Larry Fitzgerald will break Terrell Owen’s record this season

It took a lot of controversy, hard feelings, and smack talk but Terrell Owens was finally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year. Creating himself quite the stir once again, T.O. still receives his gold jacket regardless. The prestigious award of being selected for the Hall of Fame is definitely well-deserved for Owens. Right under Jerry Rice, his statistics speak for himself.

Trying to say “There will never be another T.O.” is only partially correct. Granted there may never be someone with the personality or ego as Terrell Owens, but there is one player currently in the NFL that statistically matches up with T.O.

Larry Fitzgerald has quietly created himself a first-ballot Hall of Fame kind of career. Entering the 2018 season at 34 years old, Fitzgerald has accumulated 1,234 total catches, 110 receiving touchdowns, and holds 15,545 total career yards. Yup, you read that right. Larry Fitzgerald is only 389 yards shy of breaking Terrell Owens’ career record of second-most receiving yards of all time — and he’s going to do it this year.

Normally the creative minds who come up with the NFL schedule each season have these types of statistics on lock-down on when the probability that athletes will be able to break a career record of this magnitude. Taking a quick peek at the Arizona Cardinal’s schedule, fans get three opportunities to watch Fitzgerald overtake T.O.’s record in primetime.

He could accumulate 400 receiving yards by week three against the Chicago Bears as the Game of the Week. Just in case Fitzgerald has a slow start to the season, history could be changed in week five versus the San Francisco 49ers on another Game of the Week slot. Just to add to security, the Cardinals have one more shot against the Denver Broncos in week seven on Sunday Night Football.

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Larry Fitzgerald will most likely never be able to break Terrell Owens’ touchdown record. He has already accomplished more receptions and about to take the seat right under Jerry Rice’s wing for most receiving yards. By the time Fitzgerald retires, there will be no question he is a first-ballot hall of famer. His statistics can’t lie, and he has already won the appreciation of fans and judges by his humble personality and shining work performance. Fitzgerald will never brag about his numbers or accolades for his career, but a gold jacket will never fit a better candidate.

Best Super Bowls that NFL fans should see

Every season the media and fans make their personal bets on who will make the big championship game for the glory of a Lombardi Trophy. Watching and hoping that your favorite team makes it to the Super Bowl every year is half the fun of watching football. Some years give us legendary championships such as Super Bowl LII having the Philadelphia Eagles winning the prized trophy with their backup quarterback. Other years leave us with very forgetful games that leave us wondering how either of those two teams even made it to a Super Bowl. I’ve comprised a list of a top five Super Bowl games that every fan needs to see in the near future, whether you know you want it or not.

Green Bay Packers vs. New England Patriots

This Super Bowl should be very self-explanatory. A Rodgers versus Brady Super Bowl would be the biggest Clash of the Titans quarterback battle since Dan Marino faced Joe Montana. The biggest disappointment in the past eight years is the fact that Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady haven’t created their own Bradshaw/Staubach rivalry against each other. Fortunately for football fans, Green Bay and New England play this year during the regular season. It may be the last time the two future Hall of Fame QB’s play each other ever again. It may not be a Super Bowl, but it still should be an interesting game.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Houston Texans

Hopefully, if this game ever takes place it will happen on a year that FOX is hosting the Super Bowl just to call in Mike Judge and make a special King of the Hill promotional episode. What should forever be deemed as the Hank Hill Bowl, the people behind the scenes will need to go all out in order to keep an everything-is-bigger-in-Texas theme. If fans were lucky, they should hope this Super Bowl ends up happening within the next five years in order to see DeShaun Watson and Ezekiel Elliot go toe-to-toe. Imagine how much quarterback pressure can be in place between JJ Watt and DeMarcus Lawrence. Hank Hill is already shuddering at the thought.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Buffalo Bills

Minnesota has been locked as a fan-favorite to make the Super Bowl this upcoming season. Buffalo, maybe not so much. The Bills have finally ended their playoff drought last year, but they look to be miles away from obtaining a Super Bowl berth. The reason this Super Bowl would have major hype lingering around it is that these two franchises have made the most Super Bowl appearances without ever winning a Lombardi Trophy. There have been nine Super Bowl losses between these two teams combined. Having Minnesota and Buffalo duking it out in the ultimate championship game would be for the highest of stakes on both ends. One team will finally end its streak of bad luck, while the other team becomes the official laughing stock of the NFL for most losses in a Super Bowl.

Los Angeles Rams vs. Los Angeles Chargers

The Super Bowl that should be deemed as The Battle For Los Angeles. There are a lot of layers that can make this game great. It’s two franchises who very recently moved to the L.A. area, two franchises who are scrambling to establish their new fan base, and two teams who are actually building for success simultaneously. Fans may grumble that having two teams from the same city will appear to tarnish the Super Bowl. That may be the case if this Super Bowl occurs twenty years from now, but if the NFL fans are lucky enough to see this game happen within the next five years — it can be historic. The only thing that can truly put the cherry on top of this championship game is if the stadium that hosts the Super Bowl is the new Los Angeles stadium being built in Inglewood.

Detroit Lions vs. Cleveland Browns

Ever see a trainwreck so bad that you can’t look away no matter how horrible you know it can be? That could be this Super Bowl. The only two franchises that have never made an appearance in any championship games during the Super Bowl era, they can finally clear their name of that disrespect at the same time. As much as people may want to complain about how bad the game would be, sometimes it’s great to cheer for mediocrity on pure irony. Remember the terrible Seahawks vs. Cardinals game that went into overtime on Sunday Night Football only for two missed field goals to end the game in a tie? Detroit vs. Cleveland could be that same vein of terribly amazing football. Imagine a Super Bowl that goes into overtime and the final play being a safety making the final score 2-0. People will forever talk about the worst Super Bowl they ever saw and remembered for being the best Super Bowl in history.

Early season predictions on the worst teams in the NFL

For a good portion of the decade, there has been lousy football coming from the same three teams. The Cleveland Browns (0-16) had their last win in the 2016 season with Johnny Manziel as their quarterback. That feels like a lifetime ago already. The Chicago Bears (5-11) have notoriously been a two or three win team ever since losing the NFC Championship in 2010. Then comes the San Francisco 49ers (6-10) who has had a roller coaster ride all decade. Ever since losing head coach Jim Harbaugh the 49ers’ wins have been lacking.

The Bears and 49ers have already reached out of bottom feeder status as of last season. It’s no coincidence that acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo and Mitch Trubisky have helped tremendously. All three of these teams are currently heading in the right direction. The biggest question mark lies on the Cleveland Browns, coming from zero wins last year. Cleveland possibly has the most impressive roster we’ve seen in a very long time. Even four wins from the Browns would be considered a successful season at this point. With these teams currently on the rise to success, there can only be three new teams to take their place. What new franchise will take the dishonor of being the new bottom feeder?

1. Cincinnati Bengals

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Only one thing prevented the Cincinnati Bengals from being the worst team in their division last year: the luxury of sharing the division with Cleveland. Last season definitely exposed some holes in Cincinnati’s arsenal. The Bengals missed every opportunity to pick up any top rated free agents to patch any of those holes. Most teams are becoming a running back by committee, and the Bengals have the same mentality. Between Jeremy Hill, Giovanni Bernard, and Joe Mixon they’re not sure which RB to use. The answer seems obvious: go with Mixon. There should be no doubt that Joe Mixon will eventually become a great running back. It will take longer to see results when he’s only allowed eight carries a game.

 

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Tampa Bay has some pretty great weapons on their team. Mike Evans has always been a top wide receiver each year. Gerald McCoy and Kwon Alexander have been crucial pieces that can provide help on any team in the NFL. Jameis Winston has proven himself as a good franchise quarterback. He has the unfortunate circumstance of sharing the same division with Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Matt Ryan. Winston is young and has plenty of time to hone in his talents. Despite all the pro-bowlers on the roster, the Bucs still have not been able to click into gear. Perhaps the blame should fall on the coaching staff. Tampa Bay is high on their first-round pick Vita Vey, a defensive tackle from Washington. Vey has high regards but still doesn’t fix their running back problem after releasing Doug Martin.

3. Miami Dolphins

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The Miami Dolphins have lingered on the border of bottom feeders for quite some time. Ryan Tannehill will be returning from his ACL injury this upcoming season. The Dolphins continue to believe in Tannehill being their starting QB, despite Adam Gase not achieving much success with him. Tannehill has fewer weapons to work with since Jay Ajayi and Jarvis Landry are no longer on the team. Minkah Fitzpatrick was a great first-round choice in the draft. Even the DB from Alabama won’t be able the save the problems Miami will face in the near future. Miami has a window of opportunity to build once Tom Brady retires from the Patriots. The competition will be severe as the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets are doing the exact same thing. With the Dolphins allowing their best players to be traded, there is a high probability that they could be the worst team in the NFL this coming season.

For What It’s Worth

The economy is booming and financial investments aren’t as high risk as before. The NFL is no exception, but replace literal dollars with raw player talent. New stars keep emerging every year across the league. While some of these players help contribute toward a successful franchise, other teams seem to fall short. Here is a following list of teams to either buy in the hype, or sell out your shares from the bandwagon.

 

Buying: Los Angeles Rams

The Rams don’t need a hard sell in order to want to invest in their franchise. Jared Goff is going to be in his third year and continues to look more confident under center. Todd Gurley is a strong contender for being the best running back in the NFL. What separates this team apart from everyone else is how much talent they brought in during this past off-season. Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters in the secondary. Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald up front bringing the pressure. Match that with Wade Philips as defensive coordinator and the young established Sean McVay. It’s hard to find a weakness on this team right now.

 

Selling: Seattle Seahawks

Until Jimmy Garappolo wins either a Super Bowl or the MVP, it’s safe to say that Russell Wilson is still the best quarterback in the NFC West. Unfortunately for Wilson, there isn’t much support for him at the moment. The off-season was pretty vacant for Seattle as we watched the monumental Legion of Boom finally crumble. Shaquem Griffin getting drafted to the same team as his twin brother was a heart-warming story to watch unfold. The rest of the draft, however, felt very lackluster. Wilson has a lot of weight to carry on his back for the next few years. They are definitely heading into rebuild mode, but with the 49ers and Rams on the rise, don’t expect much from Seattle for the rest of this decade.

 

Buying: Green Bay Packers

I know, how biased of me. A blog that has Cheesehead in the name and wants to pick the Packers. Although there are plenty of reasons why the Packers are a good investment. The number one person to bet on is Aaron Rodgers, who will be hungry for a shot at the title once again. Take a short hop down memory lane and Rodgers has brought this team to the NFC Championship game three times in the past eight years. Green Bay did the smart thing and finally cut ties with Dom Capers to bring in Mike Pettine, a guy who has never had a defense ranked below tenth place. Packers also had one of the better drafts in the NFL, especially in the first three rounds. Green Bay continues to look better on paper this year, even after losing fan-favorite Jordy Nelson. Although the Minnesota Vikings are a worthy adversary, it is always safe to bet on the King of the North.

 

Selling: Detroit Lions

Every day more analysts are hyping up the Detroit Lions. People should pump the brakes a little on Matt Patricia taking over head coaching duties. He has all the potential in the world to be able to turn Detroit into a deadly team. But between the competition of the Packers and Vikings, it won’t be happening soon. Let’s also not forget that as a defensive coordinator Patricia had absolutely no answers for Philadelphia in the Super Bowl. It’s more realistic to allow him a few years to build a team before jumping the gun and claiming that he’s going to steal the division. Matthew Stafford will go down statistically as the Lion’s best QB ever to be on their roster. Unfortunately, if he couldn’t make a deep run with Calvin Johnson, chances are it won’t be happening this year either.

 

Buying: Los Angeles Chargers

It’s bizarre how two mediocre franchises seemed to flourish as soon as they moved to the City of Angels. The Chargers are almost a twin copy of their NFC counterpart when it comes to depth. Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, and Melvin Gordon make a great triplet to get the offense moving. Casey Hayward one of the best shut-down corners in the NFL, only to be complemented by drafting Derwin James on the other side. They still have huge weapons such as Joey Bosa and Marvin Ingram which helped bring their defense to be ranked third last year in the NFL. Their biggest weakness right now is being forced to share the StubHub Center, which feels like being an away team for sixteen games. The rest of the AFC West has been rebuilding and essentially don’t have an identity. Now is the time for the Chargers to strike and flaunt their identity to the rest of the AFC.

 

Selling: Oakland Raiders

There are so many potholes with this team that Jon Gruden feels more like a construction worker than a coach. So many questions are left unanswered for Oakland right now. Did Jack Del Rio really deserve to lose his job just because his last name isn’t ‘Gruden’? Did Derek Carr have a fluke year, or did he show his true colors? Is Amari Cooper overrated? Can the Raiders get a good running game with Marshawn Lynch, or is he past his prime? Will Jordy Nelson be a good replacement for Michael Crabtree? Oakland didn’t have an impressive draft to bring any of these questions at ease. Gruden brought in free agency talent but also has made his roster the oldest in the NFL. It’s hard to look too far into the future with the towering fact that they are moving to Las Vegas soon. Maybe by then they can mimic the Golden Knights and try to reach a championship.

Buying: Houston Texans

DeShaun Watson had the most impressive rookie start we’ve ever seen before getting hurt last year. It’s been easy to find a seat on the hype train for this young QB ever since he beat Nick Saban’s Alabama team. Now he has DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller as lethal weapons. Watson isn’t the only player anticipated to return, however. JJ Watt will be back and ready to throw some linemen and quarterbacks to the ground. Watt’s attitude and work ethic prove contagious for the entire team. That should be motivation for their talented new safety, Tyrann Mathieu. Houston has a tough road ahead of them as the south is by far the strongest division in the AFC. Between Jaguars’ defense, Titans’ roster depth, and Andrew Luck returning with the Colts, the road to the playoffs will be brutal. The Texans show no fear as they look toward their rivals to win the division. That courage is worthy enough to invest in this team.

Selling: Carolina Panthers

Make no mistake about this sell: Carolina is not a bad team by any means. Former MVP Cam Newton will always pose a threat to any opponent he faces. Luke Kuechly may go down as this generation’s Brian Urlacher. The Panthers’ downfall doesn’t come within bad coaching or a bad roster. It’s simply the terrible luck of how competitive the NFC South is lately. Three teams made the post-season last year and the chances of that happening again are slim to none. Somebody is going to have to fall off the wild card spot. Compare Carolina’s roster to the Saints and the Falcons and it appears they’ve drawn the short end of the stick. We may see the same scenario that the AFC West had a few years ago where the Panthers can have a 10-6 record and still miss the playoffs.

The Saints Keep Marching In

“Who dat! Who dat! Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?”

This is the chant that has been blaring across Louisiana like a horn from a trumpet for the past six weeks now. The New Orleans Saints officially have the longest win streak of the 2017 season with six wins in a row — a sentiment that no one saw coming after the Saints started off 0-2 for the third season in a row. Energy has been jolted back in to the city of New Orleans after years of starving. Fans were hungry to have that taste of familiarity again; the taste of being on top. Except the bellies can’t ever be full until the playoffs, and even then the drive won’t stop until the Super Bowl. So the question remains that the fans continue to mock towards the rest of the NFL. Who can beat the Saints right now?

Behind the ruckus of New Orleans fans marching towards victory, whispers will murmur in the alleys of being over-rated. “They have a weak schedule,” the pessimistic will say. Looking back at the first nine weeks, it can’t be that simple. Week one was a loss to the Vikings, a team that still had a healthy Sam Bradford, a very tough defense, and are under the radar for having home field advantage at U.S. Bank Stadium. New Orleans still trying to find a way to use Adrian Peterson, and their defense didn’t click yet. Week two was another loss against the Patriots, who needed a big game as a come back after being embarrassed by the Kansas City Chiefs the week prior. Saints still had the same problems as week one, and it didn’t fix itself until week three. The rumors began flying around the news: Saints going 0-3 again for the third year in a row. Sean Payton was on the hot seat, fearing for his job by the end of the season. A big divisional game against the Carolina Panthers and the Saints annihilated them. Week four Saints travel to London and completely skunked the Miami Dolphins — the same Miami team who beat the incredible Los Angeles Rams — and we saw the defense create their identity. By week six Saints cut their losses and drop the dead weight of Adrian Peterson to allow a highway lane for the impressive rookie Alvin Kamara. They came to Lambeau and beat the Packers sans Aaron Rodgers, and despite two interceptions in the first half after the rain, the second half Drew Brees does what he does best and proves once again why he’s one of the best to play his position. Week seven the Saints beat an under-rated Chicago defense and a talented Mitch Trubisky, and week eight go against a very injured Tampa Bay team only to reign higher on the NFC South totem pole.

New Orleans has rhythm, they have an identity, and can find more ways to win other than relying on their 38 year old star quarterback. Fans in Louisiana haven’t seen a good defense since Bounty Gate, and the feeling is a sight for sore eyes. Even if a defense has great pass protection, it’s hard to stop the one-two punch between Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Kansas City Chiefs get a lot of attention for having Kareem Hunt as a dangerous threat in the back field, but as Hunt has been slowing down the past few weeks, it seems as though Alvin Kamara only heats up more.

Talk about a polar opposite between the teams. When Kansas City started the season at 5-0 people only talked about how they are true Super Bowl contenders. Since then the Chiefs have been 1-3 the past few weeks, and Saints haven’t lost a game since week two. Despite the drastic changes, no one speaks of the Saints going to the Super Bowl at all. Brees and Payton already have Super Bowl experience together, so it doesn’t seem unfathomable. Perhaps it’s because they’ll have to go through the Rams and Eagles, both of whom scored 51 points on their opponent in week 9, before getting to the biggest game of the year. New Orleans will be able to answer one of those questions in week 12 where they will face off against the Rams away in Los Angeles. It’s no question the toughest game that the Saints will face to face the rest of the year, but until that game happens, prepare to continue hearing the who dat chant echo across the airwaves.

Motivational Mediocrity

The story line was set up perfect for the Buffalo Bills to be successful on Thursday Night Football. Only a half-game behind the New England Patriots, they needed a win to potentially be in first place among the division once again. All the cards were in Buffalo’s favor — they were going in to week 9 with a 5-2 record, and their five wins weren’t just push overs. In week one they already beat the New York Jets, who were their opponent once again in week 9. Since then have continue to win over teams such as the Broncos, who the week prior had completely destroyed the fierce Dallas Cowboys. They upset the Atlanta Falcons while simultaneously snapping the Falcon’s win streak. They climbed over a lack luster Tampa Bay Buccaneers team last second to beat them by a field goal, only to reply the following week by steam rolling over the Oakland Raiders. Buffalo’s only losses coming in to week 9 came from the Carolina Panthers, who have been pretty hit or miss this season, and a very confusing loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. With their past set up, they came in to the Met Life stadium as the away team, and with one win already against the Jets. Considering that both teams are from New York, the travel time wasn’t a big deal for Buffalo. It was clear that the fans travel well with the team, as the cheers were loud and clear echoing throughout the stadium when the Bills took control of the ball. Their motivation and identity was at an all time high, as a win this week would have put them at 6-2; a record that the franchise have not seen since 1999. Despite having the stage set up for the Bills to take a hold of their own destiny, and  Las Vegas giving them a four and a half point advantage for odds, Buffalo does what they do best by embarrassing themselves.

Buffalo’s record still isn’t bad despite the loss. At 5-3 they’re surprisingly still one of the top teams with most wins in the NFL right now. It makes things still a little nerve-racking considering that the Bills currently have the longest playoff drought in the NFL, and unless they go on a massive win streak soon it might not be enough to even be a wild card team. New England is still predicted to win the AFC East once again, and Buffalo being in second place doesn’t seem entirely secure because they’re about on pace with the rest of the NFL this year. The 2017 season is both bizarre and exciting mended together, because there are just a few top teams who are on a clear pedestal above everyone else, and then a few bottom teams who are laughably dragging behind the crowd. Buffalo sits among the rest of the NFL — all wading in a pool of average mediocrity. Nobody in this purgatory is necessarily horrible nor great, and any time a rhythm begins to muster among these teams, the beat gets disrupted by a disappointing loss. Going by the current records, the teams who reign on top are the Patriots, Steelers, Chiefs, Eagles, and Vikings. To parody the top, there must be teams scavenging the bottom which include the Browns, 49ers, Colts, Giants, and Buccaneers. That means there are 22 other teams all floating right in the middle; clawing and crawling among each other to be a top contender only to get nowhere in the process.

There are still plenty of football left. Any one of the teams in the mediocre purgatory could finally catch that rhythm to fight their way across the rest and place themselves into a definite spot for the playoffs. Buffalo still has potential to be that team, but they will need to figure it out quick. The NFL is ruthless, and any other team can make a name for themselves to knock the Buffalo Bills out of the playoff contention. This should be a concern for them. It should be their motivation to create an identity and finally clean that tarnished drought they lay in. Now is the time to pick themselves back up and make it time for Tyrod Taylor to prove he can be a franchise quarterback for them. It can be time for Sean McDermott to shine, and make the city of Buffalo believe in their franchise again. Until that day happens, it might be a wise choice to hold your bets on Buffalo for right now.

Whose Catch Is It, Anyway?

Once again the NFL has updated it’s rules and regulations for the 2017 season. The biggest one that they focused on was penalizing end zone celebrations more. Taunting has already been established as a big no-no, and pretty much any celebration where a player touches the opposing team’s player is an automatic flag. Originally it seemed that almost any touchdown celebration was going to become a penalty, but the major rule change was that no celebrations can be “sexual”. It can probably go down as the unofficial Antonio Brown rule. Of course there were slight changes to what possession is, which seems to contradict every single year. Week 6 gave us the worst example of this complaint, and it has been lingering for years around the NFL. What in the hell exactly is a catch?

A good place to start is to reference what the official NFL rule book has listed as a catch. The explanation goes as follows:

A player who makes a catch may advance the ball. A forward pass is complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) if a player, who is inbounds:

  1. secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and
  2. touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and
  3. maintains control of the ball after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, until he has the ball long enough to clearly become a runner. A player has the ball long enough to become a runner when, after his second foot is on the ground, he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent, tucking the ball away, turning up field, or taking additional steps (see 3-2-7-Item 2).

Note: If a player has control of the ball, a slight movement of the ball will not be considered a loss of possession. He must lose control of the ball in order to rule that there has been a loss of possession.

If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any part of his body to the ground, it is not a catch.

The first two parts make sense. As long as someone behind the line of scrimmage (assuming the QB) throws a ball forward and another eligible receiver secures the ball without dropping it on the ground. The second part being that both feet are in bounds. Easy enough to understand, we’re on the same page thus far. The third part though… that’s the gray area that none of the officiating crews can agree on. There were three particular games where part 3 of the catch rule was stretched to it’s breaking point.

The Green Bay vs. Minnesota game is receiving huge buzz because Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone in the first quarter, but the bigger story that no one wants to cover is how messed up the calls were on particular catches. There were four instances that the play was either challenged or reviewed by the booth to determine what the call was, and each time the outcome had everyone extremely confused. At one point Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman, and Mike Pereira all were scratching their heads on the disagreement from the official’s calls. It got to a point that Aikman was flat out mocking the NFL that nobody can establish was an actual catch is. Here is a play that was set up to explain how it was: Green Bay were on the goal line and it was third down. Brett Hundley snapped the ball and threw a forward pass to Ty Montgomery (part 1 of the rule) who was wide open. Ty Montgomery had both feet in bounds (part 2) and turned his body forward, fell down, was not touched, and then continued running towards the end zone. After the ball crossed the goal line it dropped out of his hands, and although initially called a touchdown, the ruling was overturned from the review. The question though, is what overturned it? According to part 3 of the rules Ty Montgomery he held the ball long enough to become an established runner, both feet were on the ground, he was capable of avoiding impeding contact, tucked the ball, and turned up field. The only time the ball hit the ground was already when the ball crossed the goal line, which has already been established is considered a touchdown. At one point was there an infraction to cause an over ruling towards the play? The Minnesota Vikings also were handed a slap in the face with a play where Adam Thielen caught a ball, and despite his hands remained in control of the ball the entire time, neither feet touched out of bounds. They actually didn’t touch the ground at all, and because of such turn of events they ruled it not a catch. Before the official call, Troy Aikman reminded the audience how the NFL discarded the “force-out” rule, in which a defender can’t push an eligible receiver out of bounds in air to make it a non-catch. Despite the friendly reminder, the officials called it a non-catch. Perhaps that particular officiating crew didn’t get the memo that force-outs aren’t a thing anymore.

Things looked much worse in New York this past week, which now has the infamous call at the end of the game. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the tight end for the Jets, caught the pass and as he was falling across the goal line, as he was hitting the pylon, the ball switched hands without touching the ground, and it was ruled a fumble. I repeat: THE BALL DID NOT TOUCH THE GROUND. Just like the Ty Montgomery situation, Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught the ball. He turned up field. Planted both feet. Tucked the ball for possession. Was aware of on-coming traffic. Everything that is in the rules to be a catch, and was ruled as such, but was called a fumble anyway? It should be said that being a sports reffing official is a very tough job, and these guys are trained for years to do what they do. There is always a margin of error as they are only human, but there hasn’t been that bad of a call since Galarraga was robbed of a perfect game. It’s almost as if the officials want the conspiracy theorists to add more traction for the New England Patriots still cheating.

What is the solution for determining what is a catch? We can’t blame the officials on not being able the agree on the rules, because the rules are vague. There’s too many “if’s” for a solution that should be clear cut and precise. Growing up the ’90’s every kid playing back yard football understood a “two-step rule”. If a receiver has the ball in his hands, is creating momentum downfield, and the ball is still in his hands after two steps, then it is a catch. The official NFL rules on a catch has the core, but with all the additions over the past ten years or so the confusion is clearly shown each and every week. What was so wrong with what we determined back in the ’70’s and ’80’s as catch? Granted, defensive rules have changed since then as well to make the offense have an upper-hand, but at least there wasn’t a dispute. As much as having booth reviews, numerous camera angles, and coach challenges enhance the game experience, the only negative consequence is it has refs second-guessing themselves on what catches truly are. The NFL can fix this by making it very simple: if a receiver has the ball in his hands, it does not touch the ground, and both feet are in bounds, then it is a catch. That’s it. End of discussion. No team can say it can be unfair, because it would be ruled that way on both sides. Not only would we eliminate the debate each year, but the game would be faster paced. It would destroy these horrible calls we witnessed this past week. It would create bigger and better highlights. With so many talented quarterbacks and wide receivers in the league right now, it is such a waste to downgrade their potential and momentum by having everyone question whether or not some plays are considered a catch.

Unpredictability Wins Again

Week 5 is officially over, and while head coaches and fantasy football managers are already looking ahead to week 6, there should be something to be said about the first quarter of the regular season in football. Sure, we can scratch our head or curse out particular teams, but that’s why we have the term “any given Sunday”. The upsets, uncertainty, and the unknown is part of the fun on watching football every week. That’s why every year to add to the fun, I like to make early-season predictions and see how many of them come true. As much as I want to boast that a couple of my predictions have come true so far, there has been so much that has happened that any Magic 8-Ball or Nostradamus himself could not see coming. Some of it is jaw-dropping. Some are head-scratch worthy. Some are laughable. Either way, all of it has made the 2017 season extremely interesting to watch.

I believe the best way to start out is to showboat a little. Don’t worry, I’m not putting myself on a pedestal by means for claiming these. As much as I’m proud that I got these two correct, I am primarily humiliated by all the things I have guessed wrong. So without further ado, here is my proudest prediction of this season:

Carson Wentz will have a better season than Dak Prescott and no one will notice. Granted, I can’t get 100% on this one, because with the Eagles on top of the division at 4-1, I believe more people each week are becoming a believer in Wentz. I understand the hype on the Cowboys. They got Zeke for at least one more year without a suspension. Dak Prescott has more experience and is ready for year two in his tenure. Dez Bryant and Prescott seem to have developed a better chemistry with each other. The difference though, is that Wentz is already used to losing, and can handle his composure as such. Dak and Zeke don’t know what losing feels like following the number one seed in 2016. Sometimes the fall is more difficult than the climb up, and for the Cowboys in the NFC East that seems to be the case. A critical eye is still on Wentz though, considering that he started the season 4-2 last year and still ended at 6-10. What we’ve seen this year is a more improved and durable Carson Wentz, and I think he can lead his team much further.

The AFC South will be the most competitive division in the NFL. This prediction is still a work in progress. Depending on how the second half of the season goes, I could still be proven wrong on this one. Originally I said that the Tennessee Titans could steal this division and win it, but that was during the preseason when the Houston Texans were still going with Tom Savage as their quarterback. What I didn’t see coming was Deshaun Watson making his debut and absolutely rocking it, and I didn’t see Jacksonville leading the division. I knew their defense was going to be young and talented, but I didn’t expect them to be so dominant. I did an article ranking the top rookie running backs this season, and I made a mistake by rating Leonard Fournette so low, and Christain McCaffrey so high. Everyone didn’t have much hope for the Indianapolis Colts this year with Andrew Luck’s injury, but they’re winning games and Jacoby Brissett isn’t too shabby. The “weakest” team in the division right now is the Tennessee Titans, with their lackluster defense, their star quarterback Marcus Mariota is temporarily injured, and the most surprising is their complete lack of a run game. We all were expecting a Dallas Cowboys version of DeMarco Murray, and instead we got the Philadelphia Eagles version of him. The division is still wide open for the taking, and I believe that the second half of the season will follow suit. Titans will get Mariota back and have already begun to fix some of their holes. Colts will get Andrew Luck back which immediately changes their demeanor. Jaguars probably have the best defense in the AFC and they need to make sure Fournette doesn’t get hurt and make Blake Bortles a game manager. Texans have an exciting offense and a talented defense. They just need to keep it up all year. Put all four of those teams into the mix and every divisional game is going to be crazy at the end of the year, because they’re all playing for number one — and right now there is no definitive number one in that division. Every team theoretically is going to get better as the season goes on, and that’s why right now I’m making a new bold prediction: not one team in the AFC South will be below an 8-8 record.

Looking at things again, maybe those predictions only came out half right. Can I get a half-point for each? So I’m 1 for 2. You could look at it that I’m batting .500, or you could say that I’m only completing 50% of my throws. Whether you’re a half-full or half-empty type of perspective, there have been a lot of follies among the NFL that no one saw coming. Let’s start with the biggest one:

The Giants are 0-5. This is personally the biggest surprise to me. Mostly because I predicted the Giants to win the division, but a little bit because the last time the Giants went 0-5 was 1979. At least in that season they won out the rest of their games, but I’m skeptical that the Giants can pull that off considering that all their starting wide receivers are injured. That’s something else I’ve never seen in my life before. I’ve seen all five of the starting O-line get hurt, but I don’t think I’ve witnessed all starting wide outs getting hurt — and it happened the same game! What a bizarre season for the New York Giants.

The Jets have won 3 games. Even more crazy to me, as of right now they have a winning record. I predicted the New York Jets to be worst team in the NFL, even going as far as to say they might lose all 16 games. Instead, they’re one spot ahead of the Patriots in the division. Who saw the Pats being in third place at any point this year? Buffalo being the division leader isn’t too shocking. They’ve held that spot temporarily in previous seasons during the Tom Brady era, but what’s confusing is Buffalo looks pretty good this year. They beat the Denver Broncos, right after destroying the Dallas Cowboys. They snapped Atlanta Falcon’s win streak. After two huge wins for the Bills, they follow it up by losing to Cincinnati? What is this team’s identity?

Deshaun Watson. That’s all I have to say. The guy is incredible to watch, and has made Bill O’Brien look like a damn fool for not starting him in week 1. The Texans went from a rely-on-your-defense, don’t-make-mistakes-on-offense type of team to a don’t-count-us-out, we-can-score-35-on-you-in-a-blink-of-an-eye type of team. As a rookie, he went up against the Goliath’s of foes this year — New England and Kansas City — and despite losing those games he made it close. He’s absolutely capable of taking control of a game, getting the audience involved, and inspiring hope within Houston after the Hurricane Harvey disaster.

The Fall of Big Ben. We all saw the butt spanking the Jacksonville defense laid out on Pittsburgh. At Heinz Field no less, which is notorious for Roethlisberger playing at his absolute best. Instead, we got five interceptions, no touchdowns, and a very confused Steeler nation. Big Ben hasn’t been exactly elite level status so far all season, but what’s more surprising is Antonio Brown still is the leader in receiving yards despite that. Or perhaps the most surprising thing is Pittsburgh gave the Chicago Bears their first win on the year. It’s not all Ben’s fault though. Look at all the quarterbacks that came from the famous 2004 draft class. Big Ben, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers all aren’t performing this year. In fact, the best QB to come from 2004 this year is Tony Romo, as he became an immediate fan favorite announcer. Could it be the day has finally come? The day where the most famous quarterback draft class of all time has become old. I said it myself in a previous article, that Steelers are going Super Bowl or bust. They might not seem as dominant as we all predicted, but they are still the best team in their division, if that gives any type of indication how strong the AFC North really is this year.

Alex Smith for MVP. I’m always a big advocate for Andy Reid and I liked what Kansas City did in the off season, but I still didn’t see Alex Smith playing the best season of his life. When I first saw the articles popping up that Alex Smith is already an MVP candidate I didn’t want to believe it. Game managing Alex Smith? Defense reliant Alex Smith? I figured it was just the easy way out considering that the Chiefs are the only undefeated team left in the NFL, but looking at the numbers my eyes have been adjusted to the blurry frame I made for myself. Alex Smith has over 1,300 yards, 11 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, is passing an incredible 76% completion rating, and a whopping 125.8 QB rating. That is just insane numbers! To top it off as well, if Alex Smith isn’t the front runner for MVP, the next best candidate is Kansas City’s rookie running back Kareem Hunt. It’s no wonder why the Chiefs are undefeated this year. Now the question will be who can be the first team to take down this mighty colossus.

Going in to week 6 we have quite the story building among these franchises. Usually after week 8 a big turning point happens for a lot of teams, and I’m excited to see what this season will bring. The emulation of emotion between players of frustration, joy, persistence, fatigue, annoyance, and glee is being shown on the field even during the distractions of the politics being involved with the sport. Wipe away the small stain that is being forced on us through different outlets, and we still have what is the golden goose to us all: another great season of professional football. We remember this by the outstanding touchdown celebrations being presented to us each and every week. Keep it up guys, because that stuff alone is worth watching for.

The Chargers Are Shunned in L.A.

I want to invite you to take a trip down memory lane with me for a second. The year was 2016. Barack Obama was in the White House. Dabbing was beginning its decline in popularity to make way for fidget spinners. Colin Kaepernick still played in the NFL. The New York Giants players rented a yacht and left all their talent on it. But the biggest thing to remember from 2016 is that the Chargers were still in San Diego. The very idea left a bitter taste in the mouths of every San Diegian, and the taste never sweetened as time went on. The day that Alex Spanos revealed that he was moving the team from San Diego to Los Angeles the aggression and animosity towards the Chargers and the Spanos family grew so large that it could mean the end of the entire franchise all together.

To be fair, Spanos at least attempted to keep the team in beloved San Diego. He wanted to build a brand new stadium for Chargers, a team who hasn’t won their division since 2009, and after many meetings with Mayor Kevin Faulconer the city of San Diego decided to leave it up for a vote on whether or not to build an estimated $200 million stadium. November came, a new president became elected, and the referendum to build a new stadium for the Chargers in San Diego was a majority NO. Understandably, not every resident in the San Diego area is probably a Charger fan, or even a football fan for that matter. It makes sense on why bother raising taxes for a stadium that doesn’t necessarily have to be built? Most of the time fans enjoy their current stadium just for the history aspect. As for Spanos though, he already had a back up plan in case Faulconer wouldn’t allow a new stadium to be built in San Diego. Spanos and Mayor Eric Garcetti made an agreement to build a brand new stadium if the franchise moved to Los Angeles. Garcetti already was very vocal about wanting two teams back in L.A. to begin with. Oakland was his original choice, but after a deal was made for the Raiders to move to Las Vegas, it seemed all too perfect for the Chargers to move back to their original home again. Perfect for everyone except the Chargers fans.

During the off-season when the announcement hit that Alex Spanos was moving the franchise to Los Angeles the entire fan base of the Chargers erupted. They were livid, felt betrayed, and plagued all media sources to give their two cents on how the felt about the entire transaction. Some of the fans spread their faith and loyalty towards the Chargers no matter where they would go. Majority of fans renounced their patronage to the team, and decided to go towards the Bay Area to watch their football. The transition from San Diego to L.A. has definitely been a rocky one, with a fan base that’s not travelling with the team, but there also isn’t a place for the Chargers to play. Logically, it made sense for the Los Angeles Rams to share their temporary stadium with the Chargers the same way that the New York Giants and New York Jets share the same stadium, except the Rams owner Stan Kroenke wasn’t having any part of it. The best NFL and L.A. could come up with a temporary interim stadium for the poor Chargers was the Stub Hub Center, the home of the local soccer team L.A. Galaxy’s. The stadium is actually in Carson, a suburb that’s a half hour south of L.A. and a half hour west of Anaheim. The worst part is the stadium can only hold 27,000 seats, which is less than half of what the average stadium holds for every other NFL team.

The disaster of leaving San Diego has definitely shown in the attendance. Week 1 of the season was pretty much empty, and although the seats are being filled more and more every week, they aren’t being filled with Chargers fans — it’s the opposite team’s fan base! Talk about being embarrassed, being humiliated, and starting the season 0-4. That’s not to say that they haven’t been competitive in their games, but can you blame them not having the motivation? Los Angeles is a giant city, and within that city is a fan base from all 32 teams in the NFL. When the Chargers plays at “home” the people from L.A. that come to see them play in Stub Hub Center are literally fans of the opposing team. The Chargers don’t have a home field advantage, and part of that problem is purely that San Diego fans didn’t transfer at all. The L.A. Chargers have to start from scratch, as if they’re a brand new franchise, with an absolutely zero fan base in Los Angeles. On top of that, they’re competing with the L.A. Rams who have all the momentum. Not only did they have a small fan base to start off with — basically anyone who moved from the St. Louis area and now lives in Southern California — but right now the Rams are electric. Between Jared GoffTodd GurleySammy WatkinsCooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald this team is young, exciting, and most importantly: they’re winning. It’s a no-brainer that any new fans warming up to their new L.A. teams are gravitating towards the Rams versus a Chargers team that has zero wins.

The Chargers new stadium will get built… eventually. When it finally does get built in projected 2020, the Chargers will have a different team. Philip Rivers might not be around anymore, the coaching staff may be switched out, the whole division may have a new power surge. Through the uncertainty of the future, one thing is going to be the same: the absence of attendance at Chargers games. With the seats being as barren as San Francisco 49ers games, it makes a person wonder if the estimated $2.6 billion stadium is even worth it. Everyone loves new stadiums, and after the tape is cut and the shine wears off, the main thing will be whether or not the Chargers can win games. If they can’t, then this $2 billion investment might be the iceberg that sinks the franchise once and for all. If the San Diego fan base doesn’t start travelling to L.A., and the Los Angeles fan base still remain loyal to the Rams, it wouldn’t surprise anyone that Spanos decides to jump ship on the franchise entirely. Other owners have done it in the past, so it’s not an outlandish thought to have. Even if Spanos wants to keep an NFL franchise, or sell cheap and have it revamped, this could be the beginning of the end of the Chargers.

A brand new start may be exactly what the Chargers need. Unfortunately the Chargers would have to die out for it to happen, but the “new start” that they’re receiving in Los Angeles isn’t the answer. Perhaps the answer is for the Chargers to fold, a new franchise to emerge, and move to a new city with a brand new roster. It’s already happened in the past. The Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Titans. The Baltimore Ravens were originally the Cleveland Browns. If the Chargers were to crumble and resurface with a new look, a new logo, and a new city, that could be the restart that they truly need for a fan base to finally start following them. A new city is the first place to start, and the most promising city that could accept a franchise again would be St. Louis. Sounds crazy, right? They just lost their team to Los Angeles, so why wouldn’t they just keep the Rams in that case? Except if history has taught us anything, it’s already happened to Baltimore and Houston. So maybe not so crazy. It might take another 15 or 20 years before any of this to happen, but if it does start heading that direction and the Chargers really begin to struggle, at least San Diego fans can have their own moral redemption by telling Alex Spanos that maybe he should have never left.

Gruesome Loss in Foxborough

Tom Brady. Super Bowl champions. Belichick. Foxborough.

These are the words that usually make lots of people nervous when playing the New England Patriots. Everybody except Andy Reid, that is. The NFL season has officially begun, and what a crazy epidemic match we witnessed on Thursday Night Football when the Kansas City Chiefs came in to the reigning Lombardi Trophy wielders, and made the champs look like chumps. Ironic how the 66,000+ fans in attendance had pictures of Roger Goodell with a clown nose, but the Pats were the ones with pie on their face at the end of this game. Considering we saw Brady play the best second half in Super Bowl history, we now witnessed one of his worst second half performances during the Patriots home opener.

There is no doubt the Patriots started off strong, collecting their first drive for a total of 78 yards and a touchdown. They looked unstoppable, just how we all expected Bill Belichick’s team to always perform since he took over as head coach in 2000. The touchdowns definitely came easy as always for New England, so where did they go wrong? Was it the bad luck? Did they lose momentum when Belichick decided to go for it on 4th down not once, but twice and didn’t convert on downs? Or could the crowd to be blamed for being silenced when Gronkowski catching the 20 yard bullet pass in the end zone, only for the play to be reviewed and ruled the ball touch the ground? Nobody can blame Belichick for believing in his offense, but maybe some credit needs to be noted towards Kansas City defense. Granted they allowed Mike Gillislee three touchdowns when on the goal line, they did stop the Patriots when it mattered most. They didn’t create any turn overs, but they did sack Tom Brady in the second half three times; two of them accumulating from Justin Houston himself.

The Patriots did have every opportunity to punish Kansas City for their mistakes. The very first play on their first drive the Chiefs handed the ball off to rookie running back Kareem Hunt, only for the 12 yard run to end in a fumble recovered by the Patriots defense. Patriots didn’t execute from the turnover, and basically just wasted time off the clock for Kansas City to set up a new drive, go down the field, and score. Tip of the hat goes towards Andy Reid, Alex Smith, and Kareem Hunt for not allowing the momentum the Patriots were stacking up get to them. They were like a vacuum, sucking out the crowd noise and the pressure building on their shoulders. Even when the Chiefs were trying to just give the game away — racking up 15 penalties for 139 yards — Alex Smith still came on the field to do his job.

Maybe signing Patrick Mahomes was the motivation to spark Smith to play the best we’ve ever seen him, and secure his starting position as quarterback. Smith was 28 for 35 passing completions, with an 80% completion percentage, 352 passing yards averaging 9.3 yards per play, and 3 passing touchdowns. That is some straight up Tom Brady statistics, only Brady wasn’t as fortunate with his numbers. Brady only had 247 passing yards, completing a mere 44% of his passes, averaging 6 yards per play, and ended the day with a big goose egg for passing touchdowns. Was it role reversal day in Foxborough that none of us were aware of? That may be one of the worst stats we’ve seen from Tom Brady since his rookie year playing in the NFL.

Despite the fumble his first play mentioned above, Kareem Hunt had himself one hell of debut being broadcast nationally. Coming home with a whopping 148 rushing yards, 98 passing yards, 3 total touchdowns. That’s a total of 246 scrimmage yards, which hasn’t been done since 1970. In the second half of the game, Kareem Hunt looked scary good. Whether it was momentum or motivation, the Patriots did not have an answer for Hunt. This might be a common theme going forward the rest of the season for other defenses, especially if Alex Smith decides to keep setting the bar high for himself. People expected good things from Hunt this season taking over for an injured Spencer Ware, and I was one of them. Nobody expected something this spectacular from a rookie going in to Foxborough. Was it beginners luck? Possibly. It would be foolish to expect Kareem Hunt to have explosive games like this every week. Then again, last year we saw Jay Ajayi have back-to-back 200+ rushing yard games, so anything can happen.

On the flip side of the coin, don’t expect the Patriots to look like this the remainder of the year. Maybe New England just underestimated what Kansas City has to offer this year. Perhaps Bill Belichick blames the Patriots being five weeks behind everyone else. One thing is for certain though: I wouldn’t want to be the New Orleans Saints next week. Between an angry head coach, a motivated Brady, and a defense that wants redemption, it looks like the Saints are going to have their hands full going in to week two.