Archive for August, 2012

Sky is the Limit… for these breakout players

Posted: August 31, 2012 by centennialsports in Pigskin

 

 

By: John Spurr

Everybody loves to know about up and coming players, so I’ve compiled a list of players that are soon to be household names.  Some are on the verge of superstardom and the others should be good for a pro bowl or two in their careers.  This is not a fantasy football article but good players usually put up good numbers so take notes.

Geno Atkins  DT  Bengals – The 6’1, 304lbs DT for the Bengals is one of the league’s best young pass rushing linemen.  He registered 7.5 sacks, 15 hits and 26 hurries for the Bengals last year in his first season as a starter.  The Bengals have a very talented young defense and having a pillar like Atkins in the middle makes everyone’s job easier.  Unlike many young pass rushers (cough!! Suh) Atkins is actually responsible against the run and will hold his gap discipline until it is obvious that it’s not a run.  You will hear his name lots this season.

Titus Young WR Lions – The diminutive second year receiver from Boise State has the fantastic job of lining up on the other side from the one they call Megatron (Calvin Johnson).  With defenses rolling coverages Johnson’s way last season, Young caught 19 balls for 231 yards and four touchdowns in the last five games of the season.  Draft pundits compared him to Desean Jackson prior to the draft last year so with a season under his belt he could give the Lions a legitimate second threat at receiver and another dynamic weapon to add to their ridiculous offense.

Jimmy Smith CB Ravens – The second year Raven cornerback was the best true cover corner in the 2011 NFL draft, yes better than Patrick Peterson but Peterson’s return skills elevated his value above Smith.   Rookie corners typically struggle but are able put up impressive stats due to quarterbacks choosing to throw at them, see Devin McCourty.  McCourty picked off six passes and made the pro bowl in his first year but in his second season he was an abysmal cog in the worst secondary in the league.  Jimmy Smith started only 3 games during the season but started both Ravens playoff games.  He recovered a fumble in the conference semi-finals against the Texans, while allowing only one catch.  In the conference finals against Tom Brady he was thrown at only twice, once for a six-yard gain and the second one he picked off in spectacular fashion in the endzone.  Smith has the tools to be an elite cover corner and teaming with Lardarius Webb could give the ravens a top-notch tandem for years to come.

Kendall Hunter RB 49ers – Hunter has shown the type of explosion and shiftiness that Frank Gore no longer possesses.  Expect to see Hunter used as the 9ers 3rd down back and perhaps even more frequently depending on the health of Gore.  Despite only starting one game for San Fran, Hunter amassed 473 yards rushing and 195 yards receiving last season.  He average 12.2 yards per reception last year which is incredible for a running back, just to add some perspective Darren Sproles has never in his career averaged 12 yards per reception.  Expect to see Hunter used more and more as the season goes on and many highlight reel plays from the talented back.

Pernell McPhee DT/DE Ravens – With the loss of Terrell Suggs for most if not all of the 2012 NFL season the Ravens are going to have to find other pass rushers to pick up the slack.  Luckily, they stole Pernell McPhee in the fifth round of the draft last year.  McPhee tallied six sacks as a rookie despite playing less than half of the Ravens defensive snaps last season and never starting a single game.  That is truly outstanding and out of a rookie no less.  McPhee will have a much larger role this year as Cory Redding who started ahead of McPhee last season has left for Baltimore.  McPhee could realistically put up a 10-sack season and be talked about in the elite pass rushing tier by season’s end.

Jared Cook TE Titans – The fourth year tight end out of South Carolina is basically a glorified wide receiver kind of like Aaron Hernandez of the Patriots.  He started five games last year and played in all 16, despite seeing limited action he still caught 49 passes for 759 and three td’s.  If you do the math that’s a 15.5 yd average per catch, which is ridiculous for a tight end.  He also had an 80-yard touchdown reception in week four against Cleveland, tight ends are not supposed to catch 80 yard tds.  With Jake Locker being named the starter in Tennessee you know that the tight end will benefit from a rookie qb looking over the middle to him.  This athletic marvel has only shown glimpses so far but look for him to eclipse a 1000 yds and put up 8+ touchdowns (fantasy alert!!!)

Earl Thomas S Seahawks – Earl Thomas is the best and most important player on a very underrated defense in Seattle.  The Seahawks boast what is widely considered the league’s best secondary.  With the tight end position being all the rage in the league right now, having a safety that is rangy enough to patrol the deep middle on his own allows the other safety (Kam Chancellor) to help the linebackers control tight ends.  Thomas’s speed and coverage ability in the deep middle allows the rest of the Hawks defense to play an attacking style defense.  Earl Thomas has produced seven interceptions and 14 pass breakups while putting up some gaudy tackle figures too (174) in his first two seasons.  He was the second safety drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft behind Eric Berry and while he isn’t quite as versatile as Berry he is a better pure coverage safety.  With Ed Reed beginning to show age, Thomas will be the consensus top coverage safety by the end of the season (if he isn’t already).

Justin Houston OLB Chiefs – Houston was seen to have first round talent coming out of Georgia but some off field issues caused him to drop in the draft to the third round where the Chiefs snatched him up.  Houston took a little while to get accustomed to the pro game but by the end of the season he was a starter and became a pass rushing terror.  He had 5.5 sacks in his last five games, including a 1.5 sack performance against the Broncos when he hunted Timmy Tebow all day long.  With Tamba Hali rushing on the other side from Houston watch for a big season from this 2nd year player.

Carlos Dunlap DE Bengals – Another case of a first round talent that dropped in the draft due to character concerns before the Bengals took the Florida junior.   Dunlap had a quiet start to his first season before racking up 9.5 sacks in the last 8 games of the season.  Last season Dunlap was played sparingly as defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer likes to have a rotation of pass rushers.  In 278 snaps, Dunlap recorded 5 sacks, 13 qb hits and 29 pressures, which is the line of a highly disruptive pass rusher.  He actually has the highest average of pressure per rush in the entire league.  Due to the system, Dunlap will probably not approach a 15-sack season this year but on any third down watch for Dunlap to be right in the qb’s face.

Tyvon Branch S Raiders – The fifth year safety might be one of the most underrated defensive players in the whole league.  He is a versatile safety who can hit and cover at a position that doesn’t have enough talented players.  Last season Branch had 109 tackles, a sack, an interception and five pass defenses.  The most impressive stat by far though was when the Raiders faced the Patriots in week 4.  Branch was matched up on Rob Gronkowski all game long and he held him to one catch for 15yds, which was by far Gronk’s worst game of the season.  Branch is one of the best cover guys against tight ends in the league and is a fantastic weapon for an underrated Raiders D.

AJ Green WR Bengals – So most people know that AJ Green made the Pro Bowl in his rookie year but what they don’t know is how he became so good at catching.  When Green was a child his favourite hobby was juggling, so thanks to his odd childhood pastime Green already has some of the best hands in the NFL.  Green had a phenomenal rookie season, helping to rejuvenate a stagnant Bengals offense with fellow rookie Andy Dalton.   With all the hype surrounding Julio Jones this year due to the Falcons focus on lighting up the scoreboard, let’s not forget that every semi-credible scout in the nation considers AJ Green to be the better player.  He is an athletic marvel who possesses incredible hands and moves more fluidly than almost any 6″3+ receiver since Randy Moss.  Green is on his way to be a top three receiver by the end of the season after spending the offseason training with Calvin Johnson.

Sean Weatherspoon OLB Falcons – The most athletic linebacker in the 2010 NFL draft took his time getting accustomed to the pros but is now starting to dominate.  He’s been named as a defensive captain and is probably their most important single player on the defense.  He had 115 tackles, four sacks and eight passes defended last year making him a good defensive player in fantasy football.  He can rush the passer, tackle and cover tight ends, which makes game planning around him almost impossible.  By the end of the season Weatherspoon will probably be recognized as a top 3 outside linebacker.

Jason Pierre-Paul DE Giants – His name may sound like a French soft rock band but there is nothing gentle about this unique athlete.  The “Haitian Sensation” is 23 years old and only started playing football when he was 17.  Despite being named an NFL All-Pro last season he is literally still learning how to play the game and this should terrify quarterbacks and fans of teams who have to face this monster.  His level of athleticism has quite honestly never been seen in the league before and I’m well aware of the magnitude of this claim.  If you don’t believe me check out what this 6’5, 280lb beast did at the 2010 NFL draft.  Last season only his second in the NFL Pierre-Paul made 86 tackles, 16.5 sacks, a safety, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.  He was also named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month in December and let me reiterate this, he’s still learning how to play this crazy game.  The main reason that I added this obvious superstar to the list is because I’m putting in my Defensive Player of the Year vote right now and I’m voting for JPP!!! Watch out NFL, Quarterbacks and anyone who plays in the NFC East… I feel sorry for you.

Advertisements

Back to School Week One

Posted: August 30, 2012 by centennialsports in NCAA

by Dane Belbeck

It’s kickoff week for the 2012 NCAA Football season, which many will refer to as Christmas or the start of betting season.  Football represents the best sport in the world to lay a wager on, but like a savvy veteran at the bar, you never blow your bank roll on the first girl you see, so approach week one betting with caution.  Using that idea let’s limit ourselves to 3 games we like in week one to pad the bank account before NFL kickoff happens next week.

SOUTH CAROLINA (-6.5) at Vanderbilt

Heisman candidate Marcus Lattimore returns to the lineup after missing most of last season with a knee injury.  Scoring 30 touchdowns over his first two seasons with the Gamecocks, Lattimore will surely improve the nation’s 61st-ranked offense as they open the season in Nashville.  The Commodores were able to sneak up on some teams last year barely losing to Georgia, Arkansas and Tennessee in coach James Franklin’s first year.  With the Gamecocks returning all-world pass rusher Jadevon Clowney and a stout defensive line to stop Vandy running back Zac Stacy, quarterback Jordan Rodgers (brother of Aaron) and the nation’s 97th-ranked passing attack will have to win the game for the Commodores.  That won’t happen, take the Ole Ball Coach Steve Spurrier to handle the pesky Commodores and cover the 6.5 spread.

Boise State at MICHIGAN STATE (-7.0)

Life without Kellen Moore begins at Boise State, and anytime you replace the all-time leader in wins for NCAA FBS football, it’s not going to be easy.  Boise State also lost first-round NFL draft pick Doug Martin at the running back position and offensive coordinator Brent Pease to Florida, so the offense comes in fairly limp needing some of what this guy has…

Not exactly what you want when you are facing the nation’s 3rd-ranked defense at home in Michigan State. Sure the Spartans lost starting quarterback Kirk Cousins, but the defense returns All-American candidate William Gholston as their leader and running back Le’Veon Bell carrying the load behind an experienced line on Offense.  Boise State will surely struggle to move the ball with new quarterback Joe Southwick. A defensive game will get opened in the second half and look for the Spartans to win this won by a couple scores covering the 7.0 point spread.

Georgia Tech at VIRGINIA TECH (-7.5)

Virginia Tech returns the nation’s 10th-ranked defense which should be able to stay disciplined and handle the Georgia Tech option attack.  Logan Thomas comes off a season at the quarterback position where he set the single season record for total offense at the school.  And yes that includes Michael Vick.  Virginia Tech may see a drop-off on the offensive side of the football losing 8 starters including the Boss of the NCAA running backs David Wilson, they reload with quality talent including highly touted redshirt freshman RB Michael Holmes, and should have no problem covering a 7.5 point spread at home against the 44th-ranked defense from a year ago.

 

Enjoy the first week of games, let’s ease into it with some wins and as always…Go Gators!


 

We Gon’ Make It ? Part II NFC

Posted: August 29, 2012 by centennialsports in Uncategorized

Sports Provocateur

By: John Spurr

Isn’t training camp wonderful? Every team has a revamped roster, playoff aspirations and beautiful new cheerleaders. It’s a brilliant time of the year to be a fan of any team. Heck even the preseason helps to grow that positive outlook, with rookie quarterbacks carving up second-string defenses and first year coaches looking like they know what they’re doing. Don’t worry though after the initial madness of week one and two things will settle down and the teams will begin to separate.
Assuming that some teams are locks to make the playoffs let’s break down what needs to happen for some of the fringe teams to make it into the postseason. For the purpose of this exercise let’s assume that the Packers, Saints and 49ers will make the playoffs. That leaves three spots open including whoever wins the highly competitive NFC East.

NFC East – This division is…

View original post 1,940 more words

We Gon’ Make It ? Part II NFC

Posted: August 28, 2012 by centennialsports in Pigskin

By: John Spurr

Isn’t training camp wonderful? Every team has a revamped roster, playoff aspirations and beautiful new cheerleaders. It’s a brilliant time of the year to be a fan of any team. Heck even the preseason helps to grow that positive outlook, with rookie quarterbacks carving up second-string defenses and first year coaches looking like they know what they’re doing. Don’t worry though after the initial madness of week one and two things will settle down and the teams will begin to separate.
Assuming that some teams are locks to make the playoffs let’s break down what needs to happen for some of the fringe teams to make it into the postseason. For the purpose of this exercise let’s assume that the Packers, Saints and 49ers will make the playoffs. That leaves three spots open including whoever wins the highly competitive NFC East.

NFC East – This division is one of the tightest divisions in football with four teams with tough defenses, three talented quarterbacks and one rookie quarterback who used to be a track star. This division is always decided in the last few weeks of the season as all four teams tend to beat each other up. The interesting aspect of this season is that the NFC East and NFC South both play each other in cross over divisional play. The NFC South is also a very strong and unpredictable division and essentially the NFC Wildcards will be decided by the way that these NFC East vs South games end up.

New York Giants
The defending Super Bowl champs are as deep and talented as they have ever been and are probably a better team than they were last year. Remember though that last year the Giants lost twice to the last place Redskins and were a Miles Austin catch away from the missing the playoffs. The 9-7 Giants turned it on in the playoffs en route to spoiling another Boston Tea Party but they weren’t an exceptional regular season team.

Will Make Playoffs if: The ultra deep D-line can produce consistently throughout the season and Eli Manning stays ELIte and doesn’t throw 25 interceptions like he did two seasons ago. Having Prince Amukamara develop into a top calibre cover corner, would take their defense to the next level. Rookie running back David Wilson teams with Ahmad Bradshaw to give the Giants a talented and versatile backfield.

Will Miss Playoffs if: Injuries derail the D-line and the O-line can’t protect Eli enough to get the ball to his skilled receivers.

Likely – I think the Giants are the class of the division and will win the NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have the most talented defense in the division, which says a lot considering the amount of defensive talent in the NFC East. It literally all hangs on Michael Vick’s shoulders, the talent is around him on both sides of the ball.

Will Make Playoffs if: Vick stays healthy for 14+ games and the defense delivers on their considerable promise. Nnamdi and DRC are able to perform much better in their traditional defined roles as cover corners. Lesean McCoy is able to continue eluding defenders like Barry Sanders and give Vick a dangerous checkdown weapon.

Will Miss Playoffs if: Vick misses significant time. The defense can play as good as they want, they’ll still have no chance. The offensive line struggles to protect the enigmatic quarterback and isn’t able to open holes for McCoy. The Eagles don’t find a consistent red zone threat with a rather small receiving corps.

Likely: I love this teams defense but I don’t think that they can survive without Vick and I don’t think he can survive the season.

Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys always have such a great team on paper and this year is no different. Both sides of the ball have potential superstars at almost every position. Unlike last season though the strength of this team may be on the defensive side. With preseason injuries to Miles Austin, Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, Tony Romo must be wondering why the cowboys elected not to pay Laurent Robinson.

Will Make Playoffs if: The injuries are just an early season issue and don’t linger throughout the year. The pass rush improves thus helping the secondary, which also improves. The offensive line comes together despite having serious questions with the interior.

Will Miss Playoffs if: If the injuries concerns continue and their Oline play doesn’t improve. Struggles at the safety position continue to haunt this talented defense. Pass rushing support across from Demarcus Ware doesn’t appear, as Anthony Spencer continues to struggle, having never put up more than six sacks in a season.

Likely: Are competitive in the division but don’t quite sneak into the big dance.

Washington Redskins

Make the playoffs if RG3 is better than Cam Newton

Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears have finally decided to surround one of the most talented qb’s in the league with some actual receivers, what a novel idea. The last time Jay Cutler played with Brandon Marshall both of them went to the pro bowl. This season their offense should be much more dangerous with Cutler throwing to Marshall, rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey and the freshly paid Matt Forte. The defense is aging but should still be solid with several standout players including the freakish Julius Peppers.

Will Make Playoffs if: The age of the defense doesn’t catch up to them this year and the offense plays the way a lot of people are expecting. Oline play should dictate whether or not this is the case. A big play from Devin Hester here and there could be the difference between a 10 win playoff team and 9 win team on the outside looking in.

Will Miss Playoffs if: The defense begins to drop off and the oline doesn’t play well enough for Forte and Cutler to be effective. There are rumours that Brian Urlacher’s knee is actually quite mangled and the Bears have even considered cutting him. If this was the case it would be completely demoralizing to the defense.

Likely: The Bears veteran defense continues to get it done and the Cutler- Marshall-Forte triplets make for a dynamic attack.

Detroit Lions
Ladies and Gentlemen I present to you the Peyton Manning Indianapolis Colts 2.0. When Manning drove the ship in Indy, everyone always wondered why they didn’t try and improve their putrid secondary. Instead the Colts drafted more offensive talent and pass rushers because their plan was to outscore you and then harass your qb. This is the new Lions model for their franchise. With pundits screaming to fix the secondary the Lions drafted offensive tackle Reilly Reiff and another receiver in Ryan Broles to aid Matt Stafford’s ascension to elite status. They are going to score on teams and then pin their ears back and rush the passer.

Will Make playoffs if: Their key offensive players stay healthy and the pass rush remains strong. Solid seasons from trouble-makers Nick Fairley and Mikel Leshoure would make this team very strong.

Will Miss Playoffs if: The Madden Curse strikes and Calvin Johnson is injured, an injury to Stafford would have the same effect on this team’s chances.

Likely: The Lions have a top 5 offense and outscore a lot of teams. This team is playoff bound and that means that the NFC North sends three teams to the playoffs, mark it down.

Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons have made the playoffs the last 3 years but have yet to win a game with Matt Ryan at the helm. They have surrounded him with very talented weapons and the offense will now look to pass first. This season rides entirely on the sharpness of Matty Ice’s haircut. The defense didn’t change much this offseason and should be solid but not spectacular. They should have a good secondary but the linebackers and d-line leave something to be desired. The oline that was once a major strength of the team is now somewhat questionable.

Will Make Playoffs if: Matt Ryan delivers on the considerable talent that Mike Mayock and other analysts gush about all day long when discussing the young signal caller. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon continues to improve in his second season and becomes the defensive star. The talented secondary frustrates opposing quarterbacks. John Abraham is able to drive his wheelchair past offensive tackles to the tune of a ten-sack season.

Will Miss Playoffs if: The conversion from a ball control, run first offense to an aerial attack is not as smooth as anticipated. The loss of Curtis Lofton at middle linebacker hurts the defense more than expected and the undersized defense can’t stop the run.

Likely: The Falcons have an explosive offense like they hoped but end up losing too many games due to their very difficult schedule, which includes games against the NFC East.

Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton!!! No seriously if you missed last season this phenom had the greatest quarterbacking season by a rookie in NFL history and that was just the passing part, he also rushed for a qb record 14 touchdowns and 700 yards. This has catapulted Carolina into the stratosphere of must see teams after being a rather bore for some time. This season the Panthers look to shore up their defense and help Newton get better. Drafting linebacker Luke Kuechly will give the panthers a defensive quarterback for the next decade. The arrow is pointing squarely up for the Panthers but it may be a year or two early for the Panthers to be considered a real threat.

Will Make Playoffs if: Newton is completely unstoppable and Steve Smith is able to turn back the clock for another season. A significant improvement would be required from the defense, mostly coming from the pass rush.

Will Miss Playoffs if: Newton regresses and his weapons aren’t able to perform as well as they need to. The pass rush does show the necessary fierceness to lead a modern defense and the secondary is hung out dry.

Likely: The Panthers will be a lot of fun to watch this year led by Cammy Cam and a trio of talented running backs. It seems unlikely that they’ll be able to emerge from the always chaotic NFC South, I’d say they are two years away from the playoffs.

Seattle Seahawks
The often-overlooked birds have quietly put together a very strong defense under Pete Carroll. Many analysts around the league claim that Seattle has the league’s best secondary and in the new age of passing and nothing else, that is a major feather in the hawks cap. They boast speed, strength and athleticism at every defensive position on the field and they will be a top seven defense this season. Carroll has shaped the offense to be run a first team but that was until the emergence of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson has defied the critics at every level and according to league sources is a special quarterback, he may be able to energize Seattle enough to get them into the playoffs.

Will Make Playoffs if: Russell Wilson is able to add the passing component to the Seattle offense and develops a rapport with Sidney Rice. Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin give them give a formidable running back tandem that eases the pressure on Wilson . Finally, the defense plays as well as people are expecting and are able to get turnover and give Wilson some short fields to work with.

Will Miss Playoffs if: The young rookie signal caller struggles the way that many do, turnovers could kill this team as they are not explosive enough to outscore people. Marshawn Lynch doesn’t run the way he did last year after getting a nice juicy contract. Sidney Rice has injury issues and is the uninterested and ineffective pass-catcher that he was last year. Significant injuries to the defense are about the only thing that could stop this group from being awesome.

Likely: The NFC has too many strong teams and the Seahawks and their rookie signal caller don’t have the offensive pop to win enough games. Seattle will come up just short of a wildcard birth.

There is no doubt that this is the way that the NFC will play out but the beauty of sports is that the only thing that matters is the scoreboard at the end of the game. Football season is 8 days away, or a time of the year I prefer to call “The Night Before Christmas.” Can’t Wait !!!!

We Gon’ Make It? Part One

Posted: August 25, 2012 by centennialsports in Pigskin

By Dane Belbeck

“I’m So Happy You Cut That Stupid Hair You Had Last Year Tom!!!!!”

Every August we get bombarded with football predictions by every single sports media outlet or blog telling you where each NFL team is going to finish and why. While Herman Edwards says that everyone is ‘playing to win the games’ it’s pretty clear that the New England Patriots are going to win more games then the Miami Dolphins this season. So I will spare you the write-up on why the Patriots are a good football team that will win the AFC East….They have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. As long as that statement holds true the Patriots will always be my AFC East favourite. There’s also not much debate as to whether the Houston Texans will win the AFC South. Andrew Luck’s endless ceiling aside, when Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker are the other quarterbacks in the division I like your team’s chances. So here are some predictions as to why the other teams in the AFC have a chance to make the playoffs…and why they most likely will not.

AFC EAST

Pretty clear the Patriots are virtual locks to win this division and grab a playoff spot so let’s skip to the rest of the East.

New York Jets (2011 record 8-8, missed playoffs)

If they were giving byes to the playoffs for the most over-covered and over-analyzed team in the off-season the New York Jets would easily grab one. The circus that follows Timothy Richard Tebow arrived in New York March 21st, the day the Jets traded a fourth and sixth-round draft pick for the polarizing quarterback from Denver, and has only intensified since. To some this was the greatest trade in the history of trades (most of these people being devout evangelists or die-hard Florida Gator fans such as myself), a productive trade (put some pressure on Mark Sanchez to take his starting quarterback job seriously, have Wildcat guru Tony Sparano use Tebow effectively in the formation), or a train-wreck waiting to happen (anyone who has seen Sanchez play the last two years and realize the Jets will be trotting out a quarterback who can barely through a spiral as their starter by week six). The Jets seem to be operating under the classic “Can’t beat him…trade for him” ideal.

Make the Playoffs If: Rookie Quinton Coples fits right into the front seven and is able to get quarterback pressure without elaborate blitz schemes, The offense gets back to their roots and runs over teams with a power running attack featuring Wildcat and goal-line packages with Tebow and Shonn Greene, Sanchez doesn’t try to do too much and rookie Stephen Hill emerges as a legitimate #2 receiver.

Miss the Playoffs If: The offense looks anything like they have in the preseason, the Jets fail to generate a pass-rush and fall behind early in games forcing Sanchez or Tebow into a pass-heavy offense to a below average group of receivers outside of Santonio Holmes.

Likely: Sparano implements the wildcat and it achieves success like never before with the dual threat of Tebow, Sanchez has a productive year in which he is not asked to do much and Rex Ryan gets the defense back on track, the Jets grab a wildcat spot finishing second in the AFC East.

Buffalo Bills (2011 record 6-10, missed playoffs)

The Bills made the biggest off-season move not named Peyton Manning as they added Defensive End Mario Williams from the Houston Texans for a six-year contract that could be worth up to $100 million. The club then signed Mark Anderson to man the other end of the front four. With Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus in the interior, the Bills easily have arguably the top front four in the game. A healthy Fred Jackson returns to form a loaded backfield with C.J. Spiller to give the Bills a very formidable rushing attack. After signing a six-year extension with the Bills last season, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s numbers dropped off significantly as he was hindered by an ongoing rib injury.

Make the Playoffs If: The front four is as good as advertised getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks allowing the Bills to drop six and seven men into coverage, first-round draft pick Stephon Gilmore lives up to the hype and immediately helps a secondary that ranked 19th against the pass last year, Fitzpatrick’s struggles were due to the rib injury and he returns to early season form from 2012, and the two-headed monster of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson terrorizes defenses.

Miss the Playoffs If: Fitzpatrick’s struggles last season were not due to the rib injury and he continues to struggle, the front four isn’t as productive at rushing the passer as advertised putting more pressure on the questionable back-end, Stevie Johnson fails to emerge as a legitimate number one receiver.

Likely: Fitzpatrick’s form falls somewhere between the great start to the 2011 season and the horrible end to the 2011 season. Fred Jackson returns and sees a slight dip in production with C.J. Spiller getting more touches, Williams impresses, Anderson does not and the Bills challenge the Jets for second in the division and a wildcard spot but fall a game short.

Miami Dolphins (2011 record 6-10, missed playoffs)

Let’s be honest, there’s no chance the Dolphins make the playoffs, but any excuse to show pictures of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s wife Lauren must be taken advantage of.

Really Great Upside on this Draft Pick..

AFC NORTH

Only once in the last six years has the AFC North not been won by the Pittsburgh Steelers or Baltimore Ravens and in that time span the division has also sent 5 wildcard teams to the playoffs. Safe to say this is one of the best divisions in football. Last season the Cincinnati Bengals joined the Steelers and Ravens in the playoffs as the sixth seed. This year is sure to be another battle between the Steelers and Ravens for the division crown with the loser almost guaranteed a wildcard spot (although we know how that turned out last year), so let’s look at the chances the Bengals make the playoffs for a second year running.

Cincinnati Bengals (2011 record 9-7, 2nd AFC Wildcard team)

The Bengals resurgence came a year early as the sensational rookie tandem of quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green arrived on the scene and instantly added excitement to the offense. Carson Palmer was dealt to Oakland, and a young defense led by linebacker Ray Maualuga, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap finished the season 9th in points allowed per game. Leading rusher is Cedric Benson is gone to Green Bay, but the Bengals brought in Benjarvus Green-Ellis from the Patriots to replace him.

Make Playoffs If: Dalton continues to impress at the quarterback position, limit the turnovers, and continue his progress in being the best red-headed quarterback since Jeff Garcia, Green avoids the sophomore slump and continues his rise up the receiver ranks of the NFL, they are able to beat someone in the division not named the Cleveland Browns (0-4 versus Ravens and Steelers last season), and Green-Ellis makes everyone forget about Cedric Benson.

Miss Playoffs If: Do not improve on last year’s 2-4 divisional record, non-divisional games include the AFC West and NFC East compared to the abysmal NFC West and AFC South last year, Green and Dalton regress in their sophomore years, the rushing attack misses Benson and fails to take pressure off Dalton and new cornerback Terrence Newman plays like….well…Terrance Newman.

Likely: Three teams from the North will not be getting into the playoffs again this season with their out of division opponents posing much more of a threat then last years. The Bengals young talent matures and shows flashes of brilliance again for a half empty Paul Brown Stadium but cannot oust the Ravens or Steelers from the top two spots and misses the playoffs.

Cleveland Browns (2011 record 4-12, missed playoffs)

The Browns really tested the “I just love football so much I will watch any game possible” theory with their struggles on offense last year. To rectify the problem they drafted running back Trent Richardson from Alabama and quarterback Brandon Weeden from Oklahoma State. It’s hard not to think Trent Richardson is going to be a star, but it’s always dicey when you have a rookie quarterback actually OLDER then Aaron Rodgers already…Playoffs are not happening but if Richardson treats the opposition anything like he treats his running back’s coach, the Browns will be fun to watch

Look for part two featuring the AFC South and AFC West divisions coming up…

The Dog’s Bollacks…EPL Week One Review

Posted: August 25, 2012 by centennialsports in Uncategorized

by Matt Parker

The Dog’s Bollacks is an english term meaning something is really fantastic. Comes from the fact that a dog’s bollacks are so fantastic he can’t stop licking them. This is how we feel that the English Premier League is back! Even though we had a summer filled with football from Euro 2012 and the Olympics, the first week of the European Club season’s reminded us all why the Barclays Premier League is the best top flight division on the planet.

MANCHESTER CITY 3-2 SOUTHAMPTON
Newly-promoted Southampton took a lead into the 70th minute at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City, only to see the defending champs pull off a late comeback eerily similar to the final day of last season, when they snatched a late victory and league title against QPR. All is not well for the champions however, as star striker Sergio Aguero injured his knee after a sliding challenge from right-back Nathaniel Clyne. Aguero is expected to be out for at least a month and Roberto Mancini now must look for a replacement late in the transfer window with Fiorentina’s Stevan Jovetic reportedly his preferred target.

EVERTON 1-0 MANCHESTER UNITED
Manchester United and their new star signing Robin van Persie suffered a shock defeat at Goodison Park to Everton, led by the sublime Marouane Fellaini. Michael Carrick was forced to partner the returning Nemanja Vidic in defense and Fellaini took full advantage dominating the make-shift back line and scoring the game’s only goal. Van Persie came on as a second half substitute and made little impact as United looked disjointed at both ends of the field.

ARSENAL 0-0 SUNDERLAND
At the Emirates, life without Robin van Persie got off to a rocky start. Arsenal controlled the ball and had the bulk of the scoring chances, but the Black Cats showed up for a draw and got what they wanted. Playing with ten men behind the ball for the majority of the match they frustrated an Arsenal side still struggling to adapt to the in’s and out’s the transfer window typically unleashes. New boy Santi Cazorla was the lone bright light for the Gunners, showing great movement and excellent passing ability. Fellow newcomer Olivier Giroud’s introduction was not as impressive as last year’s top scorer in Ligue 1 wasted a glorious opportunity to win the game late on.

NEWCASTLE 2-1 TOTTENHAM
A late penalty from Hatem Ben Arfa ensured Andre Villas-Boas’ Spurs reign got off to a losing start. After a first half that saw Tottenham have the better scoring chances, Demba Ba opened the scoring in the second with a lovely curling effort from inside the box. Jermaine Defoe leveled the match in the 76th after converting a rebound Tim Krul was unable to control. Minutes later Ben Arfa skipped past two Spurs defenders and was taken down in the box. He then stepped up and cooly slotted home the winner much to the delight of manager Alan Pardew who was forced to watch from the stands after making contact with the fourth official.

WEST BROMWICH ALBION 3-0 LIVERPOOL
In what was the shock result of the weekend, the Brendan Rodgers era began with a thud at the Hawthorns. A thunderbolt from Zoltan Gera opened the scoring just before the stroke of halftime,

but a contentious second half red card for Daniel Agger changed the course of the match. A harsh penalty was given as Agger was judged to be the last man back after a foul on Shane Long. Justice seemed to be done for Liverpool fans after Long’s pitiful penalty was saved by Pepe Reina. They were not so lucky minutes later as West Brom was awarded another penalty after a Martin Skrtel challenge on Long and Peter Odemwingie converted the opportunity. Romelu Lukaku capped the scoring on his Albion debut with a 77th minute header. Liverpool pressed late on even bringing on the apparently unwanted Andy Carroll, but could not find the net as West Brom cruised to the victory.

WIGAN 0-2 CHELSEA
Eden Hazard was the star of the show, setting up both goals at the DW Stadium. A swift counter attack set up by the former Lille star in just the second minute was finished off by Branislav Ivanovic, as Chelsea took an early lead. Just five minutes later Hazard won a penalty after skipping by Maynor Figueroa, and went down under the challenge of Ivan Ramis. The ever-reliable Frank Lampard made no mistake, drilling home under Ali Al-Habsi to put the Champion’s League holders up two goals within the first seven minutes. Wigan were able to create chances and had their fair share of the ball, exposing frailties in the Chelsea defense but were unable to convert the final ball, as the Blues started their season off proper.

QPR 0-5 SWANSEA
A brace from new signing Michu and Nathan Dyer was capped by a beautiful strike from Manchester City target Scott Sinclair as the Swans gave Rangers a footballing lesson at Loftus Road. Michu was the star of the show as the former Rayo Vallecano man was all over the pitch, causing the Ranger’s defense fits.

The QPR defense looked totally out of sync and Swansea took full advantage, continuing to play the attractive brand of football under Michael Laudrup they used successfully with Brendan Rodgers. Perhaps in response to this embarrassing defeat, QPR skipper Mark Hughes has since brought in former Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho from Real Madrid, and Michael Dawson from Tottenham to shore up his leaky back line.

FULHAM 5-0 NORWICH
Fulham new boy Mladen Petric made a dream debut at Craven Cottage, bagging a brace as his new side destroyed a disappointing Norwich City. Chris Hughton’s dream return to the Premier League quickly turned into a nightmare as his side were completely overrun. Even without last season’s top scorer Clint Dempsey who is attempting to force a move, Fulham were dominant. Damien Duff, Alexander Kacaniklic, and Steve Sidwell also found the scoresheet in the rout.

WEST HAM 1-0 ASTON VILLA
Kevin Nolan’s close range strike five minutes before halftime was enough to ensure the Hammers’ return to the top flight was a successful one. Sam Allardyce’s style of relying on long balls, free kicks and set pieces will be vital in ensuring survival this year for West Ham and Nolan’s scrappy goal held true to that philosophy. Paul Lambert’s debut ended on a sour note as his Villains were unable to find the back of the net. Villa controlled the play in the first half but were unable to replicate that in the second as West Ham were able to hold on for the slim victory.

READING 1-1 STOKE
An injury time penalty from Adam Le Fondre secured a point for last season’s Championship winners at the Madejski Stadium. Michael Kightly’s goal in the 34th minute seemed to be enough to secure an opening day victory for Stoke, but Dean Whitehead’s foul on Garath McCleary after a nice one-two with Noel Hunt saw Reading’s new signing in on goal, awarded Reading the penalty that leveled matters.

Olympic Champions of a Different Kind

Posted: August 11, 2012 by centennialsports in Uncategorized

by Dane Belbeck

Every four years the Summer Olympics come around…flags are waved, National anthems are sung, and terms like ‘snatch’ and ‘clean and jerk’ can pass as acceptable commentary.

The Chinese and American athletes dominate, people who’s experience with swords involve being a pirate on Halloween are heard debating Canada’s medal chances in Fencing, and my mom develops a three-week crush on Brian Williams.

The eyes of the world focused on London for the 2012 Summer Olympics from July 27-August 12 and as usual there were many memorable moments from this celebration of sport. Unlike the Winter Olympics where our beloved Canada is considered a world power, the Canadian Olympic Committee set a top-12 medal finish as it’s lofty goal. While many would argue the Olympics are all about the medals, the two significant Canadian moments from London feature losses not wins.

Milos Raonic entered the London Olympics as the 24th-ranked tennis player in the world and was a long-shot at best to medal in the Men’s Singles competition. While his Olympics would only last two matches, the impact he left on the tournament will be felt for a long time. The first two sets of Raonic’s second-round match with Jo-Wilfred Tsonga of France went over without incident, run-of-the-mill 6-3 set wins for each player. It’s the third set when the remarkable happened. Both Raonic and Tsonga feature two of the bigger serves on the ATP tour, and those weapons were in full display in the deciding set.

The slugfest went back and forth with each player holding serve until the set was tied 23-23 and approaching the three hour mark. The match was already the longest in Olympic history. Monitoring the live chat that was going on during this match it was amazing to see the Canadian support for Milos. Even though Tsonga would win the next two games to take the thriller 25-23…meaning of course we wouldn’t get to let loose with any more of these…

There was no doubt that Milos had quickly become a Canadian Olympic legend. He may have been ousted in this particular Olympics, but at age 21, Milos’ star looks to be burning bright for Rio 2016.

The other memorable event from this Olympics was a mix of agony and triumph. The Canadian women’s soccer team captured the bronze medal with a dramatic 92nd minute winning goal from Diane Matheson to beat the French team. It was an extremely emotional event for the Canadian team as they netted Canada their first Olympic medal in a traditional team sport since 1936. For the seventh-ranked Canadians it was a massive result, but it’s the semi-final three days prior to the bronze medal game that Canadians will remember forever. Canada went into the match at historic Old Trafford versus the United States as severe underdogs. The USA was 43-3-5 versus Canada all-time and few people gave them a chance versus the powerful Americans. Canada had the ultimate equalizer though, Christine Margaret Sinclair.

Sinclair is arguably the greatest women’s soccer player in the world, and after her performance versus the USA, that argument is settled. Sinclair scored a hat-trick, all three goals of immense quality, to give the Canadians a 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 lead in the match. The back-and-forth affair would reach a boiling point in the 78th minute. Referee Christine Pedersen had called a poor game up to this point, but her call of time-wasting on Canadian goaltender Erin McLeod reeked of corruption. A call seen maybe once every twenty years was brought out with 12 minutes remaining in one of the biggest soccer games in Canadian history. Everyone involved was fully expecting this annoucement from the embattled referee…

An ensuing handball penalty called on Canada off the indirect free kick would see the Canadian bench, and an entire country collectively up in arms over the injustice that had occurred. Well the rest of the story is of course Abby Wambach cooly slotting home the penalty for the United States tying the game and following two 15-minute extra-time periods and an absurd 2:32 of stoppage time in the second extra-time period, Alex Morgan of the United States headed in the golden goal for the United States.

Milos and the Canadian Women’s Soccer team may not have won the gold medals at the London Games but they unified a nation during some of the most dramatic sporting events I’ve ever seen. Medals are great, but I’ll take these two stories over any medals won at the games.