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Archive for August, 2012

Rams Preseason Action

August 31, 2010

In a glorified scrimmage yesterday, the Rams’ starters pounced on the Ravens’ backups and never looked back.  Sam Bradford threw 3 touchdowns in 1 1/2 quarters before coach Jeff Fisher pulled the starters.  The running backs were efficient in Steven Jackson’s absence and averaged 5.9 yards per carry between Isaiah Pead and Chase Reynolds.  Wideouts Steve Smith and Danny Amendola showed flashes of brilliance with some tough catches in traffic.

The defense was also stellar in the final tune up game for St. Louis.  They forced 4 turnovers while harassing the Ravens’ backup QBs all night.  Rookie CB Janoris Jenkins provided the highlight of the day with a 76 yard interception return for a touchdown.  The rookie has been given rave reviews during training camp and bounced back after struggling vs. the Dallas Cowboys last week.  Jenkins playmaking ability will be a huge contribution to already solid defense.  Another fellow rookie who has played well this preseason, Michael Brockers, the Rams 1st round pick went down with an ankle injury in the 1st quarter and did not return.  Doctors expect Brockers to be out of action for a few weeks, which makes St. Louis thin at defensive line to start the season.

The St. Louis Rams look to build on an awful 2011 season in which they only won 2 games.  Competition in the NFC West will be tougher than usual.  The Seattle Seahawks and defending champion San Francisco 49ers are still the class of the division.  New head coach Jeff Fisher will make his mark on the franchise and will produce a better product than last year.  The Rams are far away from playoff contention, and a 7 win season seems more realistic for this squad.


Barry Sanders… “Can’t Touch This”

August 25, 2012

Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders has amassed 17,000 + yards and 109 touchdowns in his career with the Detroit Lions.  He used his supreme footwork and athleticism to blow by defenders.  At times it looked impossible to tackle Sanders.  Despite playing with a horrendous offensive line, Barry still managed to avg 5.0 yards a carry.  At the apex of his career, Barry Sanders rushed for 2053 yards and 11 touchdowns in 1997 and won NFL MVP.

Chicago Bulls will again be ‘Rose-or-Bust’

August 25, 2012

With little to no shot at dethroning the defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat, it seems the Chicago Bulls are destined for mediocrity.  The load shouldered by the former MVP will be as heavy as ever.  Hopefully Rose can bounce back from a devastating knee injury, and lead his team to the playoffs.  If he can still finish at the rim like he did in the 2011 playoffs, there’s no doubt in my mind Chicago will at least keep things interesting…

Grading the NFL Replacement Officials

By: Mike Sullivan

Follow on Twitter @MikeSullivan

You can’t turn on an NFL preseason game without hearing the words “replacement officials” within the first 10 minutes of the broadcast. There has been much talk and controversy regarding the NFLRA strike, and the replacement refs taking over the officiating duties for the time being. While many people think that the NFLRA is just holding out for more money, that is not entirely true. The bargaining has to do with many other factors besides the economics. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell  also characterized the differences as “philosophical.” The NFL’s proposal includes making some refs full-time (currently all game officials work part-time with outside jobs) and also adding more crews. Goodell went on to say that “Increasing the pool of officials would allow the league to replace individual officials or even entire crews that are not performing well.” It is rumored that the NFL wants to add three new officiating crews this season to start preparing younger refs for the years to come. Considering the fact that a lot of the league’s top officials are aging, this might not be a bad idea! NFLRA lead negotiator Mike Arnold stated that the union was open to discussing such issues but any proposal to increase the number of officials while decreasing the pay for current refs was not viable. It’s possible that the replacement officials might have to start off the regular season as well, if no deal can be made before the first game on September 5.

The replacement officials have done a pretty adequate job so far this preseason. While there is not one certain call that stands above the rest as “unbelievable” or extremely shocking/noticeable, there still has been many instances where the lack of experience has come into play. You can tell just by body language alone that the NFL coaches and players feel they are superior to these officials. There has been many situations where the replacement refs have struggled with communicating on the microphone, or have taken longer than usual to discuss and assess the outcome of penalties.

To their credit, however, the replacement referees have never come anywhere close to officiating games with the talent level, speed and athleticism that an NFL game contains. These refs officiate NCAA Division 2 and 3 contests where they might come across 10-20 players per season who even have NFL potential (depending on the conference they ref in). Combine the talent level with the quickness, and some rule changes that they aren’t used to at the college level, of course the officiating isn’t going to be perfect. Stepping in front of 70 to 80 thousand fans is a lot different than just a few thousand on a college campus as well. As the referrers get adjusted to the NFL game play, their officiating will improve and they will gain confidence, should they have to step into the regular season duties. They have been asked to simply fill in for the regular NFL officials and that is exactly what they’ve been doing. After all, you cannot make up over 1,400 years of NFL officiating experience within just a couple of weeks!



Tour de France legend surrenders.

August 25, 2012

After months of investigation by the Anti-Doping Agency, 7 time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong refused to further defend himself. His current silence speaks volumes, and brings to mind Mark McGwire’s infamous ‘I plea the fifth’ in front of Congress. Armstrong summed up this ordeal and how it caused discomfort for him and his family “Enough is Enough…”  Armstrong has been the face of professional cycling, and has dominated the sport for the better part of last decade.  The fact that Lance has refused to  continue to defend his name baffles me, and to me serves as an admission of guilt.  Armstrong has been retired from cycling for a few years now, so I don’t buy the notion that the investigation was “negatively effecting his family.”

This move from the Armstrong camp was simply damage control.  With reportedly dozens of witnesses lined up to testify against him, the Anti-Doping Agency was fully prepared to drop the hammer on the cycling legend.  Instead of risking losing everything, Armstrong has quietly backed off while maintaining his innocence.  His sponsors, including Nike have continued to support him.  Most of them siting the importance of his contributions to cancer research, rather than the possibility of his banned substance usage. “Nike plans to continue to support Lance and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a foundation that Lance created to serve cancer survivors…”

We will never know the full extend of Lance Armstrong’s cheating during his historic run of Tour de France titles.  It is fully clear however, that actions speak louder than words.  Lance’s silence has not only gotten him a lifetime ban from cycling, but his name and legacy will forever be questioned.  Now that Armstrong’s performance is tainted, where does it leave the sport of cycling? And how will they pick up the pieces and move forward?

Upcoming Fantasy Football Season…

After a 2 round playoff loss, I am looking to create another strong contender as the Fantasy Football draft approaches.  My team, Living Legends, already has a strong foundation with playmakers like Tony Romo, Ray Rice, Victor Cruz, and Patrick Willis (The league I participate in drafts individual defensive players).  I have recently been scouting players that will surely help the Living Legends and I have several on my radar.

Percy Harvin has definitely been at the top of my list.  Despite having a history of severe migraine headaches, Harvin still managed to average 18 fantasy points per week.  Barring injury, Percy will likely put up solid numbers as the Vikings top receiver.  Julio Jones is another receiver I would like to draft.  He seems to have developed a potent attack with Pro Bowl QB Matt Ryan during the preseason.  Jones has a chance to score a lot of touchdowns in the Falcons dominant offense.  Since I have an injury prone and sometimes inconsistent QB like Tony Romo, I want to make it a priority to have a quality backup QB.  Since I have the 13th pick in the draft, quality QB’s will be hard to come by.  Last season, I had the luxury of having both Tony Romo and Eil Manning at quarterback. This gave me the ability to be flexible with my roster knowing I had 2 top 5 Fantasy QBs on the same roster.  Along with Manning, Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford, and Jake Locker are some other QBs with a lot of upside.

Since defensive players are drafted individually instead of picking total team defenses, it is essential to have a solid defensive squad with depth.  Defense was my strength last year and I plan on continuing that trend.  I already begin the year with 5 top 10 fantasy players for there respective positions, including Patrick Willis, Jason Babin, and Kam Chancellor.  Jason McCourty is a player I will be looking for in the middle rounds as my first defensive player.  He scored the most fantasy points among free agent defensive players.  Tackling CBs make reliable players because interceptions usually don’t occur consistently .  Drafting players who contribute on special teams also make for quality players, like Aaron Ross.  Not only is Ross a productive fantasy CB, he also returns punts for the Giants.

I will continue prepare for the season after the draft by watching the NFL preseason to find potential sleepers.  With 2 remaining games, players will be fighting for roster spots and could add depth to the Living Legends.  Injuries in the NFL are inevitable, and can be devastating to a roster, but  having good depth will help soften the blow.  Last year I lost top 10 fantasy RB Fred Jackson in the middle of the season to a broken bone.  However, I also had Ray Rice on my team who happens to be a top 5 RB.  Having a deep roster is the deference between an average team, and a really good team.

This year I am hoping to once again contend for the Super Bowl.  I hope to built on a strong campaign last year in which I finished 13-4.  The quest for the “chip” begins Aug. 26. Stay tuned…

An inside look at Detroit Lions camp

Check-In at Detroit Lions Training Camp (August 13)

Article written by Mike Sullivan (Twitter @MikeSullivan)

Calvin’s Injury

Fans at Detroit Lions practice this morning were surprised to see All-Pro WR and Madden 13 Cover Athlete, Calvin Johnson, sitting out of practice with his left index finger taped up. A crowd of about 500 fans caught an up close and personal look at the 2012 Detroit Lions at their training facility in Allen Park this morning. Calvin’s finger has been bothering him since last week, but there wasn’t much concern after he played in the team’s first preseason game Friday night against the Cleveland Browns.  To see him sit out today came as a shock to some fans, and also brought along some understandable concern and questions. Head Coach Jim Schwartz had this to say about “Megatron”:

“He wasn’t shut down because of his finger,” Schwartz said. “Just general camp kind of legs and soreness. He needed a day here, too. Calvin doesn’t have a regulator, either.”

Calvin has had his fair share of bumps and bruises in the 6 years he’s been in the league. While his left index finger is not a major injury, Jim Schwartz still felt it was necessary to simply give him the day off today and give his body some rest. When asked about the potential “Madden curse,” Calvin said “I’m a God-fearing man, curses don’t bother me.” Words that Lions fans were certainly happy to hear. Johnson led the NFL with 1,681 receiving yards last year and played all 16 games for just the second time in his career. More great things are projected of him this season, as he is a consensus first round draft choice in almost every fantasy football draft so far this year. No reason for any concern about Calvin’s health today, but if he continues to not practice throughout the rest of this week, fans will definitely start getting a little nervous.

Camp Notes

In just helmets and jerseys, it was a solid day of team practice. The Lions took the field at 9:15 and got off around 11:30. It is clear that QB Matthew Stafford is certainly the leader of this team. He is the first one through the line in sprints, leads by his actions and sets the tone for tempo and offensive expectations. The Lions offense looked very efficient today with good rhythm and tempo. In Calvin’s absence, WR Maurice Stovall took reps with the 1s alongside Nate Burleson and Titus Young. While a decent number of defensive starters were still on the injury report today, the D still looked very quick and flew to the ball nicely. The secondary seemed about a half step late on judging routes, but rookie CB Bill Bentley is certainly turning some heads with his impressive camp and preseason so far. Expect physical play for Stephen Tulloch and the LB core, while Ndamukong Suh anchors the D-Line. Those wondering about the winningest college football QB of all time, Kellen Moore, he is the clear cut third QB (Behind Stafford and Shaun Hill.) It is still uncertain whether the Lions will keep 3 QBs on the active roster like they have the past couple years with Drew Stanton. Overall, a productive day for the Detroit Lions.