NFL Wild Card Round

The NFL playoffs are always bittersweet. You are almost guaranteed to have more competitive match ups but it slowly signals the end of the football season. There are good stories throughout the playoffs.

As much as I would hate to see it, I can see a third Super Bowl between the Patriots and Giants. That would mean the Giants eliminate my Packers, but they have proven themselves to get hot during the playoffs.

Predictions:

Texans 20 Raiders 10

The Texans have managed to survive throughout the season without J.J. Watt, so I would imagine they can survive against the Raiders who are without their starting and backup quarterbacks and are starting a rookie for the first time this year. The Raiders also have offensive line issues going forward if they advance.

I wish the Raiders didn’t lose their first two quarterbacks because I think they had a real chance to compete with the Patriots but I doubt they make it out of the first round now.

Seahawks 24 Lions 17

It seems that every time there’s a big match up in Seattle the Seahawks somehow get the benefit of the doubt. I can think of the fail mary, batting the ball out of the endzone (against Detroit) and the no pass interference against Atlanta.

Seems almost inevitable that the Lions will continue to struggle on the road during the playoffs against a team very good at home.

Steelers 31 Dolphins 21

They played earlier this year in Miami with the Dolphins winning 30-15, but the Steelers are hot, at home, and playing a team with its backup quarterback. The Steelers are 6-2 at home and the Dolphins are 4-4 on the road.

Packers 27 Giants 24

As a Packers fan the Giants scare me more than any other team in the NFC based on the recent playoff history between the two teams. The Giants always seem to turn it on for the playoffs and the Packers have won six straight so I expect this to be close and competitive all the way through.

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Best Sports Plays and Moments From 2016

I’ll start this by saying these are mostly big picture moments and not really plays per se, because there could have been 100 of the best plays to pick from. So read on to relive the best sports moments of 2016.

1. Kris Jenkins Buzzer Beater 

I mean, is there really ANY better way to win a championship than a buzzer beater, following a crazy shot that was nearly a buzzer beater itself? Villanova won its first championship in 30+ years and it was a game for the ages.

Watch it here

2. LeBron and Kyrie Finish the Finals

As a Bulls fan I found the NBA Finals very confusing. On one hand there’s a division rival and individual player that has given the Bulls postseason trouble and on the other there’s the team that wants the title of greatest team ever. I couldn’t really root for either but watching the Warriors become the first team to blow a 3-1 Finals lead was very satisfying. Kudos to the Cavs on ending Cleveland’s championship drought.

3. Kris Bryant ends the Cubs World Series Drought

I won’t lie, part of me wanted to see someone hit a walk-off for the Indians because the Cubs were most likely going to be back in the World Series regardless of this outcome within the next few years. There hasn’t been a walk-off *home run* to clinch a title since 1993 and this was the best chance for it. Still, the Cubs finally got their title so cheers to them.

4. Simone Biles Dominates

Straight up dominance from the first time Olympian that continued the U.S. women’s gymnastics success. Her back story is pretty cool, too.

simone

5. Auston Matthews Scores 4 Goals in NHL Debut

Maybe the best rookie NHL performance ever? The first overall pick quickly proved his worth in the first game of the season for the Maple Leafs as he was the first rookie to score four debut goals in the modern era. He currently sits behind the #2 pick for overall goals and is tied for points this year.

Watch them  here

6. Leicester City Wins the Premier League

In 2014-15 they finished 14th overall and began the 2015-16 season at 5000-1 odds to win the title. It’s one of the greatest and most unlikely Cinderella teams to go all the way. They currently sit at 16th in the league and likely will not be back on top any time soon.

7. Katie Ledecky Destroys Competition

I remember the announcers saying “it’s a foregone conclusion that she will win this race” and “it’s not whether or not she will win, but it’s how much will she win by” because she was simply that much better than her competition. After watching her compete it’s easy to imagine she could potentially become the most decorated American female Olympian or female Olympian in general.

katie

8. Middle Tennessee State Upsets Michigan State in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament

One day there will be a 16 seed take down a number 1 seed. That didn’t happen in 2016, but when Michigan State was bounced in the first round it felt pretty close, and it also busted my bracket.

 

9. UConn Women’s Basketball Win Streak

The streak sits at 87 as of the end of 2016 and is the second longest NCAA basketball streak ever behind the UConn women at 90 from a few years ago. Even if you aren’t a fan you have to admire the consistency in the program for the last decade or so.

10. Northern Iowa Upsets Texas 

UNI ended up on the wrong side of history in the following game, but this was still a great way to cement an opening round upset. #RespectTheValley

Watch it here

 

11. Central Michigan Hail Mary and Lateral Over Oklahoma State

Should it have happened? Probably not, but there are several infamous plays that changed seasons (Seattle/Green Bay fail Mary) and had the play not been counted Oklahoma State might have been playing for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The great thing about sports are the “what if” situations.

Watch it here

12. Kobe Bryant’s Final Game

I’m not a huge Kobe Bryant fan but that is a pretty great way to end an 18 year career. I also get a little bit of joy knowing people weren’t watching the Warriors break the single season record.

 

13. Peyton Manning Goes Out a Champ

The “dad” of the NFL, Peyton has a likable personality and retired with the best possible result. One of the best to ever play the game, I was happy to see him finish on top after a pretty sub-par season by his standards.

peyton

14. White Sox Turn 3 Triple Plays

If you like quirky historical sports statistics this is great for you. The White Sox turned three triple plays and acted as the highlight to an overwhelmingly disappointing season. There were actually two teams that turned three triple plays the last season it happened in 1979.

15. Damian Lillard Sends the Trail Blazers to the Next Round

I’m a big fan of Damian Lillard. He came from a small school, has been a fan favorite in Portland and stayed loyal to his team. He helped the Blazers win their first playoff series in 14 years on a buzzer beater against Houston.

Relive it here

16. Rajai Davis’ Game Tying HR in the Bottom of the 8th in Game 7

It made Rajai Davis a near hero in Cleveland off one of the best closing pitchers in the game (even while on short rest) and made the game that much more epic. The anticipation and anxiety was through the roof.

 

 

Honorable mention to Jake Arrieta for the no-hitter but there have been quite a few recently and he already made the list with the Cubs WS win.

Comment below if you think there was a moment or play that should be on the list

 

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It’s Rivalry Week!

I’m a big fan of college football. It might be my favorite sport period. Even if you are not a fan of the NCAA college sports are fun to watch. There is just something special about rivalry week in football and it’s now more significant than ever thanks to the expansion of the College Football Playoff and some good games in the final week. There are five games in particular that you should watch this year as chaos my ensue with any unexpected results.

Honorable mention: “Bedlam” Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State – It won’t take place during traditional rivalry week due to the Big 12 not having a championship game (until 2017) but this will act as a de facto conference title game and could have impact on the CFP when it is played.

5.) “Rumble in the Rockies” #22 Utah at #9 Colorado 

Colorado leads the all-time series 31-28-3, but Utah won the last four meetings by a margin of seven or less in each game. Colorado needs a win to earn a spot in the Pac-12 championship game and keep their playoff hopes alive. A Utah win means USC will play in the conference title game.

4.) “Apple Cup” #5 Washington at #23 Washington State

This will be the 109th meeting between the teams as Washington leads the all-time series 70-32-6. The winner will go on to win the Pac-12 north and Washington needs to win to stay alive in the CFP.

3.) “Palmetto Bowl” South Carolina at #4 Clemson

Clemson leads the all-time series 67-42-4 with the rivalry going back to 1896 for its first game. South Carolina is already bowl eligible but will look to play spoiler to derail the Clemson hopes of another ACC championship game and CFP appearance. Clemson has won several close games this year to weaker opponents and will need to play with focus to avoid an upset.

2.) “Iron Bowl” #13 Auburn at #1 Alabama

Alabama has already clinched the SEC west and will more than likely win the SEC championship, but the Iron Bowl is unpredictable and Auburn is looking to bolster its resume with a win over undefeated Alabama. The series was first played in 1893 and Alabama leads all-time 44-35-1.

1.) “The Game” #3 Michigan at #2 Ohio State

Being played for the 113th time, the Michigan vs. Ohio State game once again has conference and national championship implications. In what is definitely the biggest game for the Big Ten it could also be the biggest game of the year in the national picture. Michigan 58-47-6 but has only won three times since 2000.

The Big Ten is the best conference in the country right now – regardless of what critics and “experts” say. The conference has four teams ranked in the top eight and each team could theoretically make the playoffs.

For Michigan, it’s simple but challenging. If they win they play for the Big Ten title. They have not won at Ohio State since 2000 and will need their starting quarterback (who is currently listed questionable) to be healthy to have a chance. The backup senior was underwhelming in last week’s victory against Indiana.

For Ohio State to make the conference championship they will need to beat Michigan AND have Penn State lose. Penn State plays Michigan State who narrowly lost to the Buckeyes by one point last week. It’s still possible that Ohio State can make the playoff if they don’t win the conference championship, but without a conference title it certainly opens the door for Penn State or Wisconsin if they win the Big Ten.

Big Ten to Play Friday Games

The Big Ten Conference, or B1G, announced that starting in 2017 there will be at least six football games played on Friday nights. This is of course all because of money and “exposure” the league can have with fewer games to compete with on Saturday. I don’t think watching Maryland, Rutgers, Purdue and other struggling teams are going to be a realistic source of Friday night entertainment for many people, regardless of what school they root for.

I have several issues with this new plan.

College football is meant for Saturday. Unless it’s a bowl game, conference championship game, or a “kickoff” game, I believe college football is meant to be played on Saturday. Saturday’s are accessible for the students, the alumni and fans, and most importantly, the athletes. When conferences start going to the Friday games and even middle of the week games for the smaller conferences, everyone suffers a little bit.

It hurts potential recruits watching on TV or visiting for a home game because they will be playing in their own games on Friday. If there are players on the college team that has a younger sibling playing high school football, it limits both players chances to watch as well as the entire family having to pick between games.

It’s obviously about money, which is not what the NCAA is supposed to be about. I’m in between on the whole payment of players debate, but this decision seems to go directly against the best interest of the student athlete which is ridiculous. The intent is to “grow the reach of the league” but that doesn’t translate to the players being compensated.

The last problem is that traditions are ruined. The teams that are playing in most of the games are struggling and do not have as large of fan bases as the historic programs. Why should only half the league be required to play on Friday? Attendance is likely already an issue for these teams, and Friday games mean students (and the athletes) could have classes, fans have work, and more likely than not the stadium will not be packed.

The whole business of college athletics has gotten out of hand. Who knows what weird thing the conferences and NCAA will do next. One thing is for sure, I will not rearrange my schedule because the B1G wants a weeknight game.

 

 

Choosing an MLB Playoff Team to Root For

With the exception of March Madness or the Super Bowl, watching the playoffs without your favorite team can be a bummer. It can be especially tough if your favorite team’s rival is still chasing the championship. If you love baseball but don’t have a team to root for, here are the pros and cons to each team remaining.

Chicago Cubs – The preseason favorites to win the World Series ended with a record of 103-57 and are not really a surprise contender at this point.  Since they have been the best team in baseball for most of the year, they only have eight games to win before breaking the infamous “curse” that has plagued the team. The pros: they haven’t won a title in a long time, 108 years to be exact, and they have fun and exciting young players. The cons: they were consistently the best team in the league this season, and they are one of the most popular teams in the league. Always a trendy team to root for and probably the most cheered for team this postseason. The bandwagon is filling up fast so get on soon!

Los Angeles Dodgers – The current four-time reigning National League West division champions entered with a record of 91-71 and are not a huge surprise either. They have arguably one of the best pitchers in all of baseball and have some great young talent as well. The pros: they haven’t won the World Series in a fairly long time, since 1988, and Vin Scully, who is one of the best announcers in all of sports retired this year. A championship could be a nice sending off present. The cons: the Dodgers routinely have one of the largest payrolls in baseball, being in the top two for the last four seasons and the largest payroll the last three years. They essentially are the slightly less successful Yankees of the west.

Cleveland Indians – The Indians quietly went about being one of the best teams in baseball this year with some help from a 14-game winning streak from late June to early July. They finished with the second best record in the American League with a record of 94-67 and its first division title since 2007. The pros: they are regularly in the bottom third for attendance, total payroll, and overall market size, so this is a team that can win as the underdog. They have the second longest active World Series drought of 67 years, sitting only behind the Cubs. The cons:  The city of Cleveland experienced its first title in 52 years when the Cavaliers won it all this year and it could be slightly less appreciated. If you are against Chief Wahoo or offensive Native American imagery, definitely avoid this team.

Toronto Blue Jays – The Blue Jays finished third in the American League East and had to beat the Baltimore Orioles in the wild card playoff and then went on to sweep the Texas Rangers who were the number one seed. Finishing with a record of 89-73 in baseball’s toughest division, the Blue Jays can hang with any team. The pros: they play in an extremely competitive division, represent Canada and have gone to the playoffs two years in a row after missing the postseason for 22 straight years. The cons: they are the most recent World Series champions of the four teams left, winning back-to-back championships in 1992 and 1993.

I was pulling for the Nationals or Orioles this postseason, and since they have been eliminated I guess I will have to cheer for the Blue Jays since they are the team I have no feelings toward or against.

Best Postseason Baseball Hat Logos

Predicting playoff baseball is tough and most people have different methods and strategies of doing it. I don’t think I’m particularly good at it, but I do have a history and interest in logos. I think that there are some strong hat logos and weak ones. These are just my personal feelings based on my history working with design.

blue-jays-hat1. Toronto Blue Jays – It’s a majestic and clean logo with a dash of national pride. It’s pretty hard to argue against a logo that can pull off being modern and retro at the same time.

 

orioles-hat2. Baltimore Orioles – It’s one of the few times that a cartoon image can be pulled off well professionally. The color scheme is great, and the overall look of the hat is unique to professional baseball.


3. Los Angeles Dodgers
– The interlocked letters are about as dodgers-hatclean as you can get. The Dodgers have one of the most iconic logos in sports but I still think the original Brooklyn “B” was slightly better.

 

red-sox-hat4. Boston Red Sox – It’s classic and timeless, just like the team that the logo represents. Boston’s logo acts as a representation of the history and fits very well with the atmosphere of Fenway Park.

 

mets-logo5. New York Mets – This borders as being somewhat overwhelming to look at, but the fact that it can intertwine the letters “N” and “Y” to create the “M” at the bottom results in some additional praise.

 

giants-hat

6. San Francisco Giants – Not a bad logo on its own, but it always seems too similar to the Cardinals.

 

 

 

rangers-hat7. Texas Rangers – Simple, but bold. The shading under the “T” helps the color stand out a little bit, but I always thought they could do a little bit more.

 

 

cubs-hat

8. Chicago Cubs – No doubt this logo is iconic, but it can come off as a little plain. The team has great alternate and throwback logos which make the “C” seem a little underwhelming without the full Cubs type in the circular logo.

 

nats-logo

9. Washington Nationals – A nice and simple cursive logo on its own, but since it looks so similar to the Walgreens logo it just makes it appear unoriginal.

 

 

10. Cleveland Indians – It depends on which logo they decide to use, but both rank low regardless. Chief Wahoo doesn’t even deserve to be discussed and while the block “C” is miles ahead of that logo, it is still pretty bland.indians-hat

The NFL International Series is Exciting, not Practical

The Jacksonville Jaguars held on to defeat the struggling Indianapolis Colts in London by a score of 30-27. It’s the first victory of the season for the Jaguars, so naturally their fans were not able to see it in person, but many probably did not watch it on TV either.

I am not a huge fan of the NFL playing in London during the regular season. I’m not totally against the idea because it has proven to be popular enough that multiple games have been played there in the same season, with very good attendance. What I don’t like is that the NFL is taking a home game away from an already struggling team that cannot seem to win games or attract fans to the games. That isn’t necessarily the fault of the NFL, but I believe they should be working harder at home to help teams before having them play overseas.

There’s also the problem of scheduling. There’s a pretty significant time difference that players need to get their bodies ready for. The Jaguars have a bye week to recover from the trip, but the Colts do not. Each game in the NFL is hard enough. Players don’t need added stress from lack of rest going in to the next game.

Why not play preseason games there? It would be a cool experience for players with less importance riding on the actual game. Football only has 16 games, why risk having one game be determined by outside factors like travel lag? I like the general concept of having international events to grow the influence of the game but I just think a game that is randomly during the season does not make sense. Cal and Hawaii opened the college season in Australia, which was an extra week before the regular season. Hawaii has then gone on to travel all over the country (which they often have to do) but at least that game wasn’t in the middle of the season. Baseball started at the beginning of the year when they opened overseas, why can’t the NFL do the same?