Free Agent Signings:
1) Robinson Cano
10 yr – 240M with the Mariners
Although Cano did not receive the largest contract in MLB history, like he originally wanted, he achieved the third largest contract in history and the largest for a second baseman. Although Cano is one of the ten best players in the league, the Mariners drastically overpaid for his services. Unlike other players who have reached ten year deals, Rodrgiuez and Pujols, Cano has never won an MVP, cannot carry a team through the playoffs, draw fans into the stadium, or manufacture money for his team. In the recent past, many people did not believe that another player would receive another 10 year 200+M deal in free agent because of the past results. Since Rodriguez, Pujols, and Cano have signed similar deals, they should be compared. Unfortunately for the Mariners, they hope that Cano does not have the problems with age. As seen in Anaheim and New York, the two albatrosses are the worst contracts in baseball because the players are not performing like their franchises originally believed when they signed their contracts. While Cano may continue his success for the first three or four years of the contract, the Mariners will be disappointed by the final 6 years of the deal. Unless Cano can draw other free agents or stars to the Mariners, the Mariners will continue to fail and not meet expectations because their offense will be horrible. In Seattle, Cano will not even be the face of the franchise and his future stats should decline because of the stadium and the bad lineup behind him. Instead of filing one hole, the Mariners should have signed multiple players with the $240M they gave to Cano.
2) Jacoby Ellsbury
7 yr – 153M with the Yankees
The 30 year old free agent signed the third largest deal for an outfielder, this offseason. While Jacoby Ellsubry is a quality All-Star player, many people believe that the Yankees overpaid by $30 million. The major question about Jacoby Ellsbury regards around his ability to stay healthy and remain on the field. When healthy, Ellsbury is one of the best lead off hitters in the league and has the ability to manufacture runs for the club. Fortunately for the Yankees, Ellsbury should be able to rejuvenate his power production because of the short porch in right field. If Ellsbury can average 20 home runs and 30-40 steals for the first 5 years of the deal, the contract will be deemed as a success for the Yankees. Along with providing speed to the slow Yankees, Ellsbury plays great defense and has the ability to hit .300 while recording 100+ runs. Unfortunately for the Yankees, the deal that most relates to Ellsbury’s deal is Carl Crawford. While Carl played horribly for the first two years of the contract, the last season has been an improvement because he has remained healthy for the past season. If the Yankees can manage Ellsbury and limit his number of steals, Ellsbury should be able to remain a star for most of the length of the contract. If the Yankees can trade Gardner, a lesser version of Ellsbury, for a mid level pitcher, the Yankees should be happy with this deal and look forward to his success.
3) Ricky Nolasco
4 yr – 49M with the Twins
For the first time in Twins’ history, the franchise has spent more than 21M on a player in free agency. While Nolasco is a quality pitcher, he would have been able to net nearly $50 without the abundance of TV money that is entering the sport. As seen with many of deals this offseason, the additional money has been given to the players. Last season, Nolasco had the second best season of his career, 13 wins, 3.70 ERA, and 165K. Nolasco became a prominent free agent this offseason because of the success he encountered with the Dodgers, during the playoffs and the stretch run. While Nolasco’s ERA has ranged from 5.06 to 3.52, he has been able to pitch around 200 innings for the past six years with the Dodgers and the Marlins. The Achilles heel of Nolasco over the past few seasons has been allowing home runs. During his worst seasons, Nolasco allowed nearly 25 home runs per season. During the latter half of last season, Nolasco gave up only 6 home runs while recording a 3.52 ERA. In Minnesota, Nolasco’s home run numbers should decline, which will allow him to decrease his ERA and legitimatize his new deal. If Ricky can continue his success in Minnesota, the Twins should be able to improve their horrible pitching staff and make a run out of the NL Central dweller. While other pitcher may net close to $80 million, the deal for Nolasco will look better.
4) Brian McCann
5 yr – 85M with the Yankees
The former All-Star and Atlanta Braves has signed the second largest deal for a catcher in Major League Baseball history. McCann has been one of the best power hitting catchers over the past few seasons. Over the past six seasons, McCann has hit over 20 home runs per season, has played above average defense at catcher, and has been voted to seven All-Star games. In New York, McCann should be able to hit 25-30 home runs because of the short porch in right. McCann is has shown in the past that he is great at pulling the ball with power, which fits greatly with the Yankees. Unlike most free agents, McCann is still in the prime of his career and should be able to provide at least 4-5 quality years with the Yankees. Over the next 3-4 seasons, McCann should be able to play catcher at a high level. The Yankees desperately needed a catcher this offseason because they have not had an All-Star level catcher since Jorge Posada. When the Yankees are at their best, they have an above average catcher that can bat in the middle of the order. If McCann cannot play catcher over the last few seasons of the deal, the Yankees should be able to move him to first base or DH, which will allow him to play catcher for a few extra seasons. Along with providing skill at the catching performance, McCann is a great leader and should provide a voice to a locker room that has been lost, since Posada retired. In almost every level, the deal with McCann makes perfect sense.
5) Mike Napoli
2 yr – 32M with the Red Sox
The beard is going to return to Red Sox for another two seasons, which should be exciting for Red Sox fans. Although Red Sox did not have the most talent last season during their championship run, they had great locker room players and many of the players were clutch down the stretch. One of the two main reasons for the Red Sox’s success is Mike Napoli. Last year, Mike Napoli rebounded because he was healthy for most of the season. Mike Napoli returned to the success he established in Texas, which allowed him to score and drive in multiple runs for the Red Sox. Along with improving offensively, Mike Napoli, surprisingly, became a quality defensive first baseman, which was underrated and under appreciated. The deal with Napoli is similar to other deals that the Red Sox signed over the past years. The Red Sox have decided to give short deals to older free agents with great personality, which has enabled the team to bond together and achieve success. Napoli is a great teammate and should help the young players that are coming through the Red Sox farm system. Over the next two seasons, Napoli will be able to fill the Red Sox first base position and provide All-Star statistics to the middle of the Red Sox order, as they attempt to repeat as champion. At $16M per season, the Red Sox are not breaking the bank for an elder player with talent.
6) Curtis Granderson
4 yr – 60M with the Mets
The power hitting outfielder will be traveling across town to the Mets and hopes to provide protection to David Wright. Before a terrible year filled with injuries, Granderson was one of the best power hitters in baseball, after two 40 home run seasons. Last season, Granderson played only 61 games because of two fluke injuries to his wrist, which demolished his whole season. The Mets desperately needed an outfielder that could hit in the middle of a playoff team. Last season, the Mets offense was horrible because they do not have much power and the outfield was especially bad after the trade of Marlon Byrd. While Granderson has sacrificed his batting average and on base percentage, his power numbers and his ability to drive in runs has been great. Over the past two seasons before his injury, Granderson has struck out 350 times. The Mets have overpaid for Granderson because they were in desperate need of a quality outfielder and he had all of the leverage. While Granderson will improve the Mets’ order and should improve the entire lineup as a whole, the Mets needed a top outfielder and a better bat than Curtis Granderson can provide. Curtis will have difficulty maintaining his home run power without the short porch in Yankee Stadium. Also, Granderson will have trouble covering the huge outfield in Citi Field over the latter half of the contract.
7) Jhonny Peralta
4 yr – 53M with the Cardinals
Even though Peralta was suspended for 50 games, the Cardinals did not hesitate to give him a multiyear deal worth half of 100 million dollars. Last season, the Cardinals may have lost the WS because their shortstop position was one of the worst in MLB. The Cardinals are a large market team and have a chance to win the WS again this season. The addition of Peralta changes the Cardinals shortstop from a weakness to a strength. Although Peralta is not the best defensive shortstop, he is one of the best offensive shortstop and extends the Cardinals offense that was already one of the best in baseball. Also, Peralta was needed to replace Carlos Beltran, who left to New York, since Oscar Taveras is a rookie and an unknown in the outfield, this season. Although Peralta is not one of the top five players in the free agent class, his signing created a lot of controversy and commotion. Many people and baseball loyalist feel that he was not really punished for his use of PED. Also, many people feel that the Cardinals may have overpaid for Peralta since they are wondering if he can replicate his performance without the use of performance enhancing drug. Although it may have been an overpay, the Cardinals desperately needed a quality shortstop and feel that they are one player away from winning the WS in 2014.
8) Carlos Beltran
3 yr – 45M with the Yankees
The possible Hall of Famer and one of the greatest playoff players in MLB history will be headed to the team with the greatest playoff resume. After replacing Albert Pujols in St. Louis two years ago, Beltran will counted on to replace the offense of Robinson Cano. During the past two seasons, Beltran did perform better than Pujols. Although it is unlikely that the 36 year old will play better than the 31 year old Cano, Beltran will minimize the loss of Cano because he is still a productive offensive force. If the Yankees make the playoffs this season, Yankee fans will see the difference between Carlos Beltran and Robinson Cano. Ironically both players have played in 51 playoff games and Carlos Beltran clearly has the better statistics. Beltran has a line of .333/.445/.683 with 16 home runs and 40 RBI. Cano has a slash of .222/.267/.419 with 8 home runs and 13 RBI. Although Beltran will not have the impact like Cano in the regular season, he will greatly improve the Yankees’ offense during postseason play. Beltran is a switch hitter, which will provide more options for the Yankees so they do not become a solely left handed batting team. Although Beltran can still play an effective right field, he can play DH, which will enable him to hit through the length of his contract. Although Beltran will not continue batting .290/25+HR/95+RBI throughout the three years, he should be an above average hitter or quality platoon man during the last season of the deal.
9) Joe Nathan
2 yr – 20M with the Tigers
The active leader in saves will be good pick up for the Detroit Tigers because their bullpen cost them a trip the WS. Last postseason, the starting pitching performances by the Tigers starting staff were some of the greatest performances by a team in playoff history. Although the team experienced great success at the start of games, the team lost because their bullpen was unexperienced and failed during tough situations. Joe Nathan will provide stability to the team, although he is almost done with his career. Over the last two seasons with the Texas Rangers, Nathan has saved 80 games with a 1.80 ERA and made two All-Star games. Nathan will need to replace Benoit as a closer for the Tigers. With the Tigers, Nathan should be able to replicate his statistics. Although Nathan has switched teams three times, he has consistently been success in the bullpen, which has enabled him to finish top five in the Cy Young voting twice. A contract for $10 million per season for an All-Star closer is not considered horrible or an excessive overpay. Even if the Tigers paid more for Nathan than other teams, they may be only one closer or relief player away from making or winning the WS.
10) Scott Feldman
3 yr – 30M with the Astros
In the one of the biggest overpays of the offseason, the Astros signed starting pitcher Scott Feldman to a three year deal above market value. After the best season of his career, Feldman cashed in on a big deal with the lowly Astros. For the first half of last season, Feldman pitched with the Chicago Cubs and was effective for the Cubs. In 15 games with the Cubs, Feldman was 7-6 with 3.46 ERA and 67 K in 91 innings. After the trade, Feldman was not the same pitcher with Orioles in the offensive AL East. With the Orioles, Feldman had a 4.27 ERA. Before Feldman’s success in Chicago, Feldman was a below average starter with the Texas Rangers. During his years as a starter with the Rangers, he never accumulated an ERA under 4.08 and never pitched more than 190 innings Besides for his quality half season with the Cubs, Feldman has been a below average 4th or 5th starter. However, the Astros are paying Feldman as a number 3 or a very good number 4 starter. The Astros are hoping that Feldman is a pitcher that is better in the NL, without the DH. The Astros also hope that he can remember how to pitch in the NL Central and replicate his success from last season. However, it seems unlikely because Feldman is a bad pitcher and not deserving of a 30 million dollar deal.
Pictures and Stats from ESPN.com
By: Josh M.
A city of lights, action, cheers, and now… boos. MetLife Stadium had hosted the losing-ist team in football: The New York Giants. This year’s Super Bowl is set to take place in MetLife Stadium and the Giant’s endeavor was to be the first team to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium. However, as the season started and progressed, that ambition suddenly diminished.
Fumbles, interceptions, and a foreboding 0-6 record. The Giants had not been 0-3 since 1996! Eli Manning and the Giants, a two-time winning Super Bowl team within a four year period, had faced a struggle never seen before in the organization. They had gone the first 6 games without a single win.
The Giants’ first game was away against the Cowboys. The Cowboys had never beaten the Giants in their $1.2 billion stadium. However, the curse was broken this game. The Cowboys had forced 6 turnovers on the Giants including 3 interceptions by Manning. The game was atrocious for the Giants; however, nobody expected such a terrible losing streak.
The Giants then went on to lost the next consecutive 5 games:
Game 2: Giants vs. Broncos- 41-23
Games 3: Giants vs. Panthers- 38-0
Game 4: Giants vs. Chiefs- 31-7
Game 5: Giants vs. Eagles- 36-21
Game 6: Giants vs. Bears- 27-21
The Giants loss to the Panthers included 3 turnovers and was considered the worst loss of the Tom Coughlin Era. Eli Manning was tackled 6 times within the first 17 minutes of the game! The Giants’ dream of playing in their home stadium for the Super Bowl was blocked by an immense obstacle… No team has ever made the playoffs after starting 0-6. The Giants had lost hope, but their division was not strong.
The Giants won their next four games. Suddenly, the Giants were back in the race for the playoffs. Although they were ugly wins, they were wins nevertheless. The games went as follows:
Game 7: Giants vs. Vikings- 23-7
Game 8- Giants vs. Eagles- 15-7
Game 9: Giants vs. Raiders- 24-20
Game 10: Giants vs. Packers- 27-13
The Giants’ game against the Packers was an upset. A true motivational boost for the Giants. Eli Manning threw for 279 yards, Victor Cruz caught for 110 yards, and the defense forced 3 turnovers. However, a close loss to the Cowboys 24-21 caused an end to the winning streak. Although, it was a deterrent in their playoff hopes, the Giants would take fate into their own hands. The next game, the Giants defeated the Redskins, their division rival, 24-17.Lastly, this weekend, the giants lost to Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers 37-14. The Giants had 3 turnovers, including 2 interceptions thrown by Manning. The Giants were down 24-0 at half time. This enormous deficit led to an inevitable loss.
Being a Giants fan, this season has been a rollercoaster. Highs and lows, ups and downs. However, it has been hard to keep faith in team.
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions:
The Packers and the Lions will be fighting for their playoff lives, when the two teams meet on Turkey Day in Detroit. Lately, the Packers have been dominating the Lions, 15 of the last 16 games and five straight, but the Packers do not have Aaron Rodgers for this contest. Instead of Rodgers, the Pack will be starting Matt Flynn at quarterback. Although Flynn has been horrible with other teams, he has experienced success with the Packers. The Packers have been reeling lately, after they lost Aaron Rodgers with a broken collar bone. Before their game against the Vikings, the Packers have lost three straight games, which has put them in their current position. The Packers were on set to lose another last week, until Flynn replaced Scott Tolzien and led the Packers to a tie. After the Packers replaced Tolzien, Flynn threw for over two hundred yards and one touchdown. After Flynn returned off the bench, the Packers offense totally revitalized and Eddie Lacy returned to his former self. Lacy rushed for over 100 yards for the first time in the last three games because the Vikings could not load the box with Flynn at quarterback. With the offensive support, the Packers’ defense had new life and played great during the second half of the game and overtime. While the Packers look like are improving, the Lions have looked horrible over the last two games. After reaching 6-3, the Lions have been horrible over the last two weeks, losing to the Bucs and the Steelers. The main problems with the Lions have been their defense and knack for committing turnovers. Over the past two games, the Lions have not been able to establish a pass rush, which has allowed them to allow 30 points per game. Along with the porous defense, the Lions have committed 8 turnovers over the past two games and Stafford has thrown 5 interceptions. Although the Lions have been piling up yards, they have found ways to lose games. This rivalry has improved over the past few seasons because the two teams have added talent. This game should be close, but the Lions will probably win the game at the end of the day. The Pack have played well against the Lions, which should give them confidence during the game. The game will be high scoring, if Flynn plays well, because neither have a great defense.
Prediction: Lions win 34-31
Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys:
Like every Thanksgivings Day, the Cowboys will be playing at home. The Raiders have been playing horribly as of late and have lost three of their last four games. The Raiders’ offense has been atrocious over the last few games. Since Terrelle Pryor was injured a few games ago, Matt McGloin has been radically inconsistent. Matt McGloin has averaged 171 passing yards and has completed only 55% of his passes over the past few games. Although McGloin has not thrown interceptions like Pryor, he does not have the explosiveness or dual threat ability like Pryor. Although McGloin has not lost games for the Raiders, he does not improve the team. Along with McGloin unable to lead a passing game, the running game has not been effective as well, since the loss of Darren McFadden. The lone bright spot of the Raiders offense has been Rashad Jennings. Over the past four games, Jennings had rushed for 100 yards twice and 410 total yards over the four games. While the offense has been bad, the Raiders defense has been horrendous as well. Since the Oakland defense has been horrible, it is unlikely that they will be able to stop Tony Romo and the Dallas offense. After a huge win against the Giants, the Cowboys have a great chance of making the playoffs. However, Dallas has been open to losing trap games and this game is a trap game. If the Boys are going to win this game, they must not over look the matchup and play as well as they did against the Giants. Tony Romo must not throw interceptions and continue finding his big play receivers and tight end. Along with the Cowboys success on offense, the Cowboys have been great at forcing turnovers on defense. Although the Cowboys can give up lots of yards, they should be able to build off of their strong performance from last game and shut down the Raiders’ offense. The Cowboys will probably be able to force a few turnovers against the Raiders and blow out the Raiders at home. On offense, the Cowboys should be able to score at will because they are fully healthy and the team is finally meshing. The Cowboys should be able to win by double digits in this game on Turkey Day.
Prediction: Cowboys win 31-20
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens:
The Ravens and Steelers will meet again on Thanksgiving and the winner should be in position to make the playoffs as the last wild card position. Although the Steelers started the season 0-4, they have played great since their bye and have won 5 of their last seven games. During their streak, they have won their past three games and are playing like a playoff quality team. The Steelers have won their previous meeting against the Ravens and hope that they can go 2-0 against their rivals. The Steelers have played well because their defense has been playing great and Ben Roethlisberger is playing like the two time Super Bowl Champion. Besides for the Lions 24 point outburst in the second quarter, the Steelers have allowed only 24 points over the past three games, while scoring 87 points. Over the past three games, Ben has thrown for over 800 yards and 7 touchdowns, while only throwing one interceptions. Although the running game has been stuttering over the past few weeks, Antonio Brown has stepped up and has looked like a number one receiver. During the past three weeks , Brown has recorded 350 yards and 4 touchdowns. Along with Brown, Jerricho Cotchery has been great in the red zone and has made great clutch catches on third down. The Steelers hope that Ben Roethlisberger will continue his success against the tough Ravens defense. The Ravens have flipped flopped over the last few games, but played very well last week against the Jets, especially the defense. Although the Ravens offense have not posted great numbers, they have switched their offensive philosophy, which will help their team in the future. The Ravens have started to run the ball more often over the past few games. Although they did not have success running on the Jets, like many teams, the threat of running the ball with Ray Rice enabled the wide receivers to speed past the cornerbacks and catch the ball for big yardage. Last season the Ravens took advantage of Flacco’s huge arm and Rice’s legs. Along with the Ravens offense, the defense has improved over the last few games. Although the Ravens are improving, the Steelers have been playing great football. The defense has improved greatly and will be able to stop the Ravens, like the Jets. On offense, the Steelers will score on the Ravens defense. However, the game should be close and a classic.
Prediction: Steelers win 21-19
Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns:
After starting the season 0-8, the Jaguars have won two of their last three games and are playing inspired and quality football the past few weeks. The improvement for the Jaguars has been due to their ability to force turnovers on defense, while limiting the turnovers on offense. Over the past few weeks on offense, the Jaguars have kept their offense simple for Chad Henne at quarterback. The Jaguars offense has been predicated upon Maurice Jones Drew so Chad Henne is not asked to do too much and lead the offense by himself. Over the past three games, MJD has scored a touchdown in each of the past games. Along with the emergence of MJD, Denard Robinson has been given more touches because of his dynamic ability and his ability to change the game offensively. While the offense is improving, the defense has taken great strides. The defense has been able to stop the run, which has made the opponents one dimensional on offense. Since the Jaguars have been playing poor quarterbacks and will be playing another this weekend, their plan to stop the run and force quarterbacks to beat them should lead them to success. While the Jags have been playing better, the Browns have been playing badly since the loss of Brian Hoyer. The Cleveland offense has been horrible and has averaged only 15 points per game over the last two games. Besides Josh Gordon on offense, the Browns have no play makers that can stress the defense and threaten defenses. Brandon Weeden cannot throw four good passes in a row, which makes it difficult for the Browns to sustain a drive. Along with Weeden, the running game for the Browns have been atrocious, which has destructed their team. Although the Browns have one of the worst offenses in the league, their defense is one of the top defenses in the league. Although they have had trouble in recent games, they are ranked top 6 in the league in passing and rushing defense. Although the Browns do not have a great pass rusher, their great secondary has given the rushers more time to reach the quarterback. The Browns have been successful in the secondary because they have Joe Haden. Haden has the ability to be like Darrelle Revis and stop the opposing offense’s best receiving threat. Although Haden can shut down a receiver, the Jags do not have a top wide receiver that they must throw to. The Jags should be the favorite in the game because they have been playing well and are a better road team than home team. MJD will lead the Jags on offense and their defense should be able to stop the Browns and win the game.
Prediction: Jaguars win 24-17
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts:
The Colts and Titans are both fighting for their playoff lives this weekend. Although the Colts have a great chance to make the playoffs, they have not been playing well, especially at the start of games. The Colts should have lost their last four games, but Andrew Luck has been great at returning his team out of a big hole. Last week, the Colts played their worst game of the season at the Cardianls, 40-11 loss. The problem with the Colts has been their defense. Although they played great defense and had a great pass rush at the beginning of the season, they have allowed, on average, 33 points per game during the last four games. The defense has added pressure to Andrew Luck, which has forced him to throw more interceptions. Along with a poor defense, the Colts’ lack of running game has forced Luck to throw a lot of passes. Also, teams have been able to drop multiple men back in coverage and wait for Luck to throw the ball to his wide receivers. To make matters worse, the Colts lost their top receiver and leader Reggie Wayne for the season with an ACL. Without Wayne, the Colts do not have a number one wide receiver and TY Hilton is not a legitimate number one recover in this league. While the Colts have been playing inconsistently, the Titans have been poorly, as well. Since Muhammed Wilkerson wretched Jake Locker in week 4, the Titans have not been the same football team. While the defense has been consistent, the offense cannot score points with regularity. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not a good enough quarterback to lead a team to the playoffs. Although Fitzpatrick can play well against poor defenses, Fitzpatrick cannot lead an offense against a quality defense, without throwing numerous interceptions. In the game against the Colts two weeks ago, the Colts won the game 30-27. In the game, Fitzpatrick did not throw a touchdown. Chris Johnson had the best game of the season. The Colts will be looking to stop Johnson, since Ryan Fitzpatrick cannot lead the Titans past the Colts. The Colts had success last time on the ground, which would make the Colts indefeasible. The Colts are playing at home, this game, which should give them added determination to win the game. The game should be close, but the Colts will likely be close. Andrew Luck’s ability to find receivers in close games will be the reason why the Cots win this week.
Prediction: Colts win 31-24
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings:
The Bears are tied for first in the NFC North and hope that they can reach the playoffs for the first time in three years. Although Jay Cutler has missed the past few games with any injury, Josh McCown has been great for the Bears over the past few games. The Bears have been 2-2 since the lost of Cutler, but they are still tied with the Lions in the NFC North. The Bears have been great on offense because McCown has been solid and they have great talent on offense. McCown life has been better because he has Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte, and Martellus Bennett. In the past four games he started, Josh has thrown for over 200 yards in each of the games and has only thrown one interception while completing 7 touchdown passes. Along with the wide receivers, Matt Forte is a great running back for McCown because he can run effectively and catch passes out of the backfield, when others are covered. Forte has compiled 1250 total yards from scrimmage this season. While the Bears offense is dynamic, the defense has been struggling of late because they cannot stop the run. Since they have lost many people to injuries, the defensive line and linebacking core is depleted and they do not have the depth maintain decency. Over the past four games, the Bears have allowed at least 145 yards on the ground. This week, the Bears will be in trouble because they are playing the best running back in the league, Adrian Peterson. This season has been an absolute disaster for the Vikings because they have had unstable quarterback performance. The Vikings have found that Christian Ponder is not the quarterback for the future. Along with a horrible quarterback, the Vikings do not have any quality wide receivers to help Ponder grow and improve as a quarterback. The lack of performance in the passing game has made Adrian Peterson’s life incredibly difficult. Although Peterson is a great back and will rush for about 1500 yards this season, the offensive line does not provide holes for Peterson. Along with the lack of holes, Peterson has been hampered by nagging injuries the whole season. In this game, the Bears will need to stop the run, in order to win the game. However, the Bears will make sure that Peterson does not have a huge game and blow the game open. On defense, the Vikings do not have any options for the Bears and they talented play makers. In their previous game in week 2, the Bears exploded for 31 points and the Vikings were unable to stop the Bears passing attack. The game should be close, but the Bears should be able to win.
Prediction: Bears win 24-20
Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles:
Although this game seemed like a bad game int he beginning of the season, the Eagles and Cardinals are two teams over .500 and have chances of making the playoffs. Since Foles over took Michael Vick in the Giants game, he has been great in every game, except against the Cowboys. On the season, Foles has thrown 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions while leading the Eagles back into the NFC East division standings. Although Foles has been good, the offense as a whole has been clicking on all cylinders, since the defeat at the Cowboys. In the past three games, the Eagles are 3-0 and have scored 33 points per game. Much of Foles’ success this season can be attributed to the wide receivers of the Philadelphia Eagles. DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper have played great football and have given Foles open targets deep down the field. Along with the passing game, Shady McCoy has led the number one rushing attack in the NFL. McCoy is great because he can run with power, make people miss, and catch the ball out of the backfield. Along with the offense, the Eagles defense has improved, but they will be tested this weekend against the Cardinals. While the Eagles have been a surprise, the Cardinals are the best kept secret in the league. Although the Cardinals were thought to have another down season, they are currently tied with the 49ers for the 6th place in the NFC. The Cardinals have won four straight games, including a blow out win against the Colts last week. In the past few games, Carson Palmer has played quality football. Over the last two games, Palmer has looked like the quarterback that led the Bengals to the playoffs nearly a decade ago, while throwing for a total of 733 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. The development of Malcolm Floyd as a number two wide receiver has given Palmer another option, besides Larry Fitzgerald. In the past few games, the Cardinals’ running game and the combination of Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington have started to strike fear into opponents and have forced defenses to honor the running game. Besides the Cardinals offense, the Cardinals defense has given up 15.5 points per game in their last four games, while they have been scoring 30 points per game. In this game, the Cardinals and Eagles should post a lot of points. However, the Cardinals will likely win the game because they are playing better defense. Although the Eagles should play better at home, they play better on the road so the home field is not really an advantage.
Prediction: Cardinals win 38-31
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers:
The Bucs are heading into Carolina on a three game winning streak. The Bucs are playing their best football of the season and have surprised many during their wins against the Dolphins, Falcons, and Lions. The Bucs have been playing better because Mike Glennon has steadily improved throughout the season. Glennon has found a magic connection with Vincent Jackson, which has enabled them to move down the field and score points with regularity. Along with the improved passing game, the running game has been consistent, although they lost Doug Martin for the season. Although Bobby Rainey did not have a quality game, he drew attention from the Lions’ defense, which enabled Glennon to find his big play receiver. Besides the improved offense, the defense has been great over the past few games. The opponents have allowed 23 points per game during the past three games. The good defense can be attributed to the success of the secondary, which has plenty of star power. The Tampa secondary held Stafford to less than 300 yards, while throwing four interceptions. The Tampa defense, especially Darrelle Revis, when he was playing in the first half, was able to hold Calvin Johnson to only 119 and no touchdowns, which is fantastic, considering current games. While the Bucs are playing well, the Panthers may be the hottest team in the league. The Panthers’ success is due to their great defense. The Panthers” have won seven straight games because the defense has no given up more than 20 points in any game, during the streak. The Panthers have allowed less than 13 points per game this season. Along with the great defense, Cam Newton has provided clutch play, which has vaulted them above other quality teams during their streak. Although Cam is not a game manager, he does not take many chances because he knows that opponents cannot go the whole field against his defense. Newton is the best dual threat quarterback in the league so teams must be ready for his speed and size. Newton’s ability to run sets up open passes to Steve Smith and Greg Olsen. In this game, the score will be low scoring because they both possess ferocious defenses. However, Carolina should be the favorite because they are a better team with more fire power and have been more clutch than the Bucs.
Prediction: Carolina wins 27-20
Other game Predictions:
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets:
Prediction: Dolphins win 17-13
New England Patriots at Houston Texans:
Prediction: Patriots win 31-17
Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills:
Prediction: Bills win 30-20
St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers:
Prediction: 49ers win 27-13
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs:
Prediction: Broncos win 27-23
Cincinnati Bengals at San Diego Chargers:
Prediction: Chargers win 34-30
New York Giants at Washington Redskins:
Prediction: Giants win 20-13
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks:
Prediction: Seahawks win 30-24
Pics and Stats from ESPN.com
1) Robinson Cano
The top free agent this offseason is one of the best baseball players in the league, which should allow him to net one of the largest deals in MLB history. Earlier this offseason, Cano and his free agent, Jay-Z, made a request for a $310 million contract over ten years, which would make him the highest paid player in the history of baseball. However, the Yankees countered with a 7 year $160 million deal, which would make him one of the highest paid players in the league and the highest paid second baseman of all time. The 31 year old has been one of the most consistent and valuable players over the last few seasons. In the last four years, Cano has averaged 160 games per season, 195 hits, 28 home runs, .310 average, 105 RBI, and .530 slugging percentage. Cano has finished inside the top six in MVP voting the last four seasons, won five silver sluggers, earned two gold gloves, and has went to 5 All-Star Games. Although people are afraid about giving major deals to free agents past the age of 30 because of past history, Fielder, Rodriguez, Pujols, and Teixeira, Cano will be given a huge money deal by some team. During the first 3-4 years of the deal, Cano will probably play like a player that will earn $25 million per season. However, teams should be wary of giving him more than 7 years because eventually he will be unable to continue his production. Cano has been a great hitter because of his strong quick wrists, but eventually Father Time will slow his speed and diminish his results. Cano needs another team, besides the Yankees, to bid for his services, if he is going to garner a $200 million deal, like Fielder and Votto. However, it is unlikely that another team will be able to pay his contract. Teams, such as the Tigers, Mets, Mariners and Nationals, will attempt to increase the Yankees offer, but the teams do not have the resources or need to give $25+ million to one player. Before the Kinsler deal, the Tigers had a need at second base, but they will need to save money for Cabrera and Scherzer. The Nationals may be the dark horse, but it is unlikely that they will sign another 100 million dollar deal after the Jayson Werth experiment. The Mets and Mariners have already dictated that they do not want to spend a lot of money on one play, but rather buy a few players to fill their holes.
Prediction: Cano signs with Yankees for 7 years and $180 million
2) Jacoby Ellsbury
The speedy outfielder has probably played his last game for the Boston Red Sox. Ellsbury wants a big money deal and the Red Sox want to give their young stars a chance to play at the ned level. Although talented, Ellsbury will not be able to net a deal over $120 million because their are too many questions about his health. During Ellsbury 7 year career, the center fielder has played in 145 games only three times. Also many teams are wondering if his speed will deteriorate as he ages and loses his legs. However, Ellsbury has top flight agent, Scott Boras, who will sell him as a player similar to Carl Crawford, who was given a $142 million deal from the Red Sox. Ellsbury will be demand this offseason because he is one of the best lead off hitters in a league, which has a few quality lead off hitters. Also, Ellsbury has shown that he can hit for power. During his best season in 2011, Ellsbury hit 32 home runs and drove in 105 RBI. However, Ellsbury has not hit more than 10 home runs in any other season so the 2011 campaign seems like a fluke. However, Ellsbury’s stolen base numbers have been consistent during his healthy seasons. In the four seasons where he played in more than 13o games, Ellsbury has averaged 55 steals, .295 average, 8 triples, 100 runs, and .350 on base percentage. Along with his ability to hit and run, his speed enables him to become one of the best outfielders in the league. Ellsbury has the ability to cover a lot of ground, which he has shown in one of the biggest center fields in baseball. This offseason, Ellsbury will be pursued by the Mariners, Mets, Cubs, Astros, and Yankees. However, Ellsbury would best fit in Seattle. Ellsbury is originally from Seattle and has noted that he would love to play for his home town team. Also, the Mariners desperately need outfield help and some offensive fire power on the team.
Prediction: Ellsbury signs with Mariners for 6 years $105 million
3) Shin Soo Choo
Choo is another leadoff hitter that will be paid handsomely this offseason because of his ability to hit at the top of the order. After playing in Cleveland for seven seasons, Choo was traded to the Reds and had one of the best seasons of his career. Since Choo has become a regular starter midway through the 2008 season, he has been extremely durable and consistent, besides for one season. Choo has displayed the ability to bat for average as well as power from the top of the order, which is unique in today’s game. Over the past few seasons, Choo has averaged 20 home runs, .295 average, 20 steals, 75 RBI, and 95 runs. However, Choo’s biggest asset is his ability to reach base. Over the past few seasons, Choo has averaged an on base percentage of .400, which is extraordinarily high for a player, who does not strike out frequently. Choo is a versatile player that can play any position in the outfield. Choo does not have great speed, but is a smart defender and has a great arm in the outfield. Choo’s arm enables him to gun down base runners and play center and right field. During the offseason, Boras will display Choo as a player similar to Jayson Werth. Choo and Werth are similar players, but as the Nationals have realized, Werth is not worth a $126 million deal. Luckily for Choo, he expects to have a lot of interest from different teams, such as the Rangers, Yankees, Mariners, Tigers, Mets, and White Sox. Choo will probably end up with the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have recently traded for Prince Fielder and want to win in the American League. Also, the Rangers must replace the production of Nelson Cruz, who is leaving this offseason in free agency. Choo will fit nicely into the number one hole for the Rangers because they just traded their lead off hitter, Ian Kinsler, to the Tigers for Prince Fielder. Choo’s ability to reach base will give Fielder and Beltre more opportunities to collect RBI. Although other teams will make a run at Choo, Texas is willing to spend a lot of money for his services and will probably out bid the other competitors
Prediction: Choo signs with Rangers for 6 year $100 million
4) Masahiro Tanaka
The Japanese superstar and ace has received a lot of hype this offseason because of his past success. Over the past few seasons, Tanaka has risen in the ranks in Japan because of his recent success and progression. Last season, Tanaka had one of the best seasons in Japanese history. Last season, Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 183 strikeouts. Many believe that Tanaka is one of the best Japanese pitchers in history and feel that his stuff will translate to success in Major League Baseball. Tanaka’s stock has risen because of the success to Yu Darvish. Although Tanaka does not have the stuff and talent like Darvish, Tanaka should be a possible number one or a very good number two in a pitching staff. Tanaka has success because he has a good fastball, slider, and splitter. The closest MLB resemblance to Tanaka is Hiroki Kuroda. Besides for their Japanese decent, they both love to throw fastballs, sliders, and splitters. The Japanese pitchers have experienced success recently because they are one of the few pitchers that throw splitters and sliders. Tanaka is similar to Kuroda because they both throw in the low to mid 90s with their fastballs and occasionally throw into the high 90s. This offseason, Major League teams must pay a posting fee before talking with Tanaka. Many believe that the posting fee for Tanaka could reach $75 million, but it will probably be closer to $65 million. Since the posting fee does not affect a team’s luxury tax situation, teams, such as the Yankees and Dodgers, will be more encouraged to pay for Tanaka’s posting privileges. After paying the posting fee, teams must pay Tanaka’s contract, which will be around $50-60 million. Since the fee will cost around $120-130 million, Tanaka’s services will be limited to the big market clubs. Since most of Tanaka’s money will not count against the luxury tax, the Yankees will sign Tanaka. The Yankees are desperate for top end young pitching and Tanaka will fill these needs for the Yankees. After the Haren signing, the Dodgers have six starting pitchers and will be reluctant to sign another expensive starting pitcher.
Prediction: Tanaka signs with the Yankees for 4 years $60 million with a posting price of $70 million
5) Matt Garza
The free agent right hander is in line for a big pay day this offseason. Most people believe that Garza is the best American pitcher in free agency because of his past success a few seasons ago. When healthy, Garza has been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball. Although Garza is not a number one or two on a championship team, he can be a reliable number three. Since his first full season in 2008, Garza has not pitched over a 4.00 ERA and was an innings eater during his healthy seasons. During the middle of his career with the Rays and first year with the Cubs, Garza average 200 innings, 175 strikeout, and 3.70 ERA. However, the past two seasons have been a nightmare for Garza because of his injury history. If Garza did not have an injury history, he probably could command a contract, like the AJ Burnett and Anibal Sanchez deal. However, teams will be wary, which will take years and money off of his contract. Also, American League teams may worry because of trouble he experienced with the Rangers during the latter part of last season, 4.37 ERA. This offseason, Garza will attempt to earn a deal similar to Anibal Sanchez, but it is unlikely that he will obtain success. Although Garza will not have the same contract, he should attract a lot of suitors this offseason, especially if Tanaka cannot come to America. Teams, such as the Royals, Astros, Phillies, Blue Jays, Twins, Nationals, and Yankees, will be competing for his services. However, the Blue Jays are probably most likely to land the right hander. Garza was originally a Twin before he was traded to the Rays and has shown a desire to return to the AL East. Also, the Blue Jays have stated that they would like to sign a big name free agent pitcher because their pitching was atrocious last season. Although the AL East is a difficult division to pitch in, Garza has achieved success with the Rays and has the confidence to succeed once again. Garza will probably sign a contract for around 75-80 million dollars over 5-6 seasons. Also, Garza is not connect to a draft pick so the team that signs him will not have to lose a pick
Prediction: Garza signs with the Blue Jays for 5 years $75 million
6) Ervin Santana
The 30 year old right hander is coming off the best season of his career and will be paid handsomely because of his success. Although Santana did not post a winning season, he recorded an outstanding 3.24 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 211 innings, and 161 strikeouts. Santana is similar to Garza because they both have the ability to pitch 200+ effective innings, but are occasionally injured or ineffective. Like Garza, Santana projects to be a number three on a playoff team or a number two on an average team. Over his career, Santana’s biggest asset has been his ability to log innings. In four of his last six seasons, Santana has pitched over 210 innings with an ERA under 4.oo and a WHIP under 1.33, which are quality numbers. However, in the other two seasons Santana was absolutely awful, allowing an ERA of over 5.00 and pitching under 180 innings. If Santana can translate his success from this season to his new club, his club will be receiving a steal. Like Garza, Santana will be attempting to receive a $100 million deal, but it is unlikely that he will obtain that figure. The teams, Yankees, Marlins, Phillies, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Astros, and Nationals that are going after Garza will be looking at Santana as well because of the strikingly close similarities. However, the Nationals will probably be the winners of the Santana sweepstakes. After winning the NL East two seasons ago, the Nationals had a horrible season because they could not hit or pitch well enough to win games. However, they have the finances and desire to make the playoffs again this season. The addition of Santana will relieve some of the pressure on Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, who moderately underperformed last year. Santana should be able to net a deal close to Garza and Sanchez.
Prediction: Santana signs the Nationals for 5 years and $82.5 million
7) Hiroki Kuroda
The veteran right handed pitcher has been the best pitcher for the Yankees over the past two seasons. The 38 year old Japanese pitcher has been more than the Yankees could have expected, when he signed with them two seasons ago. Over the past two seasons, Kuroda has averaged a 3.32 ERA, 210 innings, 1.16 WHIP, and 160 strikeouts. Although Kuroda has been consistent and very good, he did not pitch well toward the end of last season. Unfortunately, Kuroda may have a dead arm, which could affect his performance this season. Although it is uncertain if Kuroda will re-sign with the Yankees or retire from MLB, it has been reported that Kuroda is leaning toward returning for another season in pinstripes. If the Yankees are able to monitor his innings closer, Kuroda should have the arm strength to pitch consistently and effectively for the entire season. Kuroda is a ground ball pitcher with a good fastball and slider combination. Even during his troubles, Kuroda was able to pitch in the low to mid 90s with his fastball. The Yankees will attempt to sign Kuroda by offering a large one year contract, similar to the last two seasons. Kuroda will be asking for about $18-20 million, but it is unlikely that the Yankees will oblige because of the struggles he experienced toward the end of the season. However, Kuroda may have some leverage because the Yankees are desperate for starting pitching. Currently the Yankees have only two starting pitchers, but CC and Ivan Nova both have questions that must be answered, if the Yankees are going to return to the playoffs. Eventually Kuroda will probably re-sign with the Yankees for a one year deal around $15-18 million. Besides the Yankees, it is unlikely that Kuroda will pitch for another MLB team because he has expressed discontent in moving. If their is a dark horse for Kuroda, it will be the Angels because he has pitched in California and they have the money to spend on starting pitching, which they desperately desire.
Prediction: Kuroda signs with the Yankees for 1 year $17 million
8) AJ Burnett
After three disastrous years with the Yankees, Burnett was traded to the Pirates and has experienced great success over the last two seasons. The 15 year veteran has been able to resurrect his career in Pittsburgh, which will enable him to score a good deal. Over the past two seasons, Burnett has been the ace of the staff, recorded averaged a 3.40 ERA, 195 innings, 200 strikeouts, and 1.22 WHIP. Even though he was unable to pitch in the media intense environment of New York, the small media market of Pittsburgh was great for Burnett’s mental health and confidence. Although the Pirates would love to re-sign Burnett this offseason, he has expressed interest in retiring. However, it seems unlikely that the Pirates will be unable to convince Burnett to return because of the money they can offer him. Also, the Bucs have a good chance at having another good season. The Pirates need Burnett because of the leadership and innings that he can provide for a young pitching staff. The Bucs will be putting young players into their rotation and the young players will have innings limits. Burnett seems very content with Pittsburgh, but a few dark horse teams that may attempt to sign Burnett are the Astros, Royals, or Brewers. However, Burnett will ultimately re-sign with the Bucs and lead their young, talented staff. If Burnett wants to sign a long term deal, he could probably get a 3 year 40 million dollar deal, but he probably wants to take it one or two seasons at a time until he retires.
Prediction: Burnett signs with Pirates for 2 years and $30 million
9) Carlos Beltran
The veteran free agent is likely to join his sixth team of his career. Over his career, Beltran has been one of the best players of his generation and has chance of making the Hall of Fame. Although Beltran has never won a World Series championship, he is arguably the best postseason hitter of all time because he has hit for power and a high average. Although he is known for his postseason success, Beltran is still playing at an All-Star level in the outfielder. Over the past two seasons with the Cardinals, Beltran has averaged .285 average, 81 Runs, 28 Home Runs, 90 RBI, and .493 slugging percentage. Even though Beltran is 36, he still has the ability to play quality defense in right field. Although Beltran can still play the outfield, it would behoove him and his future team, if he goes to the American League and plays some DH. The DH could save Beltran’s legs and enable him to continue hitting for a few more seasons at a high level. Although it is unlikely, Beltran has been asking teams for a four year deal, which would allow him to play until he is forty years old. However, recent reporters have reported that teams are only willing to offer Beltran a two year deal. Currently, teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, Royals, Rangers, Orioles, Pirates, and Cardinals, are bidding for his services. However, it is most likely that the Yankees will be signing Beltran this offseason. The Yankees have made Beltran their number one priority, since they are waiting on Cano and Tanaka. The Yankees need another outfielder/DH and Beltran would definitely fit the mold. Also, Beltran has the ability to hit in the postseason, which would make him an instant favorite among Yankee fans. Beltran has stated that he would like o play with the Yankees.
Prediction: Beltran signs with Yankees for 2 years and $33 million
10) Mike Napoli
The power hitting first baseman was a great addition for the Red Sox, last season. If the Red Sox did not find Napoli’s medical problems, he would have signed a 3 year $39 million deal, during the past offseason. Instead, Napoli signed a one year five million dollar deal, which was an absolute bargain for the Sox. Although Napoli has posted quality numbers, he has missed a lot of games during every season of his career. Napoli has played over 115 games only twice in his career, but has recorded over 20 home runs for the past six seasons. Although Napoli is a good power hitter, he does not hit for average. Besides for his 2011 season where he hit .320, Napoli has never hit over .273 in a season. Last season, Napoli posted his second best season of his career, which should enable him to net a multiyear deal this offseason. Napoli hit .259, 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 79 runs, and .360 on base percentage. Although Napoli does not play great defenses, he is a clutch player and racked up numerous big hits while leading the Red Sox to the World Series title. However, last season, Napoli had his best defensive campaign of his career at first base. This offseason, Napoli will be wanting a deal similar to the deal he received last season, before failing the physical. Besides the Red Sox, the Orioles, Royals, Rangers, Mariners, and Twins have expressed interest in Napoli because of the offense he can provide to a team. However, it is likely that Napoli will remain with the Red Sox because he fits their needs. Since the Red Sox will be losing Jacoby Ellsbury, they need to find and retain offense, in order to repeat next season. Napoli’s right handed bat is perfect for Fenway Park, so they should be able to repeat his numbers from last season. Others will try to pry Napoli, but he loved his season with the Red Sox and his beard will perfectly with the other players.
Prediction: Napoli signs with the Red Sox for 3 years and $45 million
Info from MLBtraderumor, mlbbaseballreference, and espn.
Initially, when Allen Iverson retired about three weeks ago, I didn’t think it was necessary to write about it since he hasn’t been on an NBA team in the last three seasons. His season in the Turkish professional league served as an indicator of the end of his playing days. Yet, his announcement is important. His retirement officially ends any chance of a return to the NBA. It gives his millions of fans some closure and some sort of acceptance to the fact that revolutionary players can’t stay revolutionary forever.
Iverson became a polarizing figure the moment he began to receive any media coverage. His personality and physical characteristics evoke a certain sense of divide. His tattoos, cornrows, and sense of confidence make for a figure who is never rattled by criticism. He never felt deterred to be himself despite all the other scrutiny he came under for his off-court antics including David Stern implementing a dress code for all NBA players because of Iverson’s wardrobe.
The first indication of this enigmatic athlete came when Iverson was a 17 year old star in 1993 in Hampton, Virginia. He and a group of friends went to a bowling alley and created a “raucous.” A verbal argument escalated into far more when punches began being thrown. The altercation is believed to have been stemmed by the use of pejorative and racist remarks directed towards Iverson and his group. This event made national headlines for two reasons. First, it was a racial altercation and second, at the time Iverson was the best high school basketball player in the country. Though the real reason will never be known for the fight, Iverson was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his part in that fight on that February night. The fact that only Iverson and his group of black friends were arrested is noteworthy and was very controversial at the time of the court proceedings. Fortunately, Iverson only had to spend four months in jail before the governor of Virginia pardoned him.
Despite his prison term, head coach John Thompson was willing to offer him a spot at Georgetown. During this time in college, NBA scouts discovered Iverson’s brilliance as a game changer. For Iverson, two years of college basketball was enough to prove to NBA teams that he could play amongst all the talent in the NBA. As a Hoya, he won the Big East Rookie of the Year, First Team All American, and set the team record for scoring average, a record that still stands. Everything he accomplished on the basketball court was done with a sense of swagger though. His fashion sense became trendy. His Georgetown Hoya uniform and Jordan sneakers became an iconic image of basketball throughout the 1990s.
Iverson became the first 6’0 player to be drafted #1 overall when he was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1996 from a talented pool filled with Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, and Steve Nash. This draft class would later be responsible for a grand total of four MVP awards and numerous records. Critics of his called this pick a terrible one because of the lack of maturity on Iverson’s part. He was now a professional athlete, he needed to start acting like one. But, this idea of successfully transitioning into a more mature media character never came to fruition for Iverson. It didn’t matter though, because this “bad ass” attitude was thought of as cool and something which was responsible for Iverson’s popularity amongst all young players.
During the first 10 full seasons of his career, Iverson led the 76ers to six playoff appearances including the 2001 NBA Finals against the Shaquille O’Neal led Los Angeles Lakers. He broke out for 48 points in Game 1 of that series, which ended with Philadelphia victorious. The 76ers lost the next four games despite a collective 130 point effort in those games from Iverson. He went on to win the league’s MVP award at season’s end. During those 10 full years in Philly, Iverson led the league in minutes per game six times, points per game four times, and steals per game three times. Also of note, is the fact that during that 10 year span, Iverson averaged more than 30 points per game an astonishing five times including 33 PPG in the 2005-2006 season. Although his on-court play was sensation, it too drew much criticism. His skeptics cited the fact that Iverson was the most selfish player in the NBA. With Philly, his field goal percentage never elevated above 45% with the exception of one season. Clearly, that did not matter as his 76ers had one of the most successful periods of winning in the franchise’s history during this “Iverson Era.” All good teams need a player like Iverson who is willing to take charge and do whatever it takes to win even if it means that he has to hoist up 25 shot each night. He had enough offensive talent to score a basket on anybody who defended him including the famous Jordan double crossover mid range jumper. His offensive prowess is unparalleled to any other barely six footer the league has ever witnessed.
I kept on mentioning the term “full” in the previous paragraph since in his 11th season, Iverson was traded to the Denver Nuggets. After his first and only full season in Denver, the 2007-2008 campaign, Iverson’s number began to gradually decline. He was traded to the Detroit Pistons and then signed with the Memphis Grizzlies during the next offseason. Then, he was traded back to the 76ers during the 2009-2010 season. He began and ended his career in the city of “brotherly love.” His “bad ass” attitude could partially be attributed to the city of Philadelphia as well. During the 1980s and 1990s, Philadelphia became a major pop culture hub in the United States. Prior to Iverson even joining the 76ers, he was seen as an basketball off-court icon to kids around the country. Adding Philly to the mix, made it an even more extreme combo.
In a league that has had many of these polarizing figures throughout its history, Iverson stands out. Iverson’s on-court presence was so unique. Rarely, do we find such an athletic player who is willing to drive as hard as possible against men who tower almost a foot taller. He was willing to sacrifice everything for basketball as long as he achieved glory and the W’s in the result column. Perhaps, sometimes he might have put too much on the line. Off the court, Iverson had some memorable moments including the infamous practice rant and his aforementioned wardrobe, which included baggy shorts, chains, and sideways caps. Because of him, players had to begin conducting themselves in a more appropriate manner with their attire during press conferences, arriving and leaving an arena, and while on the bench. That is certainly not the only way he transformed the league. He leaves an indelible mark on the NBA. He transcended the Point Guard position. With him came an evolution towards a more score-first Point Guard position which we see so widespread today in Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving to name a few.
The original A.I. played a critical role in the transformation of the NBA from the beginning of his career. People will remember him for his scoring as much as his heart. He may be the shortest player ever to win the scoring title, a feat he accomplished four times, but was able to do so because he had the greatest desire to push forward. He may have logged the fourth most minutes on average per game in NBA history, but he’ll also be remembered for his pitchman prowess as an endorser for Reebok. His stellar perimeter defense will be remembered as much as his trend setting ways with the shooting sleeve, which is now worn by almost all superstars in the NBA. His electrifying nature cannot simply stop the moment he retired. Rather, the legend of Allen Iverson will live on as long as the Point Guard position is still in existence.
The Seattle Seahawks stand at 10-1 going into their week 12 bye and with games coming up against tough NFC opponents such as New Orleans and San Francisco, they need to be at the top of their game on both sides of the ball. Most people know that Seattle has an elite defense, ranking 2nd in passing yards allowed per game, 1st in interceptions and 3rd in points allowed per game. They have stars at every level, Cliff Avril,Chris Clemons and Michael Bennett are tremendous pass rushers up front and stout linebackers Bobby Wagner,Bruce Irvin and KJ Wright form one of the best young linebacking corps in the league. The best part of their defense is the notorious Legion of Boom led by the loquacious and hard hitting corners, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner (who will be out 4-6 weeks with a groin injury), to go along with the best strong safety and free safety combo in the league in Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. Most importantly the Seahawks’ success will rely on the offense, led by Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the new addition Percy Harvin. After Wilson was selected in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft, he has shown he has all the tools to be an elite quarterback. He has a strong arm, a great feel for the game and most importantly, great leadership qualities. This year Russell Wilson has the 5th best passer rating in the league at 105.1, proving he can make the most out of a mediocre wide receiving corps that Seattle had for the first 10 weeks of the season. Now with Harvin back from injury, the Seahawks are exponentially better on the offensive side of the ball. Here are a couple of reasons why.
1.)Harvin gives Russell Wilson a primary target
This year Russell Wilson ranks among the NFL’s elite in passer rating, while throwing for 2,362 yards to secondary and tertiary options such as Golden Tate, Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. With Harvin, the 67 million dollar man, Wilson has a serious deep threat, a player who might just be the fastest player in the league and has a reputation for making big plays. Obviously people know Harvin’s strength is speed and this fits Wilson’s style perfectly as his deep throw accuracy is one of the best, Wilson has a passer rating of 117.6 with balls thrown between 21 and 30 yards and a passer rating of 141.4 with balls thrown 31-40 yards. Harvin will also open up opportunities for players like Tate and Baldwin because the defense will be so focused on Harvin that these other players will have less press coverage. Teaming up with Wilson will also be a change for Percy Harvin as he gets an elite quarterback to throw to him. Look at Percy Harvin’s numbers with an older Brett Favre, 790 yards and 6tds in 15 games in 2009 and 868 yards and 5tds in 14 games in 2010 and with Christian Ponder, 967 yards and 6tds in 16 games in 2011 and 677 yards and 3tds in 9 games in 2012. Neither Favre nor Ponder were on the current level of Russell Wilson, showing that Harvin’s potential hasn’t even been tested. Great quarterbacks tend to have great receivers to help them out and Harvin will be a first for the ever-evolving Wilson.
2.)Opens lanes for Marshawn Lynch
Harvin or no Harvin, Marshawn Lynch has been playing like a beast this year, ranking 2nd in rushing with 925 yards and tied for 1st with 9tds. But with Harvin, Lynch could improve in the final weeks of the season. Look at Adrian Peterson’s numbers in 2008, 1,760 yards with 10 tds and 125 yards receiving and in Percy Harvin’s rookie year, 2009, AP had 1,368 yards with 18tds and 436 yards receiving.Although Peterson did have more yards in 2008 with 1,885 as opposed to 1,804 in 2009, he had 8 fewer tds and 49 more rushing attempts in ’08. This lessened workload helped Peterson sustain a balanced season while still being a productive runner. This could be the same case for Lynch as he won’t have to run as much and he can focus on the very effective screen plays that only expand this offense. Lynch averages 6.1 yards per catch with balls thrown behind the line of scrimmage, an indicator of Lynch’s effectiveness in the screen game. The other positive with Harvin’s return is the vaunted play action pass the Seahawks love to run. Imagine this, Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch in the spread option with Harvin in the slot. They have three potential deadly options, 1.) Give the ball to Marshawn 2.) Have Russell Wilson pull out the ball and scramble 3.) Have Russell Wilson pull out the ball and find Harvin on a deep route. Defenses will have to guess and then react to these different options, making it difficult to stop all of the weapons. This will open lanes for Lynch as corners and safeties will not be able to crowd the box and defend Harvin simultaneously. Most people will watch Harvin and his improvement but I will be watching how Marshawn Lynch plays with Harvin on the field.
3.)Kick Return and Rushing
Percy Harvin came out of Florida with the reputation as a “game wrecker”, a compliment for an explosive player of Harvin’s nature and with 4.4 speed he certainly is a game wrecker. Look at the kick return numbers for Harvin: 42 returns for 1156 yards and 2tds in 2009, 40 returns for 933 yards and 1td in 2010, 16 returns for 520 yards and 1td in 2011, 16 returns for 574 yards and 1td and then the return last week for 58 yards. Now if you average these numbers out, Harvin averages 28.1 yards on kick returns for his career. This average would be good for 2nd in return yards this year, showing just how dynamic Harvin is. He is also a menace coming out of the backfield with 6.4 yards per carry and 4tds in his career. Now with only five weeks left, I don’t know if there is time for Pete Carroll to design some Percy Harvin run plays, but if they do formulate a few designed read option runs, the Seahawks could be even more dangerous. Come playoff time Harvin could also prove to be a vital piece in the return game if he can replicate returns like the 58 yard one he registered against his former team last week.
The future for the Seahawks is very bright with Harvin in the fold as I believe the Seahawks will finish the year with a record of 14-2, win the #1 overall seed in the NFC and control home field until the Super Bowl. I then envision the 12th man and the Emerald city celebrating in early February as Paul Allen’s 67 million dollar investment pays off with a Super Bowl ring.
Vote Below on Harvin’s impact:
Stats from ESPN.com
Baltimore Ravens at Chicago Bears:
The defending champion Ravens are heading into Chicago’s Soldier’s Field in an attempt to rectify their season and possibly make a playoff run. However, the Ravens have been extremely inconsistent this season because their offense is incredibly one dimensional, even though they had one of the best running backs in the game, Ray Rice. The downfall of Ray Rice has been the Ravens’ inability to create running lanes and give him enough carries to make an impact against defenses. Although he is paid like one of the best quarterbacks in the league, Joe Flacco should not be seventh in the league in pass attempts. Flacco has not been very good this season, 25th best quarterback rating in the league, fifth most interceptions in the league, and third most sacks in the NFL. Although sacks are not directly Flacco’s fault, the best quarterbacks have the ability to limit sacks and not turnover the football. If the Ravens are going to succeed toward the end of the season, they should rely on their defense and running game to lead them through the regular season. The improvement of the running game will allow Flacco to through the deep ball, which is the best part of his game. The Ravens defense have steadily improved throughout the season. The Ravens needed time to gel since they lost many players during the offseason. While the Ravens are fighting for their playoff lives, the Bears are hoping that they can survive until their injured players return from injury. Unfortunately for the Bears, they have lost many players on the defensive side of the ball for this game against the Ravens. While the defense may struggle another week, the offense should be able to score. Although Cutler is out with an injury, Luke McCown has been surprisingly good for the Bears. Luckily for McCown, he has great options on offense, Forte, Marshall, and Jeffrey. Unlike the Ravens, the Bears have a steady offense so defenses are unable to defend the all of their weapons. The weather in Chicago looks gloomy, which will hurt the Ravens since they cannot run the ball and Flacco’s deep passes will be difficult. Chicago should be the favorite since they are playing at home and have more momentum, especially on offense.
Prediction: Bears win 27-24
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals:
After destroying the Jets three weeks ago, 49-9, the Bengals have looked like one of the worst teams in the league. They have lost two straight games and their offense has been pitiful during the last two contestants, 18.5 ppg. The Bengals may be tired because they have been on the road the last two weeks and have not taken their bye week to rest and rejuvenate. The Bengals lost their best player on defense, Geno Atkins, which has devastated the Bengals’ defense. Atkins is a great player because he can rush the passer from the interior of the line, but can also stop the run and stuff opposing running backs at the line of scrimmage. The Bengals have been able to succeed this season because Andy Dalton has improved as a passer. Although the running game has been incredibly inconsistent, as Giovanni Bernard has been up and down all season, Dalton has been able to lead the offense by finding his big play receiver AJ Green and his fabulous young tight ends Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham. While the Bengals offense has improved, the defense has taken a great stride this season and is top ten against the run and the pass. The Browns will have trouble scoring against the Bengals because their offense has been horrific since the injury to Brian Hoyer. After Hoyer went down with an ACL injury, Branden Weeden stepped in to retake the quarterback position. However, Weeden has been inefficient and the offense has managed only 18 point per game over their last 4 decision, since Hoyer was lost due to injury. While Weeden deserves blame for the Browns offense, the running backs have given him no help over the last few weeks. Since dealing Trent Richardson, the Browns have been unable to run the ball with Willis McGahee. This week, McGahee will be replaced by Chris Ogbannaya. Since the Browns have not threatened teams with their running games, opposing defenses have been able to stop their impressive wide receivers, led by Joe Gordon and Jordan Cameron. This game will probably not be very close as the Browns have shown no life on offense and the Bengals’ defense is stellar. The Bengals will want to head into the bye week with a win so they can rest happily and not fear the Ravens, who are close behind them in the AFC North standings.
Prediction: Bengals win 27-13
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles:
The Eagles have not won a game at home all season, but are looking to reverse the trend so that they can reenter the playoff picture and win the NFC East. Lately, the Eagles offense have been incredibly hot and Nick Foles stats are great over the last few games. Although Foles does not have the speed like Mike Vick, he has not caused turnovers and has found his receivers when open down the field, which results in points and big yardage. Although Foles has not played like a great quarterback, his number speak more to the skill of his wide receivers and play makers than his ability to fit balls into tight coverage. Desean Jackson and Riley Cooper have been great over the last three games at finding space in the defense and exploiting them for large gains. Also, LeSean Shady McCoy has been great throughout the season because he has the big play ability, has great hands, which makes him a threat out of the backfield, and has the toughness to fight for yardage. The Eagles should be able to score on the Redskins like their first matchup during week 1 of the season, Eagles won 33-27. If the Redskins are going to win, RGIII and the Redskins’ offense must step up and score the ball more frequently and efficiently. The Redskins have alternated wins the last seven weeks because they cannot find consistency on the offensive or defensive side of the ball. RGIII has not been the same player that put the Redskins on his back and carried them to the playoffs last season. Also, the defensive playmakers, Brian Okrapo, Ryan Kerrigan, and DeAngelo Hall, have not made plays to slow down opposing offenses. Although the Redskins’ season may appear over, they have the talent and have shown in the past that they can turn around their season, like last season. If the Redskins have any desire of making the playoffs, they must beat the Birds in Lincoln Financial Field. Although RGIII and Alfred Morris will put up big numbers against the Redskins, the Eagles should win the game. Currently the Eagles defense is playing better than the Redskins’ defense. Also, the Eagles have a lot of momentum and feel that they have a legitimate chance at turning around the season and winning the division.
Prediction: Eagles win 33-24
Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers:
The Lions are looking to win the NFC North for the first time in the last 20 years. Luckily for Detroit, they have a legitimate chance of winning because they are playing great football and many of the teams in their division are facing questions at the quarterback position because of injuries to their stars. Although Detroit has won the last two games by a combined 3 points, they are playing well on both offense and defense. Their defensive line has been dominant all season because they have talented players like Suh and Fairley. On offense, they have some of the most exciting and dynamic players in the league like Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, and Matthew Stafford. While the season has worn, Detroit’s offense has steadily improved because of the play of Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson. Unlike previous seasons, the Lions finally have a running back that can explode out of the backfield, but can also record big plays in the passing game. The added weapons has made Matthew Stafford one of the best quarterbacks in the league because he does not have to worse passes, in order to succeed. Consequently, Stafford has posted some of the best numbers of his career and has been incredibly careful with the ball during a majority of the season. While Detroit has improved this season, the Steelers look like a team that needs a lot of help, if they are going to return to dominance. The Steelers are different from many of their former teams because they cannot run or defend the run. Currently, the Steelers are 27th at running the basketball and 29th at defending the run. The lack of running game has exploited weaknesses in Pittsburgh’s offense because big Ben is unable to lead the team. Ben has posted some of the worst stats of his career because of age and the defenses are not showing a willingness to defend the run. Although the Steelers season is lost, the team has too many proud veterans and coach to quit on the season and look toward next season. Although it will be difficult, the Lions should win the game on the road. Unless Dick Lebeau has an answer for stopping Calvin Johnson or Reggie Bush, the Lions should put up plenty of points against the Steelers’ defense.
Prediction: Lions win 30-24
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
The Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Bucs are two of the worst teams in the league and this should be one of the worst match ups of the weekend. Although the Bucs have won their last game and are playing better football, the Bucs possess little talent at important positions. The Bucs quarterback position has been dreadful all season and Mike Glennon does not look like he has a future at the position. Glennon has only thrown for 1300 yards and has been incredibly inconsistent with the football. While the quarterback position has been horrible, the Tampa’s running back has been incredibly unfortunate with injuries. The Tampa Bay Bucs have lost two of their top running backs for the season, which has been catastrophic for Glennon, since he does not have a running game to fall back on. While the offense has been anemic, the defense has been solid all season and has a lot of talent, especially in the secondary. Throughout the season, Revis has steadily improved because his body is healing and he is returning to his status as the best corner in the league. Besides Revis, Goldson and Barron have been solid as safeties protecting against the deep passes. While the Bucs are steadily improving, the Falcons’ season has broken into shambles since the loss at home against Revis’ old team, Jets. Atlanta has been devastated by injuries, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The Falcons have lost White, Jones, Jackson, and possibly Gonzalez. The loss of wide receivers has forced Matt Ryan to fit balls into tight windows and has resulted in multiple interceptions. Over the past three weeks, Ryan has thrown 7 interceptions compared to only 3 touchdowns against the Seahawks, Panthers, and Cardinals. Unfortunately for Ryan, he must continue throwing the football because the Falcons’ running game has been non existent for the whole season. Over the course of the season, the Falcons have rushed for only 579 yards. In this game, the Bucs should win at home. The Bucs have been playing better and the defense should be able to stymie the Falcons offense that has been pathetic the past few weeks. Although a win may knock the Bucs down on the draft board, Schiano needs a few more wins if he is going to keep his job.
Prediction: Bucs win 20-17
Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Jaguars:
Last week was a great week for win less teams as they both won last week, Jags and Bucs. The Jaguars have been horrible this season because their offense cannot produce any points. Currently, they are last in points per game, 12.8, because they do not have a dependable quarterback, running back, or wide receiver. The Jaguars need to find a new quarterback this offseason because the combination of Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert cannot get the job done on offense. The combination has recorded only 4 touchdowns and about 2000 yards passing while each have thrown 7 picks. While the quarterbacks have been horrible, the running backs have not been effective. The Jags are 31st in the league in running yards per game. MJD is not the same running back and is too old and worn to carry the ball 25 times a game. On offense, the Jags have scored only 9 touchdowns. In comparison, Nick Foles has thrown for 10 touchdowns in the last two games. Like the offense, the defense does not have much talent and cannot consistently stop their opponents. Also, they do not have the ability to change a game by forcing turnovers, which puts the offense in worse situations. Although the Jags are looking toward next year, the Cardinals feel that they have a chance to make the playoffs. The Cardinals have won two straight games and are over 500 on the season. The Cardinals offense has improved because of the emergence of running back Andre Ellington. Andre has shown the Cardinals that he has the big play ability to change a game at any moment. Along with Ellington, Carson Palmer has become safer with the ball and has tossed two touchdowns in each of the last two games. The Cardinals will have success in this game because their defense has been solid this season. The Cardinals are ranked 3rd in the league in rush defense, which has enabled them to make their opponents one dimensional. In this game, the Cardinals should be able to contain the Jags offense, while on offense they should do enough to lengthen their two game winning streak.
Prediction: Cardinals win 24-16
Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans:
The Raiders look like they will be without their starting quarterback and running back for the game against the Texans. Although the Raiders have been inconsistent this season, they have exceeded expectations. The Raiders have been able to win three games with a quarterback that many felt should not be in the game. However, Pryor has steadily improved throughout the season because of his dual threat ability. Although Pryor is not the most consistent passer, he is extremely fast and has rushed for over 500 yards. The Oakland offense has been below average this season because they do not have the ability to throw the ball consistently and effectively. Thus, the opponents are able to put 8 men in the box to stop the run. With the added attention, Darren McFadden has been unable to run for big yardage. Currently, he has less than 400 yards on the season because he does not have the holes and is given less carries because of Pryor’s running and injuries. In the last two games, the Raiders have lost because their defense cannot shut down the opponents’ offense. The Raiders inability to stop the pass should enable Case Keenum to record a big game at home for the Texans. Since Case took over for Matt three weeks ago, he has not thrown an interception, but has not won a game. In the last three games, the Texans have improved and have lost by only 7 points. While Case has not wowed fans and experts with his game, he has played well and has not lost the games for the Texans. Unfortunately for Case, the Texans have lost their star running back Arian Foster for the season. The Texans have had trouble scoring all season, 18.9 points per game, but they have improved over the last few weeks. Along with the improved offense, the Texans’ defense has been impressive the last few games and has kept the team in the game for a majority of the game. In this game, the Texans should win the game and give Case his first win in the NFL. The Raiders will have a difficult time winning this game because they will not be able to score enough points. The ferocious Texans’ defense should be able to force a few turnovers and stymie the Raiders offense. On offense, Case should be able to find open wide receivers and score points to win the game.
Prediction: Texans 27-13
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills:
The Jets have won during every odd day, but have lost during every even week. Luckily for the Jets, they had their bye week on an even week and are playing on an odd week this week. The Jets success this season has been due to their great defensive line. The self proclaimed Sons of Anarchy has been create at rushing the passer and stopping the run, without sending extra men into the box. Although the secondary has not been great like previous seasons, the defensive line has enabled the secondary to guard their man for less time and has concealed their true problems. Hopefully for the Jets, Dee Millner will play like a top ten pick, Cro will return to his All-Pro form, and Ed Reed has enough left in the tank to strike fear into receivers and pick off a few passes. If the Jets secondary can improve, the defense could elevate from the 8th best defense to a top five defense. While the Jets have been dominant on defense, the offense has been steady and has started to stop turning over the football. As seen from their last game against the Saints, the Jets can become incredibly successful and threatening if they do not turn the ball over and run the ball. Although Geno has not been the reason why the Jets have won 2 of their last 3 games, he should have more weapons and options in this game against Buffalo. Holmes, Winslow, and Kerley are all expect to return for the game in Orchard Park. Although the Jets may not want to throw the ball very often, the weapons should force the Buffalo D to respect the pass and open lanes for the Chris Ivory and the running game. If the Bills are going to stop the Jets this weekend, Marcel Darius and Mario Williams must pressure Geno Smith and stop the running game. This season, Williams has looked like the player that earned a 100 million dollar deal a few seasons ago. However, RT Austin Howard has been able to stop Williams over the last three contests. Williams should be determined to beat Howard and regain respect from the Jets’ coaches. Unlike their previous matchup, the Bills will have their secondary for the game. If Williams can force a few bad passes, the Bills’ talented safeties and corners may be able to pick a few of Geno’s passes. Unfortunately on offense, the Bills will be without their two best wide receivers Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods. The duo has accounted for 40% of the Bills’ passing yards this season. Although CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson would be able to carry the Bills against most teams, the Jets are the number one rush defense in the league and the duo has not experienced success against the talented Jets front 7 in the past. Also, the pressure provided by the Jets last three first round picks, besides Millner, should be able to provide pressure to distract EJ Manuel and force turnovers or incomplete passes. In this game, the score should be relatively low scoring since neither of these teams have explosive or talented players on offense. However, the Jets will be returning players, unlike the Bills, so they should win the game and continue their win streak on odd weeks or their first consecutive win streak of the season.
Prediction: Jets win 21-17
San Diego Charger vs Miami Dolphins:
Prediction: Chargers win 27-24
San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints:
Prediction: Saints win 31-30
Green Bay Packers at New York Giants:
Prediction: Giants win 21-17
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks:
Prediction: Seahawks win 31-16
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos:
Prediction: Broncos win 31-30
New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers:
Prediction: Panthers win 27-21
Pics and stats from ESPN.com