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Prediction and Preview for the Super Bowl

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Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos:

6:25 PM

MetLife Stadium

Finally the big game has arrived. After an epic season, we are watching the best two teams play for the final, which is rare in the NFL. The two number 1 seeds are playing in the Super Bowl for the first time since 2009, Saints won Peyton Manning’s Colts. This game is even more intriguing because it will pit the number one scoring defense in the league verses the number one scoring offense in NFL history. This game has great matchups, Peyton Manning versus Richard Sherman, Broncos’ passing offense, which is the best in the league, versus Seattle’s secondary, which is the best in the league, and Marshawn Lynch aka Beast Mode verses the Broncos’ run defense, which was surprisingly the 8th best unit in the NFL during the regular season. The Seahawks were able to sustain success throughout the season because their defense ranks first against the pass and seventh against the run while their offense has taken great strides with Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. Although Seattle is predominantly a run first team, 4th in yards per game and 2nd in attempts per game in the league, with Marhawn Lynch and a versatile Russell Wilson, the passing offense was incredible consistent and efficient. While the Seahawks finished 26th in passing yards per game, they were fourth in the league in yards per attempt, ninth in completion percentage, and third in interceptions. Although the stats may be random, it shows that the team strategically uses its running game to set up the defense for the play action pass down the field, which is rarely intercepted, but commonly completed. Although the Seahawks do not have a big play receiver, the group is steady and catches every ball thrown their way. Although Harvin has been hurt throughout the season, he has great talent and speed that could break a game open, if he can play through the game. Along with the ability to throw the ball for a big play, Marshawn Lynch is a great running back that wears a defense until they break and give up a huge run. As seen in the last view playoff games, Lynch has rushed for a long touchdown late in every game, which gave the Seahawks the win. The Seahawks have a great balance of big plays while limiting their turnovers. The Seahawks should be able to throw on the Broncos as long as they block for Wilson because the Broncos’ secondary is the worst part of their team and is facing nagging injuries. Although Lynch may have trouble in the first half against the stout Broncos’ run defense, he should be able to wear them down and eventually break huge runs at the end of the game. Also, Wilson may try to run more often if his offensive line is having trouble like their game against the 49ers, although the 49ers have a far superior pass rush.

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

Along with the great offense, the defense complements the offense because it causes turnovers and stops every offense it has faced over the last few games. The defense has been great because it plays to its strengths: its secondary. Along with Richard Sherman, one of the best corners in the league, the Seahawks have Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Brian Maxwell. Besides Earl Thomas, the trio has great speed and size while playing physical football at the line of scrimmage. They will need to continue playing bump and run defense against Peyton and his wide outs so that they can disrupt the rhythm of the Broncos’ offense. Although Thomas does not have the size, he is a ball hawk in the secondary and makes great plays that alter the path of the game for the Seahawks. Although they will probably switch the men they play, fans should expect Sherman on D. Thomas, Chancellor and linebackers on J. Thomas, Earl Thomas or a linebacker on Welker, and Maxwell on Decker. Since the Seahawks can play one on one coverage in the backfield, the front four of the Seahawks is given more time to rush the passer. The Broncos’ offensive line has been great this postseason and Peyton has not been sacked in any of the previous two games. The combination of Clemens, Mebane, Bryant, and McDaniel must apply pressure on Peyton in order to force errant passes and turnovers. Although Seattle rarely blitzes, their linebackers are solid, athletic, and have the ability to play all over the football field. The linebackers will need to occasionally add pressure on Manning while also defending the run and stopping the short routes to Welker or Thomas over the middle. The Seattle defense needs to be able to stop the run in order to put Manning into “throwing downs”. This will help them come off the field and possibly cause a turnover. The cold and the wind should help Seattle’s ferocious and aggressive defense. Fans need to look at the way the game is called because it could make a major difference in the game. Although the refs have not called many holds or pass interferences on Seattle this year, the Seahawks are known for holding and interfering with the receivers. If the refs make these calls, it will give Manning extra downs, which will lead to a demise of the Seahawks.

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

Since the first game, which featured the Ravens and the Broncos, it seemed that the Broncos would make it the Super Bowl. Although the Broncos could not maintain the pace that they set in the first game, 7 touchdowns, they became the greatest scoring offensive of all-time. The Broncos have been lead by Peyton Manning all season long. Manning set the record for most passing yards and passing touchdowns in a season. Peyton would not have been able to succeed without the best receiving core in the league and one of the best and most consistent offensive lines in the league. During the season, D. Thomas, E. Decker, J. Thomas, and W. Welker all recorded more than 65 catches, 775 yards, and 10 touchdowns. The Broncos’ receivers posted great numbers because they are skilled and Peyton is able to fit the ball into tight windows. The Broncos’ receivers are big, fast, and have great hands, which enables them to win one on one matchups and separate from opposing cornerbacks. Manning has time to throw to all of his receivers because his offensive line is one of the best in the league. Although they lost Ryan Clady early in the season, the unit has been great over the last two games. Over the past two games, Peyton Manning has faced little pressure and has not been sacked. If the Seahawks cannot provide pressure on Manning, the Legion of Boom will be unable to stop Peyton and the best passing attack of all time. Along with Manning’s ability to spread the ball by passing, the Broncos have a very good running game that compliments their passing attack. Along with having the ability to catch the ball, Knowshon Moreno has rushed for over 1000 yards while recording 10 touchdowns. Lately, Montee Ball has been effective and provides Denver with a physical back that can wear down opposing lineman. If the wind affects the game, the Broncos should be confident that they can move the ball without passing the ball. The Seahawks are unlikely to hide many of their schemes so Peyton Manning will need to execute and put his offensive pieces in the correct spots in order to score points.

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

Since the Broncos’ offense has been historic, the Broncos’ defense has been very good and fantastic over the past four games, including two playoff games. Over the past four games, @Houston, @Oakland, San Diego, and New England, the Broncos’ defense has allowed on average 15 points per game. Although the Broncos ranked 26th in the league in passing yards allowed, the pass rush has improved and the cornerbacks are playing well even though they lost their best corner Chris Harris. The combination of Robert Ayers, Trevor Knighton, and Shaun Phillips has been great and has recorded five sacks in the past two games. Although the Denver secondary does not have as much talent as the Seahawks, Bailey, Rodgers-Cromartie, and Jammer have been playing well stop opposing quarterbacks in the first half. Although the trio has been good in the first half, the group has allowed more open receivers. In the game against the Chargers, Rivers and Allen torched the Broncos and almost came back to tie the game. Although the group will not have to stop a big play receiver, they must ensure that the Seahawks’ wide receivers do not run behind the defense. While the secondary needs to stop the big plays from Russell Wilson, the Broncos’ front seven must stop Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle rushing game. The best part of the Broncos’ defense is their rushing defense, which ranked 8th in the league during the regular season. The group has been successful because they have big, athletic players on the line. Last week, the group put forth their best effort and held the Patriots’ running backs to 57 yards, although they posted 235 yards the week before. The Broncos’ defense will be tested because they have not seen a running back like Marshawn Lynch. In order to stop the big, powerful, and fast running back, they need to stay fresh and keep Lynch from bouncing outside. If the Broncos’ can keep Lynch inside the tackles, the smaller defensive backs will not have to attempt to tackle Lynch, which is nearly impossible.

Courtesy of ESPN
Courtesy of ESPN

Although the game will be close, the Seahawks should be able to win the game because they have a better overall team. The Seahawks will keep Manning off the field because they usually win the time of possession battle with Lynch. Also, the Seattle secondary should limit Manning because they will throw off his timing and their size will affect the receivers. Although Wilson has not played well lately, Percy Harvin is set to return, which gives him another competent receiver that can garner yards after the catch.

Prediction: Seahawks win 24-23

Pics and Stats from ESPN.com

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10 Most Memorable Sports Moments of 2013

By: Prad

What a year it’s been for the sports community. 2013 has included a myriad of emotions surrounding various events from terrorist attacks to retirements. Unfortunately, I have compiled solely the top 10 moments of the year, so many deserving moments did not make the cut.

10) Superdome Lighting Failure

Half of the Superdome in darkness Courtesy of NY Times
Half of the Superdome in darkness
Courtesy of NY Times

Normally this should not be classified under “most memorable”, but the magnitude of the lighting failure is of note. New Orleans spent an estimated $471 million on this year’s Super Bowl. With almost half a billion dollars, you’d expect for at least all the lights to work, something that should have been a top priority for the Superdome maintenance staff. With 13:22 minutes left in the third quarter, half of the stadium plunged into darkness leaving TV viewers, players, and especially the audience confused. The partial blackout remained for a whopping 34 minutes. Apparently, Beyonce’s extravagant halftime show is somewhat responsible for the outage because of the amount of lighting used during her performance, forcing the device that detects electrical load to open a breaker and cut the lights.

9) Dunk City, USA

FGCU had a lot of fun during their ride to the Sweet Sixteen Courtesy of Naples News
FGCU had a lot of fun during its ride to the Sweet Sixteen
Courtesy of Naples News

Florida Gulf Coast University had quite the emergence on the national stage in 2013 by taking down #2 Georgetown in March. And then #7 San Diego St. went down for an encore performance. FGCU became the first #15 seed in NCAA history to reach the Sweet Sixteen. The wins were definitely impressive, but what made it even better was the excitement that the players on that team brought to the court in those two games. Dunk after dunk brought the city of Fort Meyers the fitting name of “Dunk City, USA.” The alley-oops were great, but the Cinderella story was even better. FGCU, a college that was founded in 1991, defeated the mighty Georgetown Hoyas, a team that has been playing for over a century. Plus, the 2012 – 2013 season was their first Division 1 season and first appearance in the NCAA tournament.

8) Mile High Miracle

Joe Flacco's pass lands perfectly past CB Rahim Moore's outstretched arm Courtesy of Bleacher Report
Joe Flacco’s pass lands perfectly past CB Rahim Moore’s outstretched arm
Courtesy of Bleacher Report

This AFC divisional – round game between the Ravens and Broncos came down to a final Baltimore drive with under a minute remaining. A true playoff classic was sent into overtime after a 70 yard heave from QB Joe Flacco to WR Jacoby Jones resulted in a touchdown with 31 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter. This TD brought the score to 35-35, a score that remained for the next 15 minutes resulting in a second overtime period. It ended up being the fourth longest game in NFL playoff history. Sadly for Denver fans, the game ended with a Manning interception and a Justin Tucker 47 yard field goal. Final score: 38-35. The Ravens were thankful for a birth in the AFC Championship game en route to a Super Bowl win. And undoubtedly,  the 70 yard TD grab was the highlight of an unforgettable season for Baltimore.

7) Louisville’s Inspiration

Kevin Ware wanted nothing but a championship Courtesy of Examiner.com
Kevin Ware wanted nothing but a championship
Courtesy of Examiner.com

Essentially every single sports fan in the nation has seen Kevin Ware’s gruesome injury suffered in the win against Duke in the Elite Eight. Everyone on the court was able to see the actual white of Ware’s tibia sticking out of his skin. People who witnessed it agree that it was definitely the most graphic injury they have ever seen and that’s saying something in an internet age where every injury is seen by everybody. More importantly, the words uttered from Kevin Ware’s mouth immediately following his horrific injury stayed with Louisville for the rest of the tourney. “Just win the game. I’m OK. Just win the game.” The boys on that team did every thing they did for Ware. That inspiration and team bond led them to victory over Wichita St. in the Final Four and Michigan in the National Championship game.

6) A British Savior

Andy Murray ended the 77 year Wimbledon drought for England Courtesy of USA Today
Andy Murray ended the 77 year Wimbledon drought for England
Courtesy of USA Today

It appeared that Andy Murray had wasted his best chance of winning Wimbledon when he succumbed to Roger Federer in 2012’s Wimbledon Final. But, the best was yet to come. On July 7, 2013 Murray defeated #1 Novak Djokovic, a former Wimbledon champion, to make Wimbledon history. A player from Great Britain had not won Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936, which was 77 years ago. He was deemed a “choker” on the biggest of stages before his 2012 US Open title, his first Grand Slam. Prior to winning that US Open, he had lost in four Grand Slam finals and six Grand Slam semi-finals. The entire United Kingdom had placed the burden of winning a Grand Slam for years on Andy Murray and he answered the call by capturing Wimbledon this year. This was a truly momentous occasion for a country that dominated the sport decades ago.

5) The First Openly Gay Athlete in North American Professional Sports

Jason Collins is still vying for an NBA contract Courtesy of Sports Illustrated
Jason Collins is still vying for an NBA contract
Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

In SI’s May 6 issue this year, Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete in the four major North American Professional sports. The support he received the following days and months was unexpected. The social media circus immediately following the announcement was shocking as he received more complimentary remarks than derogatory.  He started, in his words, a “conversation” that will lead to more athletes coming out openly with their sexual preference. The Stanford product has played 12 seasons in the NBA as a center, but is not currently under contract with any team. Despite his announcement, he is still attempting to sign another contract with an NBA franchise. This barrier needed to be broken at some point and it did in 2013.

4) The Greatest Closer Says Goodbye

Longtime teammates Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter gave Rivera the ball for one last time in Yankees Stadium Courtesy of NY Daily News
Longtime teammates Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter took the ball from Rivera one last time
Courtesy of NY Daily News

On September 16, Mariano Rivera pitched his final game in front of the home crowd at Yankee Stadium. After almost two decades, all with the New York Yankees, Rivera tallied 652 saves and 42 postseason saves, both of which are records. Fans and analysts identify Rivera as arguably the greatest closer in baseball history. He is also the last player in MLB history to wear #42, because on the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut, MLB commissioner Bud Selig retired #42 for all teams. However, there were 13 players in the league who already wore the #42 uniform, so Selig allowed them to wear it until they retired. And Rivera was the last of the 13 still playing.  He certainly did #42 justice by pitching his best when it mattered most and doing so with grace and dignity. It will be very difficult to find another player who carries himself with such respect for his peers and the game. Sandman will be eternally missed by baseball fans.

3) Auburn’s Magical Iron Bowl

Chris Davis crushed Alabama's hopes Courtesy of The Washington Post
Chris Davis crushed Alabama’s hopes
Courtesy of The Washington Post

Many consider the ending to the Iron Bowl on November 30 the greatest finish in football history. The ending was not only immensely exciting, but the implications involved made for a moment that will be difficult to ever replicate. The moment Chris Davis ran past the last diving Alabama player at the 45 yard line, every single viewer was in disbelief of what they had just witnessed. Davis returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown as time expired, giving Auburn the victory and signaling an end to Alabama’s dream of winning a third consecutive BCS National Championship and a fourth in a five year span. The win gave Auburn the chance to play in the SEC Championship game against Missouri too. The victory against Missouri gives them the #2 ranking and a trip to Pasadena for the BCS Championship game on January 6, 2014. This was quite the turnaround from a season ago when Auburn football went 3-9 and 0-8 against SEC opponents. Currently, the Tigers stand at 12-1 and have had one of the best improvements in terms of record in NCAA football history. Even if Auburn loses to #1 Florida St. in the final BCS National Championship game, their season will still be considered a remarkable one that will not be forgotten for a long time.

2) Ray Allen and Miami’s Miraculous Comeback

The Larry O'brein trophy was being reeled in with 5.2 seconds left and an all but sure Spurs victory Courtesy of The Boston Globe
The Spurs had an almost guaranteed victory with 5.2 second left in Game 6
Courtesy of The Boston Globe

The staff at American Airlines Arena was reeling in the Larry O’Brien Trophy with around 20 seconds remaining in regulation. The score was 95-92 and the Heat didn’t have any timeouts left, an inevitable Spurs victory. On the following Heat possession, LeBron James missed a three but Chris Bosh was able to secure the rebound and pass it back to a backpedaling Ray Allen in the corner, yes the corner three, it’s where Allen has made his living for the last 17 seasons. And Allen drills it with 5.2 seconds left in the game. Score: 95-95. Miami then outscored San Antonio in the ensuing overtime period for a final score of 103-100. Allen made some big shots in overtime as well accounting for four of the eight points in an NBA Finals thriller that will remain a classic for decades to come. With this much momentum heading into Game 7, Miami couldn’t lose and they didn’t disappoint. A stellar 37-point performance from LeBron gave the Heat a 95-88 Game 7 victory and a second consecutive Larry O’Brien Trophy. LeBron’s triple-double in Game 6 and aforementioned 37-point outburst in Game 7 of the Finals were certainly great spectacles, but Ray Allen’s shot with 5.2 seconds left in Game 6 is one of the greatest moments in NBA Finals history. Period.

1) Boston Strong

 Courtesy of ESPN
Boston’s resiliency captured the hearts of many
Courtesy of ESPN

On April 15, Boston witnessed a horrific terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon resulting in 3 deaths and hundreds of injuries. The 117th running of the race was marred by two bombs near the finish line on the famous Boylston St. Five days after the bombings, David Ortiz gave a pre-game speech at Fenway and said that “this is our (expletive) city.” Boston has always been known for its uncompromising dedication to its sports teams, but support was at an all time high throughout 2013 after the bombings. Its teams played with greater determination and will than ever before as a result and it was evident in the successful seasons for the Bruins and Red Sox. The Boston Bruins made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals eventually losing to the Chicago Blackhawks. And four months later, the Red Sox had an opportunity to accomplish something great in the wake of the disaster and they delivered. The Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in six games in the World Series. The unwavering support from Boston fans definitely helped them clinch a third title in nine seasons. Although, the success of the Sox can’t completely eradicate the painful memories of the bombings, the Boston Red Sox certainly lifted the spirits of many who were affected by the tragedy.

A Sleeping Giant: An Analysis of the New York Giants’ Season

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.

QB Eli Manning has had one of the worst statictical seasons in his ten year career Courtesy of USA Today
QB Eli Manning has had one of the worst statistical seasons in his ten year career
Courtesy of USA Today

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

Despite Coughlin and Manning having a very successful period ogether, this season has been a major dissapointment Courtesy of Zimbio
Despite Coughlin and Manning having a very successful period together, this season has been a major disappointment
Courtesy of Zimbio

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. In game 15, the Giants were once again shut out. This time, it was the Seattle Seahawks, lead by QB Russell Wilson, who got the best of them. Russell Wilson threw for 206 yards compared to Eli’s weak 156 yards. Andre Brown, the running back for the Giants, only rushed for a measly 17 yards! Lastly, Eli Manning threw 5 interceptions during the game.

In Game 16 against the Lions, the Giants managed to pull out a victory to push their record to 6-9. Eli Manning threw for 256 yards, completed one touchdown pass, and only threw one interception. Furthermore, Giants’ 2011 draft pick Jerrel Jernigan had 6 receptions, one of which was a caught for a touchdown. At the end of the fourth quarter, the two teams pushed the game into overtime with the score at 20-20. The Lions received the ball first, but the giants gained possession by forcing them to punt. After a burst up the field, the Lions put a stop to the Giants’ progression by forcing a 4th down. The Giants’ Josh Brown had a clutch 45-yard field goal and won the Giants the game.

WR Jerrel Jernigan was a bright spot in an otherwise poorly played game Courtesy of Zimbio
WR Jerrel Jernigan was a bright spot in an otherwise poorly played game
Courtesy of Zimbio

In their last game of the season, The Giants played their division rival, the Washington Redskins. In my experience, this could have been the worst game of football I have ever seen. No matter who won the game, it would have been one ugly victory. The teams used the heavy downpour and cold weather as an excuse, but it did not overshadow the terrible play from both teams. In the first quarter, no team had scored. In the second quarter, the score was 10-3 Giants. With about a minute left in the first half, defensive lineman, Chris Baker, sacked Eli. During the tackle, Eli’s leg got caught under Baker’s body and he injured his ankle. After mustering enough strength to stay in the game, Eli threw an interception on the very next play! This interception led to a Washington field goal to put the score at 10-6. Eli then was carried off the field and did not play for the rest of the game. He was replaced by backup Curtis Painter. At the end of the first half with 2 seconds left on the clock, Jerrel Jernigan ran for a touchdown to put the Giants ahead 17-6. He had 6 receptions, had one touchdown, and caught for 90 yards. In my opinion, he was the MVP of the game. In the fourth quarter, Josh Brown kicked a 38-yard field goal for 20-6 lead. On the last play of the season, Trumaine McBride of the Giants intercepted a pass from backup QB for Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins. The game had ended and the Giants had won with a final score of 20-6. The Redskins lost their final game of the season on an 8 game losing streak. During the game, the teams amassed 7 turnovers, 0-5 in Red Zone attempts, and 16 sacks including 4 by defensive end Justin Tuck.

Eli’s first and last passes of the year both went for interceptions! Also, he threw only 18 touchdowns. Along with that, he threw 27 interceptions during the year including at least one interception every game of the season. The year before, he threw 15 interceptions and 26 TD passes. It seems as if the numbers had switched. This terrible season may lead to the loss of free agents like WR Hakeem Nicks and DE Justin Tuck. In conclusion, the Giants were believed to win the NFC East at the beginning of the season; however, the Eagles were ultimately the division leader.

Being a Giants fan, this season has been a rollercoaster. It was hard to keep faith in my team. Remember, this is the same team that has one the Super Bowl twice in the last few years. Moreover, next year looks like one that needs rebuilding. Tom Coughlin, the league’s oldest coach, and Eli Manning, the starting QB for over almost 10 years, have been under close watch. This year has been an anomaly for Big Blue, but with the 2014 NFL draft consisting of some very good players at all positions, their hopes may still be high for next season.