NFL Postseason Preview: Who’s likely in?

A few teams made statements in Week 13, including several that took home key road wins:

  • The Eagles defeated the Cowboys to claim the lead in the NFC East
  • Aaron Rodgers outplayed Tom Brady to lead the Green Bay Packers to a victory over the New England Patriots in the latest NFL mega-matchup.
  • Seattle had no problem sinking San Francisco at Levi’s Stadium to jump back into playoff contention.
  • The Cincinnati Bengals nailed a comeback win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to become the only AFC North winner of the week
  • Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos landed on Kansas City to complete a season sweep over the Chiefs to distance themselves from their closest divisional rivals.
  • The San Diego Chargers jumped into the AFC No. 5 seed position with a road win against the Baltimore Ravens.
  • While this isn’t a surprise, the New York Giants and Washington Redskins are out from playoff contention during Week 13. There are 26 teams left in the post season race, which is the lowest number with four weeks to play since 2009 (26).

As we head into another round of pro football action, here’s the possible scenario for Week 14.

The Indianapolis Colts can win the AFC South division title. A Colts win against the Browns on Week 14 will get Indianapolis to 9-7 at worst, but if the Texans lose at Jacksonville, then Houston will be at 9-7 at best. Houston can get the lead if they win their head-to-head series on Week 15. However, Indianapolis would win the tiebreaker with Houston on record against common opponents.

The Philadelphia Eagles can win the NFC East title by either win its next two games against Seattle and Dallas or by having Seattle lose to Chicago and winning against Dallas in Week 15.

Despite the loss to the Packers on Week 13, the Patriotsstill lead the AFC North as it has head-to-head wins against all three other division leaders. Now, that does not mean they are granted to finish the season as divisional leaders. If the Pats lose at San Diego next week and Miami beats the New York Jets on Monday night and Baltimore next week, then the Dolphins could take the division lead with a win at New England in Week 15 due to a season sweep of the Patriots.

 

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After Richard Sherman’s disgraceful comments after Sunday’s NFC championship, I was expecting the media to universally agree that he should be ashamed in himself. However, everywhere you look on ESPN, whether it’s Stephen A. Smith, Colin Cowherd, or someone else on the network, people have been making excuses for his behavior. The excuses have been that he was emotional, that he’s not a criminal, the 49ers are just as bad as him, he’s a winner, and I”m sure there are some other horrid excuses I am forgetting. check your lines at SportsBettingOnline.ag Since when did it become acceptable in sports to win a game and then taunt your opponent after they lost? Backing up your talk only happens when you talk shit before the game. Talking shit after the game is just classless. Not to mention, insulting another professional athlete’s ability is classless no matter when it’s said. Randy Moss, TO, Ochocinco, Deion Sanders, you name them, have never repeatedly insulted another player’s skill level like Sherman does. …and for those saying he was being emotional, it’s not the first time he’s done something like this. Richard Sherman has repeatedly showed no class after games, and has started feud after fued with other players for absolutely no reason except to boost his own ego.  ESPN has been so quick to vilify players in the past without even looking at the whole story such as Ignocgnito. However, when it’s obvious that their is no excuse for someone’s behavior, ESPN finds every excuse out there and even in a way is promoting his name. It’s time we faced it that Richard Sherman is exactly what his name is often shorten too, Dick!

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Before the season, I read numerous articles saying Legarette Blount wasn’t even going to make the Patriots. How Trent Richardson was going to be a pro bowler. I just laughed when reading these articles and wondered how these “experts” had jobs.

So the player who had a career average of 3.6 ypc, and had shown no ability to break a big play was going to be a pro bowler, but the one that had one over 4.5 ypc, and had shown great ability to break long runs wasn’t even going to be in the NFL.

Blount of course made the team because Bill Bellichick is a real expert. While Richardson was traded from the Browns to the Colts for a first round pick. At the time I couldn’t help but laugh at the robbery while the “experts” commended the Colts. If you want to see what real NFL experts think, you need to check out Sports Betting Dime. I was even mocked on facebook by friends for saying that the Browns trade was the best move the franchise has made in years. How come these people were so quick to defend Richardson, while these same people were so quick to join in on the hate against Blount? There’s two reasons why. First, It’s sadly because nobody thinks for themselves anymore, and the “experts” have such strong influence on these sheep. Secondly, it’s because Richardson was a first round pick and Blount was undrafted. For some reason, actual performance is judged differently depending on where you were drafted. If you’re un-drafted, you better have an “Arian Foster” type of season, or one average stretch and you’re job will be in jeopardy. i.e, Blount in 2011 . If your a first round pick, well you can just be average, and nobody will say anything to harsh about you. i.e Richardson in 2012. Sadly for Richardson, he couldn’t even be average in 2013.

Fast forward to week 17 where Legarette Blount had 189 yards and two touchdowns, and is the starting running back for the second best team in the AFC, while Trent Richardson’s ypc has dropped to 3 yards per carry as he has become the laughing stock of the league, and it’s safe to say that 2013 was a great example of how bad NFL experts are regarding the running back Position.

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Aug
18

Thoughts On Lagarette Blount

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How come Blount seems to be one of the few running backs who no matter what he does, people always dismiss him?

In 2010, he lead the league in broken tackles even though he only started half the season. The guy had runs that some first round picks would dream of having. Sportbet.com has great analysis on the football odds online of Blount making the team. Despite this he was regulated to bench player in 2012, and this year he has been working hard just to make a roster. football odds online Once again this pre-season, Blount showed that he has the ability to make runs that almost no one else could. His combination of speed and size cannot be found in the NFL today, and for some reason it’s not appreciated. Critics who complain that he is not a good third down back, or great goal line runner, are being extremly picky, since to be fair he’s not any worse than the average running back, and the other parts of his game more than make up for it. How come a guy like Mark Ingram who isn’t a good third down back, goal line runner, and can barley break more than a ten yard run, gets a pass. It’s because Blount was undrafted, and Ingram was a first round pick. If we could live in a world where a player was simply judged by what be what he does in the NFL and not where he was picked, one of a kind players like Blount would be a full time starter and perennial pro bowler. Instead, he has to fight just to make a roster. Another reason Blount might not be given a fair shake is because of his off the field issues at Oregon. He wasn’t drafted because of his infamous “punch” and it likely still haunts him to this day. However, the reason I can’t say it is just hist off the field issues is because first round picks in general always get free passes. Trent Richardson averaged 3.8 ypc last year. Why is he getting a free pass? That is awful. If he was 7th round pick, he wouldn’t be on the team this year.

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Has a player ever in the history of sports put up as many historical records as Jamaal Charles has in his three year career, and still be so unknown and so under the radar. Let’s take a look at what Jamaal Charles
has done so far in his short career.

In 2009, Jamaal Charles finished the season with the highest yards per carry in the league for anyone running back with 120 carries or over, and became the only player in NFL history to rush for 1,100 or more yards with 200 or fewer carries. He also became the only player in NFL history to take over as a starter halfway through the season and double the ypc of the player he replaced. Jamaal Charles averaged 5.9 ypc compared to Larry Johnson’s 2.9.

In 2010, Jamaal Charles averaged 6.38 ypc, which is the second highest ypc in history behind Jim Brown’s 6.4. He also become the only player in NFL history to finish second in the league in rushing yards and not even lead his own team in rushing attempts. Charles only had 230 attempts this past season compared to Jones’ 245 attempts. Despite Jones having more attempts, Jones only rushed for 896 yards this year compare to Charles 1496 yards, because Jones only averaged 3.7 ypc.

As of right now, Jamaal Charles has the highest career ypc for any running back in NFL history with a minimum of 200 carries.

What’s most amazing about Charles is that he defies the common assumption that an offensive line makes the running back. In most systems in the NFL, the ypc discrepancy between running backs on the same team is relatively close to each other. In the Last two years, Charles ypc compared to the other running backs on his team has been off the charts. His 3.0 ypc advantage in 2009 and his 2.7 ypc advantage in 2010 is proof that if a running back is great enough, he can make that much of a difference. Charles’ ypc advantage, considering how many carries he and his teammates have gotten, is something that we haven’t and may never see again.

From the moment I saw Charles play, I knew he had an amazing talent, and I even wrote an article after the 2009 season claiming that Jamaal Charles could be better than Titans RB Chris Johnson. At the time, most people laughed at me, and what’s scares is me is that if I wrote that now, they would still laugh. The question that needs to be answered however is why is Jamaal Charles still so under the radar?

The first obvious reason why he is underrated is because he plays in Kansas City. Players in Kansas City lack the exposure that big city players get and often get under-appreciated, which we saw in the hall of fame voting for the late great Derrick Thomas for many years, and most recently this year for Willie Roaf, who I could make a case for as the greatest offensive tackle ever.

However, playing in Kansas City is not the sole reason for this as his lack of carries, especially goal line carries, hurts his credentials. The reality is that with Jamaal Charles amazing ypc, a 2000 yard season or something close to that is very probable with more carries. A lot of fans and even experts overvalue yards in a season and undervalue yards per carry. Thus if Charles put up a more historical single season rushing yard mark, fans would quickly know who he is, just as they knew who Chris Johnson was after he ran for over 2000 yards.

The other reason is because Charles, who actually is a more efficient goal line rusher than Thomas Jones, isn’t given many goal line carries. Many fans and experts overvalue rushing touchdowns when the truth is that rushing touchdowns are often more of a production of opportunity and situation rather than anything else. If Charles was given more or even most of the goal line carries that most feature running backs get, his stats would be much more appealing and noticeable to everyone.

Sadly though, it doesn’t seem as though Chiefs Coach Todd Haley wants to give Charles a more featured role in the offense. One theory is that Haley is doing this to not ware out Charles, because of the tendency for running back’s careers to be shortened by an overload of carries as well as Haley wanting him to be fresh at the end of the season. But if Haley wants Charles to become that next great running back, he’s going to have to unleash him, and stop holding him back. Because at the end of the day, he’s only holding his team back.
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As I sat there watching Kobe Bryant win his first championship without Shaq, I felt a sudden sadness. A sadness, that the game of basketball doesn’t usually cause.

It wasn’t the same sadness you get when your favorite team loses, but it was the type of sadness you get when you realize that justice isn’t going to be served.

As I watched Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy at the end of the game infer that arguing about who is better between Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan is a legitimate argument, that sadness grew even more.

It was obvious due to the talent the Lakers had that sooner or later Kobe would get his ring without Shaq, and I knew the aftermath that would occur. Since the NBA Finals, the Kobe-Jordan comparisons have not stopped, and let me tell everyone, it’s only going to get worse.

When I finally realized the game was out of reach, I went to my room sat down in utter silence and realized that the history of basketball had been changed.

Well The Kobe Bryant we see today is a much better player than Kobe Bryant who was on the Lakers during Shaq’s heydays.

Now that Kobe has won this title, people will forget this, and he may very well be in the mind of these so called “experts” such as Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy elevated himself to one of the top five players of all time, if not higher.

He now has four titles, and because of his title without Shaq, Shaq’s legacy will only diminish and Bryant’s will grow as people start to forget who really led the Lakers to those first three titles.

Before I get into the details of why Kobe Bryant’s legacy should not be defined by this title, let me answer this one question first.

As I was reading an article about Kobe and Shaq, a question arose in the commentary.

“Why is it that no one questions the validity of the rings won by other stars that played with stars” (Besides Kobe)

The answer I read by, Michael T. Penn, could not have been any better. NBA betting lines.

“I think it is because most great second options aren’t hailed as the greatest thing since sliced bread like Kobe is. A lot of people love Kobe so much they want to talk about his three championships without even mentioning Shaq. That in turn leads others without the rose colored specs on to say ‘what? those were Shaq’s teams!’ That’s really all you’re looking at here.

It’s kind of like if someone were to turn around and say ‘Scottie Pippen is the best player ever because he won 6 rings’. Of course the rebuttal would be ‘Sorry but Scottie was second banana to Jordan, those were Jordan’s teams’. Then someone such as yourself may write an article about how even though Jordan was the man, Scottie was still a star. Like that clears up the issue.

Kobe was of course a great second option on those teams! The problem arises when people try to use those three rings as part of an argument to say Kobe is a better individual player than Lebron James or that he’s the greatest player not named Mike or other such over the top declarations of his unstoppableness”

On the next few pages, I’m going tell you exactly how a man with four NBA rings, who at times can be unstoppable, can really be considered overrated?To me Kobe Bryant has been overrated since he first entered the league.

When he first entered in 1997 towards the end of Michael Jordan’s career, the media and fans were looking for that next Michael Jordan. Kobe showed the flash and potential it could take to be the next one. He was immediately deemed the next Michael Jordan, a title that still sadly hasn’t faded away.

However, for you to truly understand why Kobe is overrated career wise, you have to realize what a person being overrated really means. Being overrated career wise, in a sense, means that a person’s career is perceived as being better than it really is. Down below I have listed the many reasons why Kobe Bryant has come to be overrated.

Before you read what I have to say, I just want to ask you one favor. Please read the rest of the article with an open mind, especially Lakers’ fans, or you will fail to see the truth.

 

Kobe Bryant Wasn’t As Big of a Factor As Perception Makes it Seem

Kobe Bryant, in reality, wasn’t as big as a factor with the Lakers during their championship runs as perception makes it seem.

If you took Shaq off the Lakers during their title runs, the Lakers wouldn’t be guaranteed to make the playoffs. When O’Neal was injured during his three peat, the Lakers had a regular-season record of 12-11 (.5217%).

When Kobe was injured, the Lakers regular season record was 25-7 (.78%). Interestingly, the Lakers’ entire regular-season record during their three-peats was 181-65 (.735%), which is a lower record than when Kobe wasn’t playing. The Lakers therefore actually had a better record when Kobe wasn’t playing.

But how could this be possible? Well as a big Lakers’ fan during their championship runs, I watched the games very closely. One thing I will tell you is that the team was at its best when the team played through Shaq.

The Lakers were most dangerous when the Lakers would play through Shaq, wait for him to get double teamed, and have players such as Rick Fox, Robert Horry, Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher spot up for the open shot, or cut in the lane.

However, the Lakers often failed to play through Shaq enough, and it would cost them games sometimes. However, never was this more obvious than at times when Kobe would try to steal the show.

A young immature Kobe Bryant would constantly take difficult contested shots, instead of just playing through Shaq, then cutting into lane or spotting up for that open shot.

I‘ll admit that when Kobe Bryant was playing through Shaq, he was a great asset to have. Unfortunately for all the times he was an asset, he was also a cancer when he tried to be the “man”.

The Lakers’ record without Kobe and without Shaq is not a stat many people know of, as I couldn’t find it anywhere. I personally had to look at every game by game during the Lakers’ championship runs to find those stats out.

As I said earlier, I watched the Lakers very closely. One thing I noticed was that when Shaq was on the bench, the team frankly was just a mediocre team.

I also noticed that when Kobe was on the bench, the team was just as good without him. I therefore decided to do the research and find out if this was true or not.

Not coincidentally, the records I found proved my theory to be correct. As I showed earlier, the Lakers became a sub .500 team without Shaq, but had a better record without Kobe.

Bryant to me is one of the luckiest players of all time. Not many all time greats can say that they started their career playing with the best player in the NBA.

Every time Kobe looks at his first three rings, he should thank god everyday that he had the opportunity to play with Shaq. In reality the young Kobe Bryant who won three championships isn’t as good as the Kobe leading the Lakers right now.

The record books, unfortunately, will not have an asterisk that says “led by Shaq.” When Kobe is compared to the all time greats such as Michael Jordan, his first three championships to the naked eye will looks just as good as Michael Jordan’s first 3 championships.

If Kobe never played with Shaq, he likely would have one ring. Thus without most of his rings, Kobe wouldn’t be perceived to be the top five player of all time many perceive him to currently be.

 

Kobe Bryant is One of The Most Under-Performing Finals Player Ever

Kobe Bryant has shot 40.5 %  or under in four out his six NBA Finals appearances (Around 36% in his first and 38% in his fourth appearance). How many all time greats have shot 40.5%  or under once, let alone four times in the NBA Finals? Also keep in mind that in three of those four in which he shot that poorly, Shaq, not him, was the one being double teamed.

Kobe is perceived as one of the best clutch players of all time, yet on the biggest stage there is, Kobe consistently performs his worst.

In year 2000, during the regular season, Bryant averaged almost 29 points and five assists per game. How did these stats translate over to the NBA Finals? They lowered to 15 points and four assists per game.

Shaquille O’Neal, on the other hand, raised his scoring average, from 28 in the regular season to 38 in the finals.

In 2001, the Lakers once again won the NBA Finals. Kobe’s scoring average dropped in the clutch once again, forcing O’Neal to step up his scoring from 27 per game in the regular season to 33 in the finals.

In 2002, For the third straight year, Kobe’s scoring and assists declined in the series and O’Neal of course stepped it up in the finals.

Most greats like Shaq, Jordan and Duncan, all raised their level in the finals, but yet Kobe lowered his tremendously. Charles Barkley once said that stars are made in the regular season, but superstars are made in the playoffs.

Well, I would like to add on to that statement and say that stars are made in the regular season, superstars are made in the playoffs, but Legends are made in the NBA finals.

In his first three years, Kobe had the privilege of watching Shaq put up three of most dominant finals performances ever. In fact at the time of Shaq’s third championship, he was averaging the most points per game in NBA finals history. However, in Kobe’s last two NBA Finals, he cost his team the championship with his poor performances.

In the 2004 NBA Finals, Shaq averaged 26.6 points per game with a .631 field goal percentage, while Kobe Bryant averaged 22.6 points per game with a .381 field goal percentage.

However, the main reason Kobe cost the Lakers the title was that he out shot Shaq by nearly six shots despite Kobe shooting 38.1 %, while Shaq was shooting 63.1 %.

In that series, Kobe’s failure to play though Shaq hurt not only the team’s stats, but his own stats as well. Playing through Shaq more, would have helped his FGP and opened up more easy scoring opportunities.

Not to mention, logically, why should a player shooting with a much lower FGP average six more shots than a former three times finals MVP that was shooting a much higher percentage?

During the 2004 NBA Finals, Kobe decided that he was going to be the man, even if it cost the team. Not surprisingly, according to Phil Jackson‘s book “The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul,” in Bryant’s exit interview with him Bryant said, “I’m tired of being a sidekick.” Shaq already had three Finals MVP’s and Kobe for once wanted that finals MVP.

Watch the tape of that series and you will see a mad man determined to be the “man,” despite the consequences the team would ultimately render.

In last year’s NBA finals against the Celtics with this time Kobe being the “man,” he again let his team down. Against the Celtics, he shot .405 from the field and averaged 3.83 turnovers a game. In fact, in three out of their four losses he shot under 35 % from the field.

Kobe all series seemed to start off playing well in the first quarter, and then fall off and never recover. Kobe is perceived to be the best closer in the game, but yet it seemed as though he often disappeared in the 4th quarters of last years finals.

In game four last year, Mark Jackson, a man who once said that Kobe Bryant will be better than Michael Jordan, even called out Kobe Bryant for not trying to take over the game in the 4th quarter.

I heard all of Kobe’s fans excuses last year. “His teammates didn’t show up,” “Kobe can’t be expected to do everything.” However, no matter what anyone wanted to say about Gasol, Odom, or any of the other Laker’s players, Kobe was the one who let his team down. If Kobe wants to take all the credit when his teams wins, he should also take all the credit when his team loses.

Now this year was easily Kobe’s best finals performance. Kobe led the team to the title and I can’t take any credit away from him. But even so, Kobe still underperformed in the NBA finals, as he shot 43 % from the field. If you at actually look at it, Kobe has had two good finals appearances out of six.

Although his numbers went down in the 2001 finals, he still played well as he shot .514 from the field. Then of course this year, despite Kobe’s FGP going down, Kobe led his team to a championship.  Now two good finals out of six isn’t acceptable for a true all time great.

The true all time greats, like Jordan and Shaq, generally always showed up in the NBA finals, while Kobe has repeatedly failed to.

 

Kobe Is Still Compared To Michael Jordan

There are still people out there who claim that Kobe is as good as and or better than Jordan. I would dismiss these claims and not even mention it, except for the fact that there a large percentage of people who actually believe this.

Every time a Jordan Kobe debate starts there is always that one guy who claims that Kobe is better than Jordan. No matter what stats you pull out, that guy thinks he’s right and you’re wrong.

Now that Kobe has lead a team to a championship, this will only be more argued.

The Jordan – Kobe debate to me is one of the most lopsided sports debates that is frequently debated. If you look at it logically the question shouldn’t even be asked and on Page 3  I will show you why.

Michael Jordan Kobe Bryant
16 seasons 13 seasons
6 Championships 4 Championships
6 Finals MVPs 1 Finals MVP
10 Scoring Titles 2 Scoring Titles
1 Defensive Player Of The Year 0 Defensive Player Of The Year
5 MVPs 1 MVP

Jordan has better career averages than Kobe in virtually every single category besides three point percentage
( Bryant: .341, Jordan: .327) and and FT % ( Bryant: .840, Jordan: .835). Kobe also has inferior playoff averages in virtually all statistics, and inferior career finals averages in virtually all statistics to Jordan. For those of who want to claim that Kobe’s stats are skewed because of his younger days from 18-21, (even though Jordan’s are too because of his Wizards days) look at this stat.

If you take an age by age comparison of Jordan and Kobe starting with the age of 22 to the age Kobe is now, Jordan has better stats in virtually every age by age category besides some years of free throw %, a couple years of BPG, some years of 3 point percentages, and the one year Kobe averaged 35.4 points per game.

Jordan also, besides free throw percentage (.868 to .857), has the higher single season high in every category. Plus Jordan never played with a player even close to an elite center, while Kobe has had Shaq and Gasol.

 

Kobe Bryant’s FGP Isn’t Up There With The All-Time Greats

One reason that goes under the radar for why Kobe Bryant is overrated is that his FGP is simply not up there with the greatest guards and small forwards of all time.

Kobe has a career average of  a .455 FGP, while, obviously depending on your list, no other player generally considered one of top 20 players of all time has shot that poorly.

Julius Erving shot .506 , Magic Johnson shot .520, Oscar Robertson shot 485, Larry Bird shot .496, and Michael Jordan shot .497 for their career.  Kobe has also shot worse than the two players playing today that will eventually make this list, if not for a drastic injury, Wade and LeBron.

LeBron has a career average of .471, which should go up as he gets older and Wade has a career average of .483. The main reason Kobe Bryant’s FGP is worse than Wade’s, Lebron’s, and Jordan’s, is that as good of player as Kobe is, he simply isn’t as good of an inside player as those players.

Kobe relies on his jumpshot more than these players and because of this his FGP is worse.  This is especially noticeable when he plays against physical defenses, such as the Rockets this year or the Celtics last year.

Before game seven of the Rockets-Lakers series, ESPN showed that against the Rockets, only 21 percent of his shots were within five feet of the hoop.  Now 21 percent just isn’t good enough, and that is one reason the undermanned Rockets took the Lakers to seven games.

As it often said, “you live by the jumpshot, you die by the jumpshot.” When Kobe isn’t driving the ball enough, this statement is never more true. Now Kobe is still a great inside player, but just read what his own coach Phil Jackson has said when comparing Kobe to Jordan in an interview in 2008.

“There are somethings that Michael Jordan had, that Kobe Bryant doesn’t have. He has a bigger body, He’s stronger. Kobe’s strong. He ( Jordan) had these incredible hands. Those hands were million dollar hands, where he could do so many things with it. Besides being fouled and still making baskets-Taking the ball to the basket and getting hit and not losing control of the basketball-Being able to pick the ball of the dribble.Those are just things that physically are irreplaceable….When you look at Michael, he shot 49, 50 %, and Kobe just hasn’t been able to do that. There’s a big difference when you compare those two. The shooting percentages were quite a bit different.”

Kobe’s Team Wins When He Doesn’t Shoot Too much.

If you were watching the pregame show before game seven of the Rockets-Lakers game, you would recall that Jon Barry showed a statistic that when Kobe Bryant shoots less than 21 shots, the Lakers were 39-3.

Up to that point he had taken 150 shots total in the previous 6 games against the Rockets. Now, can you remember there being a stat like that for a player considered as great as Kobe?

Is there a stat like that for Jordan? LeBron? Wade? Well, of course the answer is no. Not to the surprise of me and Jon Barry, the Lakers beat the Rockets in game seven with Kobe only scoring 15 points.

Kobe Doesn’t Have Any “Amazing Moments”

Kobe is consider one of the clutchest players in history but yet I can’t recall him having any meaningful amazing game winners. Now Kobe has had some winning go ahead baskets in the playoffs, but he has never had one of those “Jordanesque” moment that you can replay in your head over and over again.

If you have been watching a lot of NBA games this year, you would have noticed those amazing NBA moments commercials. Well the one Kobe Bryant moment that they keep showing over again is his game winning shot against the Suns a few years ago in the first round. Here’s my problem with it. The Lakers lost the series!

Is that really the best Kobe moment that they could find. Well, sadly it could be.  On the other hand, I can point out to a few plays that LeBron James has made in the playoffs in his career, that would have been better amazing moments, and sadly he is much younger than Kobe.

In reality, during the Lakers’ championship run, it was Derek Fisher, Robert Horry, Brian Shaw, and the roles players who had those amazing moments.

Once again in game four in the finals this year, it was Fisher, not Kobe who had that amazing moment.

In that game, I saw an interesting stat that tells it all. The thee players with the most three pointers in NBA Finals history are Michael Jordan, Kobe’s current teammate Derek Fisher, and his ex-teammate Robert Horry.

Kobe Simply Doesn’t Have The leadership Skills Required To Be One of The Greatest Ever.

There are just something’s you can’t teach. Leadership skills are one of those.

As talented as Kobe is, he simply isn’t as good of a leaders as most of the all time greats. As I was watching ESPN a few weeks back, I heard a quote similar to this that simply said it all. LeBron’s teammates want to play for him, while Kobe’s teammates don’t seem to want to.

While Lebron gets the most out of his less talented Cavaliers teammates, Kobe doesn’t seem get the most out of his much more talented teammates. Granted the Lakers won the title, there were many times when they underperformed.  I generally help prove that Kobe isn’t a very good leader by showing an excerpt from Curt Schilling’s post on his official blog, 38pitches.com, after Game Two of the NBA Finals last year.

I, myself, can say what I want about Kobe being a leader from watching him on TV, but in reality I don’t have the first hand experience for you to believe what I have to say. The reason I find Schilling’s post so informing is that it’s not often you get to read such a controversial post from an objective well respected athlete about a first hand experience he had. Here is the excerpt from Schilling’s blog.

“From the first tip until about 4 minutes left in the game I saw and heard this guy bitch at his teammates. Every TO he came to the bench pissed, and a few of them he went to other guys and yelled about something they weren’t doing, or something they did wrong. No dialog about “hey let’s go, let’s get after it” or whatever. He spent the better part of 3.5 quarters pissed off and ranting at the non-execution or lack of, of his team. Then when they made what almost was a historic run in the 4th, during a TO, he got down on the floor and basically said ‘Let’s f’ing go, right now, right here” or something to that affect. . . . But as a fan I was watching the whole thing, Kobe, his teammates and then the after effects of conversations. He’d yell at someone, make a point, or send a message, turn and walk away, and more than once the person on the other end would roll eyes or give a ‘whatever dude’ look.

Now it’s very important to realize again what overrated means. Like I said before, Overrated means that people perceive you to be better than you are. If you talk to the average NBA fan and even some of the so called “experts” as well, many of them will believe things that simply are illogical.

There are those people who believe Kobe is as good or better than Jordan. There is an also even higher percentage of people who believe that Kobe led the Lakers to the title and not Shaq, or that they both had equal roles.

There are also people who believe that career wise, Kobe, a man with one finals MVP, is better career wise than three times finals MVP’s Shaq and Tim Duncan, and other all time greats. Kobe hasn’t done enough yet to prove that he belongs in that same company yet.

Right now as it stands Kobe has led one incredibly talented team to a championship.

Therefore, before we put him up there with Chamberlain, Shaq, Jordan, and the rest of those guys, let’s see what he does in the next few years.

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In any defense, the tackles may be the most important part.

They are the first line, and they’re the tone-setters. Their play can determine the difficulty or ease of the linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties behind them.

If the line is playing well and keep the linebackers clean, odds are that team will be fairly successful. If they’re not, their respective team is looking at a very long day.

They’re the biggest guys on the field and their only intention is to make sure that the other big guys across from them don’t move them. They growl, they snot, and they snarl just to defend that six inches of ground.

The trenches. It’s the reason why we love football and what makes it such a man’s man of a sport. Giving up or keeping that six inches can be the difference between a win and a loss.

These are the guys who do it best.

5. Mike Patterson – Philadelphia Eagles

54 games started, 9.5 sacks, 1 INT, 3 forced fumbles, 1 TD, 154 tackles

Patterson has been solid since his first days in the NFL, but over the last two seasons he has really began to separate himself as one of the better tackles in all of football.

He’s grown into a brick wall. He’s not tall, and not all that big at only 5’11 and barely breaking 300 pounds, but he understands that leverage is all that counts when you’re a lineman, and he uses it better than most.

His shorter stature seems to help with this, as it’s much easier for a guy at 5’11 to get lower than a guy at around 6’4.

Look for Patterson in the Pro Bowl this year, and several times in seasons following. If this list is put together again in a few years, he may find himself much higher.

4. Marcus Stroud – Buffalo Bills

100 games started, 24.5 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, 245 tackles, *3-time Pro Bowler

Stroud is an absolutely dominating force.

He’s highly underrated because of the small markets he’s played in (Jacksonville and Buffalo), but make no mistake there is not a single offensive coordinator in the league who doesn’t gamplan for a way around Marcus Stroud.

Even without the deserved media coverage, Stroud has still found his way to three Pro Bowls. One more than his former teammate, John Henderson.

Stroud is always going to command a double-team, and will make his teammates better because of it.

3. Tommie Harris – Chicago Bears

69 games started, 24.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 143 tackles, *3-time Pro Bowler
Tommie Harris may be the quickest man playing defensive tackle.

Unlike Patterson, Harris is much more of a pass-rush specialist. While he certainly doesn’t seem to lack against the run, his forte is getting pressure on the quarterback and creating havoc in the backfield.

Barring injuries, Harris may be considered the best tackle in all of football, regardless of the scheme. Unfortunately for Harris and the Bears, he has been injured throughout his career and unable to reach his full potential.

Even while he may not ever get to that point, he is still a force to be reckoned with and should be recognized as one of the most complete tackles playing the game today.

2. Albert Haynesworth – Washington Redskins

74 games started, 24 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 200 tackles, *2-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Albert Haynesworth. He seems to only be motivated by the money and the glory of playing professional football. I may be wrong, but the fact that he has only produced in contract years does nothing to temper the criticism.

As far as on-the-field goes, no one has been better than Haynesworth the past two years. He has been a disrupting force anywhere along the line. While he’s mainly a tackle, he has moved out to defensive end on occasion with great success.

He is a beast of a human being and is able to beat nearly any offensive lineman that the league can throw at him. Again, the only problem is that he has only produced in contract years.

If we throw out the past two seasons (both contract years), Haynesworth has a mere 9.5 sacks. He also has never finished out an entire season. This, in my mind, does not entitle him to the $100 million contract he received. He has his money, now will he be motivated to perform?

1. Kevin Williams – Minnesota Vikings

94 games started, 42.5 sacks, 4 INTs, 5 forced fumbles, 4 TDs, 223 tackles, *4-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro

Kevin Williams is without question the very best defensive tackle in the entire NFL.

He is incredibly reliable (having missed only two games in his career), and can rush the passer as well as stuff the run.

He’s an absolute wrecking ball on the line. Moving him is a nightmare for any offensive line. He consistently must be double-teamed if he is going to be taken out of a game, and even then he usually dominates.

His rare mix of being able to get to the quarterback and hold his own on the line is something the NFL hasn’t seen since back when Reggie White graced the football field with his presence.

The four career interceptions, two of which he’s returned for touchdowns, shows the rare athleticism he possesses for a man his size. He also has scooped up two fumbles for touchdowns.

Williams is a talent that only comes along once a generation. He’s a man who’s extremely underappreciated because of the position he plays, but should get serious Hall of Fame looks if his career holds up the way it is.

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Part of a long tradition of great Eagles’ inside linebackers, Byron Evans, is unquestionably the most underrated Eagle at that position ever.  Chuck Bednarik, Bill Bergey, Jeremiah Trotter and Stewart Bradley all deserve their high praise, but so does Evans so here it comes.

Byron should be known at least for his all-time great touchdown celebration, known as the “Beanie-Wiggle.”  If you have never seen him shake his stuff, click here.

More seriously, Evans was a key member of the vaunted “Gang Green Defense” of the late ’80s and early ’90s.  It was the play of the defensive line that really stole the thunder.  Guys like Reggie White, Jerome Brown and Clyde Simmons are some of the greatest to ever play their positions.

Seth Joyner and William Thomas were great linebackers in that era as well but Byron Evans locked down the middle linebacker position and is deserving of more credit than he received.

Evans embodied Eagles’ football of that era and played his entire eight year career in Kelly Green, never earning a pro-bowl berth although he easily deserved a few.

YEAR TCK

SCK

INT

TD

FF

FR

TD

1987 25 0 1 0 0 1 0
1988 47 0 0 0 0 2 0
1989 184 2 3 0 0 3 0
1990 112 1 1 1 0 0 0
1991 111 0 2 0 0 2 0
1992 175 0 4 0 0 0 0
1993 109 0 1 0 3 3 1
1994 43 0.5 1 0 1 1 0
Career 806 3.5 13 1 4 12 1

His 184 tackles, three interceptions, and three fumble recoveries in 1989 seem pro-bowl caliber as does his 1992 production of 175 tackles and 4 interceptions.  Plus, the guy was just fun to watch.  He made great plays, had a nose for the ball and really anchored the linebackers on one of the greatest defenses in NFL history.

Evans did earn second team all-NFL honors in 1990 and 1992.

As his statistics indicate, Evans was a great tackler.  Tommy Lawlor of Fan-demonium commented on his memory of Byron Evans which I thought really summed up the kind of player he was:

“The thing that pops in my mind with Evans is his long arms. I can always see him in his stance with his arms dangling … He was an outstanding wrap-up tackler, but the arms also helped in pass defense. ”

He was unquestionably a leader on the field and became the Eagles defensive signal caller in 1988 and the defensive captain the following season.  Considering the defense he played for, those are pretty high accolades.

Evans told Jim Gehman of PhiladelphiaEagles.com, “To be named one of the captains, you had to trust the person and really believe in what they were doing. They believed that you were a leader and that made me feel real good.”

One of the most challenging defensive systems in NFL history was Buddy Ryan’s 46 Bear and Byron Evans was the master of the most dynamic role in the system which demonstrates his versatile athleticism and intelligence.

In a 2008 interview with Jim Gehman of PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Evans commented on Ryan’s defensive system.

“It was very complicated, probably one of the most complex defenses of all time, but it wasn’t intimidating. I think more than anything, I was surrounded by a good bunch of guys who were willing to go the extra mile and help me out and really give me the confidence boost that I needed. If I studied, I could make it happen.”

His career was unfortunately cut short in a devastating injury that occurred during a tackle of the Cleveland Brown’s bruising running back Leroy Hoard.  Evans broke his leg and tore his MCL in one play.  When Evans went down, it kind of felt like the end of an era to me.

For those who never experienced the gang green defense, I recall it as one of the most incredible things I can remember in Philadelphia sports history.  In the middle of it all was another unsung Eagle, 6’2″ and 235 pounds of Byron Evans, one of the all-time Philadelphia Eagles’ great players.

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Getting a win in Week 1 is vital, but getting a win in Week 2 can start a roll that can last deep into the season. Every season at least one team does it, and both of these teams are prime candidates to get on such a roll.

The Saints come into Philadelphia toting possibly the most explosive offense in the entire NFL, against the Eagles who boast one of the most suffocating defenses in the league over the past 10 year. Even without the late, great Jim Johnson, the Eagles defense proved they could dominate last week against the Panthers.

Both teams have a shot at this game, but here at 2M2MG, we’re Eagles homers. So let’s look at the keys to the game for the Birds, shall we?

Health of Donovan McNabb

While I believe the Eagles could beat the Saints with or without McNabb, having him makes the task much easier.

There’s not much debate regarding McNabb’s status as an elite, top five quarterback, so it’s obvious that the Eagles are a much better team with him. On the other side of that, Kevin Kolb, who would start in his absense, is unproven and in fact has done nothing but show that he is incapable rather than making a push for McNabb’s job.

Just having McNabb on the field adds a new aspect to the offense that the Saints defense must worry about, which in itself makes him a vital piece of the game. Broken rib or not, he gives this offense the best opportunity to score points.

Disrupt Drew Brees’ Timing

If the Eagles defense is going to stop the Saints high-powered offense, they’re going to have to disrupt Brees’ timing. How do they do that? They do it by blitzing, blitzing, and when all else fails, just blitz some more.

It does, however, have to be precise and well-planned blitzing or Brees will pick the defense apart. By this I mean blitzing a corner from Brees’ blindside, stunting along the line, and just simply blitzing effectively. If the blitzers are getting stone-walled, then Brees will have an easy day.

If Brees has an easy day, the Eagles will lose.

Control the Clock — Keep Brees & Co. On the Sideline

This is the simplest key to achieve, as it should be easy for Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy to run behind Leonard Weaver and this athletic offensive line. The Saints defense is below average and should struggle mightily against the run if the Eagles will committ to it.

This will be a key for every team facing off against the Saints this season, as the defense is obviously nothing to be worried about, but the offense can win games all by itself. Teams will certainly rather have their offense playing the same squad that gave up 27 points to the Detroit Lions rather than the quarterback those nearly beat Dan Marino’s passing yards record last season.

Reid should have Eldra Buckley active this week, as a power back would certainly go a long way in wearing down this defense even further.

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Week 1 can be the most important game of the entire year for a football team. For example, Eagles fans will remember Week 1 of the 2007 season as the game that doomed the Eagles for the year, but sent the Green Bay Packers to the NFC Championship game.

Many would question how the first game could possibly have such an impact, but really it’s simple. The confidence of a big win can help you through the entire year, and adversely the hurt of losing a game that you should have won can kill a season. Were the Packers the second-best team in the NFC that year? Probably not. They overachieved because of that confidence.

It may not be the same situation for the Eagles and Panthers because both are good teams, and it probably wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see either team pull it out (although most would agree the Eagles are the better team). In that instance, it’s just the fact of getting that first win to get on a roll, so either way, Week 1 is immensely important.

With that all said, let’s look at what the Eagles must do to win this game.

Jason Peters Must Win the Battle vs. Julius Peppers

Julius Peppers is quite simply a freak of nature. At first glance, he just looks like another lanky defensive end. However, at 6’6″ and 290 pounds he’s got an incredible combination of speed and strength that the NFL hasn’t seen since the Minister of Defense, Reggie White.

Jason Peters, like Peppers, is supposed to combine the athleticism and size usually unseen in a man at his position. At 6’4″ and 330 pounds, most would expect Peters to be slow and clumsy, but instead he’s got fantastic footwork and the athleticism of a man 100 pounds lighter.

To point out the obvious — this will be an incredible matchup.

If Peters can keep Peppers away from Donovan McNabb, he should be able to tear apart the Panthers’ secondary. They’re a patchwork of average players that will not be able to cover the Eagles’ receivers if McNabb is given time to find them. If he’s not, it will be a long and difficult game for the Eagles offense.

Peters’ footwork will be the difference in this matchup. If Peters can stay in front of Peppers, he should have no problem overpowering him and keeping him away from McNabb. However, if Peters remains to be slow off the ball, Peppers will eat him alive all day.

Make the Panthers Play from Behind

The best way to do this is to keep a good pass-run ratio for the first quarter (or so) of the game. By keeping it to about 55-45%, the Eagles can score some points while also tiring out the defense. This way, when the Panthers offense gets on the field, the won’t be able to rely as heavily on the running game.

Basically the plan here is to make Jake Delhomme and the receivers beat you. With Asante Samuel on Steve Smith, and Sheldon Brown on Mushin Muhammad, that should be an incredibly difficult feat for Delhomme. He’s been a pretty decent quarterback, but he has shown that if he’s forced to play from behind he’ll crumble and throw some picks.

With Samuel looking to double his production from last season, we should be able to see some big plays from him and the rest of the defense.

Once the Eagles have a lead of at least two touchdowns, then it’s time to pound the ball. Give all three running backs some reps so there’s always a fresh runner for the Carolina “D” to chase after. Give Brian Westbrook a pitch to the outside, give LeSean McCoy a carry off-tackle, then pound it up the middle with Leonard Weaver and Eldra Buckley.

The Carolina defense will be ready to roll over by the end of the third quarter.

Eliminate Mental Mistake on Both Side of the Ball

Mental mistakes were the biggest thing for the Eagles during the preseason as silly penalties would back them up and take points off the board. All penalties are mental mistakes, but the biggest ones are procedural penalties such as false start, offsides, delay of game, illegal formation, etc.

Mental mistakes would also include plays like the lateral against the Jaguars in the third preseason game. If the ball is throw backwards, it’s live. Don’t just watch it bounce around and give up an easy six points because you’re not paying attention.

If the Eagles make those kinds of mistakes repeatedly, it could mean the difference between a win and a loss to start off the season.

Execute; Do the Little Things Properly

As I said, most would consider the Eagles to be the better team in this game. Personally, that’s the ship I’m on at the moment. If you compare the offenses, it goes to the Eagles I believe because the Panthers don’t have much of a passing game. If you compare the defenses, it’s not even an argument that the Eagles take the cake there as well.

With that said, the Eagles just need to do the little things properly and they should be able to walk away with a victory. Little things such as making your blocks even if you’re backside, and always making sure the ball is moving forward. Even if it’s only one or two yards, it’s a positive play. If you spend time going backwards, it begins to add up.

Considering it’s a Week 1 game, there’s bound to be some mistakes in execution. However, if they can keep the mistakes at a minimum, they should be 1-0 for their home opener against the Saints in Week 2.

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