NFL Preview Green Bay Packers VS Denver Broncos

In the first NFL preview I was way off. The Falcons demolished the Texans 48-21. This time I hope to do a lot better. I will once again team up with MooreSportsHead to cover the game between the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos. Both teams enter the game 6-0 and 1st in their respective divisions. I’ll be giving the preview from Denver’s side and you can check out the coverage of Green Bay here.

Denver is undefeated but their route – they only have one victory by more than 7 points – hasn’t been pretty.  To say they’ve struggled on offense is an understatement. In the season opener versus the Baltimore Ravens, Denver’s offense only managed 219 total yards in the 19-13 win. Peyton Manning was nothing like himself while passing for only 175 yards and being sacked 4 times. The run game was nonexistent and everybody on the offensive side looked rusty in new head coach Gary Kubiak’s system. Luckily for the Broncos, the Ravens weren’t much better. They were held to 173 total yards and only converted 2 third down opportunities. Denver’s only touchdown was scored via an Aqib Talib pick 6. The other 13 points were courtesy of kicker Brandon McManus.

In game 2, Denver traveled to Kansas City to play the Chiefs. They fell behind early after a Jamaal Charles TD and pick 6 by Marcus Peters. Denver’s defense was able to find their footing and started causing problems for KC’s offense. They were able to force 5 turnovers, get 5 sacks, 8 QB hits, and scored the most important TD of the night. Peyton Manning didn’t have a great night completion wise but he was able to connect when needed. Manning threw 3 TDs – 2 of them to Emmanuel Sanders – after the early pick 6. Late in the 4th quarter Manning was able to connect with Demaryius Thomas on crucial pass plays to set up a game tying TD to Sanders. Both WRs finished with 8 catches (Thomas with 116 yards and Sanders with 87 yards). Bradley Roby scored the game winning TD on the following possession. Roby scooped up a Jamaal Charles fumble and returned it 21 yards for the 31-24 win.

Next the Broncos traveled to Detroit to play the Lions. Manning had his best passing game of the early season. He went 31/42 for 324 yards and 2 TDs. He was only sacked once and threw 1 interception. The run game was a none factor once again. Denver entered the 4th quarter only up 14-12. Thanks to a field goal by McManus and a Manning TD pass to Owen Daniels they were able to pull away for a 24-12 victory. Demaryius Thomas had another solid game with 9 catches, 92 yards and 1 TD. The defense forced 3 more turnovers and sacked Matt Stafford 4 times.

In Game 4 the Vikings visited Denver and put up a good challenge. In the end, Denver was able to win thanks to a 39-yard FG by McManus. Peyton had a bad day; he threw 1 TD and 2 interceptions for only 213 yards. Denver’s defense was able to save the day racking up 7 sacks and 1 turnover. The run game finally got on track with Ronnie Hillman gaining 103 yards and 1 TD. Neither team was efficient on 3rd downs with Minnesota going 6-16 and Denver going 2-9. Despite a 48-yard TD, the Broncos were able to hold Adrian Peterson to 81 yards on 16 carries.

Up next for the Broncos was a trip to Oakland. And once again the offense missed the plane. Really both offenses had a subpar afternoon. Neither team cracked 300 total yards of offense and both had multiple turnovers (2 for Denver, 3 for Oakland). Denver’s lone TD was via a 74-yard pick 6 by Chris Harris Jr. This gave Denver a 16-7 lead in the 4th quarter. Sebastian Janikowski was able to make it 16-10 with 50 -yard field goal but the Raiders failed to recover the onside kick that followed. McManus accounted for Denver’s offensive points due to the offense having a 2-13 day on 3rd downs. They were only able to gain 45 yards on the ground. Meanwhile the defense racked up another 4 QB sacks, the TD and turnovers mentioned earlier while holding the Raiders to 65 rushing yards.

Denver’s game to reach 6-0 followed the same script as the 5 before it. TD by the defense, yep. Field goals by McManus (game winner in OT), yep. Turnovers by Peyton Manning (3 to be exact), yep. This game was strange because Denver was able to move the ball to the tune of 442 total yards of offense. The problem was failure to have success on 3rd downs, the 3 INTs – one was returned for a TD – and the inability to score in the Red Zone (0-3). Manning did respond after the pick by Cleveland with a 75-yard TD strike to Emmanuel Sanders. The game could’ve ended in regulation but one of the strangest plays ever happened. Josh McCown had the Browns in Denver’s territory but threw an INT trying to get the ball somewhere. Denver’s defense had 4 sacks once again and held Cleveland to only 298 total yards of offense. McManus missed his first field goal of the season but made up for it by hitting the winner in overtime. A few positives for Denver’s offense were Hillman’s ability to gain 111 yards, no sacks allowed, and the performance from WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.

Denver has had a lot of luck but they’ve also been great on defense. They currently lead the NFL the in total defense and are giving up only 17 pts/game. The defense has scored 4 TDs off 17 turnovers while also racking up 26 sacks and 2 blocked kicks. Through 6 games, opposing offenses have on converted 31.6% on 3rd downs. A crucial stat to remember on Sunday night is that Green Bay and Denver are tied in the giveaway/takeaway category with +6. Denver has 7 more takeaways but the Packers have 7 less giveaways. All-Pro cornerback Aqib Talib has 3 INT (2 TD) & block kick.  DeMarcus Ware’s 4.5 sacks lead the team and 2nd year man Shaquil Barrett has been a pleasant surprise for the team with 3.5 sacks. Malik Jackson also has 3.5 sacks and “the sack master” Von Miller has 3 sacks.

On offense, Peyton leads the way but his numbers aren’t too uplifting. Manning has a 61.6% completion percentage with 1,524 yards, and 7 TDs. He also has 10 INTs and has been sacked 12 times. Offensive line problems and Kubiak’s new offense is a culprit for some of the problems. Better blocking has helped some issues in run the game. Hillman leads the team with 323 yards but the Broncos haven’t gotten much out of CJ Anderson. Former Wisconsin standout Montee Ball was cut after the preseason. Demaryius Thomas leads the team in receiving with 48/527/1 TD but Emmanuel Sanders isn’t far behind with 38/527/3 TD. A serious case can be made that Brandon McManus is the offensive MVP so far. He leads the team in scoring which isn’t unusual but his numbers are off the charts – 16-17 FG (4-5 from 50+) 13-13 on XPs – in a season where kickers are having all types of problems. As a team, Denver is 30th total offense and only avg 23.2 pts/game. They only have 110 first downs only St. Louis has fewer at 88. They’ve committed 47 penalties and their lack of efficiency on 3rd down at 30.2% hasn’t helped at all.

The game on Sunday will be a case of “something must give”. Green Bay’s offense features Aaron Rodgers who has been his usual self for the most part. The Packers offense is top 5 in points/game (averaging 27.2) and right outside the top 10 in yards/game (364.2). Defensively GB is no slouch as they currently sit in the #1 spot ahead of Denver for points allowed (16.8 pts/game). They also rank in the top 15 for yards/game. If Denver wants to win on Sunday and remain undefeated, they will have to get pressure on Rodgers and contain the GB running backs. The Pack is averaging 127.3 rush yards/game and that’s with Eddie Lacy still trying to find his way. The Broncos must protect the ball on offense and establish the run game. The less time they give Green Bay’s offense the better.  Denver’s defense has been steady this season but I think this is the night that the offense gets going. I have the Broncos winning this one 28-21.

Stats courtesy of:

http://espn.go.com/nfl/team/_/name/den/denver-broncos

http://espn.go.com/nfl/statistics

NFL Preview Green Bay Packers VS Denver Broncos

NBA BYKE!!!

It’s not March Madness but hey it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t pay homage to the Opening Night of the 2015-2016 NBA Season. Not much in-depth stuff here. Only some quick thoughts and predictions that are sure to be wrong (WARNING: if I mention your favorite player or team be afraid). I’ll do all of the major individual league awards and give playoff teams and the Conference Champions. I’m excited to see the return of players like Kevin Durant, Paul George, and Kobe Bryant. I look forward to seeing the progression of young players like Andrew Wiggins and Rodney Hood.  I’ve been tracking Hood since he was a freshman in high school at Meridian High in Mississippi. I also want to see which rookies will stand out – both players and coaches – during this grueling 82-game season. Once again the Western Conference will be loaded but I have a feeling the East will put up more fight this season. Especially if the Miami Heat can stay healthy. Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks should put up a better showing this year…things can’t get any worse. Ty Lawson’s arrival in Houston could pay big dividends for James Harden. Harden will be able to play off of the basketball and move more freely. Paul Pierce went over to the Clippers along with Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson. There will be plenty of tense moments out there for Doc and Co. LeBron and the Cavaliers finally have their roster set but they’ll be without Kyrie Irving for the start of the season. I expect Golden State to shake off the rust quickly. They will definitely have a chip on their shoulders after spending the summer hearing about “who didn’t play and who wasn’t healthy” while they made their run to the championship. Keep an eye on how the Warriors play while Steve Kerr is recovering from back surgery. The Spurs got better by bringing in – LaMarcus Aldridge and David West – two solid power forwards. This season is going to be great, talent is up and the league hasn’t had this kind of excitement in a long time. I’ll leave you all with this reminder…I told y’all

I was put on the spot last night and these are the teams I went with. Most notable in the East was that I left out Washington and Boston. Both teams made the playoffs last year. Not sure how I feel about that. I also left out the Indiana Pacers. I expect them to play at a faster pace with Monta Ellis joining that team. The defensive makeup of that team will be something to watch. I left Portland out for obvious reasons. I kept Dallas in, that’s the only pick I was unsure of. The Sacramento Kings were a consideration but there are a lot of things that need to go right for them. The main thing being a focused and healthy Rajon Rondo.

*Both groups in no order:
Eastern Conference Playoff Teams; Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons
Eastern Champ – Cleveland Cavaliers
Western Conference Playoff Teams; Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder
Western Champ – Houston Rockets

Coach of the Year: Stan Van Gundy – Detroit Pistons

Defensive Player of the Year: DeAndre Jordan – Los Angeles Clippers
Most Improved Player: Julius Randle – Los Angeles Lakers
Rookie of the Year: Emmanuel Mudiay – Denver Nuggets

Sixth Man of the Year: Isaiah Thomas – Boston Celtics

Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder

 
NBA BYKE!!!

The Barclays Premier League – A Quarter of the Way

We’re a bit over the quarter mark in the Barclays (English) Premier League season with all teams having played 10 matches. There have been quite a few surprises thus far with some clubs being where we expected them to be while others aren’t – looks in the direction of last season’s champs Chelsea – where we expected them to be. There have been some stunning performances from players like Jaime Vardy of Leicester City who currently leads the league in goals scored (10). Also there is Dimitri Payet – 5 goals and 3 assists – for West Ham United who started the season off with a dazzling performance at Arsenal. The familiar names in the league like Sergio Aguero and Alexis Sanchez have had moments of brilliance while struggling with fitness. Aguero is currently out with a hamstring injury suffered while on International duty with Argentina. Petr Cech has proven to be exactly what Arsenal has needed so far this season defensively with his solid goalkeeping and presence. Also, the promoted teams – Watford, Bournemouth, and Norwich City – are all outside of the “relegation zone”.

First off, let me give a brief overview of how the EPL is set up. There are 20 teams; the league consists of a 38-match season (playing each opponent home and away). There is no playoff – so at seasons end – the team with the most points wins the league. A team earns 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and 0 points for a loss. There is no extra-time i.e. overtime to decide a winner. A match consists of two 45-minute halves. Additional time may be added onto the end of each half to account for delays such as injuries or substitutions. This is what the table currently looks like. If two teams have the same number of points, goal differential is the first tiebreaker. Thus Manchester City currently is top of the league over Arsenal. The cool thing about foreign futbol leagues is “relegation”. Relegation occurs when a club finishes in the bottom 3 of the table. It would be like the Philadelphia 76ers getting sent to the D-League. It adds to the drama both at the top and bottom.

Now to the season thus far, I already mentioned the top two teams Manchester City and Arsenal. Both currently have 22 points and 7-1-2 records (Wins-Draws-Losses). The next two in line are West Ham United and Manchester United. Both clubs have 20 points and 6-2-2 records. West Ham has the slight edge with a goal differential of +2 over Man U. West Ham is yet to walk away without points in their first 5 away matches. The Hammers started the season with a win at Arsenal (2-0) and also have wins at Liverpool (3-0) and Manchester City (2-1). Manchester City has the longest winning streak of the season at 5 games won. Arsenal currently holds two active winning streaks – longest home winning streak 3 and the longest active winning streak at 4 games in a row.

The defending champions Chelsea find themselves in the 15th spot. They have a measly 11 points and a whole heap of problems. Players find themselves out of form or in the manager’s doghouse. The manager squabbled with the fan favorite and former team doctor Eva Carneiro. Manager Jose Mourinho appears to be going through his customary 3rd year swoon. The club is struggling to score goals, stop goals, and play an attractive brand of futbol. Many don’t believe Chelsea will continue to be THIS BAD but they’ll need to find some juice starting this weekend. Could The Chosen One be added to the list of fired managers?

Speaking of fired managers, Tim Sherwood was fired after Aston Villa lost their 6th match in a row. They’re currently at the bottom of the table with 4 points and a 1-1-8 record and have a 9 match winless streak. Above them in the 18th and 19th spots are rivals Sunderland and Newcastle United. Both teams have the same record and 6 points but Sunderland holds the edge with a +2 goal difference after thumping Newcastle 3-0 on Sunday.

There are still 28 matches left to be played so the table will no doubt look different by the time we hit the half way mark. Some teams will move up while others will move down or stay put. I hope the remainder of the season is exciting and full of surprises.

Stats via:

http://www.espnfc.us/barclays-premier-league/23/index

http://www.squawka.com/players/petr-cech/stats#performance-score#arsenal-%28current%29#english-barclays-premier-league#8#season-2015/2016#165#all-matches#1-10#by-match

The Barclays Premier League – A Quarter of the Way

Priceless Moment

monument2

It had to be the summer of 2005 or 2006. I walked into the City Gear at Metro Center Mall and saw an interesting shirt. The shirt was black and had an image of the iconic moment from the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Me being a fan of sports I knew of the image but had never really looked into the significance of “that moment”. I knew it was during the 1960s and had something to do with Civil Rights for people of color but that was about it. But my knowledge and appreciation of the moment would change soon after a casual discussion and the help of some great friends.

So the discussion was very random at first but then again it wasn’t. From 1999-2007 I worked at the Chick-fil-A in the Metro. And on one of the days I went in to pick up my check, I happened to be wearing that shirt. This is where my history lesson – on that moment in 1968 – began. I had an older coworker named Carlton that was from California.  He had a pretty good memory and knowledge of all types of history. He couldn’t remember how many nuggets to drop during a rush but he remembered my shirt! Lol anyways the next time I went into work he was – waiting on me – to ask about the shirt. Carlton’s go to phrase was “yo homeboy” when he wanted to talk about something and with that, my history lesson started. Carlton began by reminding me that he was from California and lived there during the late 60s (think he mentioned being there during the Watts Riots too). He made it clear that both Tommie Smith and John Carlos were some great athletes. Both were drafted by NFL teams.  He also emphasized that there was no doubt about who was going to win Gold in the 200 m race at the 1968 Olympics. He raved about how Smith had been running lights out in events leading up to the Olympics. He also talked about John Carlos being very good and that he would finish in the top 3. After that he fast forwarded to the medal ceremony and the moment that Smith and Carlos left us with a demonstration that will last forever. He mentioned how it was not just a big moment but a bold one too. Especially considering the backlash that both sprinters faced afterwards. At the time of our discussion, neither of us was aware of what was taking place at San Jose State University and little did I know that in October 2009 I’d find out.

me_Fotor_Fotor

At some point I posted the picture above on Facebook. Then some time after I planned a trip to California to see some friends. As time approached, my friends told me that a statue of Tommie Smith and John Carlos had been built and was located on the campus of San Jose State University. Both men went to college there and after many years had passed, their moment in history was recognized on October 16, 2005. My friends being the great people that they are decided to help me see the statue in person. It was a busy weekend but on the Monday morning that I was set to fly out, they made it happen. First off we were lucky that I flew into and out of the San Jose Airport. Unfortunately we had to get up very early due to my flight time and the distance we had to travel to get to San Jose. After conquering those two hurdles we were there with plenty of time to spare. I remember it was an overcast morning and kind of windy. Despite the time of morning, students were already moving about the campus. The statue is located in a good spot on the campus so I didn’t have to walk too far and didn’t stick out much. We also avoided getting a ticket for parking in “no parking zone”. It was a great experience and it made me think about how funny life can be.  Just a few years earlier I was in my hometown buying a shirt that led to a history lesson. Then on that October morning in 2009 there I was “standing” next to history. I can’t thank my friends Anthony and Jayka enough for making that moment happen.

mesjsu

I still have my shirt and I throw it on every now and then. Standing up on that statue was a cool moment and it gave me a greater appreciation of the stand the Olympians made. It was bigger than winning the race and the medals around their necks. October 16th will mark the 47th anniversary of that night in Mexico City and the 10th anniversary of the statue to honor Tommie Smith and John Carlos. 1968 marked the end of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Today in 2015, we’re still fighting some of the same battles. Yes, things have improved but we still have a long way to go. I only hope that we all are ready to be brave and stand tall for what we believe in when our medal ceremony comes.

Priceless Moment