NFL Football is Just Around the Corner!

Last week I wrote about College Football getting started and this week it will be all about the NFL getting started!  The season officially starts next Thursday with the defending champion, Philadelphia Eagles, hosting the Falcons.  That is a great game to get the season started and the rest of the weekend is full of other great match ups.  I wanted to take a look at a few of them and some other games throughout the season that could end up being very important.  I also wanted to look at some of the players that could have great seasons possibly leading to MVP honors.  What rookies will make an impact for their teams?  What teams have the most talent “on paper”?  Finally, what teams should end up on top at the end of the season?

As mentioned before the Eagles open the season on Thursday.  On Sunday there are some great regional games with the Steelers playing the new look Browns.  New England is opeing with a tough game against the Texans.  The night game features the storied rivalry of the Bears vs. the Packers and we will finish on Monday with 2 more games.  One of the games will feature the Rams vs the Raiders.  Opening week should prove to be very entertaining. Thanksgiving day will bring us three divisional games that could decide the fate of some teams.  Christmas Eve we will be treated to a Broncos vs. Raiders divisional showdown.

When playing any sport, especially football, your health plays an extremely important role in your performance.  Aaron Rodgers is coming back healthy this year so he will have a leg up on being the MVP.  He is the best QB in the league and QB’s usually win MVP awards.  He also was recently paid very handsomely!  Check out this article to see what other players will have a say in the MVP race.  You will see many of the familiar names like Brady and Brees but there are a few new names on this list like Zeke Elliott and Deshaun Watson.  Some great defensive players that you could see on this list would be Aaron Donald and Joey Bosa.  Rookies also play an important role on teams.  Here are a few that should make their mark: Barkley, Chubb, Smith, and maybe even Sam Darnold!  I would like to think that a few guys named Luck, Watt, and Rodgers will come back strong this season after their injury woes from last year, so they will be competing for comeback player of the year honors.

One great thing about football is that almost every year a team makes a surprising run and ends up in the playoffs.  What teams can do that this year?  On paper, many of the usual suspects are predicted to finish the season strong. In the AFC, those teams are the Patriots and Steelers.  I think the rest of the playoff spots will be up for grabs.  A lot of things will need have to go a team’s way for them to end up on top.  I think the NFC is not as wide open.  There are some very strong teams like the Vikings, Falcons, Packers, Rams, and Saints.  One injury could derail a season and one rookie making an impact could propel a team to greatness.  I can’t even guess who will win it all, but Sports Illustrated thinks that the Falcons will.

The NFL is always entertaining for many reasons.  You can follow the traditionally strong teams and you can also bet that an upstart will join the teams at the top.  The league is full of great players that do phenomenal things.  The season is full of ups and downs and that can create plenty of excitement.  When you add up all of these ingredients you end up with one great season.   I can’t wait!

 

—Victor Mandalawi

 

 

College Football is Almost Back!

Last season ended on January 8th with the Alabama Crimson Tide as the National Champion.  It seems as if that game was just played and we should not be thinking about another season starting so soon.  Well, the season starts in less than a week.  I have not followed much in the “offseason” and wanted to take a look at the teams favored to win it all and the players that will make a splash this season. I also wanted to take a look at some of the marquee games on opening weekend this year.

The season technically starts tomorrow, but there are only a handful of games being played and none by a team in a power conference.  The first ranked team to play will be UCF and that is in a primetime slot on Thursday night.  However, a Big Ten battle with Purdue and Northwestern will probably be the most watched game of the evening.  Friday will be a slow evening, but we will get to see Stanford play their first game.  On Saturday, the games will heat up and we will get to see FAU and Lane Kiffin take on Oklahoma.  The best game of the day will most likely be Washington vs. Auburn.  Both teams are ranked highly and an early win will help propel them to a higher rank.  Normally you would not have a Sunday or Monday game, but the NFL does not start until the following week so we get to be entertained with Miami vs. LSU on Sunday night with Va. Tech vs. FSU on Monday.  Anyone that has missed the sport will surely be able to get their fix with 5 days in a row of prime time games being played.

What players will be competing for the Heisman Trophy this year? Here is a pretty good list of players that have a shot at winning it.  Bryce Love from Stanford is first in line since he was the runner up last year.  He ran for over 2,000 yards last year but it would be really hard to beat that number this year.  Taylor from Wisconsin is another running back that has a shot to hit the 2,000 yard mark since he could be running behind the best line in the country.  Some other players will certainly enter this conversation as the season unfolds.  It usually helps the player if his team is in the running at the end of the year.  Just remember that the Heisman Trophy does not always go to the best player.  As you can see in this article, there are a ton of great players that won’t even be mentioned to win the trophy.

What two teams do you think are at the top of the Power Rankings? No surprise that it is Clemson and Alabama.  The Big Ten may have something to say about those top teams as they have Ohio St, Penn St, and Wisconsin that figure to be very strong.  Will the Urban Meyer Saga effect Ohio St?  Only time will tell.  The SEC will also have strong teams with Georgia and Auburn.  Michigan and Michigan State round out the Big Ten, but they can only have so many good teams.  Eventually they just beat each other up and their records won’t be good enough to get to the final four.  The Pac-12 has nice teams with Stanford, USC, and Washington. At some point a team not listed here will make a run and it will be fun to watch.

Before we know it the season is upon us.  I cant wait to see what teams will survive the gauntlet of the regular season and conference championship games to earn the right to be in the final four.  Last year was the first year for it and it was very entertaining.  Are your teams favored to make a run?  What players will produce enough during the season to get them in the Heisman conversation?  I know I can’t wait for it to all begin!

—Victor Mandalawi

 

 

2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the baseball hall of fame and now it is time to write about the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  The enshrinement takes place in Canton, OH and the NFL preseason usually kicks off during that weekend as well with the annual Hall of Fame Game.  This year the game featured the Bears and the Ravens, which is fitting considering the players being enshrined.  This year the Hall inducted Brian Dawkins, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher, Bobby Beathard, Robert Brazile, and Jerry Kramer.  All of these people are very deserving and I wanted to take a look at their respective careers.  Also, does it surprise you that controversy surrounded T.O.?

Ray Lewis is probably the most accomplished member of this class.  He played for 17 seasons and was able to make 12 Pro Bowls.  We was a member of an all decade team.  He was able to win the Super Bowl twice while being the MVP of one of those games.  All 17 of his seasons were played for the Ravens and clearly he is at the top of the list of all time great Ravens.

Brian Urlacher played 13 seasons for the Chicago Bears and was an athletic marvel.  He was very unique because of his combination of speed and size.  He played in 8 pro bowls and was also a member of an all decade team.  He was a defensive rookie of the year and also a defensive player of the year.  Urlacher is joining all time great Chicago Bears like Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary.  Did you notice he has hair now?

Brian Dawkins played for 16 seasons and made 9 pro bowls.  He played the majority of his career in Philly and finished the last three years in Denver.  He was a great player that was associated with plenty of winning teams.

The next two players are wide receivers and they have been known to be controversial throughout their career.  That really did not change during the enshrinement process. Randy Moss was a game changing special talent.  He scored over 150 touchdowns and had more than 15,000 receiving yards.  Both are awesome accomplishments.  He is taking heat for his tie at the enshrinement ceremony.  Terrell Owens is another WR that made the Hall this year.  Just like Moss, Owens was able to compile massive numbers during his career.  He has also been a controversial figure throughout this career with many different antics. He may have saved the most controversial act as his last by bucking the tradition of giving the enshrinement speech in Canton.  Owens gave his speech from his College, bypassing Canton altogether.

The last three members include two veterans committee choices in Jerry Kramer and Robert Brazile.  Both players were very deserving and probably should not have had to wait this long.  The other selection was Bobby Beathard.  He is considered one of the best talent evaluators of all-time. His teams have won 4 Super Bowls over the years.

I am fortunate enough to have watched most of these players make their mark in the league, especially the 5 younger inductees.  They are all special players in their own right and certainly deserved to be in the Hall of Fame.  Some may not admit it, but it has to be very gratifying to be among this group.  Their hard work paid off and they reached the pinnacle of their profession!

–Victor Mandalawi