Father Time vs. Tom

Father Time vs. Tom

Could this be it? Are we finally here? Could Father Time finally have caught up with the Greateast of All Time, Tom Brady?  As we enter into the NFL Playoffs on this Wildcard weekend (where we have a rare appearance from the aforementioned Brady and his New England Patriots), I’m sure we’ll be hearing this question from many people that cover the NFL.  As I’ve said in a previous article, I’ll be the last to that party.

But I must admit, there is something different about this particular season.  For starters, Father Time as we know is undefeated. Tom Brady is 42 years old.  Though he was quoted saying he wants to play football until age 45, let’s face it… he looks old (in football years).  He can’t move around in the pocket like he once could. He can’t throw the ball as hard or far as he once could. More importantly, this might be one of the worst cast of characters surrounding him that we’ve seen in a very long time.  Think about it – no more Gronk, Julian Edelmen is banged up, the Josh Gordon and Antonio Brown experiments failed – not to mention the weak offensive line he has in front of him.

Perhaps the most alarming sign was what happened in Foxboro last Sunday.  All the Pats needed to do was beat the Miami Dolphins at home to secure the #2 seed for the AFC playoffs, and more importantly, a first round bye.  The Patriots have never made it to a Super Bowl once when playing in the Wildcard round of the playoffs.  And shockingly, they lost at the hands of their supposed great defense on a game winning drive led by Dolphins journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick!  AND, Miami’s star wide receiver DeVante Parker had his way with elite Patriots corner Stephon Gilmore all day.

The other looming factors that could point to the potential demise of Tom Brady are, albeit purely speculation, the fact that he is not under contract after this season, which has never been the case for Brady and the Patriots. That, and the rumors about Brady’s house being on the market, and possibly wanting to relocate to Los Angeles to pursue other career interests after his football days are over.  When that will be? Who knows. Is this the last we’re seeing of Brady and Bellicheck’s dynastic run? We’ll see. Although the Patriots probably won’t make a Super Bowl run this year, it’s still foolish to count them out, until they’re actually defeated. Whether this is it for Brady and Bellicheck and Brady finishes his career elsewhere… or he retires… or he works out an extension to play with the Pats another few seasons, I think we can all sit back in awe as we reflect on the near 20 year dominant run these two have been on together. They’ve won 6 Super Bowl championships (have been to 9), have won the AFC East virtually every year (except for when Brady was injured for the season), and are seemingly in every AFC Championship game. We’ll be watching the G.O.A.T, but just remember – Father time is undefeated.

Is This the Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy (Football)?

Is This the Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy (Football)?

By now, all of your Fantasy Football Leagues should have wrapped up. Champions should be crowned, losers – punished. Some of you (myself included) were fortunate enough to draft dynamic players like Lamar Jackson, Christian McCaffrey, Michael Thomas, George Kittle, or even New England’s Defense/Special Teams. Others dealt with devastating injuries, like losing star Qbs like Drew Brees, Pat Mahomes, or Ben Roethlisberger for extended periods of time. Many saw disappointing seasons from guys like Odell Beckham Jr, Aaron Rodgers and Saquon Barkley. The rest of you are just bad at Fantasy Football.
But whether you were your league’s champion, bottom dweller, or somewhere in between… chances are you had a blast playing, and will once again be back for more next season. I guess maybe that’s easy for me to say, coming off of two championship seasons in the two leagues I played in. It certainly helped fund my holiday shopping, which put me in the Christmas Spirit in the nick of time. Fantasy Football is king. It has come a long way, making it so easy to play and manage your team in the process. I don’t know what the cutoff age is, but chances are if you’re of a certain age, most people you know who like football – or even sports in general – are part of a Fantasy Football league. We’re obsessed with it, we just can’t get enough of it. And aside from referees trying their best to ruin the experience for us, we continue going back for more and amercing ourselves in it.
Fantasy Football is like… committing to a long lasting relationship. Or being a parent, watching your baby grow week after week. And obviously, like being the general manager of your very own football team. I understand that it’s not for everyone, and maybe it’s a little too much commitment for people who have young children or work long hours. But it’s so much fun! This is a great era to play Fantasy Football. The NFL is filled with so many young, talented players that are exciting to watch. And the NFL does a great job of giving access to its product, with games scattered throughout the week, including all day Sunday. There are so many shows dedicated to Fantasy Football advice, there’s even NFL’s Redzone, a channel dedicated to Fantasy Football fans! So, if you’re not playing Fantasy Football, what are you waiting for? And if you already are, then you understand my excitement for this fun game!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (For the NFL)!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (For the NFL)!

That’s right, folks! It’s here – the most wonderful time of the year (for the NFL, of course)! Oh, yeah… and it’s the holiday season too. Got all your shopping done? Do you still actually physically go shopping, or are you Amazon only now? Well, regardless of how you shop, or which holiday you celebrate, there’s one gift we’re all eager to open this holiday season – the NFL playoffs, baby! Sure, there exciting things going on in the NHL and NBA, even the Yankee fans received a little Cole in their stockings this winter… but there’s nothing quite like football in January.
So, like kids on Christmas Eve, we anxiously wait for the NFL playoff picture to become a little more clear. And while there are still some seedings to be sorted out, and a team or two still battling for a division or wildcard spot, we have a good idea of who’s in and who’s out. I for one can’t wait to see some of these playoff games. There are so many combinations of potential match ups that would be such a joy to watch. You could make a case for almost all of the teams to make a run to the Super Bowl!
Let’s look at the AFC. Obviously, what the Ravens have done this season has been incredible, would anybody be shocked if they went the distance? Lamar Jackson is the front runner for MVP, doing things we haven’t seen since the likes of Michael Vick… and doing it better! And then there’s the cheatin’ Pats, the defending champs, seemingly always in the Super Bowl. Bellicheck and Brady are still there along with their great defense, so obviously we can’t count them out. Then there’s the Chiefs, who seem to just be hitting their stride, getting healthier, playing much better defense (they even added Terrell Suggs, who will likely make a huge impact for that defense)… they came inches away from beating the Pats and making it to the big game last year! And, while less likely, it’s not outrageous to think that the Texans could put together a run. Heck, they’ve already beaten the Pats this season, they have their own version of Lamar Jackson in Deshaun Watson who can do plenty of spectacular things on the football field as well.

And what about the NFC? Of course we have the Seahawks, led by Russell Wilson who will have something to say about the MVP vote. Wouldn’t be shocked to see Pete Carrol and Russ back in the big game. How about the Saints? They feature the (currently speaking) all time leader in passing touchdowns in Drew Brees, with the bitter taste in their mouths of last year’s non pass interference call in the NFC Championship Game against the Rams. I could easily see Sean Payton and Brees back in the Super Bowl. Then there’s the 49ers – coached by a brilliant offensive mind in Kyle Shanahan, to go along with an impressive defense. Can’t forget about the Packers, led by an innovative young coach and of course, the discount double check himself, Aaron Rodgers. And, you never know, a team like the Cowboys or Vikings, who each might have just played their best games of the season, could get hot and make a run.

Who will go the distance? I won’t even bother making a prediction. All I know is that (the Super Bowl) will feature two well coached, star studded teams that will put it all on the line for our entertainment. I expect a lot of action, a lot of points, and a very physical game, regardless of the teams that represent their respective conferences. After all, anything will be better than last year’s miserable game. Okay, fine. Ravens vs. Seahawks, Ravens win 42-34. Happy holidays, and enjoy football!

The Book of Eli: The Final Chapter

The Book of Eli: The Final Chapter

The Book of Eli: The Final ChapterBy Steve LaudatoSo this is it – the end of an era. Eli Manning made his first career regular-season start against the Atlanta Falcons at Giants Stadium on November 21, 2004. In that game, he threw his first career touchdown on a six-yard pass to Jeremy Shockey in the third quarter. And though we don’t know when his last game will be just yet, he at least for the moment has re-emerged as the starting quarterback for the Giants following the injury to his successor Daniel Jones.
As we are witnessing the final moments of Eli’s career as a New York Football Giant dwindle down to a precious few, we should look back on his career and take some time to reflect. He will be missed by New York sports fans, that’s for sure. Coming from football royalty, Eli put together a career that had no shortage of magical moments. Heck, he helped deliver two Super Bowl titles to the Big Apple – in a span of four years – against one of the most dominant team dynasties we’ve ever seen in all of sports (the Bellicheck/Brady led New England Patriots). Who can forget the image of Eli escaping pressure late in the 4th quarter of the first Super Bowl victory, only to miraculous connect on a desperation pass to David Tyree’s helmet? Not to mention, throwing the game winning touchdown against an all time great team that was on the verge of becoming only the second undefeated team in the history of the NFL (would have been the first since they expanded the regular season to 16 games). Or how about that beautiful pass down the sideline to Mario Manningham late in the 4th quarter of the second Super Bowl victory, sparking yet another game winning drive?
Eli has been everything a football organization, a teammate, and a fan could ask for. And even more impressive was the fact that he was equally as great off the field -whether that meant being charitable in the community, or just being a great role model for budding athletes – he did it the right way. Two Superbowl MVP awards, a career record hovering around .500, will finish with top 15 statistics in terms of Touchdown passes and yards… is he a Hall of Famer? I’m sure we could argue that answer for hours on end. But one thing we can all agree on – he was fun to watch, a great competitor, and a great role model – and he’ll be missed when he decides to retire.
It‘s a shame the way the last few seasons have unfolded, especially after the start his career got off to. Whether it was being benched in the midst of his consecutive starts streak, being benched this season for his young, almost clone-like successor after only 2 games, or falling victim to horrible management (poor roster construction/bad teams), it’s
been tough to watch. And even in this most recent game, where he was reinserted as the starter on Monday night in Philadelphia against the Eagles, we saw signs of how good Eli once was, and maybe even still is… only to watch the game slip away in the second half.
I personally hope he finishes out the season as the starter so fans have a chance to head back to Met Life stadium, and cheer on their hero as he likely makes his last few starts for a team he experienced so much glory leading. The Book of Eli has been a ‘best seller,’ in my opinion, and if this is indeed the final chapter, I’ll be curious to see how it ends. But will the rest of this season actually be the final chapter of his great career? Or is there an alternative ending for another organization? Stay tuned…

The One Handed Jam That Was No “Slam Dunk”

The One Handed Jam That Was No “Slam Dunk”

On Tuesday night (December 4th, 2019), a strange thing occurred in an NBA game between the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs. At the AT&T center in downtown San Antonio, after being down 22 points in the third quarter, the Spurs clawed their way back to ultimately win the game 135-133 in double overtime. But the impressive comeback victory didn’t come free of controversy.
With approximately 7:50 left in the fourth quarter, Rockets guard James Harden, who would go on to score 50 points in the contest, was involved in a strange controversial play. He stole a pass by Spurs forward DeMarre Carroll, ran to the hoop and dunked the ball so hard that the ball went through the net—which should have counted as two points—and then popped back out of the net. Shortly after, the referees mistakenly waived off the basket. Without question, the ball took a bizarre path and looked a little funny in real time. Harden immediately realized this and tried to retrieve the ball after he had dunked it.
In comes the controversy. After a quick replay, you could see the ball passing through the net, making it a good basket. A head coach is entitled to request an instant review of the call within 30 seconds of the call. Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni can be seen attempting to challenge the call, or the interpretation of the call as given by the referee. After the game, crew chief James Capers admitted that the dunk should have in fact counted. Capers also claimed that coach D’Antoni did not request an instant review of the call within the allotted 30 seconds. Capers implied that D’Antoni used those 30 seconds to protest the call and to try to get clarification on what transpired, but did not ask for a review.
According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, D’Antoni had a different recollection of how this scenario unfolded. D’Antoni claimed he did challenge the call within the context in which the referees had explained it. “I heard that they said the ball hit James and went back through,” D’Antoni said after the game. “So it was a goaltend on James. I challenged that, and I didn’t get a response.” Apparently, he was told he couldn’t initiate a challenge.
D’Antoni has a legitimate gripe here, and this debacle should result in one of two outcomes. Either – the Rockets should flat out be awarded the win (less likely), or – the final 7:50 of the game should be replayed (more likely). Though a rare occurrence, there is precedent for re-do’s in the NBA (2008 Atlanta Hawks vs. Miami Heat, and 1982 San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers). It’ll be interesting to see how NBA Commissioner Adam Silver handles this situation, but it’s a “slam dunk” that somethingwill be done to resolve this issue.