2014-2015 Pacific Division Projections

X-Los Angeles Clippers 56-26 (2)

Last season the Los Angeles Clippers won 57 games in their first season under head coach Doc Rivers. Rivers changed the culture with the Clippers, but they still were unable to get past the second round in the NBA Playoffs. This season however the Clippers will have an ever fresher start with a clearer piece of mind.

During the NBA Playoffs last year it was revealed that former Clippers owner Donald Sterling had made some insensitive remarks towards blacks. Sterling’s remarks almost led to a boycott by the players in the NBA which led NBA commissioner Adam Silver to take control of the team away from him. A nasty court battle ensued over the summer which led to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer purchasing the Clippers this past summer for $2.2 billion. Ballmer is on the same page with Rivers while the players are once again focused solely on basketball which is definitely good for business.

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Blake Griffin

Under Rivers, Clippers power forward Blake Griffin enjoyed his best season as a pro by averaging 24.1 points per contest along with 9.5 rebounds. Griffin’s mid-range jump shot continues to improve which will only help the Clippers chances in the upcoming season. But Griffin isn’t the only player in the Clippers frontcourt that has improved under Rivers. Last season Clippers center DeAndre Jordan led the NBA in rebounds at 13.6 per game. Jordan also averaged a career-high in points at 10.4 per contest and Rivers is trusting the big man out of Texas A&M to be on the floor more in crucial situations.

But the engine of the Clippers offense belongs to their starting point guard Chris Paul. Last season Paul averaged more than 10 assists per game for the first since joining the Clippers and aside from Griffin and Jordan, Paul has a litany of talent to get the basketball to. The Clippers will have tremendous depth this season that includes small forward Matt Barnes, shooting guard Jamal Crawford, center Spencer Hawes, and power forward Glen “Big Baby” Davis.

The Clippers shoud once again enjoy a successful regular season, but they are at the point now where they will be solely judged on what they are able to do in the NBA Playoffs.

Y-Golden State Warriors 51-31 (4)

Success does not always provide job security in the world that is professional sports. Last season Mark Jackson led the Warriors to their highest regular season win total in 22 years, but he could not get along with the front office in Oakland as he was sent packing. Jackson had a great repoire with the players on the Warriors and it will be an interesting task for Steve Kerr as he is the new head coach for Golden State to earn the locker room’s respect. Kerr has never coached in the NBA, but he does have basketball smarts that has seen him enjoy a 15-year playing career in the league that produced four NBA Championships and he also had a four-year run as the general manager of the Phoenix Suns.

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Steph Curry

The talent that the Warriors have will make Kerr’s transition to the bench that much easier. The Warriors arguably have the best backcourt in the Western Conference in point guard Stephen Curry and shooting guard Klay Thompson. Curry and Thompson combined to average 42.5 points per game last season and you can expect more of the same this year once they get accustomed to Kerr’s offensive system which will feature some of the triangle offense in it. But Curry and Thompson each have the ability to get hot for deep stretches on the offensive end to put the Warriors on their backs. This season for Thompson and Curry will come down to how much faith that Kerr is going to put in them.

Warriors center Andrew Bogut is one of the best passing big men in the game of basketball while also having the unique ability to score from both the low post and the perimeter. But Bogut has not played an entire regular season in the NBA since his rookie campaign in 2005-2006. The deck is stacked at that position this season and given Bogut’s track record it will be important for Kerr to monitor the health of his big man this season in order to keep the native Austailian fresh for the playoffs. The Warriors also have starting power forward David Lee who is a member of the 300lbsofsportsknowledge’s all-effort team. In four seasons with the Warriors, Lee has averaged 18.2 points per game along with 7.2 rebounds and he has done most of this without having plays called for him which makes him the perfect compliment to Thompson and Curry.

With the Warriors depth, the offensive production of small forward Andre Iguodala dipped drastically in his first season with Golden State, but he was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team for the first time. Iguodala’s skills as an on-the-ball defender along with his long wing span will be vital for the Warriors against the likes of Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant and Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden who are two of the better perimeter players in the Western Conference as they both play for teams that Golden State could meet in the NBA Playoffs.

The Warriors could have the best bench in the NBA this season consisting of point guards Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa, small forward Harrison Barnes, power forwards Draymond Green and Marreese Speights, along with center Festus Ezeli as the group possesses, size, rebounding, defense, speed, and scoring.

In recent years the Warriors and Clippers have been battling it out for supremacy in the Pacific Division. These two clubs meet on November 5 which will give Kerr and idea of how his team will do this season and they should be a factor next spring in the playoffs.

Phoenix Suns 41-41

Last season under first year head coach Jeff Hornacek, the Phoenix Suns were the surprise team of the NBA as the only missed making the playoffs by one game. All season long the Suns overachieved, but will Hornacek’s group be able to do it for a second consecutive season?

http://www.sports-logos-screensavers.com/user/Phoenix_Suns6.jpgThere will be plenty of brotherly love in Phoenix as two pairs of brothers will be vital for the Suns this season. Last season the Morris brothers (forwards Markieff and Marcus) combined to score 23.5 points per game while point guard Goran Dragic led the Suns in scoring at 20.3 points per. This off-season, Suns general maanger Ryan McDonough signed the brother of the Suns point guard in shooting guard Zoran Dragic who can provide some more depth off of the bench.

Along with Goran Dragic, the Suns have starting shooting guard Eric Bledsoe as the two will combine to be one of the fastest backcourts in the Western Conference. This past summer the Suns acquired point guard Isaiah Thomas from the Sacramento Kings. Thomas is coming off of the best season of his brief NBA career as he averaged 20.3 points per game last season with the Kings along with 6.3 assists. It would not surprise me in any way if Hornacek attempted to use Dragic, Bledsoe, and Thomas at the same time in order to speed up the pace for the Suns.

For the Suns to hang in the playoff picture in the Western Conference they must find a way to do what they did last season which is to beat up on the bottom feeders which allowed them to fatten up in the win column. If not, then the Suns will get lost in the shuffle

Los Angeles Lakers 37-45

Last season was a forgettable one for the Los Angeles Lakers as they endured their worst campaign since they have called Southern California home. Now the unusual process of returning to respectability begins for the Lakers. Byron Scott is set to begin his first season as the head coach of the Lakers and he knows a things or two about the purple and gold as 11 of his 14 years as an NBA player were in Los Angeles. Scott also helped the Lakers win three NBA Championships as a player. This is the fourth NBA team that Scott will coach and some of his highlights include leading the New Jersey Nets to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003 along with being named as the NBA’s coach of the Year in 2008 when he led the New Orleans Hornets to the postseason. Scott’s challenge in Los Angeles will be to turn around a Lakers team that many feel is simply too old.

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Kobe Bryant

Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant is 36-years of age and he is coming off of a season where knee and Achilles injuries limited him to just six games. Bryant is arguably one of the more determined athletes that the basketball world has ever seen and he is out to prove the naysayers wrong and show them that he can still get it done. Lakers point guard Steve Nash is a two-time NBA MVP, but he is 40-years old and Scott must monitor his minutes while also relying on backup point guard Jeremy Lin to be more of the floor general this season.

Power forward Carlos Boozer has been heavily scrutinized for his defensive prowess; or lack thereof, but he gives the Lakers a threat in low post which Los Angeles lost when they parted with power forward Pau Gasol. It is just a matter of Boozer being able to blend in with Bryant on the court. The Lakers are high on their first round pick in rookie power forward Julius Randle. Randle is only 19-years of age and there will be a learning curve for him, but he has tremendous athleticism along with a nose for crashing the boards.

Last season small forward Nick Young led the Lakers in scoring at 17.9 points per game and they will miss his production to begin the season as a thumb injury will keep “Swaggy P” sidelined.

Under Scott, the Lakers will be facing an uphill battle this season as their first seven games of the year will be against teams that finished the previous campaign with a winning record. These are not your father’s Lakers and the fans in Tinseltown will have to get used to mediocrity.

Sacramento Kings 35-47

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DeMarcus Cousins

After eight consecutive playoff appearances, the Sacramento Kings have now had eight straight losing seasons. Kings head coach Mike Malone is in his second season with the club and he has a young team that is in need of some leadership. The Kings have a pair of viable scoring threats in small forward Rudy Gay and center DeMarcus Cousins. Gay was acquired by the Kings last season and in 55 games with the club he averaged 20.1 points per game. Cousins is coming off of his fourth NBA season which was his best one as he averaged 22.7 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. Cousins is talented enough to be an NBA All-Star, but it a just matter of him getting enough recognition. The man that will be responsible for getting the basketball frequently to both Gay and Cousins will the Kings new point guard Darren Collison. The Kings will be Collison’s fifth NBA team and Malone is hopeful that he will be able to flash the potential that made him a first round pick back in 2009. The Kings also have a youngster at shooting guard in Ben McLemore that they are hopeful will continue to improve off of the 8.8 points per game that he averaged last season as a rookie.

Malone needs to change the culture in the Kings locker room as they have become accumstomed to losing. Right out of the gate the Kings will meet the Warriors, Portland Trailblazers, and Clippers in their first three games of the season which will definitely test the maturity of this young team.

X-Clinched Division

Y-Clinched Playoff Berth

Source: Basketball-reference.com

2014 Key Games For Week 9 In College Football

Bo Wallace and Ole Miss will face a tough challenge this Saturday night when they travel to Death Valley to take on LSU.

2014-2015 Atlantic Division Projections

X-Toronto Raptors 49-33 (3)

Kyle Lowry

Last season the Toronto Raptors came out of nowhere to win the Atlantic Division. The Raptors did it with a team that had a workman like approach and also had a star in the making. Last season Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan averaged a career-high in points with 22.7 per game and at 25-years of age he is in the process of becoming the new face of the franchise in Toronto. Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri received good news this summer when point guard Kyle Lowry turned down an opportunity to join the Miami Heat and return to Canada. Like DeRozan, Lowry averaged a career-high in points last season (17.9) along with 7.4 assists per game. Heading into this season the starting backcourt of Lowry and DeRozan gives Raptors head coach Dwane Casey one of the best combos at the guard position in the Eastern Conference.

Aside from Lowry and DeRozan, the Raptors will rely on a slew of role players that include center Jonas Valenciunas, power forwards Amir Johnson, and Patrick Patterson along with guard Greivis Vasquez who all know how to go out there and do all of the dirty things for Toronto to be successful.

The schedule at the beginning of the season is not a difficult one for the Raptors and as their expectations have changed, Toronto will need to be up for the challenge in 2014.

Y-Brooklyn Nets 46-36 (5)

The Brooklyn Nets have called Downtown Brooklyn home for two seasons and in the process they have made a pair of trips to the postseason. But will the Nets be able to take that next step for the 2014-2015 NBA season? The Nets will begin this season with their fourth head coach since the start of the 2012-2013 NBA season. Lionel Hollins is the new head coach of the Nets. Hollins comes to the Nets after he led the Memphis Grizzlies to the 2013 Western Conference Finals and the main reason why he is in Brooklyn is the fact that he knows how to deal with different personalities.

The Nets are a veteran team that needs shooting guard Joe Johnson, center Brook Lopez, and point guard Deron Williams to all be healthy and on the same page. Last season Lopez only appeared in 17 games as a foot injury kept him on the sidelines. In the past three seasons Lopez has combined to miss 150 games. More than ever the Nets will need a healthy Lopez in the post as he has averaged 18.0 points per game in his NBA career.

Deron Williams

It is put up or shut up time for Williams in Brooklyn. Last season Williams had his worst season since his rookie campaign during the 2005-2006 NBA season. Last season Williams only averaged 14.3 points and 6.1 assists per game as he drew the ire of many members of the New York media as they feel that he is not living up to the five-year, $98 million deal that he inked two years ago. Williams has cited bad ankles, but he has developed a reputation of being a coach killer and a prima donna. Williams must push all of that to the side and find a way to focus on being the leader of the Nets. For Johnson he is coming off of one best shooting years as a pro as he was 40 percent from beyond the three-point arc and he should flourish in Hollins’ offensive system.

Hollins and the Nets have a tremendous supporting cast of veterans and youngsters alike to support Lopez, Williams, and Johnson. Nets power forward Kevin Garnett is entering his 20th NBA season and his second in Brooklyn. Garnett is 38-years old and he is coming off of his worst season as a professional as he only averaged 6.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. But Garnett is the consummate pro and he wants to go out on better terms than that. Last season as rookie, Nets center Mason Plumlee averaged 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds and he has the potential for a breakout season if Brooklyn cannot rely on a healthy Lopez. At 6’10″, Plumlee has a knack for running the floor and the basketball always seems to find him. This season the Nets will be the seventh NBA team for point guard Jarrett Jack. For his nine-year NBA career Jack has averaged 10.9 points and 4.3 assists per contest and he is a player that will push Williams for minutes at the point guard position.

Of the Nets first seven games in the upcoming season, only one contest will be against a playoff team from last season which is an opportunity for Hollins and his crew to jump out of the chute fast as they look to win the Atlantic Division.

New York Knicks 40-42

The New York Knicks are set to begin a new era of basketball that has their faithful fans in the Big Apple buzzing. After winning 11 NBA Championships as a head coach, Phil Jackson has returned to the franchise that he helped win a pair of NBA Titles as a player in the 1970′s. But this time around Jackson will not be coaching as he has instead opted to be the Knicks team president. Jackson came aboard late in the 2013-2014 NBA season and he began the process of shaping the franchise in his own image.

Carmelo Anthony

Jackson’s first order of business was to find a protege that he could groom as a head coach. Derek Fisher just capped off a 20-year playing career in the NBA. Fisher spent 9 of those 20 seasons playing for Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers where the two combined to win five NBA Championships. Now Fisher will get his shot to show the world that he can lead an NBA team.

Jackson had his hands full over the summer as he had to convince small forward Carmelo Anthony to remain with the Knicks. Anthony opted out of his deal and there was speculation that he would chase a championship in another NBA city. But the allure of being under the guidance of Jackson along with being in the Big Apple was enough to convince Anthony to remain with the Knicks. But this is not the most talented team in the world that will be around Mr. Anthony.

Knicks power forward Amar’e Stoudemire has a pair of bum knees and his stats have declined in each of his four seasons with the Knicks. Stoudemire is the final year of his contract as he is set to earn nearly $21.7 million and you can expect Jackson to attempt to trade him. The Knicks have a duo at the shooting guard position in Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith that have fallen out of favor with the Knicks front office. Shumpert could simply use a fresh start with a new team while Smith has a low basketball IQ which will make it tough for him to navigate the triangle offense. Veteran point guard Jose Calderon is 33-years of age and he has been a journeyman as he appears to be the Knicks starting point guard of the present, but how effective will he be?

For his 11-year NBA career, Anthony has been one of the best scorers in the league. In the triangle offense Anthony will be asked be more of a team player, but the Knicks simply don’t have that consistent sidekick that he can depend on. Six of the Knicks first eight games this season will be against playoff teams from a year ago and the New York media will have a field day if the Knickerbockers get off to a slow start.

Boston Celtics 32-50

The Boston Celtics are rebuilding and the process could take a little bit longer than they initially expected. The Celtics only won 25 games last season. The ping-pong balls didn’t bounce the way that the Celtics expected last spring as they had to settle for the sixth overall pick which they used on guard Marcus Smart. By trade Smart is a point guard, but he has a scorer’s mentality and it will be interesting to see how he will be used in Celtics head coach Brad Stevens’ system. The Celtics already have point guard Rajon Rondo and you never know how the wind will blow with him. Rondo has seen the best of times and the worst of times with the Celtics as he was the starting point guard when Boston won the NBA Championship in 2008. Rondo can be high maintenance and it would be in the best interest of Celtics general manager Danny Ainge to trade Rondo. But it will be tough to ship Rondo out of town now since he is currently recovering from a broken hand.

Whomever the Celtics starting point guard is for the upcoming season he will team with shooting guard Avery Bradley in the backcourt. But Smart and Rondo must find a way to get the Celtics froncourt involved that includes forwards Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and Jared Sullinger, along with center Tyler Zeller. Sullinger has the potential to become an All-Star, but it all comes down to the big man remaining healthy.

Stevens is set to begin his second season as the Celtics head coach and a fast start this fall could go a long way for him and his young team.

Philadelphia 76ers 22-60

Michael Carter-Williams

Unfortunately for the basketball fans on Broad Street, the term “starting over” and the Philadelphia 76ers seem to go together. The Sixers only managed to win 19 games last season and they have numerous questions marks on their roster heading into this season. The last two years have seen the 76ers use early picks in the NBA Draft on players that have been unable to contribute. Last year the Sixers traded point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for the draft rights to center Nerlens Noel. While at the University of Kentucky, Noel suffered an ACL injury which kept him out of action for the entire 2013-2014 NBA season. Noel is expected to be on the floor for the Sixers this season, but you just don’t know what he is going to be able to give the team. Then there is center Joel Embiid. Embiid was selected by the 76ers third overall in last spring’s NBA Draft, but a broken bone in his foot currently has him sidelined. The Sixers do have the NBA’s reigning Rookie of the Year in point guard Michael Carter-Williams who averaged 16.7 points per game to go along with 6.3 assists, but one man cannot do it by himself in the NBA.

For the fans in Philadelphia, they can take solace that their Eagles are in playoff contention in the NFC East which can help to cushion the blow another potentially bad season from the 76ers.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

X-Clinched Division

Y-Clinched Playoff Berth

Bochy’s Way Is Paying Off In Frisco

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Bruce Bochy

Current San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy knows a thing or two about Major League Baseball. Bochy played nine seasons as an MLB catcher for the Houston Astros, New York Mets, and the San Diego Padres. In 1995, Bochy got his first crack at being a skipper in MLB as he was hired by the Padres. In his second season in San Diego, Bochy led the Padres to their first National League West Title since 1984. In 1998, Bochy would lead the Padres to their best regular season in franchise history as they won 98 games which is still the gold standard in San Diego. That year would also see the Padres win the NL Pennant for only the second time in the history of the team. But the Padres front office has never been committed to paying players which makes it tough for them to remain in contention. And after making it to the World Series in 1998, the Padres would not have another winning campaign until 2004. For 2005 and 2006, Bochy would lead San Diego to consecutive NL Western Division Titles for the first time in franchise history, but he wasn’t on the same page with then Padres general manager Sandy Alderson and he decided to leave. It didn’t take Bochy that long to find a job as he was hired to be the manager of the San Francisco Giants in 2007.

In his first two seasons in San Francisco, Bochy was able to navigate through the controversy that was surrounding outfielder Barry Bonds and the underachievement of starting pitcher Barry Zito who was a big free agent signing. By 2009, the Giants had a winning record and they would return to the playoffs in the following season.

The Giants has a strong starting pitching staff in 2009 and I said it then that if they were to make the playoffs they would be a tough out because of it. The Giants would win the NL West in 2010. San Francisco would beat the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series before upsetting the heavily favored Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS. All that would stand between the Giants and their first World Series Championship since 1954 when they still called the Polo Grounds in New York City home would be dispatching the Texas Rangers in the Fall Classic. The Giants would take care of the Rangers in five games and Bochy had won the World Series Title that was so elusive for him in San Diego.

A broken ankle that was suffered by Giants catcher Buster Posey in 2011 would derail the Giants chances to repeat as World Series Champions, but the team rebounded 2012. In the 2012 MLB Playoffs, the Giants would erase an 0-2 series deficit in the NLDS to the Cincinnati Reds as they won three straight games on the road. The Giants would then overcome a 3-1 series deficit in the NLCS to the St. Louis Cardinals before sweeping the Detroit Tigers in the Fall Classic for their second title in three years. The Giants would only win 76 games in 2013, but wouldn’t you know that they have rebounded this season.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were the team to beat this season in the NL West. The Giants only won 88 games this season and they had to settle for a wild card spot. And just as it was in their last two trips to the postseason, the Giants only needed to qualify for the playoffs as they are a dangerous team.

For the NL Wild Card Game, the Giants found themselves on the road to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates entered the postseason as one of the hottest teams in baseball, but Bochy and the Giants were unfazed by this as they had their ace in starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner who would be on the bump for the start. Bumgarner won 18 games in the regular season and he is a candidate to win the National League’s Cy Young Award this season. Bumgarner lived up to those expectations as he went the distance against the Pirates and he only allowed four hits while not surrendering a run as the Giants steam rolled the Pirates 8-0. The Cardinals would enter the NLCS against the Cards as the defending NL Champs. The Giants and Cardinals are the only two franchises to represent the NL in the World Series since 2010. The Giants would not be deterred as they would take care of the Cardinals in five games. Now the Giants are preparing for their third World Series appearance in five years as they are set to meet the Kansas City Royals this week.

For Bochy he has gone from being a man that was flying under the radar with the Padres to a man that will have his name mentioned with those of some of the elite managers in MLB history that includes Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, and Tommy Lasorda. But unlike the Padres, the Giants and their general manager Brian Sabean have given Bochy the resources needed for him to succeed as a manager. The Giants had the third highest payroll in baseball this season, but aside from that they simply have a system that works.

The Giants have built their team around pitching and once they get to the postseason it is a combination of their arms along with timely hitting that has propelled San Francisco to a pair of World Series Titles. But the main reason why Bochy is not a household name isn’t because the Giants are a West Coast team as it is mainly because of who he is. Bochy is a laid back manager that stays out of the spotlight as much as possible because for him it is all about the players. Bochy treats his players like the men that they are and thus he gets results that he wants and needs. On top of that Bochy simply knows when to push the right buttons as he knows when to leave a pitcher in and when to take a hurler out. The same can be said for Bochy’s decision making as far as making substitutions in the lineup as in each World Series appearance under him the Giants have mainly had a different cast of characters. In 2010, the Giants were led by starting pitchers Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Posey, and third baseman Pablo Sandoval. The Giants also had unsung heroes on the squad such as Aubrey Huff and Edgar Renteria who had the series winning home run. In 2012 it was Sandoval who’s three home runs in Game 1 of the World Series got the Giants going and they never looked back as they swept the Tigers. Now Bochy’s Giants still have Posey, Sandoval, and outfielder Hunter Pence, but they are still finding unsung heroes like first baseman Brandon Belt, pitcher Yusmeiro Petit, and utility man Travis Ishikawa who hit the game-winning, walk-off three-run homer to propel the Giants to the World Series in Game 5.

The Giants are a team of unsung heroes as they are simply taking their cue from their manager.

Source: Baseball-reference.com, Spotrac.com

 

 

2014 Week 7 NFL Picks

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Running back Marshawn Lynch needs to be a big part of the offensive attack for the Seattle Seahawks when they take on the St. Louis Rams.

Reggie Wayne Keeps Getting It Done

Reggie Wayne

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne entered the National Football League in 2001 and he has lived up to the expectations that were placed upon him and then some. When the Colts drafted Wayne they were hopeful that he would be a player that would be able to offset wide receiver Marvin Harrison. It took Wayne some time to get his feet wet, but by 2003 he started in all 16 regular season games. Wayne’s breakout season came in 2004 when he tallied 77 receptions for 1,210 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. By 2006, Wayne led the NFL in receiving yards with 1,510 to go along with 10 touchdown passes and he earned his first Pro Bowl selection. To culminate that season Wayne caught a touchdown pass in Super Bowl 41 as he helped the Colts knock off the Chicago Bears for their first Super Bowl Championship since 1970. For his career Wayne has eight seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards and four seasons of at least 100 receptions. Before one myth was that Wayne was a good receiver simply because he played opposite Harrison. But Harrison has not played since 2008 which has paved the way to make Wayne the go-to-guy with the Colts. The other myth was that Wayne put up big numbers primarily because he played with quarterback Peyton Manning. But Manning has not played with the Colts since 2010 as he is now the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos. Wayne’s new soul mate on the football field is Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and they are now producing big things in Indianapolis.

The Colts would use the first overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft on Luck as he was expected to be the next great franchise quarterback in Indy. After the 2011 NFL season Wayne could have left Indianapolis as a free agent as the Colts were rebuilding, but he instead chose to stay on board and the results have been extremely positive. Wayne has become Luck’s security blanket as the youngster has been able to depend on the veteran wide receiver. In Luck’s first season with the Colts he helped the team go from 2-14 in 2011, to a record of 11-5 in 2012 which resulted in a playoff berth. That season Luck completed 339 passes while throwing for 4,374 yards. 106 of those completions by Luck went to Wayne while he was also the recipient of 1,355 receiving yards.

Wayne was once again Luck’s top receiver last season until Week 7 when the receiver suffered an ACL injury that abruptly ended his year. Wayne was 34-years old at the time of the injury and the odds were against him as far making a strong comeback to the NFL. But somebody forgot to get that message across to Wayne.

Wayne rehabbed last off-season and he has come back strong in 2014. Through six games this season Wayne has 34 receptions to go along with 419 receiving yards and a touchdown. So far this season Wayne’s biggest performance came in the Colts Week 4 victory over the Tennessee Titans where he had 7 receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown. Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton might be the deep threat in the Colts passing game, but Wayne is the guy that consistently moves the chains.

Wayne came to the NFL from the University of Miami at a time when the school was a pipeline to the league. While in college Wayne was teammates with former NFL players such as Clinton Portis, Ed Reed, Jeremy Shockey, and current Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson. The players from Miami would always push each other in practice and that trend continued when they got to the NFL as it was always a competition between them to see who would get to the Pro Bowl. And being that Wayne’s 1,040 receptions are seventh all-time in NFL history and his 13,985 receiving yards are ninth all-time it is safe to say that he ranks up there with any of the great Miami players that went on to play in the NFL.

After losing their first two games of the season, the Colts have rallied to win their last four. And after quickly spotting the Texans a two-game lead in the AFC South, it is the Colts who are now sitting atop the division. The AFC South is the Colts for the taking as they appear ready to seize the moment and Wayne will have a huge say in it. For 14 NFL seasons Wayne has flown under the radar as he just continues to go about his business. But for a Colts franchise that has seen great wide receivers such as Raymond Berry, Roy Jefferson, and Harrison play for them, Wayne can more than hold his own with them.

Source: Pro-football-reference.com

Dan Mullen’s Stock Has Risen

Dan Mullen

When Dan Mullen became the head football coach of the Mississippi State University Bulldogs in 2009 he had his work cut out for him. Priot to Mullen’s arrival the Bulldogs only had enjoyed two winning seasons since 2000 while getting lost in the shuffle in the Western Division of the Southeastern Conference. Prior to taking over at Mississippi State, Mullen was the offensive coordinator at Florida for four years. In his stint at Florida, Mullen helped the school reel in a pair of national championships. By 2010, Mullen led the Bulldogs to their first 9-win season since 1999. Mullen has guided Mississippi State to four consecutive winning campaigns, but they have been unable to hang with the upper echelon teams in the SEC West; until now.

This season the Bulldogs began the season unranked, but it isn’t how you start as it is more about how you finish. In the past month Mississippi State has knocked off three teams that were ranked in the top 10 in the form of LSU, Texas A&M, and Auburn. And now for the first time in school history, Mississippi State is sitting atop the Associated Press Poll and there is a huge buzz in Starkville that Mullen has created. Now the Bulldogs have shown that they can hang with the Auburn’s and the LSU’s of the world as they currently have a record of 6-0. The Bulldogs are in pursuit of their first Western Division Title in the SEC since 1998 and they are actually thinking about bigger things which is the school’s first national championship in college football. The rise of Mississippi State has increased the value of Mullen and with the potential of some big head coaching jobs opening up in college football this winter he could become a very wanted man.

Mullen was previously the offensive coordinator at Florida and he was the man behind quarterback Tim Tebow who won the Heisman Trophy there in 2007. Florida is coming off of its first losing season since 1979 and with a 3-2 start this year, some fans in Gainesville are ready to bid adieu to the current head football coach there in Will Muschamp. Mullen knows about winning at Florida and his popularity would win over the boosters and alumni there very quickly.

The University of Michigan has seen its beloved Wolverines football program become extremely mediocre in the past seven years as they have only had one 10-win season over that stretch which was once the norm in Ann Arbor. Mullen runs a spread offense which didn’t work previously at Michigan when Rich Rodriguez was the head football coach there from 2008-2010. The expectations at Michigan are unrealistic and it is a place that Mullen should steer clear of now matter how much money could be thrown at him.

Aside from working with Tebow at Florida, Mullen was the quarterbacks coach at Utah from 2003-2004 where he tutored quarterback Alex Smith who would go on to be the first overall pick of the 2005 National Football League Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. This season Mullen has turned Mississippi State junior quarterback Dak Prescott into a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate as he has thrown 14 touchdown passes along with being second on the team in rushing and he has become that heart and soul of the Mississippi State offense.

With conference games left remaining for Mississippi State that includes a home tilt against Kentucky next Saturday, a road game versus Alabama, and the Egg Bowl to end the season in Oxford, Mississippi as they’ll face Ole Miss, the odds are somewhat stacked against the Bulldogs finishing 2014 with an unblemished record, but you cannot discredit what Mullen has done in Starkville. Mullen is under contract at Mississippi State through 2018 as he signed an extension this past March. Mullen earns nearly $3 million per year at Mississippi State and he will be in line to get another bump in pay real soon if the powers that be in Starkville want him to remain there. If not the almighty dollar could lure Mullen out of town to once again don the blue and orange in Gainesville. Unless the Florida job were to become available I don’t see Mullen leaving Starkville for another rebuilding job as he is cementing his legacy with the Bulldogs.

Source: Sports-reference.com

2014 Key Games For Week 8 In College Football

Nick Saban and Alabama will have their hands full with Texas A&M.

“Brian Football” Is Taking Cleveland By Storm

http://dawgpoundnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/wpid-cleveland-browns-fans.jpgSince returning to the National Football League in 1999, the Cleveland Browns have been looking for a spark to ignite their franchise. In 1999, the Browns used the first overall pick of the NFL Draft on quarterback Tim Couch, but he failed to live up to those expectations. Butch Davis was hired to be the Browns head coach in 2001 and by 2002 he led them to the postseason where they would blow a 17-point lead to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card Game. Subsequently the Browns have not made the playoffs since then as they have been unable to get out of their own way. Since the Browns returned to the NFL, they have had 20 different starting quarterbacks, eight head coaches, seven general managers, and three separate ownership groups which is why they have become a laughing stock around the league. But all of that futility could be a thing of the past for the Browns.

Last spring the Browns used a first round pick on quarterback Johnny Manziel who was looked at as a savior for this organization. In 2012, Manziel won the Heisman Trophy while at Texas A&M and he has a knack for making things happen on the football field as he is a gunslinger. As soon as Manziel was drafted by the Browns the team had nearly 10,000 request for season tickets as he appeared to be the new face of the franchise. But that message was never delivered to Browns starting quarterback Brian Hoyer.

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Brian Hoyer

The Browns are Hoyer’s fourth NFL team and now that he is the starting quarterback in Cleveland he refuses to relinquish the role. For three seasons Hoyer learned at the feet of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as his understudy where he learned what it would take for him to be a true pro. After brief stints with the Steelers and Arizona Cardinals, Hoyer joined the Browns last season. Hoyer was 3-0 as a starting quarterback in 2013 before an ACL injury prematurely ended his season. With a new general manager for 2014 in the form of Ray Farmer along with first year head coach Mike Pettine, Hoyer didn’t appear to be in the long term plans of the Browns being that they traded up in the first round to select Manziel. But the script has indeed changed in Cleveland.

This past summer Hoyer simply outworked Manziel in Browns training camp and thus he earned the starting quarterback position in Cleveland. Aside from Pettine’s approval, Hoyer’s teammates believe in him as he has won over the locker room with his work ethic and leadership.

Through five games this season the Browns are 3-2 and a victory this Sunday over the Jacksonville Jaguars would match their win total from 2013. With Hoyer leading the way this season the Browns could easily be 5-0 as their two losses were by a combined five points. The Browns losses came to the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens who both won on field goals as time expired.

Through five games this year Hoyer has thrown seven touchdowns to just one interception and he also has a flair for the dramatic. In their Week 1 loss to the Steelers, the Browns were trailing 27-3 at the half before Hoyer rallied them to tie the game. In Week 2, Hoyer led the Browns down the field to set up the game winning field goal by place kicker Billy Cundiff in the waning seconds of the game to knock off the New Orleans Saints. In Week 5, the Browns found themselves down 28-3 in the second quarter to the Tennessee Titans before Hoyer rallied them to a 29-28 victory. Yesterday Hoyer was only for 8-for-17 passing, but he threw for 217 yards along with a touchdown pass as the Browns were able to extract revenge on the Steelers with a 31-10 beat down in Cleveland as “Brian Football” and not “Johnny Football” has captivated Cleveland.

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Johnny Manziel

Manziel may sell tickets, but Hoyer is winning football games and he has taken his city back from the youngster from Texas A&M. Hoyer grew up in the Cleveland area and he knows all about the Browns as he grew up watching them. Hoyer has given the Browns fans a quarterback that they can fully get behind for the first time since Bernie Kosar led Cleveland to three appearances in the AFC Championship Game in the 1980′s. Now, Hoyer has put the Browns in a bind. Manziel is the future, but Hoyer is too good to pass on right now and once the season is over the Browns will need to figure out if they are going to commit to Hoyer on a long-term deal. But would the Browns really consider trading Manziel?

In 2001, it was a young Brady that became the Patriots starting quarterback when he replaced an injured Drew Bledsoe. Brady would lead the Patriots to three Super Bowl Championships in four seasons and the rest is history. In 2004, the San Diego Chargers drafted quarterback Eli Manning with the first overall pick and they later traded him to the New York Giants for quarterback Philip Rivers. The Chargers did all of this even though they had Drew Brees on the roster. Brees led the Chargers to the playoffs in 2004, but once he was injured at the end of the 2005 season he was allowed to leave as a free agent and he would sign with the New Orleans Saints. But Hoyer’s situation is a little different as the Browns are hamstrung with him. However if Hoyer is able to lead the Browns to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, the decision will be an easy one as quarterbacks in the NFL are simply defined by wins and losses. Hoyer is a winner and in the words of Grammy-Award winning singer Mariah Carey, he is indeed making things happen on the shores of Lake Erie.

Source: Pro-football-reference.com