The State of the NFL

The NFL regular season is more than halfway complete.  Ten weeks have passed which means that everyone has played at least 9 games with a handful of teams having played 10 games.  Plenty can happen in ten weeks!  There are teams that have played way above expectation and teams that have played well below expectation.  There are teams that are right on pace with what they were expected to do.  The same can be said for players.  As always, there are plenty of story lines that have emerged.  How about the endless drama with Ezekiel Elliott or Jerry Jones’s feud with commissioner Goodell?

As the NFL season was starting I wrote an article that mentioned the suspension of Zeke Elliott.  The drama surrounding this suspension has seemed to be never ending.  After all of the back and forth, the suspension is finally being served and it will really hurt the Cowboys season.  They need to stay afloat long enough for him to make it back and hopefully get them into the playoffs.  The Cowboys are a running team and losing your best player can certainly hurt your identity.  This decision has caused more than issues with the performance of the team.  I would like to think that this decision has hurt the relationship of the Cowboy’s owner, Jerry Jones, and the commissioner, Roger Goodell.  It is time for Goodell to get an extension and Jones is fighting it.  Do you think the suspension of Elliott has anything to do with Jones’s feelings for Goodell?  That will take some time to play out!

Earlier in the year I mentioned that the Patriots were off to a tough start.  I also mentioned that I would never count them out.  Well, after ten weeks they are in first place in their division and they look to be the cream of the crop again.  Some other teams in the AFC that look to be real contenders are the Steelers and Chiefs.   Those teams are not really a surprise, however, the Jaguars leading their division is a surprise.  It is also a surprise that the Raiders have played so poorly after the season they had last year.  In the NFC, all four division leaders are surprising in my opinion.  I do not think any of these teams were favored to win their division.  That is why you play the games as anything can happen.

The Eagles seem to be a real surprise this year as is their second year QB, Carson Wentz.  He is tearing up the league and that is one of the main reasons the Eagles are playing so well.  The Rams are also playing extremely well under their very young and first year head coach.  He has transformed them into a really strong unit and the play of second year QB, Jared Goff,  is another reason they are in first place. Injuries in the NFL are very common and depending on who gets injured can make a real difference in a teams season.  The Packers have lost the best QB in football, the Colts are in last place without Luck, and the Texans have lost three in a row after losing their rookie QB.

Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game.  Depending on who is injured and how severe the injury is can make or break a team.  Part of what makes the NFL great is the unpredictability of the sport. A suspension, an injury, and a player performing at a higher or lower level than expected can have a major impact on a team’s season.  I also love the drama involved in an NFL season.  At times you wonder if games are even necessary?  With 6-7 games left, there is plenty of time for the standings to change, and they most likely will when we check back in a couple of months.

 

–Victor Mandalawi

Men’s College Basketball is Starting!

Men’s college basketball is beginning this weekend.  The first couple of weeks you will see plenty of tournaments.  They have names like the Maui Invitational, Battle 4 Atlantis, Continental Tire Tourney, and the grilled cheese invite.  I know, clearly that last one is made up but it gives a little insight into the names of the tourneys.  I am not sure if these tourneys are great for the student athlete, but they can be good for the viewing audience.  Next week the State Farm Champions Classic has 4 of the top 5 teams in the country playing each other.  That will create plenty of hype and will be a highly watched event that will start the season with a real bang.  Who are the favorites this year?  Who are the best players going to be this year?  What type of surprises might we see this year?

College basketball seems to be the hardest sport to maintain knowledge of your favorite team or the high profile teams.  Why is that?  Basketball allows for the “one and done”, meaning players only have to spend one year at college before turning pro.  Of course, most of the great players take advantage of this rule.  This causes a great amount of turnover that you do not get in other sports.  Another reason is that freshman players can make a larger impact on a team more so than in other sports.  Here is a nice primer covering the great players in the game. This list would differ if you asked other news outlets their opinion, however, it would be fairly similar.  Surprisingly, only a couple of freshman are listed highly on this list. It would be awfully hard to project them above a known quantity in most cases.  I think this list will be much different by the end of the season.

There will always be big surprises in every season.  What might we expect to see this year?  Check out this article offering a few predictions.  I have never been a fan of those types of “bold” predictions.  I am more into predictions about who will win, who won’t, who the coach of the year will be, etc.  Here is an article like that.  It is no surprise to see many of the same teams we always see in those lists.  They are powerhouse teams for a reason and on paper they should be the best teams in the game.  However, you have to play the games and things will happen over the course of a season that will eliminate some of these teams from living up to their potential. The consensus seems to be that Michigan State will win it all.  Miles Bridges from Michigan State will win the player of the year award.  Coach of the year is not as clear cut, but you see a lot of familiar names on the list like Tom Izzo and Gregg Marshall.

Anyone can make predictions, some better than others.  It gets harder and harder every year to make predictions in college basketball because you are trying to forecast incoming freshman that may play above or below their projection.  When then happens it clearly effects a team.  It can also effect the coach.  The better your team is, the more of a chance the coach can win an award as well.  Ultimately, I would bet a coach would rather win the title ten times more than winning a coach of the year award.  We can look back on April 3rd 2018, to see who won the final game on the night before.  It is always fun to look back and see how close people were to their earlier predictions.

—Victor Mandalawi