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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Retweet of the Day - November 20, 2014

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner and defending national champion Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston is a lightning rod. He is also talented without limit on the gridiron. The FSU signal caller pulled the Seminoles through in the 4th quarter to a come from behind 30-26 win at their in-state ACC rival, the University of Miami.

The dramatic win extended the Seminoles' winning streak to 26 consecutive games. Florida State secured the ACC Atlantic Division title last Saturday while the loss put Miami's chances of an ACC Coastal Division championship on life support. Jameis Winston has never lost a game as a starting quarterback in college football.


BLAME JAMEIS

Of course, nobody walks on water and football fans outside of Tallahassee and not connected to FSU would just as soon dunk Winston in a tank of water. Winston, talent notwithstanding, is a knucklehead. The rap sheet is well known: accused of sexual assault (though no charges were ever filed), involved in an air gun fighting incident, shoplifted soda from a Burger King restaurant, shoplifted crab legs from a grocery store, and was videoed standing on a table in the Florida State student union shouting a vulgarity.

His off-field antics have drawn backlash from his fans and supporters at Florida State. The "#BlameJameis" Twitter phenomenon arose from all the repeated extensive media coverage of Winston's antics, most of which (save for the sexual assault accusation - which never warranted any charges) are typical of post-adolescent collegiate foolishness, albeit with increasingly unsettling frequency. In the #BlameJameis paradigm, anything wrong in the world is Winston's fault.

Today's retweet, by Cee Bee (@CoryBarry_) is sweet and simple and could be on the Mount Rushmore of #BlameJameis inspired tweets.

"Jameis Winston was responsible for 9/11"

I just KNEW Lee Harvey Oswald was just a patsy!
Image from barstoolsports.com 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

By the Book: Showtime

I graduated from high school more than 20 years ago. Still, as sports fans, we can all enrich our fanhoods with a good book about one of our favorite sports subjects. There are few topics in sports history more fascinating or important to the development of a major North American sports than the Showtime era Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s. Author Jeff Pearlman (once again) captivates the interest of sports fans with his tell-all book, "Showtime".
1
WHAT YOU ALREADY KNEW

Magic Johnson was the centerpiece of the Showtime era in Lakers basketball. From how the Lakers acquired the pick to draft him to how he was convinced to leave Michigan State University a year early to enter the NBA to the backdrop of Magic's rivalry with Larry Bird in college and the pros, Peralman explores all things Magic.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the greatest players in NBA history, a vocal minority would argue the greatest. Kareem was also private and somewhat aloof. Many reports, after his carer was over, from those who covered him describe him as not necessarily the most likable person (or coworker) in the sporting lexicon. Pearlman goes into extensive detail on the background and behind-the-scenes persona of the enigmatic yet transcendent talent.

Former Lakers Coach Pat Riley was the captain of the Showtime ship. The GQ posterboy guided the Showtime dynasty to four NBA titles ad launched what is certain to be a Hall of Fame coaching career. "Showtime" discusses Riley's metamorphosis throughout the 1980's from a former player turned-announcer turned-assistant turned-head coach. Riley's rise and fall with the Lakers organization is a classic story of man's determination and shortcomings.

Dr. Jerry Buss is the Father of the Los Angeles Lakers as we know them today. What became showtime was Buss' vision. Pearlman extensively reveals how Buss made his unlikely Showtime dream into a reality.

This should surprise no one. 2
WHAT YOU DIDN'T KNOW

What even the most ardent Showtime Lakers fans don't know about this team could fill a book. That is what Jeff Pearlman did. His text is filled to the brim with stories, scandals, anecdotes, and secrets that only an author like Pearlman can deliver to the masses. The Showtime Lakers were like rock stars. The phrase "sex, drugs, and rock & roll" is a cliche for a reason. "Showtime" reveals why the 1980's Lakers were no exceptions.

There is a new, original, and often unbelievable tale of frat house mischief in every chapter. Cocaine is a "helluva" drug and the Lakers were not immune to its wonders - good, bad, and otherwise. There is sex, nightlife, sex, glamour, sex, fame, sex, and in case I forgot to mention it, more sex. Sex always sells, but it is also critical to the complete story of the Showtime Lakers. That roughly a quarter-century has passed since the end of the Showtime dynasty did little to silence the first-hand witnesses to the excitement and debauchery that was the backdrop of the Lakers' story.

There's more where this came from. 3
NO STONE UNTURNED

This book isn't just about the stars and the sensational. In addition to Magic, Kareem, and Riley, Pearlman writes about Buss, Jerry West, James Worthy, Michael Cooper, Kurt Rambis, Bob McAdoo, Norm Nixon, trainers, P.R. people, draft busts, the former owner - Jack Kent Cooke, the X's and O's architect of Showtime (no, not Pat Riley) and many others with fascinating stories about all of them. Simply put: if you are familiar with Pearlman's work, you know what to expect and your expectations should be high. If you have never read any of his gems like the biography of the late Walter Payton and the story of the 1986 World Series champion New York Mets, you will not be disappointed with "Showtime".
  
4
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1) Image from www.jeffpearlman.com
2) Image from www.complex.com
3) Image from www.tauntr.com
4) Image from http://losangeles.cbslocal.com

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What a Roll!

The University of Alabama football team put itself back into the driver's seat for a spot in the 2014 College Football Playoff with a hard fought 25-20 home win against SEC West Division rival and former #1 ranked Mississippi State on Saturday. Fans are cheering in Tuscaloosa again. That's why the Alabama cheerleaders and dance team are the subject of today's Chick Pic.

Good. They aren't neglecting their studies. 1

Their so hot that their male counterparts want pictures. 2

3

The choreography could use some work. But I doubt you fellas care. 4

I don't think she is on either of the squads. In fact, I'm not sure that she's ever been inside of a classroom at Bama. But you're looking, aren't you? 5

Stretching is important to reduce injuries. 6
What a great bunch of team players! 7
1, 3) Images from www.saturdaydownsouth.com 
5) Image from www.ign.com
6) Image from www.sportsbank.net
7) Image from www.barstoolsports.com

Monday, November 17, 2014

Rose Colored Lenses

Former NBA MVP and Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose kicked the sports-talk ant hill last week when he commented that he was sitting out of games to avoid long term health problems. Rose, who has suffered two serious knee injuries, one in each knee, since the first game of the 2012 playoffs. Rose missed nearly all of the past two seasons due to the injuries.

Last week, Rose said regarding sitting out games, "I think a lot of people don't understand that when I sit out it's not because of this year. I'm thinking about long term. I'm thinking about after I'm done with basketball. ... I’m thinking about long term. I’m thinking about after I’m done with basketball. Having graduations to go to, having meetings to go to, I don’t want to be in my meetings all sore or be at my son’s graduation all sore just because of something I did in the past. [I'm] just learning and being smart."

I don't understand why he didn't finish the game. What a sissy! 1
WHAT WAS SAID AND WHAT WAS MEANT

Rose was immediately, vigorously, and almost unanimously criticized for his remarks by sports media and former NBA players, most notably outspoken Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. The narrative generally was along the following line: Rose is paid roughly $20 million per year to play a game. He sounds like an out-of-touch whiner when people with less desirable and more physically strenuous and/or dangerous, occupations that often offer more value to society's basic existence and progression as a whole earn far less, some living paycheck-to-paycheck. For those reasons, he should never publicly complain about his physical concerns for his body.

Athlete envy grates my nerves to no end. Everyone is dealt a different set of cards and everyone has to manage his or her own life based on the circumstances and opportunities in his or her life. For anyone raising his blood pressure beyond a normal level from annoyance by an off-putting comment, my (likely unpopular) response is: tough shit.

There are cops who go to work on crutches. He can't at least shoot some free throws. If that happened at MY job (insert stupid, self-righteous blathering from a fat slob with no ambition and half of Rose's work ethic)! 2
GET A LIFE; ROSE HAS ONE

The "controversy" brought on by the Rose comments has taken a life of its own. I could understand some rumblings by Chicago area fans whose patience as fans may be thinning from the former MVP's absence holding the Bulls back from possibly winning a championship. The nationwide "outrage" is ridiculous to me.

At worst, Rose is guilty of being a little tone deaf, especially after doubling down on his remarks later in the week. Rose is not a public relations or communications professional. He's a basketball player. He isn't paid to deliver well crafted, fan friendly statements on the fly when asked about his body and his career. The bottom line is that he suffered two significant, potentially debilitating injuries that robbed him of two years of his career and he is going to be careful. Whether he used terminology about being "sore" while envisioning and attempting to quickly articulate future situations in his life in which he could be in pain from aggravating his injuries or simply said, "I'm concerned about long-term consequences from short-term overexertion," is irrelevant.

Former pro athletes know that their bodies are their money makers and should consider backing off a bit. People in the media are fanning the flames to have a discussion topic and should demonstrate a greater depth of their ability to engage their audiences with their opining skills. Members of the public venting outrage through sports-talk radio and the Internet need to look at themselves in the mirror. If your job shoveling horse crap doesn't give you the options that Rose has from playing basketball, learn to play basketball and an elite, world class level or worry more about bettering your own lot in life You come across as pathetic.

video
I'm in complete agreement with Joakim Noah (comments in this clip). 3

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To advertise with The Daily Hat Trick, or to submit a guest column, please contact the editor at eric@thedailyhattrick.info


1) Image from www.tonyandtawni.com
2) Imahe from nydailynews.com
3) Video from www.youtube.com

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Return of the Sanchize

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Mark Sachez is enjoying a career rebirth in the NFL. Sanchez was unceremoniously run out of New York following an injury fiasco in the Jets' 2013 preseason finale. After missing the entire 2013 season and being sent on a 2014 free agency journey, The Sanchize appears to have found his landing spot in Philadelphia.

Two impressive performances by Sanchez, including a drubbing of the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football in relief of the injured Nick Foles has the Eagles in first place in the NFC East. It also has Sanchez at the top of sports media discussion topics again. The former first round draft pick is riding a wave of good fortune right now.

Sanchez is a bit of a lightning rod among sports fans, both for his inconsistent play and his GQ playboy persona. Sanchez has had his share of dime pieces of the years. I'm not sure if socialite Alana Kari is his current squeeze, but she is worthy of being today's Daily Hat Trick Chick Pic. Don't hate the player; hate the game!

Sanchez and Derek Jeter could have a pool going. 1
Ms. Kari keeps good company. 2
 
A lot of good company.... 3

What a team player!!! 4

Let's see...sexy skeletons for Halloween...all bones. Did Sanchez provide the muscle and meat? 5

A generous soul, sharing the spotlight. 6



Don't forget to vote in the fan polls!

To advertise with The Daily Hat Trick, or to submit a guest column, please contact the editor at eric@thedailyhattrick.info

1) Image from www.larrybrownsports.com
2) Image from www.twitter.com
3) Image from www.yeusaigon.net
4) Image from www.fashionplaceface.com
5, 6) Images from www.gamedayr.com
7) Image from www.bustedcoverage.com

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Retweet of the Day - November 12, 2014

NFL football has its own circle of life. The QB carousel has come full circle for a pair of northeastern teams in green. The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets have lacked a long-term starter at quarterback for quite some time. Fightin' for Philly (@FightinForPHI) points this out in today's Retweet of the Day.

"So Nick Foles replaced Mike Vick who replaced Geno Smith who replaced Mark Sanchez who replaced Nick Foles."

Trading Places 2014
Image from www.nytimes.com

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Louisiana Football Hangover

Louisiana football fans entered this past weekend with a lot to look forward to. Alabama was coming to Tiger Town to play in prime time with the LSU Tigers fresh off of an upset win over then-number 3 ranked Ole Miss. Alabama appeared ripe for an upset and LSU appeared set to revitalize their 2014 narrative in the national spotlight.

The New Orleans Saints, appearing to have turned a corner with two straight wins, including one on the road, were in first place in the NFC South and set to host struggling NFC rival San Francisco in the Superdome. The Saints last loss in the Dome under Head Coach Sean Payton was in 2010.

The Saints and Tigers played well enough to win. Both the Saints and Tigers would lose in overtime. I cannot recall the last time Louisiana has so much buildup for a weekend of football only to end in such profound disappointment.


GIVE IT AWAY, GIVE IT AWAY, NOW!!!

The LSU Tigers got off to an uncharacteristically bad start in Southeastern Conference play. They lost to the Mississippi State Bulldogs, in fairly convincing fashion, for the first time in this century. LSU was curb stomped by their Tiger counterparts at Auburn. Tiger fans braced themselves for an unpleasantly mediocre season.

Suddenly, the clouds parted and LSU's mojo fell out of the sky and onto them in Gainesville against the University of Florida. Three consecutive conference wins later, including the epic slugfest against Ole Miss and voila! Tiger fans are talking Playoff - as in the College Football Playoff - again.

LSU repeated the blueprint it rolled out against Ole Miss - relentless defense, powerful running, infrequent, high-percentage/low risk passing attempts. Alabama suffered a similar result - down three points in the final minute of the game. The difference? LSU, mentally, took its foot off of the gas.

The Crimson Tide, in spite of having no timeouts remaining when the drive began, took advantage of a kickoff out-of-bounds by LSU then worked the sidelines, repeatedly, to set up a short game-tying field goal to send the game into overtime. In overtime the Tide rammed the ball down LSU's throat to get into the end zone. LSU suddenly decided in was a passing team on the ensuing possession with the line. Four downs later, Coach Les Miles and his staff learned what the rest of the world knew - passing was a bad idea. Final score: Alabama 20 LSU 13.

LSU extends Southern Hospitality to Alabama's DeAndrew White in overtime. 3
A HAIL MARY SAID IN VAIN

Getting off to an abysmal 2-4 start, with three losses coming by a combined total of six points, the New Orleans Saints appeared to rediscover their brand - offense, offense, and more offense than an opponent can handle - by shellacking the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football in Week 8. After securing their first, elusive, road win against their division rival Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football, the Saints demonstrated twice before the nation that they were the Super Bowl contender everyone expected them to be at the start of the season.

In came the 4-4 San Francisco 49ers. Like the Saints, the 49ers were expected to contend for the Super Bowl. Like the Saints, the 49ers suffered some head-scratching early season losses. The difference? The Saints entered Sunday's game in sole possession of first place in the NFC South. The desperate 49ers were in a midseason "must win" situation. Both teams played like it.

The Saints effectively spotted the 49ers 14 points in the first quarter. While they would come back to take the lead in the 4th quarter, not even the raucous Superdome crowd and a 4th and 10 situation with the game on the line could stop Colin Kaepernick and the Niners from tying the game. The 49ers left 0:44 on the clock and the Saints had a timeout remaining. Often, this is too much time to leave for Drew Brees.

On the final play of regulation, Brees heaved a 47 yard bomb toward the endzone into the awaiting hands of Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham. The Saints appeared to score a game winning touchdown on the Hail Mary. Unfortunately, Graham put his hand on a defender's shoulder and Perrish Cox of the 49ers delivered the flop of the year to draw an offensive pass interference penalty against Graham to nullify the touchdown and send the game into overtime.

The Saints and Niners swapped possessions, then Brees was sacked by Ahmad Brooks (who ironically cost his team the game in the Superdome in 2013 with a personal foul on a sack of Brees). A fumble was forced and recovered by the 49ers deep in Saints territory. Forty-Niners kicker Phil Dawson connected on a 35-yard field goal to hand the Saints their first loss under Sean Payton in the Superdome in nearly four years.

If you believe Parrish Cox was "shoved" to the ground then I've got the Brooklyn Bridge for sale to you...cheap! Hey! If you ain't cheatin' you ain't tryin', right? 2

SILVER LINING

The LSU Tigers are out of the 2014 College Football Playoff picture. However, their rapid improvement during this season is a cause for hope for Tigers fan. Head Coach Les Miles has often been a victim of his own success. His recruiting classes are among the best, if not the best, in the country. Those talented players often leave for the NFL after three years, forcing Miles to chase his own tail to refill the cupboard. This LSU team is loaded with underclassmen who cannot leave for the NFL. At the rate at which this team is improving, Tiger fans can expect this team to be a serious contender in 2015.

The Saints have the brightest silver lining in their dark cloud of a week. Following the Carolina Panthers loss at Philadelphia on Monday Night Football, the Saints, in spite of a losing, 4-5, record, are in sole possession of first place in the NFC South. The Saints, throughout their 48 season history, have often been the victims of near misses costing them a shot at postseason play. This Saints team is far superior to those of the past. The football gods have apparently rewarded this team with chance after chance after chance to get on track. Strangely, I have confidence that they will in light of their higher quality play of late.

Ahmad Brooks thought he was unfairly called for hitting Brees in the neck in 2013 (clearly not).  He redeemed himself on Sunday. 1
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To advertise with The Daily Hat Trick, or to submit a guest column, please contact the editor at eric@thedailyhattrick.info

1) Image from www.larrybrownsports.com
2) Video from www.usatoday.com via www.vine.co
3) Image from www.timesunion.com

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Catching Up

After a month-long sabbatical, The Daily Hat Trick is back on the "interweb". Since the last posting in early October, much has changed. Here's the "long story short" on the pro sports world from the Hat Trick.

NFL

Rumors of Tom Brady's death are greatly exaggerated. After the Monday Night Football curb-stomping that Brady and the Pats took at Arrowhead Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs, the "real" Brady arrived. Rob Gronkowski has been "going Gronk" and Brady, apparently, has spent extra-extra time in the film room as he has been unstoppable in October. 

After winning the most recent Manning-Brady prizefight (number 16, I believe), it appears that Brady may have an opportunity to reach a sixth Super Bowl. The AFC is primed for another Broncos-Patriots rematch in late January. Stay tuned.

In the NFC, all we know is that w don't know anything. The Arizona Cardinals have the best record in the NFC, but with the aid of Liquid Nails and duct tape at the QB position and on defense. The Packers looked like the class of the conference before a thrashing on national television called that assertion into question. And the team that pushed that question to the forefront, the New Orleans Saints, went from disappointment to division leader (.500 record notwithstanding) in five days with consecutive prime time wins. The NFC East has become less predictable than a box of Mexican jumping beans.

Mark Ingram's surge in production has rapidly bolstered the Saints' prospects. 1
MLB

I'm not sure what is more astonishing: the Kansas City Royals not only reaching the World Series, but being one swing of the bat in the bottom of the 9th from winning Game 7 or San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner's superhuman performance, especially his five innings of relief in Game 7. Bumgarner, the World Series MVP, surrendered only one run in 21 innings of work.

    "Chevy Guy" still cracks me up...and stuff. 2
NBA

In the East, we can just skip ahead to a Bulls vs Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals. With The King back in Cleveland...and Kevin Love,,,and Kyrie Irving...and Ray Allen...it's like Back to The Future in C-town. The Cavs have a golden opportunity to return to the NBA Finals.

In the West, expect the same big boys from last year to duke it out: the Spurs, the Clippers, the Thunder. Expect the Lakers to have ping-pong balls in their future again, especially with the losses of Steve Nash and Julius Randle. 

Finally, being a Louisiana man, I have to toss in some Pelicans fodder. Anthony Davis is poised for a huge year. You can print it; he is my dark horse MVP candidate for 2015.

FEAR THE BROW! 3
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To advertise with The Daily Hat Trick, or to submit a guest column, please contact the editor at eric@thedailyhattrick.info

1) Image from www.si.com
2) Video from YouTube.
3) Image from www.chicagotribune.com

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Must See Sports - First Weekend of October 2014

Last week's advantage/disadvantage record, excluding series: 10-4
Last week's advantage/disadvantage record, in series: 4-0
2014 Advantage/Disadvantage Record, excluding series: 49-36
2014 Advantage/Disadvantage Record (series only): 8-1

Thursday, October 2

Major League Baseball

American League Division Series - Game 1
Kansas City Royals at Los Angeles Angels
Jason Vargas - Royals (11-10, 3.71 ERA) vs Jered Weaver - Angels (18-9, 3.59 ERA)

The Angels have the better pitcher on the mound, the better batting order, and are at home

Advantages: Game - Angels, Series - Angels


American League Division Series - Game 1
Detroit Tigers at Baltimore Orioles
Max Scherzer (18-5, 3.15 ERA, 252 Ks) - Tigers vs Chris Tillman (13-6, 3.34 ERA)

Baltimore is solid from top-to-bottom in the field, has a strong bullpen, and one of the best managers in the game in Buck Showalter. Detroit is ridiculously potent in its batting lineup, with a monstrous starting rotation for the playoffs. Its bullpen is a black hole. The Tigers will need eight or more solid innings from their starters to have a good chance to win games in this series. However, I expect reigning American League Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to deliver just that in Game 1.

Advantages: Game - Tigers, Series - Orioles

Buck Showalter wants more where this came from after leading the O's to their first division title in 17 years. 1
Friday, October 3

Major League Baseball

American League Division Series - Game 2
Detroit Tigers at Baltimore Orioles
Justin Verlander (15-12, 4.54 ERA) - Tigers vs Wei-Yin Chen (16-6, 3.54 ERA) - Orioles

Justin Verlander has been unpredictably feast-or-famine. In addition, I don't think the O's will be swept in its home stand of this series. Back to Motown, all knotted up!

Advantage: Orioles


American League Division Series - Game 2
Kansas City Royals at Los Angeles Angels
Yordano Ventura (14-10, 3.20 ERA) - Royals vs Matt Shoemaker (16-4, 3.04 ERA) - Angels

The pitching matchup gives the Royals their best chance to win a gae in this series. That doesn't mean I think it will happen.

Advantage: Angels


National League Division Series - Game 1
St. Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles Dodgers
Adam Wainwright (20-9, 2.38 ERA) - Cardinals vs Clayton Kershaw (21-3, 1.77 ERA, 239 Ks) - Dodgers

This game has the potential to be an instant classic. Both pitchers are All-Stars. Both batting lineups are loaded with studs. I'm not suggesting this game is a slam-dunk for the Dodgers against the defending National League champions, but there is no way I can pick against the soon-to-be back-to-back National League Cy Young award winner and probable 2014 N.L. MVP taking the hill for L.A..

Advantages: Game - Dodgers, Series - Dodgers 


National League Division Series - Game 1
San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals
Tim Hudson (9-13, 3.57 ERA) - Giants vs Stephen Strasburg (14-11, 3.14 ERA, 242 Ks) - Nationals

The Nationals finished with the best record in the league for a reason. The pitching matchup is one-sided, the Nats have better position players, and they are at home.

Advantages: Game - Nationals, Series - Nationals

Winning the N.L. West has not been a problem for Adrian Gonzalez and the Dodgers. Winning the pennant hasn't happened for them since 1988.
Saturday, October 4

Major League Baseball

National League Division Series - Game 2
San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals
Ryan Vogelsong (8-14, 4.00 ERA) - Giants vs Jordan Zimmerman (14-5, 2.66 ERA) - Nationals

Once again, the pitching matchup is one sided. Vogelsong has got to give the Giants at least six innings in this game just to not risk jeopardizing the bullpen for the game(s) back in San Francsico. That may or may not happen. Fresh off of throwing a no-hitter last Sunday, I doubt Jordan Zimmerman will have any shortage of confidence.

Advantage: Nationals


National League Division Series - Game 2
St. Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles Dodgers
Lance Lynn (15-10, 2.74 ERA) - Cardinals vs Zack Greinke (17-8, 2.71 ERA, 207 Ks) - Dodgers

This could be another great game. However, while I understand that Lance Lynn had a breakthrough season in 2014, I simply do not have confidence in him as a postseason starter. Add in the fact that he is pitching on the road in a matchup against the former Cy Young winner in Zack Grenke and I can't wrap my mind around a victory in this game for the Redbirds.

Advantage: Dodgers


NCAA Football

#6 Texas A&M Aggies at #12 Mississippi State Bulldogs

Which Texas A&M will show up? On paper, they are better than Mississippi State and the Bulldogs are due for a letdown following the stunning upset at LSU. Still, the Aggies' defense has had some head-scratching moments. I am not convinced that this team has sealed up all of the painfully obvious leaks from last season, though they appear improved.

The Kenny Hill (A&M, 1,745 yds., 17 TD, 2 INT) vs Dak Prescott (MSU, 964 yds., 11 TD, 2 INT, 378 rush yds.) QB matchup should be compelling.

Advantage: Texas A&M


#3 Alabama Crimson Tide at #11 Ole Miss Rebels

Ole Miss is flying high, hosting its most meaningful SEC West contest in years. Expect them to come back down to Earth after Saturday. The Rebels are not strong enough on the ground to control the tempo of the game enough to beat Alabama.

Advantage: Alabama


#14 Stanford Cardinal at #9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The Cardinal has a defense that is to be reckoned with. However, I don't think they have enough to contain a rejuvenated Notre Dame offense with quarterback Everett Golson (1,142 yds., 11 TD, 2 INT) back for 2014, especially at Notre Dame, Indiana.

Advantage: Notre Dame


#15 LSU Tigers at #5 Auburn Tigers

I have almost no confidence in my LSU Tigers' ability to go on the road to Jordan-Hare Stadium and rub out the defending SEC champions. Freshman LSU QB Brandon Harris (394 yds., 6 TD, 1 INT, 73% comp.) has offered glimmers of hope for the Tigers, but I am not hanging my hat on that hope.

Advantage: Auburn

Alabama coach Nick Saban is on a mission to turn Ole Miss cheers into tears. 3
Sunday, October 5

NFL

Arizona Cardinals (3-0) at Denver Broncos (2-1)

The Cardinals are the last of the unbeaten teams in the NFC. I expect that to end. Their defense has been stout and Drew Stanton has filled in very well for the injured Carson Palmer. However, Peyton Manning is playing at home and coming off of a loss.

Advantage: Broncos


Cincinnati Bengals (3-0) at New England Patriots (2-2)

The Bengals are the last of the unbeaten teams in the AFC. I expect that to continue. The Patriots are in a lot of trouble and the Bengals, frankly, look like the 2014 version of last year's Seattle Seahawks so far. The game is at Foxboro, though.

Advantage: Bengals

Major League Baseball

American League Division Series - Game 3
Los Angeles Angels at Kansas City Royals
C.J. Wilson (13-10, 4.51 ERA) - Angels vs James Shields (14-8, 3.21 ERA) - Royals

"Big Game" James gives the Royals their best chance to take a game in this series. The Royals fans will get one more chance to show their appreciation for a great season. Break out the brooms.

Advantage: Angels


American League Division Series - Game 3
Baltimore Orioles at Detroit Tigers
Bud Norris (15-8, 3.65 ERA) - Orioles vs David Price (15-12, 3.26 ERA, 271 Ks) - Tigers

This is a complete mismatch on the mound. As long as the former Cy Young winner, David Price, doesn't get into a lot of long innings or any wide early deficits, I don't think the Orioles have a shot in the Tigers' home playoff opener.

Advantage: Tigers


Expect the Bengals to sock it to the Pats on Sunday night. 4
Monday, October 6

Major League Baseball

American League Division Series - Game 4 (if necessary)
Baltimore Orioles at Detroit Tigers

While the starters are not yet known for Game 4, as we don't even know if there will be a Game 4, this is the point in the series in which I think the Grand Canyon sized hole in the Tigers' pitching staff - their bullpen - begins to catch up to them regardless of who starts on the mound. Even if the great Max Scherzer starts (and Brad Ausmus is likely to save him for a Game 5), I have doubts as to whether or not he can deliver enough innings in Game 1 and in Game 4 and help deliver Tigers wins in both games.

Advantage: Orioles


American League Division Series - Game 4 (if necessary)
Los Angeles Angels at Kansas City Royals

I don't expect a Game 4 to be necessary, but if it is, I like the Angels.

Advantage: Angels


National League Division Series - Game 3
Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals
Unknown - Dodgers vs John Lackey (14-10, 3.82 ERA) - Cardinals

The Dodgers are either going to give the ball to Dan Haren (13-11, 4.02 ERA) or Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-7, 3.38 ERA) if Ryu's shoulder is healthy enough for him to start. Regardless of who in Dodger Blue takes the mound, I expect Lackey and the Cardinals to demonstrate the value of playoff experience and home field advantage.

Advantage: Cardinals


National League Division Series - Game 3
Washington Nationals at San Francisco Giants
Gio Gonzales (10-10, 3.57 ERA) - Nationals vs Madison Bumgarner (18-10, 2.98 ERA, 219 Ks) - Giants

The pitching advantage and home field advantage swings to the Giants for Game 3.

Advantage: Giants


Tuesday, October 7

Major League Baseball

National League Division Series - Game 4 (if necessary)
Washington Nationals at San Francisco Giants

The idea that Nationals Manager Matt Williams would start Stephen Strasburg on the road on three days of rest is far fetched. I expect Doug Fister (16-6, 2.41 ERA) to get the ball for the Nats, most likely against the hot handed Jake Peavy (7-13, 3.73 ERA). Fister has been consistently tough all season, but I think the home field advantage and the possible availability of starter Tim Lincecum as a reliever (and a backup plan) tips the odds in a Game 4 ever so slightly to the Giants.

Advantage: Giants 


National League Division Series - Game 4 (if necessary)
Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals may be tempted to pitch Adam Wainwright on three days of rest if the Cards are facing elimination. However, I would not expect the Dodgers to respond in kind with their ace. The more likely matchup would be Dan Haren for the Dodgers and Shelby Miller (10-9, 3.74 ERA). Playing at Busch Stadium with the bullpen that the Cardinals have, I think Miler has a better than 50/50 chance to help get his team to a Game 5.

Advantage: Cardinals


Wednesday, October 8

Major League Baseball

American League Division Series - Game 5 (if necessary)
Detroit Tigers at Baltimore Orioles

This will most likely be a rematch of Scherzer and Tillman. Playing in Baltimore in a deciding Game 5, I think that the Tigers would need eight or more innings to win this match, much like I think they would need in Game 1. I don't know if Scherzer will deliver that twice on the road in one series. My gut tells me that if this game goes to the Tigers' pen, the O's put it away. I think a narrow, but decisive edge goes to Baltimore in a Game 5.

Advantage: Orioles

American League Division Series - Game 5 (if necessary)
Kansas City Royals at Los Angeles Angels

Royals manager Ned Yost deserves a solid gold medal if he gets his team to a fifth game in the ALDS.

Advantage: Angels


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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Circle of Football Life

When: Sunday, September 23, 2001
Where: Foxboro, Massachusetts
The Game: New York Jets at New England Patriots

The Situation: Jets linebacker Mo Lewis levels Drew Bledsoe as Bledsoe was running out of bounds. Bledsoe was briefly knocked unconscious, suffered internal bleeding and a collapsed lung. Bledsoe returned a series later, then left the game for good. Unknown, second-year backup Tom Brady replaced Bledsoe, ineffectively, throwing for less than 5 yards per attempt and no touchdowns. The Patriots would lose, 10-3, falling to the dreaded 0-2 record.

The Result: As the expression goes, "The rest is history." Brady remained the starting QB for the remainder of the season on the way to a victory in Super Bowl XXXVI and the beginning of a Hall of Fame career. Bledsoe, who had just quarterbacked the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXI five years earlier, would only appear as a backup for the remainder of the season.

Bledsoe, who had just signed a record 10-year $103 million contract in early 2001, was traded to the division rival Buffalo Bills during the 2002 offseason. Bledsoe had some good years with the Bills and a solid debut season with the Dallas Cowboys in 2005, but he would never throw another postseason pass. Brady went on to play in four more Super Bowls, winning two. Ironically, Bledsoe was benched in Dallas and replaced by Tony Romo, who also would go on to have a long career as the Cowboys starter.

The moment the NFL changed.

When: Monday, September 29, 2014
WhereKansas City, Missouri
The GameNew England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs

The Situation: During a pummeling on the road at Arrowhead Stadium, Tom Brady caps an abysmal evening by throwing a pick-six to Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah in the fourth quarter of a nationally televised embarrassment that was decided at halftime. Trailing 41-7, Brady is benched and replaced by rookie second round draft pick Jimmy Groppolo out of Eastern Illinois. Garoppolo is effective in relief, completing 86% of his passes, including one touchdown in at 41-14 debacle.

The Result: Brady is not getting benched for this week's Sunday Night Football game against the favored Cincinnati Bengals. But the clock is ticking on Brady's time as the Patriots' starter. Another repeat of Monday night - a poor enough performance by Brady to merit him being benched and another good relief appearance by Garoppolo - could signal the beginning of the end of Brady in New England.

Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick already demonstrated, when launching Brady's career, that he has limited loyalty to quarterbacks based on past success. The Patriots have demonstrated the willingness to eat a large signing bonus in exchange for a younger, less expensive, high-potential quarterback when Brady's career was launched 13 years ago. Jimmy Garoppolo was not drafted in the second round to sit on the bench forever; he was drafted to possibly eventually replace Tom Brady one day.

"One day" could come much sooner than expected for the 37-year-old Brady, who is next-to-last among current NFL starting quarterbacks in yards per game (Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders). When times are tough, the backup quarterback is often the most popular player on the team. Certainly, the notion that an established starter and elite quarterbacking talent who was part of multiple Patriots Super Bowl teams would be forsaken by his long-time Head Coach is ludicrous, right? Ask Drew Bledsoe.

History inevitably repeats itself in football.

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Videos from YouTube.

Friday, September 26, 2014

All Washed Up

Derek Jeter's penultimate home game has come and gone. He is still retiring. The Yankees are still not going to the playoffs. The Baltimore Orioles are still the 2014 A.L. East champs.

The biggest non-story of the night was the biggest story of the days leading up to last night's game: the weather. A 50/50 chance of rain was forecast for Thursday evening, threatening to rain on the Jeter Parade and disappoint thousands of fans who paid a steep premium on the secondary market to be in the audience for this last goodbye.

WATERED DOWN FINALE

The waterworks help up in the sky. They also held up in The Captain's eyes at the start the the came. As the Bronx crowd chanted "GREAT-EST EV-ER!" after the opening pitch, the jumping of Jeter's nerves were visible in the expression on his face. After launching an RBI double in his first at bat followed by stealing third base and eventually scoring, to the delight of the crowd (chanting "DE-REK JE-TER! - clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!), he appeared more settled down.

During Jeter's career, the Yankees missed the playoffs three times: in 2008, 2013, and this season. Jeter was injured for all but 17 games last season and the Yankees were eliminated from postseason contention during a season-closing road trip at the end of the 2008 season. The Yankees were mathematically eliminated from the 2014 playoffs after Wednesday afternoon's loss against the Orioles. This means that Jeter's career home finale was the first and only home game in his career - spanning 20 MLB seasons - that was completely meaningless for any Yankees' postseason implications.

HOLLYWOOD ENDING

With all of the build up over the evening and the weather and the absence of the Yankees from the postseason, etc., one may expect that Jeter may show up and go an unremarkable 1-for-something and perhaps trot off of the field in the top of the 9th inning to 50,000 fans standing and cheering. If you haven't seen any highlight shows, Jeter served up one more highlight reel for the fans.

The Yankees led by three going into the top of the 9th only to watch the lead evaporate on a two-run home run by Adam Jones followed by an improbable two-out, game-tying solo home run by Chris Pearce. Keep in mind that, at this point, Yankees starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda had retired 16 consecutive Orioles batters. Joe Girardi inexplicably elected to summon closer David Robertson, who gave up the aforementioned booty, instead of rolling with the red hot Kuroda. The notion that Jeter would get an at-bat in the 9th was improbable.

The rest is history. Following a lead-off single and a sacrifice bunt to move the runner to second, Jeter came up to bat. The first pitch was served right down Broadway and Jeter delivered a game-winning RBI single to right field. Storybook moment: delivered. Game over....

While the Mr. November and the New York Yankees will not be a part of October baseball, last night's Yankee Stadium sendoff was noteworthy event. Yours truly is no Yankee fan, but I have a profound appreciation for milestone moments in sports. In addition, Derek Jeter is one of the all-time greats in American sports and a class act. In spite of the anti-climactic end to the Yankees' season, Last night's final Bronx farewell was a fitting finish for The Captain.    


Image from www.bostonglobe.com

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Retweet of the Day - September 25, 2014

Derek Jeter is playing in his final home game at Yankee Stadium tonight. Some have speculated that it may be the final game of his career and that he may not play in the three game road series at the Boston Red Sox. So tonight's contest against the 2014 American League East Division champion Baltimore Orioles could be all she wrote for The Captain.

You don't need me to tell you that this is Jeter's swan song. Today's retweet, from Blake Holtzhower (@BlakeHoltzhower)   reflects how omnipresent the Jeter Farewell Tour has been in recent days:

"Drinking game: Take a shot every time ESPN reminds you Derek Jeter is retiring."

video
It's a man-tearjerker.

Gatorade ad posted on YouTube.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Chicken Little Tigers

And the annual ritual is underway, again. It's happening earlier than normal this year, but it is happening right on schedule.

The LSU Tigers under Les Miles have suffered their first loss of the season. Like most years, that first loss has come to an underdog opponent; they are usually favored most weeks. Unlike most years, the Tigers dropped one at home to a visiting underdog opponent. And unlike any year in this century, they were slapped around the building by visiting underdog opponent Mississippi.


THE SKY IS FALLING

And here we go. The Golden Age of LSU Football is coming to and end! LSU is going to go winless in SEC play! Everyone knew this would happen when Nick Saban left (almost 10 years ago)! It's time to finally FIRE LES MILES TONIGHT!!!

"What? You think I haven't heard it all before?" 1
WHAT HAPPENED

Slow down, Chicken Little Tiger fans! The sky is not falling. What happened is that LSU lost by six points to Mississippi State University, 35-29, for the first time since 1999 and for the first time at home since 1991.

What happened is that LSU's game plan ignored the strength of MSU's defensive front seven while ignoring the Bulldogs' relative weakness in the secondary and failing to adjust. What happened was that the Tigers were completely unprepared for the dynamic playmaking potential of MSU quarterback Dak Prescott. What happened is that LSU Head Coach Les Miles earned an "F-" for preparing his team to play its SEC opener last Saturday.

Nobody saw MSU QB Dak Prescott, right, coming. 2
WHAT DIDN'T HAPPEN

Les Miles did not forget how to coach football; his local critics likely think he never could in the first place, but I'll let his win-loss record over nine years speak for itself. LSU was not overrated at #8, going into last Saturday's game; the team was just three weeks removed from erasing a 17 point deficit at a neutral site to beat a ranked Wisconsin team. And while LSU had some of its shortcomings exposed, it didn't lose to a hapless SEC opponent.


WHY DID IT HAPPEN

Last Saturday had factors that combined for the perfect storm for LSU to suffer a loss to an underdog opponent. LSU is a team that is not set up to beat its opponents with passing. Starting sophomore QB Anthony Jennings of LSU is not a good passer. He, generally, appears comfortable managing the LSU offense and handing the essential duties of a quarterback in that offense.

LSU has an embarrassment of riches in its backfield. Between the (unreasonable) Heisman expectations of freshman RB Leonard Fournette to the power and experience of senior Kenny Hilliard to Terrence McGee and the rest of the Clydesdale horses lined up behind Jennings, this offense is capable of overwhelming opponents with sheer brute force.

LSU has a young but incredibly athletic and opportunistic defense. Its front seven can smother an opponent's running backs. The defensive backs are as quick and opportunistic as any in the SEC. So why did LSU lose?

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Regional and national pundits often commented on the rapid development of the MSU program under Coach Dan Mullen. Dak Prescott was (unrealistically) whispered as a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate and (reasonably) expected to have a breakout season. The Bulldogs' front seven was regarded by many SEC media pundits as possibly the best in the SEC. This is not "your daddy's" Mississippi State team.

Les Miles game planned as though none of those Bulldogs improvements took place between last season and this season. Miles stubbornly tried to run the ball down the Bulldogs' throat and when that was not effective, they ran the ball some more. Instead of taking advantage of what appeared to be a porous MSU secondary, Miles and Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron insisted that LSU's strength could better MSU's strength. In addition, while I'm not sure if Dak Prescott expected Dak Prescott to have the spectacular breakout performance he had, the Tigers appeared to be completely flat footed and unable to adjust to him until LSU was in a 24-point hole late in the game.

Mississippi State students (especially Prescott, in the middle of the swarm of cheerleaders) make a rare trip back from Baton Rouge with a reason to smile. 3
SILVER LINING

Chin up, Tigers fans. In spite of what can only be described as an uninspired embarrassment and butt-whooping at the hands of MSU, the fact is that LSU has the ball in Bulldogs' territory on the final play of the game with a change, albeit a slim one, to win the game. Freshman backup quarterback Brandon Harris came off of the bench and, with his rocket arm, almost led the Tigers to three rapid-fire touchdowns in the final minutes of the game. It would have been one of the most miraculous comebacks in the history of college football. What was evident was Harris' enormous potential.

If "if" were a fifth we could stay drunk all day. LSU did not win. It was completely out-coached, out-manned, and out-physicaled by a Mississippi State team that came to Baton Rouge focused with a plan an three and two-thirds quarters of pristine execution of that plan. The better team won on Saturday. However, Mississippi State looked its absolute best and LSU looked its absolute worst. A savage beating at the hands of a conference rival can force a team to look hard at itself, humble itself, and make tough adjustments. Based on the prior nine years under Les Miles, there is no reason to expect those corrections not to happen.

Brandon Harris, right, provided LSU a spark with the speed of a bolt of lightning in the 4th quarter. 4
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Monday, September 22, 2014

NFL Quarterback Rankings 2014

It is that time of year again. Football is here! Last year, just before the beginning of the preseason, the Hat Trick ranked the starting quarterbacks from all 32 NFL teams.

This year, it comes a little later. Several teams did not decide their starting quarterbacks until after the conclusion of the preseason. There are 10 starting NFL quarterback who were not starters heading into training camp in 2013 Today, the Hat Trick will toss in its two cents for the 2014 season. Better late than never...!

Are you ready for some football?
Top Tier

1) Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos - Last year's preseason rank: 2 (difference = +1)

Welcome back to the top of the mountain, Peyton Manning. Manning demolished records as he led the Broncos roughshod over the AFC on the way to Super Bowl XLVIII. This year, the Broncos are expected by many, myself included, to repeat as AFC Champions. John Fox is a good coach, but the expectations are a Mile High because of the future Hall of Famer.


2) Tom Brady, New England Patriots - Last year's preseason rank: 3 (difference = +1)

I wrestled over whether or not to put Brady in the top spot. He did more with less last year than any quarterback in recent memory. However, Manning's (far from eroded) physical skills, the results of their AFC Championship Game meeting, and expectations for 2014 for both Manning and his team (compared to Brady and the Patriots) give Manning just a tick over Tom Terrific. My fanhood may tip the scales ever so slightly, too!


3) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers - Last year's preseason rank: 1 (difference = -2)

If I were starting a franchise today, I would draft Aaron Rodgers first. His dip from #1 to #3 is more of a reflection on the superhuman performances of his two outranking elders last year than any fault of A-Rodg. The absence of recent playoff progress is not boosting his ranking, either. Still, this guy has everything: feet and footwork, arm strength, quick decision making ability, and the "it factor".


4) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints - Last year's preseason rank: 4 (difference = 0)

Several years ago, a Falcons fan said (in a chain email including me and a number of Louisianians) that he thought Drew Brees was the most accurate passer in NFL history. At the time, I thought he was in Rome and doing as the Romans. Now, I think he was swallowing his Dirty Bird pride and admitting what he was observing. If you cut me, I bleed Black & Gold, but I can also take off my black and gold colored shades. Brees would be well atop Mount Hat Trick were it not for his tendency to commit the few turnovers he commits at the most painful and costly times for the Saints.


5) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts - Last year's preseason rank: 14 (difference = +9)

This guy is a superstar. Leading his team back from the second-largest deficit in NFL history in the first round of last year's playoffs against the Kansas City Chiefs illustrated a microcosm of his potential. Luck, like Tom Brady, also did a lot with a little, especially after his primary receiver, Reggie Wayne, went down with a knee injury at mid-season. The offensive line was average. His receiving corps was average. The defense in place to take pressure off of Luck and the offense was mediocre at best and the special teams (sans Adam Vinatieri) often looked confused. It won't get much better this year, but Luck will always give the Colts a chance to win.

Manning has the best chance of any of the elite quarterbacks to return to the Super Bowl. 1 
Tier 2

6) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers - Last year's preseason rank: 6 (difference = 0)

Big Ben can makes plays and keep the Steelers in any game at any time. Judging by the roster, he will need to do just that. The defense is long-in-the-tooth and the offensive teammates surrounding Roethlisberger are average. Expect a win-loss records not consistent with his QB ranking of #6. Expect Roethlisberger to pump the Steelers into the .500 neighborhood in spite of lacking .500 talent.


7) Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons - Last year's preseason rank: 7 (difference = 0)

Last season was an aberration for the Falcons and hence Ryan's performance. With healthy receivers and the first unit defense back in place, expect the Falcons to remain competitive through the end of the season. Matty Ice can flat out ball when he is in a rhythm and help his team outscore any opponent. They'll need it. The Falcons' defense is as intimidating as vanilla ice cream.


8) Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers - Last year's preseason rank: 9 (difference = +1)

It is simple. When Rivers is not making mistakes the Chargers' air attack is very hard to stop. He has already sucker punched the Legion of Boom from Seattle. Rivers has proven he can solve Denver's defense. Rivers is a QB who can lift up the players around him and for that reason, his team can never be overlooked in any week.


9) Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks - Last year's preseason rank: 16 (difference = +7)

Winning a Super Bowl has that effect on a QB's Hat Trick ranking. To borrow a line from the 1988 classic, "Coming To America", THE BOY GOOD! Wilson is one of the smartest quarterbacks in the league. What he lacks in stature and arm strength, he compensates for with the old gray matter and his ability to extend plays with his feet.

I think of Russell Wilson as Tom Brady with quick feet. Wilson is the prototype of a new wave of quarterbacks that will dominate the league in the coming decades. Super Bowl XLVIII was just the beginning.


10) Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys - Last year's preseason rank: 10 (difference = 0)

The Cowbys are going to suck this year. They will suck less because of Romo. Romo is not in the elite tier of QB's but he is a playmaker who keeps drives alive and games alive in spite of the people around him and in spite of the playcalling.

The magnified late turnover keeps Romo down. But I think that the eye of the average fan often misses the fact that said turnover would not be in a position to be costly were it not for Romo keeping his team alive longer than is often deserves to be.


11) Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears - Last year's preseason rank: 11 (difference = 0 )

Yeah, yeah...he is kind of a jerk. It's getting old. Cutler is a physical specimen with a rocket for an arm and good intestinal fortitude. He makes plays that lesser quarterback cannot. I've observed Cutler's maturity since joining the Bears and he appears, to my untrained eye, to have evolved, over the past two seasons, into the kind of teammate a teammate would want to have.

Don't hate the player; hate the game.


12) Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers - Last year's preseason rank: 17 (difference = +5)

♪ "He's the man; he's the man; he's the ma-an!" ♫

Any doubts I had about Kaepernick going into a sophomore slump were erased last season. Kap is on his way to becoming an elite NFL QB in the coming years. At the moment, I think of him as a poor man's Russell Wilson. Slightly more physically gifted...prone to occasional games in which one wonders where his head is. Still, the 49ers will be a Super Bowl contender every year a healthy Kaepernick is under center.

Steelers fans are going to witness the value of Ben Roethlisberger during a season they may likely want to forget. 2 
Tier 3

13) Eli Manning, New York Giants - Last year's preseason rank: 5 (difference = -8)

Eli Manning was able to help his team win because he could compensate for his physical deficiencies with the players around him. The pieces around him are not the same as when the Giants were winning Super Bowls and it shows. It has significantly affected his decision making. Eli and the G-men may be in for some lean years until the roster is rebuilt and gains experience.

14) Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers - Last year's preseason rank: 18 (difference = +4)

Newton is on the cusp of breaking into the ranks of the "top two" tier quarterbacks. Newton can not only make plays with his legs, but run opponents over in the process. At the same time, he has demonstrated the ability to stretch the field. Seasoning and experience could give him a chance to evolve into a very special player.


15) Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens - Last year's preseason rank: 8  (difference = -7)

Considering that the Super Bowl XLVII champions were completely dismantled on the defensive side of the ball prior to the 2013 season, I thought Flacco held it together. Still, Flacco was exposed as more of an advanced game manager than a play maker.

Putting the right players around Flacco will give him an opportunity to win games every week, including the big game - the Super Bowl. But at this point in his career, it is clear to this blogger that he cannot put a team on his back and carry it deep into the postseason like a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning type.


16) Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals - Last year's preseason rank: 12 (difference = -4)

With the talent around him, all Dalton has to do is not put his team in harm's way during the postseason to contend for a Super Bowl. Dalton has flashes of excellence. But his team does not need him to be excellent, just competent. The sooner he realizes this, the sooner he can grow into a QB approaching excellence.


17) Matt Stafford, Detroit Lions - Last year's preseason rank: 13 (difference = -4)

Stafford is a tough QB to read. Without a doubt he has the physical tools - size, arm strength, toughness. Six years into his NFL career, I am still undecided as to whether or not Stafford has "it" and can rise to the level of one of the star signal callers in the NFL. For another year, I have to reserve judgment.


18) Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals - Last year's preseason rank: 26 (difference = +8)

Arizona was the perfect fit for Palmer and as a result, he has shown that he can give a good NFL team a chance to contend for the playoffs.

19) Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs - Last year's preseason rank: 19 (difference = 0)

Alex Smith will not lose games for his team. If everyone else (including the Head Coach) does what they are supposed to do, he can help make sure his team wins the games. Guys like Smith don't make it into the Hall of Fame, but they play for a long time and, every now and then, they get their squads to the Super Bowl.

20) Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles - Last year's preseason rank: none


Foles came on strong for the Eagles last season and played a big part in getting them to the playoffs. Still, the information on Foles' ability to perform is limited. I need to see a solid sophomore season before moving him up the Hat Trick ranks.

Gravity is real. 3
Tier 4


21) Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins - Last year's preseason rank: 24 (difference =+3)

I was on the fence regarding whether or not to place Tannehill into Tier 3 or Tier 4. Tannehill can make that choice easy for me in 2015 - one way or another.


22) Robert Griffin, III, Washington Redskins - Last year's preseason rank: 15 (difference = -7 )

I have crystal stemware that doesn't break as easily.


23) Geno Smith, New York Jets - Last year's preseason rank: none

This guy could have a long, above-average career or be a fly-by-night QB on the bench by the time his rookie contract expires. Either way, a Rex Ryan team is not the place to maximize his potential. Regardless, young Smith has to play the cards he was dealt. Having veteran Mike Vick as his backup and possible mentor could aid in his development. But in his second season, there are more "unknowns" than "knowns" surrounding Smith.


24) Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns - Last year's preseason rank: none

Someone told Brian Hoyer he could be a legitimate starting NFL quarterback. Someone told him he could outperform first round draft pick and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and keep him on the bench during his rookie year. Apparently, Hoyer believed it.

Because the Browns lack the offensive skill position players Hoyer needs around him to make the Browns into a serious playoff contender, I think that it is only a matter of time before Hoyer yields the starting job to Johnny Football. Still, Hoyer has shown that he can add value to an NFL roster and has greatly helped increase his expected career longevity.


25) Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans - Last year's preseason rank: 27 (difference = +2)

He'll win some games by default but he'll be on someone's bench next season.

Perhaps Tannehill would be more motivated if he didn't already have the hot wife. 4
Tier 5


26) Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston Texans - Last year's preseason rank: none

He clearly went to Harvard. He has outsmarted the entire Texans' coaching staff into letting him start.

27) Matt Cassel, Minnesota Vikings Last year's preseason rank: none

T-minus x-number of weeks before the Teddy Bridgewater era begins in Minnesota. In fact, it may have already started. Cassel's 15-minutes will be up and long overdue after the 2014 season.

28) Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders - Last year's preseason rank: none

Carr might not be a bust like his brother (first pick in the 2002 NFL Draft) David. But, like David, he is on the worst possible team to cut his NFL teeth.

29) E.J. Manuel, Buffalo Bills - Last year's preseason rank: none

In my opinion, Manuel should have been more of a developmental project than a high first round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. He may be on his way out of Buffalo after just his second season. That is what happens to teams that overreach at the most important position n the field.


Just because he went to "Haaaaaaah-vard" doesn't mean he can think the Texans to victory. 5



Toilet Tier


30) Josh McCown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Last year's preseason rank: none

It's nice that McCown parlayed his fill-in duties with the Bears into a starting job. Now you see why he is a career backup.

31) Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars - Last year's preseason rank: none

I cannot think of a worse place for an NFL rookie QB to try to have an impact. Still, he's a better option than (former Jags starter) Chad Henne.

32) Austin Davis, St. Louis Rams - Last year's preseason rank: none

Who the hell is this guy?


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