating of his career. Manning’s contribution to the Broncos goes far beyond his statistics. He is truly a coach on the field and extremely deserving of my 2012 All-NFL Team.

RB- Adrian Peterson (MIN)

Adrian Peterson ended up 9 yards short from breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. A 9 yards he seemingly happily traded for a playoff berth. Peterson is the ultimate team guy… literally. He is legitimately the Vikings entire team. He ended the 2012 season with 2,097 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns.

WR- Brandon Marshall (CHI)

If Adrian Peterson was the Vikings entire team, Brandon Marshall was the Bears entire receiving corps. While Marshall had 118 receptions this year, the Bear with the second most receptions had 44. The third most had 29. Yet, Marshall is deserving of the majority of Cutler’s attention. He was a freak, and 1,508 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns later, he finds himself on my All-NFL team.

WR- Calvin Johnson (DET)

Self-explanatory? Probably. But, I’ll explain anyways. After breaking Jerry Rice’s single-season receiving yards record, with a game to spare, Calving Johnson ended the season with 1,964 receiving yards. And, keep in mind, Johnson ended up starting opposite of guys who were cut by the Seahawks and Jaguars earlier in the season. So, that’s 1,964 yards while being double or tripple-teamed.

WR- Andre Johnson (HOU)

Andre Johnson is an under-utilized beast. Standing 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighing 230 pounds, Johnson is a tough matchup for opposing defenses. But, due to Houston’s ability to run the football, Johnson did not receive nearly as many targets as other elite receivers, yet he still managed to pull in 112 balls for 1,598 yards.

TE- Rob Gronkowski (NE)

GRONK. Two things made me appreciate Gronkowski even more this year. Firstly, his continued success, 55 receptions and 790 yards in 11 games played, this year proved he was no one-hit wonder. Secondly, Jimmy Graham’s league-high 13 drops in comparison to Gronk’s lack there of showcased his combination of Graham-like athleticism with an added dose of reliability. Rob Gronkowski has everything a coach could ask for in a tight end: excellent route-running, strong blocking ability, and great hands. Even with missing five games, Gronk still managed to be tied for 4th in the league with 11 touchdown receptions.

DISCLAIMER: I’ll be honest- my offensive line selections were based on analyses by Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders. The data these guys collect is pure gold, so I’m going to defer to them as far as offensive linemen are concerned. So, here it goes…

OT- Trent Williams (WAS)

Trent Williams helped Washington’s wildly successful run game and surprisingly dangerous pass game succeed in 2012. Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, the rookie phenoms, success has been partially attributable to Williams consistent blocking at left tackle.

OT- Joe Staley (SF)

The 49ers had the number 1 offensive line in the NFL this year according to Football Outsiders. Joe Staley, the former Central Michigan standout, will be making his second consecutive pro bowl appearance this year.

OG- Mike Iupati (SF)

… The 49ers had the number 1 offensive line in the NFL this year according to Football Outsiders. At 6 feet 5 inches tall and 330 pounds, Iupati, the Samoan guard, served as an anchor for the 49ers defense in 2012.

OG- Kevin Zeitler (CIN)

BenJarvus Green-Ellis managed to run for over 1,000 yards this year behind Wisconsin-bred Kevin Zeitler. The rookie and 2011 Consensus All-American has been wildly successful for Cincinnati, who took him with the 27th pick of the 2012 NFL draft.

C- Mike Pouncey (MIA)

The 15th overall pick in the 2011 draft has been turned out to be a successful choice for the Miami Dolphins. His run blocking ability has helped Reggie Bush turn into a successful every-down back in Miami.

DEFENSE

DE- J.J. Watt (HOU)

My new favorite player. If you haven’t seen this video entitled “J.J. Watt’s Remarkable Friendship,” I highly advise watching it. It’ll make him your favorite player too. Beyond his character off the field, J.J. Watt is nothing short of remarkable on the field. Watt had 20.5 sacks this season, placing him tied for 6th in NFL history for the most sacks in a season. Also, possibly even more impressively, J.J. (a.k.a. “Swatt”) deflected 16 passes, several of which were intercepted.

DE- Cameron Wake (MIA)

Cameron Wake, the former CFL standout, has been a wrecking ball this year. His 15.0 sacks in 2012 ranks 4th in the league.

DT- Geno Atkins (CIN)

I cannot say enough about Geno Atkins impact in Cincinnati this year. With 12.5 sacks, he is the only defensive tackle in the league to amass more than 8.5 sacks in 2012. And, his bowling ball stature, at 6 feet 1 inches tall and 300 pounds, Atkins has absolutely stuffed the middle of offensive lines this year.

ILB- Navorro Bowman (SF)

With Patrick Willis dropping into coverage more often this year, Navorro Bowman has had the opportunity to shine. Bowman managed to accumulate 149 tackles in 2012, which was second to only Luke Kuechly.

ILB- Patrick Willis (SF)

The best linebacker in football. Willis has the ability to rush the passer, stuff the run, and drop into coverage. His 2012 statistics were not a complete representation of his contribution on the field though. San Francisco often opted to drop the speedy Willis into coverage this year. No linebacker is as versatile and dominant as Patrick Willis.

OLB- Von Miller (DEN)

Sack. Sack. Sack. Miller ranked 3rd in the NFL in sacks this year with 18.5, following up a wildly successful rookie year, where he amassed 11.5 sacks. Interestingly, Von Miller was 3rd in the NFL in sacks, as well as 3rd in sacks among players from his draft class.

OLB- Aldon Smith (SF)

Aldon Smith rounds off the pass rushers from a stacked 2011 draft class, which also produced Von Miller and J.J. Watt. Smith finished 2nd in the NFL this year with 19.5 sacks, to go along with 3 forced fumbles and an interception. He, along with Justin Smith, were able to provide the 49ers with a strong rush even when they brought four or less pass rushers in 2012.

CB- Charles Tillman (CHI)

As the “Punch” was made famous in 2012, Charles “Peanut” Tillman rose to instant stardom. Tillman also received a lot of media attention for his commitment to family this year, as he stated that he would miss a game to see the birth of his child if it came down to it. (It didn’t) Tillman finished 2012 with 10 forced fumbles. Only one other player, Osi Umenyiora, has finished with 10 or more in the last decade.

CB- Richard Sherman (SEA)

As an outstanding cover corner with big play ability, Richard Sherman grabbed 8 interceptions this year, tying him for 2nd in the league. At 6 feet 3 inches tall, Sherman has the ability to matchup with some of the bigger receivers in the NFL- an attribute that is incredibly valuable given some of the freakishly big receivers in the NFL. (See: Calvin Johnson)

S- Eric Weddle (SD)

The San Diego safety was a bright spot on a gloomy Chargers team. Weddle didn’t make the pro bowl this year, but I think he’s one of the best safeties in the game. His combination of coverage and run-stopping ability made him a valuable asset to San Diego in 2012.

S- Jairus Byrd (BUF)

The ball-hawking safety from Buffalo had 5 picks in 2012. Byrd also managed to have 76 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries this year. He is a game changer.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K- Blair Walsh (MIN)

Special teams rookie of the year? I think so. Walsh went 35 for 38 on field goals this year, while remaining a perfect 36 for 36 on extra points. With 10 field goals of 50 yards or more and a long of 56 yards, Walsh was nothing short of impressive this year.

P- Thomas Morstead (NO)

Thomas Morstead received his first nod for the Pro Bowl this year and deservingly so. Morstead ranked 2nd in average yards per punt at 50.1 yards, and 2nd in net punting average at 43.2 yards.

PR- Leodis McKelvin (BUF)

McKelvin was 1st in average yards per punt return this year at 18.7 yards. Nearly 3 yards more than the 2nd ranked punt returner and over 5 yards more than the 3rd ranked punt returner. McKelvin is a threat every time he gets the ball, and he proved that this year taking 2 punt returns back to the house.

KR- David Wilson (NYG)

David Wilson is a solid kick returner. While many teams have their “homerun hitter” returning kicks, the Giants have (smartly) chosen to allow Wilson to return kicks. His average return of 26.9 yards ranked 6th in the NFL this year, and he had 14 or more returns than the five returners ranked above him with 57 returns. Wilson’s ability in 2012 to consistently gain chunks of yards on kick returns, along with one return for a touchdown, makes him a perfect pick for my 2012 All-NFL Team.

So, to recap…

OFFENSE

QB- Peyton Manning (DEN)

RB- Adrian Peterson (MIN)

WR- Brandon Marshall (CHI)

WR- Calvin Johnson (DET)

WR- Andre Johnson (HOU)

TE- Rob Gronkowski (NE)

OT- Trent Williams (WAS)

OT- Joe Staley (SF)

OG- Mike Iupati (SF)

OG- Kevin Zeitler (CIN)

C- Mike Pouncey (MIA)

DEFENSE

DE- J.J. Watt (HOU)

DE- Cameron Wake (MIA)

DT- Geno Atkins (CIN)

ILB- Navorro Bowman (SF)

ILB- Patrick Willis (SF)

OLB- Von Miller (DEN)

OLB- Aldon Smith (SF)

CB- Charles Tillman (CHI)

CB- Richard Sherman (SEA)

S- Eric Weddle (SD)

S- Jairus Byrd (BUF)

SPECIAL TEAMS

K- Blair Walsh (MIN)

P- Thomas Morstead (NO)

PR- Leodis McKelvin (BUF)

KR- David Wilson (NYG)

———-

By: Tyler Raborn