More Than A Fan http://www.morethanafan.net Opinions So Good They Should Be Called Facts Fri, 31 Oct 2014 13:21:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Homecoming Spoiler http://cleveland.morethanafan.net/2014/23967/homecoming-spoiler/ http://cleveland.morethanafan.net/2014/23967/homecoming-spoiler/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 13:21:32 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23115 Somewhere amongst the pandemonium that swathed downtown Cleveland, there was a basketball game to be played. And for all the partying fans packed the house, the New York Knicks played the ultimate spoilers.
Carmelo Anthony, a long time nemesis of LeBron James, was the game’s leading scorer with 25 points, and Cleveland’s hallowed home boy turned the ball went just 5-of-15 from the floor with eight turnovers in 43 minutes of play.
Strangely enough, Anthony’s team defeated James’ the last time they clashed on opening night, back in the 2003-04 season when Anthony was with Denver.

http://www.morethanafan.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Cleveland-Cavaliers-Banner-468×60.jpg

“Obviously it was a special night for not only myself but for everybody. I’m glad it was great, but I’m also glad it’s over,” LeBron James said Thursday night. “I just tried to stay focused and maintain, focus as much as I could.”
James had his lowest scoring game in recent memory. His shots were flat. His ball handling was sloppy. After a strong 31-20 start that included some exciting outlet passes, the Cavs lost purposeful passes as the turnovers started to pile up.
They looked like a team unfamiliar with each other, which is precisely what this team is.

http://www.ticketmonster.com/Cleveland-Cavaliers-Tickets?aid=16570

“Play the game, not the occasion,” David Blatt said before the game. Those words however, were much easier said than done.
James mentioned after the game that he wants to get back to playing “regular basketball.” But the hype, the excitement, and the moment of the game just might have been too much at one time for a young team to handle.
“I think we spiked at a certain point,” said Blatt. “We’ve been thinking and been excited about this game for a long time. It’s been building and building and we used that emotion in a positive way in the beginning. Like I said, I just thought we spiked and kind of dropped off the map.
“It’s easy to make an excuse. I can tell you ‘Yeah’ but on the other hand, the guys had a good reason to come out fired up. The crowd was fabulous. The energy was great. We started properly, and then we got away from playing the way that we’ve played in the first quarter. That’s what cost us more than anything else.”
All five Cavaliers starters finished in double figures, including Irving (22), Love (19), James (17), Varejao (10), and Dion Waiters (10).
The notion after the game early Friday morning was if they play like this tonight against the Chicago Bulls, they could be starting 0-2 dead in the face. But nerves were running as high as they ever have. And, even in James’ own words, it was good to get this one past us; so that now, James and the city of Cleveland can return to playing “regular basketball” again.

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The Baseball Gods Owe Me An Explanation http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/31/baseball-gods-owe-explanation/ http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/31/baseball-gods-owe-explanation/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23100 On Wednesday night, the San Francisco Giants won their 3rd World Series in the last 4 calendar years1, and it just about killed me.  I cried out to the baseball gods, and asked how this could happen again?  How could a franchise so steeped in the PEDs2 scandal become a Dynasty?  Where were the baseball gods to prevent this atrocity from happening?

Two years ago, when the Giants won their second World Series title in San Francisco, I posited the thought that there should have been an asterisk placed next to their achievement, because of the role that PED Cheat Melky Cabrera played in their making the post-season.  For me, the stink of that title has not worn off quite yet.

To be clear, the 2014 edition of the S.F. Giants is not Cheater 1a’s team, nor are they even Melky Cabrera’s Giants.  This iteration of the Giants is based on the talents of Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Yusmeiro Petit et al, to say nothing of the managerial skill of Mr. Bruce Bochy, who I spent no small amount of time castigating for his decision to hold off on starting Bumgarner for the 2nd time until game 5.

Until the Giants’ offensive explosion during innings 5-7, it seemed like Bochy would be the goat who left the best World Series pitcher in this moment on the bench when his team desperately needed a win.  However, the Giants’ bullpen held the Royals scoreless over the final 6 1/3 innings to pick up battered starter Ryan Vogelsong, and the Giants drew even.

Bumgarner winning game 5 was a foregone conclusion, as was the Royals staving off elimination in game 6.  Even Bumgarner making an appearance in game 7 was expected.  I’d seen Orel Hershiser in 1988 and Pedro Martinez in 1999 pull similar stunts, though with slightly less on the line than game 7 of a World Series.  The scenario that rang closest to Bumgarner’s appearance was Randy Johnson’s in 2001.  Of course, Johnson only went 1 1/3 innings, whereas Bumgarner closed out the final 5 innings.  Not even the great Walter Johnson managed to do that.

When Bumgarner entered the game in the top of the 5th, I sent out the following text:

I hope Bumgarner tears his rib cage on his first pitch.

Mind, I have nothing against Bumgarner personally.  In fact, I think he’s tremendous, and in any other circumstance, I would have totally been pulling for him to perform as well as he did as he picked up his 3rd win of the Series3.  The baseball gods may have forgiven the Giants, but my memory is long.  In my mind, they are still at least partly culpable for the ongoing problem of PEDs within the professional game.

The Oakland Athletics certainly seem to be paying a far higher price for their past and current misdeeds with regard to PEDs, which I appreciate.  I simply wish that the punishments would be levied out in a more ‘fair’ manner, so that when I am watching the deciding game of a World Series, my hatred of PEDs won’t have to come in conflict with a historical baseball moment.

 

  1. The only thing worse than watching take out the Kansas City Royals was listening to Joe Buck and every other announcer/commentator absolutely butcher what span of time the Giants have had this spate of success.  They won their first World Series as the San Francisco Giants on November 1, 2010.  This title, their 3rd, came on October 29th, 2014, which is less than 4 years from when they won the first title. The more correct phrasing would have been to say “Their 3rd title in the last 5 seasons,” but I digress.
  2. Which includes employing the 1a of sports cheats for 15 full seasons, although to be fair, I would definitely say he was a PEDs Cheat for ‘only’ the last 9 seasons.
  3. Yes, I realize that the official scorers made the decision to credit Bumgarner with a save, and gave the win to Affeldt, but I believe that they misinterpreted the rule book.  Affeldt was effective, but he was not as effective as Bumgarner, who by the way pitched 55% of the game.  Sure, Affeldt had to get a few tough outs, Bumgarner needed 15.  I hope at some point in the not-to-distant future, this error is corrected.
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CFB Roundtable #33: The Professor Goes to the Cocktail Party http://cfbroundtable.com/2014/cfb-roundtable-33-professor-goes-cocktail-party/ http://cfbroundtable.com/2014/cfb-roundtable-33-professor-goes-cocktail-party/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 21:22:37 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23102

Damien welcomes in managing editor Seth Merenbloom (only one of these in the world) into the Roundtable. There’s lots of talk about the Playoff rankings, Big 12 expansion, Notre Dame, a professor and a cocktail party, and the Pac-12.

The College Football Round TableRSS (audio)iTunes (audio)StitcherTuneIn

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Bridging the Gap: The Midweek Report, Week 8 http://cleveland.morethanafan.net/2014/23945/bridging-gap-m…-report-week-8/ http://cleveland.morethanafan.net/2014/23945/bridging-gap-m…-report-week-8/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 20:05:15 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23097 http://cleveland.morethanafan.net/2014/23945/bridging-gap-m…-report-week-8/feed/ 0 The BSK Says Podcast #45: Ohio State and the College Football Playoff http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/30/bsk-says-podcast-45-ohio-state-college-football-playoff/ http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/30/bsk-says-podcast-45-ohio-state-college-football-playoff/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 09:22:52 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23094

You won’t believe what the BSK says about the Buckeyes #16 ranking in the College Football Playoff. Really BSK?

The BSK Says with Kendall Lewis: RSS (audio)iTunes (audio)StitcherTuneIn

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MTAF Podcast #125: with Ben #CavsTwitter Cox http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/29/mtaf-podcast-125-ben-cavstwitter-cox/ http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/29/mtaf-podcast-125-ben-cavstwitter-cox/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 03:12:32 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23091

Ben Cox stops by to talk Cavs. From season predictions to why we all care so much, Ben continues to give every blog in Cleveland a turn.

Merry Cavmus!

Players

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The Fight is Right http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/29/nhl-fighting-right/ http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/29/nhl-fighting-right/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 18:01:34 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23051 PC America is what we live in now. No matter what the instance, there will always be someone chirping over your shoulder to change the way you do things or even worse, the people that make a huge deal about something as insignificant as a kid wearing a “Federal Body Inspector” shirt to school. The parents that lobby for no sports in gym class so that there are no losers, saying Charlie Brown promotes bullying, and getting coaches fired for yelling at their players; these are the products of parents and concerned citizens that care too much about nothing. They probably weren’t “cool” in school so they made it their mission to make sure nobody is “cool” and that we should all live in their perfect fascist society. This is the age of try-hards.

Now with that said, clearly the reason the NHL is tightening up on fighting and dangerous hits is to protect the players and minimize the number and severity of concussions. But lets think about this for a minute. Is the NHL acting proactively to insure the safety of players or are they merely reacting to public outcry?

I’m all for reducing the risk of concussions as I have had a couple myself and we are becoming more aware of the detrimental long term side-effects, but to put a ban on fighting? Get outta here. This isn’t me trying to be a tough guy or a hockey purist that believes no rules should ever change. We simply need to recognize that fighting does have a history with the league and should not disappear entirely. The league is currently working to cut down fighting occasions and implement more penalties and suspensions for rash actions but players will still choose to enforce the game themselves when the time comes. Refs have done great jobs regulating the flow of games and catching infractions but sometimes that isn’t enough. A double minor won’t deter an enforcer type player from clobbering the poor sap that put your sniper on his ass. Sometimes that guy just deserves to have the snot beat out of him instead of a meek couple minutes in the box.

But what about real enforcers? Do they still have a role in the NHL? You know the 4th liner who can hardly skate, has maybe a dozen career points, and seems to get his playing tips from Mike Tyson. Yeah just like this guy!

John Scott Fight

A lot of people will argue that players like him are brutes and don’t deserve to play professional hockey. Oh that’s odd, since when did they become GMs and gain the power to manage rosters? There is a reason they got signed, there is a reason they are still on the team, and there is a reason they get paid way more than 95% of the country. Entertainment! Yes, they are hockey players first but what are professional sports really? Again, entertainment. They have their roles just like every other player. Bergeron dominates face-offs, Ovechkin scores, Suter eats up time on ice, and John Scott beats the shit out of anyone he wants to. They all do what they need to do in order to put on a show for us. Don’t you see that fighting is a gift?

Also, I don’t have any stats to back this, but I’m fairly sure the vast majority of concussions arise from legal hits rather than punches thrown. Even if I’m wrong (I won’t admit it) the players are supposed to keep their helmets on and new players are to be wearing facemasks. That alone should be enough concussion prevention, the rest is just part of the sport.

The other day Scott was slammed with a two game suspension for the fight above. But wait, wait, wait… The only illegal thing he did was not make a hockey play before engaging in a fight? Boooo. I get we want to protect the players but come on, have some balls one time. Tim Jackson just came out of the box for roughing. The Sharks had to protect their own and make the statement that you don’t mess with our guys especially with a four-goal lead. If Logan Couture was injured in the last period from a reckless roughing the Sharks would have been furious they didn’t take preemptive measures. Brawlers like Scott exist for that reason. (And to pump up the crowd after going all Kimbo-Slice on Jackson)

And now to pump up our crowd…my top 5 fights from this young season

5. Clayton Stoner v Zach Sill
Starts slow, then wild haymakers go flying. Helmet lost, head blows (that how we get concussed), and unreal stamina/determination. This is why we fight.

4. Andrew Desjardins v Tanner Glass
A classic little team tussle to get it going. It then develops to a one v one twelve round fight ending with Desjardines getting emasculated and tossed to his own bench.

3. Cody McLeod v Chris Neil
A real power struggle here chalk full of vicegrips and spit. Neil casually tosses him in a headlock and proceeds to rip McLeod’s head clean off his shoulders.

2. Derek MacKenzie v Marc-Andre Cliche
Pretty much what you would expect when two rabid dogs go at it. Lightning quick punches, flying legs, haphazard diving at the knees, no willingness to go down and surrender. It ends with both curled up trying to bite each others ears off. You can’t teach that kind of vicious tenacity.

1. Mats Zuccarello v TJ Oshie
Oh thats just Mr. America himself, TJ. You can almost see his red, white, and blue blood boiling in this scrap. I was waiting for a bald eagle to come streaking in and attack Zuccarello too. Anything Oshie does is #1 in any countdown.

Thank you to hockeyfights.com for all the fight footage. And let this be a lesson to all the do-good, try-hard, PC police out there; hockey fights are really bloody entertaining. You want them to stop? Close your eyes and turn away because they are as much part of the game as ice is.

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The Crossroads: Are You Serious, Ole Miss? http://cfbroundtable.com/2014/crossroads-serious-ole-miss/ http://cfbroundtable.com/2014/crossroads-serious-ole-miss/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 16:55:19 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23080 http://cfbroundtable.com/2014/crossroads-serious-ole-miss/feed/ 0 When It Comes To Ohio State, The System Isn’t To Blame http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/29/comes-ohio-state-system-isnt-blame/ http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/29/comes-ohio-state-system-isnt-blame/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 16:05:17 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23076 by Ryan Isley

The Ohio State Buckeyes made their bed and now they must lie in it.

When the initial College Football Playoff rankings came out Tuesday night, the Buckeyes found themselves 16th – three spots lower than they are in both the USA Today poll and the Associated Press poll. As expected, Ohio State fans were not happy. But if fans want to be upset, they need to be upset with the team, not the playoff committee. There is a reason Ohio State is ranked so low. Several reasons, actually.

Let’s start with the obvious – the 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech in the second game of the season. At home. That loss may not have been so bad if Virginia Tech was sitting at 7-1 or even 6-2 right now. But they aren’t – they are 4-4 and have lost their last two games.

We can sit make whatever excuse we want for that game, and we have, myself included. We have talked about how it was Virginia Tech’s biggest game of the season so they came in with nothing to lose. We have talked about how freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett was making just his second career start after the injury to Braxton Miller. We can talk about how the Buckeyes faced an unorthodox team the week before when they beat Navy.

And we have talked about all of those factors ad nauseam. The bottom line was then and still continues to be that Ohio State couldn’t afford to lose that game. But yet they did.

One reason Ohio State couldn’t afford a loss to Virginia Tech is that the Big Ten just simply isn’t strong enough right now to help the Buckeyes overcome a loss. Ohio State’s schedule does them no favors, but that is in part because the Big Ten is so weak. The conference has just three teams ranked in the College Football Playoff rankings, with Michigan State (8th), Nebraska (15th) and Ohio State.

The Buckeyes may get a shot at both of the other teams, with a showdown in East Lansing against Michigan State next week and a possible date with Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game. But as of now, they haven’t beaten anybody. Their best win is probably the one they just picked up this past week at Penn State, over a team that is now 4-3, 1-3 in the Big Ten.

Ah, that game in Happy Valley. Yet another reason Ohio State won’t get any respect in the polls. Ohio State dominated the Nittany Lions in the first half, taking a 17-0 lead into halftime. But in the second half, Penn State roared back and took control of the game before the Buckeyes won 31-24 in 2OT. This was a Penn State team that had previously lost to Michigan and Northwestern, struggled to beat Rutgers and needed a last-second field goal to knock of UCF. They weren’t exactly playing the SEC West.

It isn’t just that one game that hurts the Buckeyes in the eyes of pollsters, however. What takes the shine off Ohio State’s overall record is the pattern that the Buckeyes have created where they piss down their leg in the biggest games.

Two seasons ago, Ohio State went 12-0 in the regular season but was not eligible for the Big Ten championship game or a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions. So there really wasn’t any pressure all season that could have been make or break for their title chances. Last season, they went straight through the regular season undefeated again, setting up a game against Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game. Ohio State fell 34-24 to the Spartans and followed that up with a 40-35 loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

This fell right in line with the past, where Ohio State is 2-5 in its last seven bowl games, including back-to-back ugly losses to Florida and LSU in BCS National Championship Games. The stench that Ohio State has left behind in big games has lingered even though they have changed coaches in that span.

Oh yeah, the coach. One other reason Ohio State doesn’t get respect.

There are some people out there who just unequivocally hate Urban Meyer. They don’t like the way Meyer left Florida or how he surfaced at Ohio State as soon as there was an opening. They see some of the off-field issues that his players have and cannot get past that when thinking about Meyer or his team. Meyer hasn’t done himself any favors with how he has handled player punishment, nor have his players helped him out by staying out of trouble.

Sure, he had guys like Tim Tebow, but the ones who are remembered are the guys like Aaron Hernandez, Chris Rainey and Cam Newton. And then at Ohio State last season, he had to deal with the off-field issues of Carlos Hyde and Bradley Roby plus the issues of Noah Spence and Rod Smith this season. While those Buckeyes may not have been Meyer recruits, it happened on his watch, furthering the talk of the culture he creates. It was also a culture that Ohio State was aware of when they hired Meyer.

Add all of it up, and it leads to the Buckeyes facing an uphill battle when it comes to getting national respect. The problem is that as quick as you lose that respect, it takes a lot longer to gain it back. Ohio State is learning this the hard way.

And at the end of the day, the Buckeyes have nobody to blame but themselves.

Comments? Questions? You can leave them here or email Ryan at ryan.isley@morethanafan.net. You can also connect with him on Twitter @isley23.

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Track Tech: Verizon Wireless’ Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet http://wheels.morethanafan.net/2014/10/19158/track-tech-verizon-wireless-sony-xperia-z2-tablet/ http://wheels.morethanafan.net/2014/10/19158/track-tech-verizon-wireless-sony-xperia-z2-tablet/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 11:15:50 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23060 We may be in the off-season, technically speaking, but my Verizon Wireless Track Tech features do not take a break. This past month I’ve been working with the Sony Xperia Z2 tablet. This device is available exclusively through Verizon Wireless and it runs on the Android OS. While I may not have visited any actual racetracks during this review period, I did attend more than a couple sporting events in October including a Pacers game which wrapped up an unforgettable Verizon IndyCar Series presser & announcement with none other than the Mayor of Hinchtown, James Hinchcliffe himself. Racing is ALWAYS a part of my world, whether the burning rubber and ethanol fumes are present or not… all of this was captured and shared thanks to the efficient design and seamless functions of the Xperia.

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2014-15 Cavs Roundtable Preview http://cleveland.morethanafan.net/2014/23929/2014-15-cavs-roundtable-preview http://cleveland.morethanafan.net/2014/23929/2014-15-cavs-roundtable-preview#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 10:00:18 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23069 http://cleveland.morethanafan.net/2014/23929/2014-15-cavs-roundtable-preview/feed/ 0 NBA 2014-2015 Preview http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/28/nba-2014-2015-preview/ http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/28/nba-2014-2015-preview/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 01:51:07 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23059 With the NBA season starting today, it’s fitting that predictions are made for the season. We enter a season with a new landscape as there will be several key players joining new teams including the biggest; Lebron James returning home to Cleveland. There will also be questions about whether San Antonio Spurs can repeat and also how Kobe Bryant will handle returning from two season ending surgeries. That having been said, let’s dig into the predictions starting out West.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

PACIFIC

1. Los Angeles Clippers 58-24: Something feels different about these Clippers. Maybe it’s the new owner. They also acquitted a lot of depth for their bench and while their defense remains a concern, there is no doubt they will have capable players at all positions that will score. Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick, Spencer Hawes and Matt Barnes are solid on the bench and give the Clippers the depth they need to possibly advance past the second round. Doc Rivers will get them past the second round this season.
2. Golden State Warriors 48-34: I believe the Warriors take a minor step back with a new coach while their roster remains largely intact as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson remain as one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Andre Iguodala gives the Warriors a player that can score, play shut down defense and grab rebounds. There is always the question of whether they can actually catch the Clippers. Is Steve Kerr the right man to lead them?

Kobe Bryant will attempt to stay healthy for the first time in two seasons as the Lakers have a huge hill to climb (Image by Alex Gallardo)

Kobe Bryant will attempt to stay healthy for the first time in two seasons as the Lakers have a huge hill to climb (Image by Alex Gallardo)

3. Los Angeles Lakers 44-38: I am probably the only person picking the Lakers to finish this high but I can see it happening provided they stay healthy. People have to remember that before their tailspin last season, the Lakers were 9-8. Carlos Boozer will make an excellent addition as will Jeremy Lin. The questions revolve around whether Bryant can make the full comeback and whether Nick Young can emerge as a dual threat. There is always the question of what Julius Randle will do. If the Lakers can stay healthy, they can steal the last playoff spot.
4. Phoenix Suns 42-40: They have Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas. Their offense is very strong and will run you all over the court. But the main thing about the Suns is that they are incredibly inexperienced. It’s not to say that they lack the talent but the lack of experience might cost them a few games, maybe a few games.
5. Sacramento Kings 32-50: Does it seem like the Kings stay the same every year? DeMarcus Cousins is emerging as a top flight center and the Kings are building around him. Rudy Gay gives them another weapon to use. Aside from that, what do they have? They do have a very weak backcourt and were last in assists last season.

NORTHWEST

1. Oklahoma City Thunder 57-25: Kevin Durant is the best scorer, maybe the best player in the game. But he is continuously ignored because of King James. He continues to improve at every aspect of his game. However, Durant will miss at least 20 games to start the season. Can Russell Westbrook carry the workload? I can see the Thunder losing some of their early games that they would normally win. Scott Brooks is not the greatest coach in the world either. But the Thunder makes the playoffs on their talent and supporting cast which includes Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson.
2. Portland Trailblazers 50-32: When you have Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge on your side, you always have a shot. Aldridge also has a great tag partner in Robin Lopez. The Blazers have a very talented starting cast with Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews rounding out the backcourt. Where their weakness lies is their bench. Their second team is very weak on the defensive side of the ball and with Mo Williams gone; it could be difficult to replicate some of the magic of last season.
3. Denver Nuggets 40-42: The Nuggets will take a step back this season. Their starting five and backups are all athletic players but none of them are stars. Ty Lawson is going to have to do a lot from the one position to drive this team forward as they will be running and gunning all over the court. But the days of George Karl are gone. The Nuggets no longer can contend with the powers of the west.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves 29-53: Trading away Kevin Love indicated that they were giving up on this season. They now have Andrew Wiggins, the man that Cleveland traded them after drafting. Ricky Rubio is a very talented point guard and should lead this offense with creative artistry. However, the Wolves are developing young talent and do not have the leaders needed to make the playoffs. They seem to be in perpetual rebuilding mode.
5. Utah Jazz 25-57: Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors give the Jazz something to look forward to but overall, this team is not going anywhere. They are extremely young and their bench is subpar. They were the worst defense in the league last season and have no leader in the locker room.

MIDWEST

1. San Antonio Spurs 60-22: There is something about the defending champions that keeps coming back. They always find a way regardless of how “old, broken or decrepit” they are. The Spurs have three players in the twilight of their careers; Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. But look further than that and you will see that they have depth and talent much younger. That talent includes Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter and the NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. They also have such great role players like Marco Belinelli and Patrick Mills who can lead on any given day. The fact that they have so many players that can come in and score on any given day is attributed to the greatest coach in the world Gregg Popovich.
2. Houston Rockets 52-30: The Rockets will be improved from last season as Dwight Howard and James Harden will be joined by Trevor Ariza as these three look to lead the Rockets further than last season. Patrick Beverley is a defensive machine and will be the one to hold down the oppositions top players and Terrance Jones could be big for Houston if he delivers on his promise. The only concern is that there is so much turnaround that there are questions to how that will affect Houston. Regardless, they will finish second in the Midwest.
3. Dallas Mavericks 49-32: Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis are scoring machines and will power the Mavericks past many teams. Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler should offer a new alternative in terms of big men combos. The Mavericks are loaded and Rick Carlisle has done a good job of preparing them for the season. Defense could be a concern. Like with the Clippers, the Mavericks have a great bunch of scorers and rebounders but can they defend? Opponents shot 46.4 percent against them last season and this could be the difference in April.
4. Memphis Grizzlies 43-39: I am not completely convinced that the Grizzlies are a playoff team. They have excellent defense and that is thanks in part to Marc Gasol. Zach Randolph is a great athlete and him and Gasol work extremely well together. The concern I have is whether they can keep up with everyone else in the West. Their outside shooting isn’t great and will be worse with Mike Miller gone. Their depth is bad too and will need to stay healthy to grab that last playoff spot.
5. New Orleans Pelicans 35-47: The Pelicans still have a long way to go to make it out of the basement. Aside from Anthony Davis, they have no one to support him. Their depth is so weak that even some of the lower teams in the west can beat them.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

CENTRAL

Kyle Irving and Lebron James lead a heavily favored Cavaliers team as the NBA season gets underway. (Photo by Gregory Shamus of NBA Getty Images)

Kyle Irving and Lebron James lead a heavily favored Cavaliers team as the NBA season gets underway. (Photo by Gregory Shamus of NBA Getty Images)

1. Cleveland Cavaliers 63-19: No surprise here. I see the Cavaliers dominating with Lebron James back in Cleveland. They will win many regular season games based off talent along. Lebron also has Kevin Love with him and they are the best one-two punch in the NBA. Add second year player Kyle Irving and you have the makings of a really good team. Mike Miller and James Jones will be key depth pieces later down the line for the Cavs and Shawn Marion is always a solid defender as well as capable scorer. The only questions I got about the Cavs are their coaching and meshing ability. Can David Blatt do well in his new role as head coach of this mega team? How long will it take the Cavs to mesh into their new roles?
2. Chicago Bulls 58-24: This Bulls team is going to be very good. They not only get Derrick Rose back but they also have acquired the services of Pau Gasol and will pair him with big man Joakim Noah. Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott give the Bulls some high quality shooters and Taj Gibson will continue to be a great man off the bench for them. Tom Thibodeau is probably the second best coach in the NBA right now behind Popovich and always gets the Bulls to play great tight defense. With these additions, they

Derrick Rose looks to rebound from an extended absence and lead the Bulls to their first NBA Title in 16 years. (Photo by Rick Osentoski of USA Today)

Derrick Rose looks to rebound from an extended absence and lead the Bulls to their first NBA Title in 16 years. (Photo by Rick Osentoski of USA Today)

will now be able to score too. But can the Bulls finally do something in the playoffs? The Bulls are one of the few teams that will be able to compete with the Cavaliers.
3. Detroit Pistons 42-40: The Pistons will be the most improved team in the NBA with the addition of solid coach Stan Van Gundy. Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith are all great players that can lead this team. The only issue is selfishness. Can this team play together efficiently and not worry about stats? Van Gundy will have to put his foot down early and often.
4. Milwaukee Bucks 39-43: Jabari Parker gives the Bucks an excellent athletic specimen. The Bucks need improvement from Larry Sanders and OJ Mayo. The clear guys to look for will be Brandon Knight and Giannis Antetokounmpo as their progress will determine how high or low the Bucks finish.
5. Indiana Pacers 37-45: I remember watching Paul George break both bones in his lower leg and cringing as I watched it. I watched the Pacers season go down the drain at that moment. Lance Stephenson is gone too, now with Charlotte. Roy Hibbert is a great defensive big man but he is only one man and is going to need help. David West gives him an extra man on that side of the ball. The Pacers look bad but they will not go down without a fight.

SOUTHEAST

1. Miami Heat 52-30: Even with Lebron gone, the Heat are still the best team in the Southeast, barely. Dwayne Wade is still a very talented player despite declining numbers and will be motivated to prove that he is not past his prime. Chris Bosh will have more to do offensively. They also have Luol Deng who will grab the boards and play defense. Josh McRoberts is a good signing and they still have a solid coach in Eric Spoelstra. The only concern is age. A lot of their guys are getting up there and the Wizards are right up on their tails now more than ever.
2. Washington Wizards 51-31: The Wizards have John Wall and Brandon Beal and those two give them one of the best backcourts in the NBA. They have a good young core and also some solid battle tested veterans as they just added Paul Pierce. The Wizards also have Nene in the middle and Marcin Gottat as another solid scoring option.
3. Charlotte Hornets 47-35: The Hornets are back! Not only that, I see them making the playoffs with an even better record. A young trio of Lance Stephenson, Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. This trio will be led by Coach Steve Clifford who has placed his stamp on this team and created a very good defensive system. Stephenson will only help with that. The only issues I see is outside shooting. They are going to need someone to hit those big shots at critical moments in the game.
4. Atlanta Hawks 36-46: The Hawks continue their downward spiral. The team that once had a promising core now will have to rely on Paul Millsap and Al Horford and hope these two can lead the Hawks back to the playoffs. The reality is that there isn’t much else going on in Atlanta. Aside from Kyle Korver, they have no real shooters and are incredibly small.
5. Orlando Magic 24-58: Where is the talent? Do they have any that can legitimately lead this team? Elfird Payton, the number 10 pick in the draft, is set to lead the Magic but he will need some help. Victor Oladipo is going to have to step up and help Payton and others will have to step up to keep the Magic competitive but looking at their thin roster and potential, they can be good, but not for a while.

ATLANTIC

1. Toronto Raptors 55-27: The Raptors have a pretty solid team. There are no big superstars on this team but what do have is a solid team that is ready to make a statement. DeMar DeRozan is the closest they have to a superstar and if he can elevate his game offensively a little bit, it might happen. Kyle Lowry needs to build on his solid showing where he averaged 17.9 points a game. Dwane Casey is a solid defensive coach and probably the reason why this Raptors team is so good.
2. New York Knicks 44-38: The Knicks have a new president and head coach in Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher, respectively. They will implement the triangle offense in an effort to try and instill a winning culture and a championship in the Big Apple. But the questions remain; can Carmelo Anthony lead this team in this offense and is he the right fit for what the Knicks want to do? Andrea Bargnani is as solid as they come when it comes to scoring but he needs to stay healthy. The Knicks expect big things from Tim Hardaway Jr. after he had a solid rookie year. Jose Calderon loves running an offense and does it well. The questions of can they defend return. Amare Stoudemire needs to stay healthy and more consistent. The Knicks need to execute if they want to contend with Chicago and Cleveland.
3. Brooklyn Nets 43-39: The Nets have a solid big man duo with Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez. They also still have Deron Williams who is still one of the better point guards in the league. Joe Johnson is great at the wing and can deliver when healthy. The big question with this team is can they stay healthy? All four men mentioned have been injured for a decent amount of time at some point in their last few years and they have to find a way to stay healthy at the same time. The Nets probably don’t have enough to contend with the big powers of the east yet.
4. Boston Celtics 34-48: The Celtics have Rajon Rondo leading a team of scrubs. But they did draft a very talented guard in Marcus Smart and that raises questions as to what the Celtics plan on doing with Rondo. Their defense is what keeps them in games but their offense is terrible. They need to focus more on scoring.
5. Philadelphia 76ers 22-60: The Sixers are the worst team in basketball. The roster on this team can probably be beat by the best college team. They have no one on the team that looks like a leader and are a far cry from the days of Allen Iverson.

WEST PLAYOFFS

First Round

• Spurs Over Lakers in 4
• Clippers Over Warriors in 7 Games
• Thunder Over Mavericks in 6 Games
• Rockets Over Blazers in 6 Games

Second Round

• Spurs Over Rockets in 5 Games
• Clippers Over Thunder

West Finals

• Spurs Over Clippers in 6 Games

EAST PLAYOFFS

First Round

• Cavaliers Over Nets in 4 Games
• Bulls Over Knicks in 7 Games
• Raptors Over Hornets in 6 Games
• Heat Over Wizards in 7 Games

Second Round

• Cavaliers Over Heat in 7 Games
• Bulls Over Raptors in 6 Games

East Finals

• Bulls Over Cavaliers in 7 Games

NBA FINALS

• Bulls over Spurs in 6 Games as the Bulls finally complete their goal and win the title. The Spurs make it back to the big game but barely miss out on repeating for the first time in team history.

 

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Michigan’s Embarrassing Losses Continue http://cfbroundtable.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=24820&action=edit http://cfbroundtable.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=24820&action=edit#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 16:54:31 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23047 http://cfbroundtable.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=24820&action=edit/feed/ 0 Defense Provides Spark to Overcome Raiders http://cleveland.morethanafan.net/?p=23916 http://cleveland.morethanafan.net/?p=23916#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 14:05:41 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23041 http://cleveland.morethanafan.net/?p=23916/feed/ 0 The College Quickie: Is Competence Really Too Much To Ask For? http://cfbroundtable.com/2014/college-quickie-competence-really-much-ask/ http://cfbroundtable.com/2014/college-quickie-competence-really-much-ask/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 13:17:50 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23044 http://cfbroundtable.com/2014/college-quickie-competence-really-much-ask/feed/ 0 Down to the wire in the Fall Classic http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/28/wire-fall-classic/ http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/28/wire-fall-classic/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 12:14:55 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=22864 We expected the World Series to be close. Whether it has been close or not depends on how you define close. If you wanted two teams tied after playing four games, two teams that had won one game in the other teams’ park, then the Series has been close. Add to that a game five that was tight until late in the game and you could say the Series has been close. But if you were expecting all of the games to be close in terms of score, as many of us were, then it hasn’t been at all close. Game three saw the Royals win by one run, but the other four games have resulted in run-differentials of five (twice), six and seven.

Whatever we thought, whatever we expected matters not at this point. We have seen an exciting World Series, which is what all we baseball fans want and all we can ask for. We have seen great defensive plays, good base running, clutch hits, errors by players normally very sound defensively and some questionable manager’s decisions. The two “aces” have faced each other twice, with the Giants Madison Bumgarner getting the better of his Kansas City counterpart James Shields twice. Bumgarner has been nothing short of magnificent, not only in the World Series, but in the entire post-season, sporting a 4-1 record in six starts, with an ERA of 1.13 and a total of 47 2/3 innings pitched (almost eight per post-season start). Compare that to Shields 1-2 record in five starts, with an ERA of 6.12 and a total of 25 innings pitched (five per post season start) and it is easy to say that the difference in the Series so far has been the mismatch of the number one guy in the respective rotations. Shields couldn’t have picked a worse time to show poorly in the post-season. Most people expect that when his contract expires, he will test the free agent market and that contract expires this year. Hardly the best time to be in a position to sell your services to another team coming off those statistics. Shields has been known as “Big Game James” since he burst onto the scene with Tampa Bay and this was his best opportunity to prove he was “the guy”. You can bet he didn’t expect to be so mediocre on the big stage.

With one, maybe two games to go we can sit back and see if the Royals can take advantage of two games in their home park knowing they won’t have face Bumgarner again (at least as a starter) or if the Giants can carry their momentum from Bumgarner’s game five complete game performance into Tuesday’s game six.

Two other stories shocked the baseball world this week. Firstly we learned that Joe Maddon had exercised a clause in his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays to declare himself a free agent. It appears that there was a clause in his contract that permitted him to walk if GM Andrew Friedman left the Rays and Friedman did exactly that a couple of weeks ago, joining the Dodgers in an executive capacity. Maddon’s resignation hadn’t hit the wire more than hour before everyone was speculating that Maddon would be returning to Los Angeles, only this time with the Dodgers, re-joining Friedman. To his credit, Friedman quickly made an announcement that Don Mattingly would be back at the Dodger helm in 2015. Where Maddon ends up will be very interesting. He waited until all of the vacant managerial positions except one had been filled before making his exit from Tampa Bay. The only job currently vacant is in Minnesota and it is hard to fathom why he would leave the situation in Tampa Bay to take over the Twins, who would seem to be further away from contending than the Rays. If Maddon manages in 2015 (and he is on record as saying he wants to manage in 2015), then he is going to have to replace someone who is already under contract. A few spots come to mind, and some of them involve a Manager who has only been on the job one year. Brad Ausmus in Detroit, Rick Renteria with the Cubs and Ryne Sandberg with the Phillies might be just a bit uneasy, unless they have had private talks with their respective bosses and have been told they have nothing to worry about. While the Phillies and the Cubs are further from contending, both have ownership groups that appear willing to spend and that might interest Maddon.

It wouldn’t be the Tigers usual style to can Ausmus after only one year, but the Tigers did have more on their plates this year with Kansas City than they expected and yet another early post-season exit with a team not built for the long term might raise their interest in Maddon. It’s hard to see him moving to a non-contender, but his choices will be limited. If he starts the season on the sidelines or as a TV analyst, every time a team goes into a slump, his name will be mentioned as the heir apparent. Make no mistake, Maddon will be working somewhere before the end of the 2015 season.

Oscar Tavares ~ Photo By Charlie Neibergall

The second story is a very sad one. Late on Sunday night we learned that 22 year old Cardinal outfielder Oscar Taveras had lost his life in an automobile accident in his native Dominican Republic. His 18 year old girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo was also killed in the accident. Full details were not immediately known, but here was a potential star that had been brought along slowly by the Cardinals, one of the game’s great organizations. If there is an organization better prepared to handle a tragedy like this I would be shocked. We will never know just how good Taveras could have been, but from what we saw in 2014 and what we heard baseball people say about him, he was thought of by most everyone as a star in waiting. Young people are taken from us every day and all are tragic losses, but when the life of a young sports figure is taken so suddenly it just seems to hit us harder.

Thank goodness we still have a World Series game or two to look forward to and get a chance to see a happy clubhouse when either the Royals or the Giants win their last game of the season.

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Silly Season Shuffle Shakes Up TUDOR Championship http://wheels.morethanafan.net/2014/10/19151/silly-season-shuffle-tudor/ http://wheels.morethanafan.net/2014/10/19151/silly-season-shuffle-tudor/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 11:15:28 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23034 Silly season is upon us, and never ceases to be more than the slightest bit confusing. Name your series- they’re all a mess of rumors, speculation and a four-wheeled game of rock, paper, scissors. The TUDOR SportsCar series is no different, and Pirelli World Challenge and the FIA World Endurance Championship have become major players in the who-will-be-racing-where puzzle.

With less than 100 days to traditional testing of the Roar Before the 24 at Daytona, the series season roster is still very much in limbo. Some teams have announced cars but not drivers, some have retained their 2014 season drivers, and some have made no information available to the public or media as of yet. This is the current report card, but remember….silly season can change in seconds.

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The BSK Says Podcast #44: Cleveland Browns, That’s More Like it! http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/27/bsk-says-podcast-44-cleveland-browns-thats-like/ http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/27/bsk-says-podcast-44-cleveland-browns-thats-like/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 00:47:22 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23029
Kendall (@TheBSKSays) does a quick recap on the disaster that was the Browns vs. Oakland in Cleveland on Sunday, October 27th.

The BSK Says with Kendall Lewis: RSS (audio)iTunes (audio)StitcherTuneIn

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Style Points Absent in Buckeye Scare http://cfbroundtable.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=24798&action=edit http://cfbroundtable.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=24798&action=edit#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 00:16:40 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23026 http://cfbroundtable.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=24798&action=edit/feed/ 0 Top 5 Contenders Outside the Top 10 http://cfbroundtable.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=24759&action=edit http://cfbroundtable.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=24759&action=edit#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 22:13:06 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23023 http://cfbroundtable.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=24759&action=edit/feed/ 0 Big Ten Playoff Hopes Route Through East Lansing http://cfbroundtable.com/2020/big-ten-playoff-hopes-route-east-lansing/ http://cfbroundtable.com/2020/big-ten-playoff-hopes-route-east-lansing/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 20:55:58 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23020 http://cfbroundtable.com/2020/big-ten-playoff-hopes-route-east-lansing/feed/ 0 11-on-11: Near-Perfect NFL Quarterback Play http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/27/11-11-near-perfect-nfl-quarterback-play/ http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/27/11-11-near-perfect-nfl-quarterback-play/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 17:50:08 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=22991 In the era of shovel passes, bubble screens, and dink & dunk, it seems as though completion percentage should be an afterthought. So many quarterbacks start their days so perfect, or near-perfection anyway. It’s really no wonder that “video game numbers” have become the standard.

This is what you get from the out-of-town overlay, just statistics, no story. Sure, you’ll see Andy Dalton and Alex Smith missed on just one or two pass attempts early en route to victory, but make sure you don’t read too much into Austin Davis’s 5-of-7 start against the Chiefs.

These amazing performances don’t seem to dazzle these days, even on paper. Ben Roethlisberger threw just nine passes that didn’t land in the hands of a bumble-bee-outfitted receiver on Sunday. Considering the fact he threw six touchdown passes and accrued over 500 yards in the process, you wonder how high the bar will be set in the next couple of years. Andrew Luck threw for 400 yards for the Steelers opponent, in what we’ll likely consider a forgettable performance.

Is any of it even real any more?

Game I Anticipated Most

When you get a non-traditional power like the Arizona Cardinals in a marquee game this late in the season, it sometimes seems forced. That’s not the case with these Cardinals. They really look like they belong. They’re built with a certain edge to them on defense and hold their own when they have the ball. Injuries matter, but Bruce Arians has shown an ability to adapt and overcome. Take all of their positives, tack a bad afternoon in Denver on there, and that’s how Arizona was 5-1 entering play on Sunday.

The Eagle bring Chip Kelly’s fast-paced Saturday style to the Sunday game. Their offense moves fast and they run a lot of plays. A threat to score every time they have the ball, it’s all about possessions for them. Defense isn’t the first thing you think of with this team, nor should it be. The architecture of Bill Davis’s defensive unit is to stop teams built like the Eagles, a built that is consistent with the new direction of the league. Strong secondary play has netted them a shut out against the Giants. A trip to San Francisco last month netted them their only loss.

So much has been made about Larry Fitzgerald's best days being behind him.  It didn't show in Arizona's 24-20 win over the Eagles.

So much has been made about Larry Fitzgerald’s best days being behind him. It didn’t show in Arizona’s 24-20 win over the Eagles.

The Cardinals out-lasted their brotherly loving opponents by stepping up with the big play. Antonio Cromartie picked off Nick Foles twice at the most inopportune moments for the Eagles. On the ground, Andre Ellington did just enough to set up the big play for Carson Palmer and his receiving corps. His two touchdowns passes each went for 75 yards or better. If Larry Fitzgerald is getting long in the tooth, it didn’t show on his classic Fitz 80-yard catch-and-run to put the Cardinals up 14-7 to break a halftime tie.

After the Eagles added a field goal to take 20-17 lead just inside the two-minute warning, the hero of training camp John Brown ran under a ball that I can only assume was thrown as far as Carson Palmer can throw the pigskin. When it came down in the arms of the rookie from Pittsburg State, it only took a few strides for him to reach the endzone for the game-winning touchdown. Of his 4 scoring catches this season, 3 have been of the game-winning variety. Cardinals win 24-20.

Thursday Is My Garbage Day

You notice you don’t hear too much griping about player safety and the road team being at such a disadvantage in the Thursdy Night tilts, now that a couple of them have been competitive. My trash still gets picked up on Thursday though, so this section will keep its name. Not many teams have belonged on the same field as Peyton Manning’s Broncos this season, but the Chargers promised to be a worthy adversary.

The X-Factor here was our defending champion Sea Chickens. They went into San Diego in Week 2, and left with a 30-21 defeat at the hands of the very legitimate Chargers. The Broncos, on the other hand, have lost just twice in the 2014 calendar year. A week after taking that loss, Seattle hosted Denver in a game much closer than the laughable Super Bowl we all witnessed in February, but still a 26-20 loss for Denver.

Emmanuel Sanders game has helped Denver fans cope with the loss of Eric Decker

On the strength of three Emmanuel Sanders touchdown receptions, the Broncos won 35-21, but the Chargers didn’t play an awful game. They just ran into a buzzsaw in Peyton Manning, who had the convenience of playing at home. Even in a 21-point hole at various points in the game, you never counted out San Diego. The unstoppable passing game that Manning leads sets up the running game.

Forget that Knowshon Moreno is gone and that Montee Ball was not available, the Chargers weren’t honest to the run. Ronnie Hillman gashed them for over 5 yards per carry and Juwan Thompson had two short scoring runs to take the wind out of San Diego’s sails to move to 6-1 on the season.

House of Sea Chicken-East

Speaking of the champs, we generally tend to think their strength resides in their stadium. Opposing fans call it the belly of the beast, but the NFL makes the Sea Chickens play half their games away from Phone Company Field. In Week 8, they may have been lucky to pull one out in Charlotte, but isn’t that always the case when they visit the Panthers?

On Sunday, they treaded water in an early candidate for the week’s Actual Worst Game, but Russell Wilson led his team on a 10-play 80 -yard drive to score the first touchdown of the game with 53 seconds left. The Panthers counted on their kicker Graham Gano for all of their points, outscoring the visitors 9-6, until Wilson hit Luke Willson for the game-winner in the game’s final minute.

Wilson to Willson for the win away from home for the Sea Chickens

For the third time in three years, Seattle won ugly at Carolina. When Steven Hauschka added the extra point after Willson’s touchdown, it was the first one-pointer the Sea Chickens scored in Charlotte since he nailed the conversion after Golden Tate’s third quarter score in 2012. They won that one 16-12 at Bank of America Stadium, edged them 12-7 in 2014, and added the 4-point win on Sunday. If they play in 2015, that one will be played in the Pacific Northwest.

AFC North Pride

While the broadcast maps suggests most of you did get Pittsburgh’s rout of the Colts in your local market, many were denied the second edition of Ravens-Bengals in favor of that field goal fest in Charlotte. You were probably spared the Raiders and Browns if you weren’t local to either of the teams, unless you sought that game out.

The AFC North has been strong this season. Part of it is the Browns somewhat pulling their weight, but the schedule is a big aid as well. The division games all promise to be scrappy affairs for Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, but they’ve all been afforded the luxury of games against all of the teams in the league’s two worst divsions.

Every team in the NFC South has a losing record, while Indianapolis is the only team in the AFC South with a winning record. Having one-win teams like Jacksonville and Tampa Bay pulling up the rear doesn’t help either. On the flip-side, every team in the AFC North currently sports a winning record.

Does Cincinnati have Baltimore’s number? In Week 1, they dominated most of the way, let the Ravens back in the game, and then won it in the end. It was the same story on Sunday in Cincinnati, only a little more scary. It appeared that Baltimore had done it again with an improbable 80-yard game-winning touchdown to Steve Smith Sr., but it was more improbable that the play was executed within the boundaries of the rules. The play was called back and Cincinnati hung on.

Win or not, that's some ugly-ass garb.

Win or not, that’s some ugly-ass garb.

In Pittsburgh, the Steelers reminded us that we simply cannot write them off. On a positive note for Ben and company, it’s more than just playing pitch & catch with Antonio Brown. Brown got his, but Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton are emerging as targets for Roethlisberger, as is Le’Veon Bell out of the backfield. For a team written off by their own fans, the Steelers are right in the thick of things at 4-3.

Wembley Wake-Up

Under no circumstances would I go out of my way to watch the 2014 Lions and Falcons play. Wait, what? Alright NFL, if you’re going to put a game on at 6:30 AM in the west, I’ll wake up for it. The game appeared to be all Atlanta, but still somehow came down to a last-second field goal attempt. This is part of why the AFC South is awful.

Me, I’m no fan of shenanigans when a field goal that will determine the game is imminent. I pay homage to Mike Shannahan for his strategy of calling a timeout a split-second before the ball is snapped, forcing a kicker to try the boot a second time. I call it “Shannahanigans”, but it wasn’t that type of nonsense for the Lions in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Detroit got two tries and needed the second one for their 22-21 comeback win over the Falcons in London. It appeared as though the Falcons would hang on when Matt Prater’s kick sailed wide right from 43, but the Lions were actually rewarded a reprieve by their own penalty. Since delay-of-game is a pre-snap penalty, Atlanta was left with no choice but to hope Prater would miss again from 48. He didn’t.

This lends itself to an argument against the whole idea of the aforementioned shenanigans. Many coaches have gone on record to say they don’t like the strategy. Why give the kicker a practice kick? Doesn’t the first kick just give the kicker a better feel for the task at hand? Sure, we’ve seen kickers whiff on the one that counts, but it seems fate is a better strategy then playing God in this situation. If the rules can’t prevent it, maybe common sense will.

Home Sweet Dome

It’s not just playing inside, Bill Simmons. Losses in Atlanta, Dallas, and Detroit should paint that picture as clearly as the Saints’ 3-0 record in the Superdome. Even a team as hot as the Packers are no match for what New Orleans can do in front of their home crowd.

Drew Brees is special and his performance in Sunday Night’s 44-23 win was no exception, but how about a nod for his supporting cast? Mark Ingram put up a very Trent Richarson-esque 16 yards on 10 carries in the Saints loss to Detroit last week, and his 83 rushing yards against Cleveland stood as his season-best before Sunday. The former Heisman winner ran the ball 24 times for 172 yards, ate up clock, and kept Aaron Rodgers on the sideline long enough to tilt the needle towards the home team on time of possession.

Who’s Whack for Dak

It’s not likely that anyone is going to unseat Marcus Mariota for the meaningless title of consensus #1 in the mocks, but we’re going to change it up each week here. Prescott still has Mississippi State undefeated and ranked #1 in the polls, and he will likely help an NFL team, even if not taken with the top overall selection.

Can he and will he play on Sundays?  Right now, Dak Prescott owns the Saturday game.

Can he and will he play on Sundays? Right now, Dak Prescott owns the Saturday game.

At this point, given their failure to achieve victory, the Raiders are in the driver’s seat to pick at the top. I don’t believe they’re poorly coached by Tony Sparano or poorly quarterbacked by rookie Derek Carr. At this point, they just lack talent in so many areas. They need to uncluster decades of bad football work by Al Davis and rebuild this team.

Actual Worst Game

Hard to go in any direction other than Oakland-Cleveland here. It was an ugly game all around that the Browns made more aesthetically pleasing on the scoreboard with a pair of 4th quarter touchdowns, but this was basically a field goal struggle for three quarters. Nobody wants to pay to see Janikowski v. Cundiff.

The same could be said for the Hauscka v. Gano game in Carolina, but struggling to find the endzone against Seattle is a different animal than what took place in Cleveland.

Dirty Laundry Award

Usually, this honor is bestowed on a team, but Walt Anderson’s crew really earned it this week, with Philadelphia and Arizona each being penalized more than any team in the league on Sunday. 11 flags on the Eagles awarded the Cardinals 103 penalty yards. Arizona gave their visitors 95 yards on 10 infractions.

For the Degenerates

The Cowboys look like world-beaters. The Redskins look inept in every phase of the game, but everyone is focused on the quarterback position. With Colt McCoy starting for Washington, it’s no wonder they’re a 9 and a half point dog on the road. Ordinarily, I might suggest throwing out everything you know and anticipating a close game. Not tonight.

coltmccoy

Don’t expect the visiting team to do much in the way of scoring points, but anticipate them turning the ball over. This is what McCoy does. Even if the Cowboys are firing on all cylinders, total points should stay under 50. There is an added element for Browns fans here with Tony Romo’s understudy being Brandon Weeden. If I were to predict a battle of Cleveland cast-offs here, I’d take the Redskins and the points, and also bet the farm on the under.

Random, Perhaps Unimportant

Peyton Manning wasn’t all smiles after Denver’s big division win over San Diego. He took exception to the actions of his scoreboard operator, who apparently amped up the crowd at the wrong moment(s). The expectation of the home crowd when Manning is on the field is complete and utter silence. He voiced his frustration through the media, which some people didn’t care to hear. I’m left to wonder if he’s tried to quietly voice this internally previously and became the grease-seeking squeaky wheel after it continued.

Nice one-armed grab and run by Theo Riddick in the final minute of Detroit’s win over Atlanta in London. He corralled the overthrown ball from Matt Stafford with his extended left arm and hustled to the Falcons 41, just outside of field goal range.

Sammy Watkins made the most of his three catches (for 157 yards) in Buffalo’s 43-23 win over the Jets on Sunday, but 84 yards is a long way to run to be denied a touchdown. Finish the play, and then you can celebrate.

On the flip-side of the near-perfect quarterback efficiency we’ve seen early in games so far, Geno Smith more than deserved to be benched with a line that read 2-for-8 with 5 yards passing. Good luck, Michael Vick.

These Jack-in-the-Box commercials don’t even pretend to market their product to the non-stoner.

I’m a little inspired by Denard Robinson’s first 11 carries for 90 yards against the Dolphins. I’m back to earth about his final 7 carries for 18 yards in the Jaguars 27-13 loss.

Ninkovich’s scoop and score was the Patriots third touchdown in 57 seconds, part of a 31 point 3rd quarter in Foxboro.

We can stop talking about how much better the Bears are away from Soldier Field, where they own an 0-3 home record. They stuck on the road Sunday, losing 51-23 to New England.

The Patriots scored three times in 57 seconds in the second quarter of their blowout win over the Bears. With a 17-7 lead, Tom Brady hooked up with Rob Gronkowski from two yards out, just inside the two-minute warning. Jay Cutler and the Bears offense killed just 41 seconds on a three-and-out, before Julian Edelman’s punt return put the Patriots back in businss at the Chicago 9. Brady got his fourth touchdown pass on the next play from scrimmage, and New England scored again on the Bears’ next offenseive play when Ray Ninkovich did the scoop and score on a Cutler fumble.

Rest in peace, Martha Miles and Oscar Taveras. The mother of LSU head coach Les Miles passed away on Friday. On Saturday night, an emotional Miles led his team past #3 Ole Miss at home. Taveras, a 22 year-old prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, and his girlfriend were killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic this weekend. Taveras never had much more than a cup of coffee at the big league level, but had a bright future with the club. So young, so tragic.

Next week’s slate includes Cardinals at Cowboys, Broncos at Patriots, and Ravens at Steelers. Until we get there, enjoy the week ahead.

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Instant Reaction: Browns Beat the Raiders http://cleveland.morethanafan.net/2014/23882/instant-reaction-browns-beat-raiders/ http://cleveland.morethanafan.net/2014/23882/instant-reaction-browns-beat-raiders/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 01:37:34 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=22998 http://cleveland.morethanafan.net/2014/23882/instant-reaction-browns-beat-raiders/feed/ 0 Rapid React: Browns 23 Raiders 13 http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/26/rapid-react-browns-23-raiders-13/ http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/26/rapid-react-browns-23-raiders-13/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 00:45:24 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=22950

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You’re not allowed to gripe about a win. That’s a rule. Browns fans have gotten so few of these things called victory over the last 15+ years that you have to appreciate every instance of adding a number to the win column.

In the end, the offense was able to take advantage of opportunities and punch the ball into the endzone. The final nail in the coffin came when Ben Tate scored from five yards out to put the home team up 23-6, completing his 15 carry 26 yard day on the ground. Ugly is just the way it has to be for this team. For a team that was supposed to feature their running game, there is nothing but shame in a first half total of 17 rushing yards.

127Raiders Browns Football

Tate’s scoring run marked the second time they found the endzone in the fourth quarter, an intriguing development in these eyes that didn’t believe they were capable of scoring touchdowns without the aid of Alex Mack. Cleveland was held to six points in four quarters in Jacksonville a week ago.

It appeared they’d only score in increments of three before Joe Haden’s fumble return set them up for an Andrew Hawkins touchdown catch from 4 yards away. His first touchdown in a Browns uniform came early in the fourth quarter and gave the Browns a slightly more comfortable 16-6 lead. At the very least, fans should be happy with the big win in the turnover battle. They turned all three takeaways into point, 17 in all.

For the first time all season, we were somewhat sold on the defense. Sure, they gave up more first downs (19) than we’d care to see anyone surrender to Oakland, but the unit didn’t play down to the lesser opponent. Derek Carr gashed them for 328 yards, but they made plays without making penalties and avoided the big play.

The Raiders were kept out of the endzone until Andre Holmes brought the game back to within two possessions with seven ticks left on the clock, but it was only about changing numbers on the scoreboard at that point. The Browns had already won the game.

Brian Hoyer didn’t have an ultra-inspiring performance. A great deal of his 275 yards in the air should be credited to the legs of his speedy receivers. He is definitely favoring Jordan Cameron as a target, and it’s hard to discourage that strategy, but the dynamic tight end left in the second quarter with a possible concussion. His status is unknown at this point

Without Cameron and a competent running game, it leaves us to wonder what the Browns can possibly do on offense in the coming weeks. They’ll play 3 games in 12 days. For now, they should probably just enjoy the win.

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Ole Miss Loss Creates More Chaos http://cfbroundtable.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=24721&action=edit http://cfbroundtable.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=24721&action=edit#comments Sun, 26 Oct 2014 22:11:15 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=22987 http://cfbroundtable.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=24721&action=edit/feed/ 0 Why Mercedes’ Dominance Is Set To Continue… http://wheels.morethanafan.net/2014/10/19146/mercedes-dominance-set-continue/ http://wheels.morethanafan.net/2014/10/19146/mercedes-dominance-set-continue/#comments Sun, 26 Oct 2014 17:15:42 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=23003 I think we all expected the rest of the pack to be closer to Mercedes by now. Of course, certain tracks suit the cars differently and change the order of the grid but Mercedes have a universal lead over the rest at almost every circuit. The first time we saw the 2014 Mercedes W05 showing its true colours was in Bahrain – the safety car came in with ~12 laps to go and Hamilton and Rosberg had an epic battle, switching places and losing time scrapping for position. The result was mind blowing, Hamilton won the races by a mere second from Rosberg, but it was nearly 25 seconds afterwards when Perez crossed the line for third place.

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The College Quickie: What an “Off Weekend” http://cfbroundtable.com/2014/college-quickie-weekend/ http://cfbroundtable.com/2014/college-quickie-weekend/#comments Sun, 26 Oct 2014 13:55:55 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=22984 http://cfbroundtable.com/2014/college-quickie-weekend/feed/ 0 Slava Voynov Arrest for Domestic Abuse Raises Questions http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/25/slava-voynov-arrest-domestic-abuse-raises-questions/ http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/25/slava-voynov-arrest-domestic-abuse-raises-questions/#comments Sat, 25 Oct 2014 12:00:08 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=22973 About a month ago, the NFL was rocked by the video of Ray Rice psychically assaulting his wife as well as other alleged incidents that came out against NFL players. It created controversy, outrage and forced the NFL to address their domestic abuse policy and what they were going to do about it. The NFL would end up immediately suspending Ray Rice indefinitely. Flash forward to the middle of October and it has happened again, this time in the NHL. Slava Voynov of the Los Angeles Kings has been suspended with pay as the league investigates the events that led to him being arrested at the Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance in California on Monday just after midnight, on suspicion of domestic abuse of his alleged spouse.

Like Rice, Voynov has not been charged yet. He will appear in court on December 1st to discuss this very troubling matter. But regardless of whether Voynov is guilty or not has been thrown out the window in light of the many troubling domestic abuse cases going on in the NFL. Now that Voynov has been suspended, no one will ever view him the same again. It’s also imperative to state that his role with the Los Angeles Kings cannot be downplayed. He is one of their stronger players on the defensive side and has been a key part of their two Stanley Cup titles. The question here is what is happening to the world of sports? Why are so many domestic abuse cases popping up lately?
According to Voynov’s attorney Craig Renetzky, Voynov did not cause any crime. He stated that the woman, who declined to have her name revealed, was brought to the hospital by Voynov.

“The woman explained what happened, and I was confident that she understood my questions and she was confident that she understood my questions,” said Renetzky.
Renetzky stated that the woman wanted to tell her side of the story but was continually getting frustrated due to the nature of the fact that she needed a translator and Voynov was not allowed to be there to translate. Renetzky says it is just a misunderstanding and he hopes that Voynov will be back on the ice soon.
But Renetzky has not spoken with the Kings of the NHL and the Kings lack another option if they cannot use Voynov because it would be a hit on the cap if they attempted to sign someone else because Voynov is still being paid.

Slava  Voynov has been suspended indefinitely after his arrest for domestic abuse. (Image courtesy of Rueters/Bruce Fedyck of USA Today Sports)

Slava Voynov has been suspended indefinitely after his arrest for domestic abuse. (Image courtesy of Rueters/Bruce Fedyck of USA Today Sports)

So what is really going on here? Was this really a misunderstanding the police got all wrong? Or did Voynov really harm this woman and everything is being kept under wraps? Domestic abuse is and never will be a popular subject and it doesn’t get as much coverage as other high profile crimes but it is a crime regardless. But in light of the Ray Rice situation, every little sign of domestic abuse, especially involving a high profile athlete, is going to be placed under a microscope by the media and possibly ruin a career, even if no fault is found because there will always be doubters.

The Kings have all expressed support of the suspension while still attempting to reach out to Voynov. It is a very tight and dangerous rope the team is on as no one really knows what happened.

“Some of us have reached out, but we just hope everything is going to work out for the both of them,” center Jarrett Stoll said. “We’re still a strong group. We’re still a hockey team. We’re still going to win our games. Our goal has never changed. Our attitude in this room has never changed. It’s adversity for us, but we’re going to come through it.”

This Kings team is very close to each other and a lot of them live in South Bay near Redondo Beach and this team has played together for a good three years. General Manager Dean Lombardi has kept the core of the team together and it has allowed them to be successful. However, until the Voynov situation is resolved, the Kings will only have five healthy defensemen.
Surprisingly, this has not been a distraction as the Kings are still rolling as they are currently 5-1-1 and have won five straight games after starting the season with two defeats and are 3 points behind the Anaheim Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division.

Personally, I am not in the right position to determine whether Voynov is guilty or not. It could possibly be a misunderstanding that escalated into something worse and now everyone is jumping on the case. However, I do agree with what the Kings and the NHL decided to do as suspending Voynov was the right decision, at least until the matter is resolved. The Los Angeles Kings will continue to be a great team but questions about whether this situation will linger should remain well throughout the season. In the meantime, the Kings will continue to do what they do best; play great defense and win hockey games.

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Fire Flames ATS Week 8 http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/24/fire-flames-ats-week-8/ http://www.morethanafan.net/2014/10/24/fire-flames-ats-week-8/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 20:34:33 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=22964 Each week 3 Mortal lock picks are in red. This is the first Fire Flames ATS on MTAF presented by @forrestkehd. Follow me on Twitter to see all the previous picks through this glorious season and stay tuned for more free money with this insight.

Atlanta +4.5 v Detroit

Football has once again pranced over the pond to England so we can show our old nation how real sports are played because soccer (sorry, futbol) and rugby just don’t have enough time stoppages. In our attempts to swoon our jolly brothers from London you can bet this game will be designed to be higher scoring than a bowling game, match, whatever they call it. Taking the over at 47 is basically stealing. Numbers indicate this will be a showcase between Atlanta’s offense and Detroit’s top tier D but we can throw that out the window because it’s in London. That’s like the other side of the world. Everything is loopy over there. Atlanta takes it in a high scoring game just to prove how much better American football is than watching a one to nil footy match.

Kansas City -7.5 v St. Louis

You don’t upset Seattle in what was probably a rigged game and come back to win the next week. Betting 101, know what Goodell wants to happen. Trendy picks of the week may be the Rams after that nice little upset. But wait, playing at Arrowhead after an emotional win. No thanks, as much as I love the next TB12, Austin Davis, my priority is to win cash. There ya go, it’s KC’s world and we’re just living in it.

Houston -3 v Tennessee

I think I’ve bet the Tennessee spread every game so far. No more! We’re done, I can’t grow as a person with you ruining my life Tennessee. This relationship needed to end a while ago. It’s not you, it’s me. I should have known better. Okay,… well I’m going out with Houston now, so please don’t do anything rash like actually covering the spread this time.

New England -6 v Chicago

Whenever you get Brandon Marshall putting his teammates on blast in the locker room following a bad loss you’re playing Russian roulette. The team will either gel together and play a seamless prefect game or they spiral to oblivion and only win two more games this season. How many times has Marshall actually been a positive influence on a team? Right. Goodbye playoff hopes Chi-city, at least you have the Hawks.

Tampa Bay -3 v Minnesota

This is a delightfully miserable matchup. Can we bet the over/under on the attendance and viewership instead? Well Tampa’s home and they’re due for a home win sometime (0-3 thus far). Plus it’s a Viking-pirate fight. I will ride or die with pirates over ninjas, Vikings, aliens, or whatever else. #PirateLife

Seattle -6 v Carolina

Oh no! Seattle lost their last two, everyone jump ship! Grow up. Last week the refs had the fix in, don’t believe me? Watch the fourth quarter and especially that fumble to end the game. Yeah, I’m not too worried about dem boys. Carolina’s D is legitimately sad and I think Lynch has come to terms with losing his best bud Percy so he should be back to his normal beast mode self. Yippee ki yay!

Baltimore -1.5 v Cincinnati

Without AJ Green the Bengals have been a bottom ten team. To make matters worse Gio is looking a little banged up. They have been using Gio as an absolute workhorse, which has led to rib problems. This game was over before it started.

Miami -6 v Jacksonville

Woo winning streak for the Jags! That doesn’t sound right… Don’t get too used to it. The Jags won despite playing a second of good football last week. I’m happy for Bortles and all but there is a negative infinity chance they can string two wins together. Lets all say it together, “that win was a fluke and if I have any sense I will pick Miami to win by roughly half a million.”

NYJ -3 v Buffalo

Orton’s beautiful stache is gone, but the wins keep coming. Meanwhile Percy is now a Jet and ready to bring his selfish attitude to the perfect team for him. The Jets are 1-6 but luckily are at home and the Bills certainly aren’t anything to worry about offensively. This should spell out Ivory getting a healthy amount of touches and getting the ball moving. Buffalo isn’t ready to be a two games over .500 team, love the Jets here.

Philadelphia +2.5 v Arizona

Guess who’s back, back again. Slim Shady’s back, back again. The Eagles have struggled mightily running the ball due to the decimated O-line but they may have just turned the corner. Foles hasn’t been the 2013 version of himself, but nobody really expected that. Arizona is dangerous if they can get Floyd behind Carey Williams as a serious deep threat but I can’t see that being enough to carry the Cards. Fly high Eagles, Shady’s back (coincidently one year after I bleached my hair to be Eminem for Halloween.)

Shirt + photo cred to Barstoolsports.com

Shirt + photo cred to Barstoolsports.com

Oakland +7 v Cleveland

In case you haven’t noticed, the Raiders aren’t exactly the crème of the crop in the NFL. Looking at their schedule with upcoming games against Seattle, Denver, San Diego, then KC, I would say this game against the Browns is their only chance to notch a win before week 13. Assuming Oakland isn’t looking forward to going 0-16, this is the most realistic game they can win. Cleveland doesn’t even know what run defense is so I expect this to be one area Oakland can attack. And like I’ve been chirping for a while, down with Hoyer, we want Johnny.

Indy -3.5 v Pittsburgh

Bell, Blount, Brown. These Bs will be a nightmare to contain for the Colts who aren’t great against the run. They also aren’t near as dominant on the road. The Steelers should jump out the gate with the support of the home crowd. In the end though, Indy is just too good to let this slip by. Shutting out Cincy was no joke, theyre dangerous, now Luck hit em with the hard count.

New Orleans over Green Bay

Green Bay has played well, albeit with maybe an easy schedule, but you cannot fault them for that. New Orleans has played their only good football at home where Brees has been lights out. The Saints need this game more than I need to hear T-Swift’s new album, and I really need to bump that. Jimmy Graham will hopefully be more active this weekend and find the endzone. I see this as a shootout led by old faithful Drew Brees. Who Dat Nation!

Dallas -10 v Washington

So Washington is still awful right? Yeah. Okay cool. Dallas will mop AT&T stadium with them, sparkling clean. Annihilation.

Feel free to chirp at me/call me out on Twitter. It makes these picks even more exciting knowing I might get heckled for going 10-4.

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2014 Is Just Another Missed Opportunity for Dale Earnhardt Jr http://wheels.morethanafan.net/2014/10/19129/2014-just-another-missed-opportunity-dale-earnhardt-jr/ http://wheels.morethanafan.net/2014/10/19129/2014-just-another-missed-opportunity-dale-earnhardt-jr/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 19:15:37 +0000 http://www.morethanafan.net/?p=22943 It isn’t how you start, it’s how you finish. Unfortunately for Dale Earnhardt Jr, that’s a lesson that is being learned the hard way this season.

Earnhardt Jr started the 2014 season on the highest of highs, winning his second career Daytona 500 in February. To show that wasn’t a fluke, he followed that up with back-to-back runner-up finishes at Phoenix and Las Vegas. After finishing third at Martinsville in the sixth race of the season, Earnhardt Jr found himself on the top of the NACAR Sprint Cup Series standings.

It seemed as if he was finally poised to take that next step and win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, something his father did seven times. The constant hype was taking a backseat to actual results and Junior Nation was waving its flag with vigor, touting 2014 as the year their favorite son finally snagged the top prize.

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