The future of the NFL is here

Last night’s game on Monday Night Football delivered, big time.

In the great city of Los Angeles, a city hurting after the recent wildfires that destroyed hundreds of homes as well as the shooting at a bar in Ventura County, the Kansas City Chiefs and LA Rams gave an extraordinary, record-setting show of offense and defense.

By the numbers, 105 combined points, more than a thousand yards of offense, 13 total touchdowns, and a hometown victory for the Rams. Both offenses and defenses shined for almost comical numbers; just go and look at the stats for yourself and try your best to not be bewildered.

Boy, was this game a chess match. A shootout. A duel. A battle. Or as legendary WWE commentator Jim Ross would call a heavily brutal wrestling match, a “slobberknocker.”

Both quarterbacks, with not even three years of NFL experience under their belt, made for an all-time classic that smashed Vegas odds and drew national attention. Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff, both, in their own regards, highly touted and popular stars this year, together threw for 891 yards and 10 touchdowns. This type of thing you’d expect out of veteran quarterbacks like Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Roethlisberger… but no, it was the new guys. All of them.

It’s just simply the way the game was played. It could’ve been that the location was at in a general college football venue, or maybe it was both powerhouse teams are already near-locks to win their divisions. But overall, you can’t say every player on each team was a veteran in their own right. But almost every one of them was a playmaker.

Names like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Kareem Hunt helped accelerate the Kansas City offense, all of whom haven’t even been in the NFL for that long (Kelce was drafted in 2013; the others were in later drafts).

On the other side of the ball, where the Rams defense can be regarded as the best in football right now, Samson Ebukam recovered a fumble for a touchdown, scored a pick-six, and racked up several hits on Mahomes. Definitely earned himself the game MVP.

But the most disruptive player on the Rams defense, much to no one’s surprise, was Aaron Donald. He was an animal, a fiend, a force to be reckoned with. He was just as unstoppable as any quarterback or wide receiver who was playing Monday night. Consistently bursting through the Chiefs’ offensive line, Donald was the man who forced two of Mahomes’ fumbles, further proving that he’s the best defensive player in football right now. As if his resume didn’t show that already.

With defense being the most looked-at aspect of this year’s upcoming draft, Donald is the pinnacle of what every prospect should aim to be and look to surpass. Well, with the inclusion of Bears linebacker Khalil Mack, of course.

Every single player participating in last night’s bout knew how it special the game would be, but didn’t expect that it would lead to one of the best games we’ve seen in a while. Most of them felt that watching the game would’ve been better than playing in it.

Rams defensive end Michael Brockers said afterwards in the locker room, “I just really wanna go home and watch it. To be in it was stressful. To watch a game like that… that’s what football is made for.

Rodger Safford, Rams offensive guard, described the unfolding events as him “probably losing two or three years of my life with all those heart attacks.” There were six lead changes during Monday night’s game, with three of them occurring in the fourth quarter.

What’s important to remember now that this game is all said and done is that this is the future of football. This game showed the progress of change within the league. The only thing close to the intensity of this Chiefs-Rams matchup was last year’s Super Bowl, which featured 1,151 yards of total offense. Looking at these two examples, there’s really no way that they would’ve been played in any year before 2018; pivotal matchups and the electric hype leading up to it, this is how the league could look for years to come.

Not to mention, all of these stars who came out to play Monday night will continue to shine for plenty more games to come, or even years for that matter. This new class of studs and standouts have shown us that the entertainment level of football is in good hands, and it starts with each and every player and coach that took part in last night’s Los Angeles spectacle.

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Is UCF worth all the hype?

Last season, the University of Central Florida took the college football world by storm after being the only undefeated team remaining after the last game had been played. They claimed themselves the rightful national champions, despite being left out of the College Football Playoff and Alabama winning the championship game in a thriller.

Once again, UCF has been able to remain undefeated (9-0) this season and hold a spot at No. 11 in the CFP rankings heading into this Saturday, where they will host ESPN’s College Gameday and play No. 24 Cincinnati (9-1), their divisional contender in the American Athletic Conference.

The Knights have been unable to gain much traction and attention, only climbing up a few spots every week when the rankings come out. They are among the only undefeated teams remaining next to Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame who are currently ranked one, two, and three, respectively.

The selecting committee left the top 10 unchanged this week for the first time since the CFP was born, keeping a half-dozen teams with one loss ahead of UCF, as well as 8-2 LSU.

Because of the conference they’re in, yes, it is difficult for the Knights to gain proper attention from the committee to be included in playoff contention. Their only Power 5 conference game against North Carolina had to be cancelled due to Hurricane Florence. And every season, they can only ink in so many ranked Power 5 opponents. But as long as they win out the rest of the season and win a second straight AAC title, their winning streak will extend to 25, which is quite dominant in terms of what other teams have been able to accomplish in the past two seasons.

Many say that they were robbed of a proper playoff spot last season after beating Auburn in the Peach Bowl, the only team to beat national title contenders Alabama and Georgia. In UCF mathematics, beating a team that beats Alabama equals being better than Alabama, the team that took home the “natty” last season.

To be honest, what UCF has done over these past two seasons is rightfully impressive. Going undefeated isn’t easy, but beating the teams that the Knights face every season doesn’t exactly seem all too difficult.

Let’s be realistic: if they were to face Alabama in a regular season game or a championship game, the Tide would wipe the floor with them.

Their hearts and minds are certainly in the right place in terms of aiming for glory, but taking into account the committee’s selection process, ultimate chaos would need to happen for UCF to land in the playoff:

  1. Alabama would need to lose to Georgia in the SEC Championship game. Looking at their schedule, chances are slim that they’ll suffer a loss with the rest of their games being played at home. Even with an unlikely loss against Auburn, Alabama could quickly redeem themselves with beating Georgia in the championship game, especially since they’ve already clinched their division. A 12-1 SEC team will not be left out of the playoff. The committee has already sent teams that did not reach their respective title games to the playoff, last year being Alabama and Ohio State the year before.
  2. Ohio State would need to beat Michigan and win the Big Ten title. However, the blowout loss against Purdue would affect the judgment of the committee, and there are many probable 12-1 teams to choose from if Ohio State is not a suitor in their eyes for an open spot, including Oklahoma, West Virginia, or Washington State.
  3. Notre Dame loses to USC. This one is problematic because without a conference championship to determine their placement, but the committee would never leave out a one loss Fighting Irish. It also leaves out the possibility that Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Washington State could easily pick up a second loss before their conference title games.
  4. Pitt would need to beat Clemson in the ACC title game… yeah, not happening.

Maybe the solution to solving the playoff problem is expanding it to include more teams such as UCF so that they might have a fighting chance. But what Power 5 conference teams face every season is a lot more challenging than what UCF faces with the likes of Memphis, East Carolina, Temple and Navy. In fact, their only challenge up until this coming weekend was against a 6-4 Pitt team. Does that sound challenging to you?

Until something is done which alters the landscape of claiming a true ruler of college football, a non-Power-5 team will never play for a national championship.

MLB’s hot stove: evaluating the top 5 free agents on the market

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox on winning the 2018 World Series. As much as it pains me to say it, the accomplishments that the Beantown Bombers reached this season are pretty damn incredible and can’t afford to go unnoticed.

But now, it’s the 2018-19 offseason and the wild game of free agency is upon us.

Aces Clayton Kershaw and David Price announced that they’d be staying put, so you can cross them off the list. And it won’t be a total fire sale that many were expecting, but there’s too much impact talent in this class that is prime for the signing.

Let’s take a look at some of the names within the field:

Pitchers: Clay Buchholz, Trevor Cahill, Marco Estrada, Gio Gonzalez, Matt Harvey, Edwin Jackson, Lance Lynn, Drew Pomeranz, CC Sabathia, Anibal Sanchez, Ervin Santana, James Shields, Tyler Clippard, Shawn Kelley, Joe Kelly, Oliver Perez, Sergio Romo, Adam Warren

Catchers: Jonathan Lucroy, Brian McCann, Kurt Suzuki

Infielders: Adrian Beltre, Asdrubal Cabrera, Brian Dozier, Josh Harrison, Jose Iglesias, Ian Kinsler, Mike Moustakas, Steve Pearce, Neil Walker

Outfielders: Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Holliday, Adam Jones, Cameron Maybin, Denard Span

Out of all those names, there’s a lot of spots to be filled on your favorite team. Who knows? Maybe yours will get a hold on one of them in the coming months.

However, everyone’s eyes are on five stars who will make groundbreaking moves with their potential new ball clubs.

5. LF Michael Brantley

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Texas Rangers

Brantley only played a total of 101 games with the Cleveland Indians from 2016-2017 after battling shoulder, biceps, and ankle injuries, all of which required surgery. Many teams are concerned with his health record, but he was finally able to stay healthy in 2018 hitting .309/.364/.468 with 36 doubles, 17 home runs and 76 RBI. The Indians could fit him into the budget after they focus on other free agency targets; for now, they haven’t given him an offer yet.

My prediction: his best fit would be with the Atlanta Braves for a 3-4 year contract totaling $45 million. Many of the Indians’ outfielders are also on the market including Melky Cabrera and Rajai Davis. If any one of these players go, Cleveland may look to Adam Jones for solid outfield leadership that manager Terry Francona could rely on.

4. SP Dallas Keuchel

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Keuchel won an AL Cy Young in 2015, but has since settled as a pitcher. He’s solid, but not spectacular. Just about capable of posting a sub-3.50 ERA and eating around 200 innings will be enough for a competing team to bite on the soon-to-be 31 year-old. It’s not about velocity and strikeouts with Keuchel, but instead commanding, controlling, and keeping the ball in the yard; his ground-ball rate ranked among league leaders, rising to as high as 66.8-percent in 2017.

My prediction: he’s one of the safest bets in terms of starting pitchers in this free agent class that I can think of, so a four-year, $82 million contract is a sound investment. While I could see Keuchel moving to the Nationals, the Angels will lack Shohei Ohtani in 2019 following TJ surgery. Adding him to the rotation could make the team a contender next season, and even more of a threat when Ohtani returns in 2020.

3. SP Patrick Corbin

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No player in recent memory has done more to increase his value than Corbin, and he broke out at just the right time. A younger free agent despite turning 30 this coming July, the southpaw dominated 200 innings for the Diamondbacks, posting a 3.15 ERA with 11.1 K/9 (a spike from 8.4 last season) and 2.2 BB/9 in 33 starts. All courtesy of his improved slider.

My prediction: all signs point to the New York Yankees after Bob Nightengale of USA Today said that he’d be great to pitch for his favorite childhood team. The Yankees have the money (are you surprised?) and the desperate need for him, and Cashman will most likely bite on the opportunity to bring him in. But teams like the Astros, Braves, Phillies, Nationals, Dodgers, Giants, Angels, and Twins have expressed interest, too. It’s going to be a war to try and sign this guy, but they better be able to put up over $120M with a nice 5-6 year contract for him.

2. RF Bryce Harper

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Yes, the baseball prodigy himself. The man who everyone can’t stop talking about. Bryce Harper. He’s shown everybody the higher peak of the game and stardom, and the ceiling can only get higher as his career goes on. The Nationals haven’t yet made a move on retaining him, and it’s probably because of his consistency which broke this season. For many bidding teams, that’s make or break for a potential record-breaking deal. Either way, any team would fear him being in the middle of the lineup with the ability to crank 35-40 home runs a season and draw 120 walks. He also builds an MVP campaign every season if that helps in the decision.

My prediction: there’s a plethora of teams who can afford to house Harper with a long-term contract; the Dodgers, Cubs, Phillies, Yankees, and Cardinals are all likely suitors. However, I feel the Giants are going to give him a deal beyond words: 10+ years, $400 million. Whatever the final result will be, be prepared for a breaking news update that will shake the entire world of baseball.

1. SS Manny Machado

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When it comes to the debate of who’s touted to be the No. 1 free agent, Machado beats out Harper due to his strength of consistency with more impact on the defensive side. Plus, his case is just as compelling. A two-time Gold Glove winner who can play both third base and shortstop, he’ll take whichever of the two as long as his contract is suitable for him. Since 2015, he’s also been an excellent hitter beating out Harper in WAR over the past three years. However, his reputation has been criticized over the past couple seasons, including during the recent postseason where his actions considered him to be a “dirty player.” Either way, both Harper and Machado are legitimate superstars who will change the direction of any franchise in heartbeat. Both of them will end up making $30 million annually with whoever they sign with.

My prediction: Machado is believed to be the Phillies’ No. 1 target, as they were reported to be “swimming in the deep end of the [upcoming] free-agent pool.” Both him and Harper could blow Giancarlo Stanton’s deal made last season with the Yankees out of the water, but it’s possible that Machado could be making close to $400 million off of a potential 13-year contract.

The rest of the season for Alabama is a cakewalk

The stage was set last night for the most anticipated college football game of the week. Fans got to tailgates early, preparing their best southern cuisine and blasting either Garth Brooks’ “Callin’ Baton Rouge” or Lynyrd Skynrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”

The hosting crew of ESPN’s College Gameday also were quick to draw; the panelists made their picks, showed vignettes of past game film and player storylines, and Lee Corso famously donned the headgear he chose to win the game to end off the show.

The college football legend selected the mascot head of Big Al, signifying that his choice was clear. This was No. 1 Alabama’s game to win.

Low and behold, he was right (per usual).

What was slated to be huge showdown turned out to be a big beatdown as the Crimson Tide rolled over the No. 3 LSU Tigers, 29-0, improving to 9-0 on the year, clinching the SEC West, and remaining atop the AP polls. It remains to be seen whether they’ll still be No. 1 in the CFP rankings, but I think we all know the answer to that one.

In the hardest place to play in college football, Alabama entered the seemingly hellacious Death Valley environment and routed them, preventing the LSU defense from reaching the red zone until the fourth quarter and outgaining them 576-196.

Sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa finished the night with three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing), almost unphased that he had thrown his first interception of the season (which I totally called by the way).

The game was severely underwhelming, with many now predicting that this is how it’ll be for the rest of the season with the Tide. They still have to play Mississippi State and Auburn, with The Citadel from the FCS visiting in between the aforementioned two. Might as well call them the favorites for all three of those games.

At this point, it’s locked down that Alabama will be in the College Football Playoff, even if they potentially lose to Georgia in the SEC championship game.

As a matter of fact, the higher powers of the NCAA football committee might as well just mail the Heisman Trophy down to Tuscaloosa with Tagovailoa’s name etched on the plaque. He’s been making ridiculous plays and putting up crazy numbers since the beginning of the season, and even still, critics wanted to see if he could do the same “kind of stuff against LSU.”

Well, he did.

Three total touchdowns, close to 300 yards before the end of the third quarter against arguably the nation’s top secondary, and another blowout win for Alabama.

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron seemingly threw his players under the bus, saying that the outcome of Saturday night’s game was partly to blame on poor recruiting.

“I gotta recruit better defensive linemen. Gotta recruit better offensive linemen. Same old thing. Gotta beat Alabama at the line of scrimmage,” Orgeron said. Alabama massacred LSU in the ground game, 281-12.

Recruiting is not always a simple task if you’re trying to beat out Alabama. The only team that has come remotely close to the same level as Coach Saban’s squad recently is Clemson. Wait, scratch that,… the LeBron-led Cavaliers or Curry’s current Warriors is closer.

Simply put, get better. Put up or shut up. Usually there’s one team during the regular season that gets a win against Alabama. But in the long run, it’s the Tide that rolls over everyone in its path.

You may be tired of seeing them always win, as we all are with seeing all these consistent professional or collegiate teams bring in championships, but this is a remarkable impact on the world of sports that we’ll be able to remember.

And until another team comes along to dethrone this domination squad, it’s sweet home Alabama all summer long after the season ends and way before it begins.

A heartwarming moment for Derrick Rose and all of basketball

Since his 2011 MVP award-winning season, Derrick Rose’s career in the NBA could be classified as a “downward spiral”, slowly descending into an afterthought, shuffling from team to team and fighting one devastating injury after another.

Wednesday night, he showed a new form of his old self.

Out of nowhere, Rose exploded for a 50-point game against the Utah Jazz. A career high in the Minnesota victory, 128-125. He joined the likes of Blake Griffin, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson as players who have already hit that mark so far in this relatively young season.

After watching his performance and the tear-jerking moments during the postgame, one couldn’t help but feel inspired by all of it. The amount of adversity he had put up with in the past and all the work he put into the game all led to this moment: a huge divisional game with his team’s best player, Jimmy Butler, sitting out. How can someone say that he’s not allowed to cry?

The amount of support and praise Rose received after the game is just as awe-inspiring; peers, colleagues, and teammates alike felt nostalgic watching him perform at a level that hadn’t been witnessed since 2011 when he was with the Chicago Bulls.

Now I’ll admit, all of us basketball fans are guilty of saying that Rose would never amount to anything ever again, calling him “injury-prone” and “washed up.” His emotional performance silenced all who lost their faith in him, including the wild world of sports media where opinions and hot takes are thrown around like hot potatoes.

Now does this performance mean anything? Not entirely. The season just started and the playoffs don’t begin until around late April of next year. Rose’s night won’t translate into an automatic playoff seed, especially with the problematic situation with the Timberwolves’ roster lacking one of their star players. But Wednesday night showed that there is a plan B for this team’s progression this year, and this veteran journeyman can be the one to back it.

Overall, there’s no way that you can’t be happy for Derrick Rose. Based on where his career has been, he deserved this moment just as much as the true basketball fan deserved it too.

Could Nick Bosa’s Decision Be a Turning Point in College Sports?

Seven games into the Ohio State football season, and star defensive end Nick Bosa is calling it quits. Earlier this week, he announced that his career with the Buckeyes is over.

Bosa expressed his increasing frustration after being forced to sit out the game against Penn State due to a core injury. He would then sit out the following two contests, having had surgery on September 20th.

In a near-unprecedented move, he withdrew from the university to focus on the upcoming NFL Draft where, according to several mock drafts, he’s slated to go within the first five picks.

Choosing NFL prep over both education and a possible second National Championship in the CFP era marks a culture shift, where top power players are beginning to realize their professional potential where their skills could actually bring them a big paycheck. It’s hard for them to visualize that if their health isn’t at 100-percent.

Plus, they aren’t earning anything for playing at such a high level in collegiate sports besides just a free education. In the primetime hours, players like Bosa are putting their bodies on the line every game. And for what? For the major universities and NCAA to take the money and use it towards unnecessary facility enhancements?

Josh Rosen said last year that players will leave early wanting “to get paid before injuries ruin the very thing that allows them to earn.”

And now the conversation arises again: is it time to start paying college players?

Nothing major, nothing groundbreaking… something substantial and uncontroversial. Many school presidents say that it’s time for a serious conversation regarding the issue. The waterslides, Jacuzzis, and barbershops that programs are installing into these new, eye-popping facilities come from team earnings that could be put to better use.

After all, the players are the reason why the stadiums reach sold-out capacity, why television contracts are skyrocketing for teams and P5-conferences, and why companies like Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas live off the sponsored apparel.

Translation: players make the program and it’s time to start making it worth their time to play at and learn at these top-tier schools.

A standard salary or giving player the right to use their names, images, likenesses, etc. (bring back the NCAA Football video game @EASports!!!)… anything that will help prevent NCAA battling legal issues in the future with players who suffered life-altering injuries during their time as a collegiate player.

It’s only  a matter of time before more top athletes like Bosa follow in his path. We’ve seen players miss significant/insignificant bowl games to steer clear of injury, and now that it’s been stepped up to a major portion of the season, the field has changed.

 

Make Your Work Ethic Better Than Everyone Else’s

I’ve always felt that if you demonstrate a consistent work ethic both in and outside of your working environment, that positive energy will radiate to those around you, whether it’s your teammates, coworkers, etc.

I’ve been a part of teams both on the field and in an office and the one thing I’ve learned from being in these environments is that everyone wants to work harder than the next person so that they can get that big paycheck, the starting spot, the humbling promotion. Yes, we’ll all work together as one being that we’re all part of the same team striving towards the same goal, but at the end of the day, only the best will thrive off the pressure of competition.

And this is nothing no one hasn’t heard before, but would you rather be do the most you can to get by or excel past your potential and take advantage of all the great things in life that come when you drive yourself to succeed?

What do you value? What motivates you? All too often, I see people going about life lackadaisically, looking at their daily life as just a nagging routine that burdens them. My manager constantly says, “Success is doing the same things over and over again,” meaning that as long as you maintain a consistent routine on the path to where you want to be in life, it’ll bring you closer than where you were before.

It involves persistence, because the daily grind can get overwhelming at times. It’s simple though; find a reason to smile and push through. As much as your work ethic radiates to others, so does your attitude. Positivity is transferrable within a group of people; the energy we give off is part of a magnetic field that those around us can feel as well. So you must know what it’s like to be around a person with a negative attitude because it’s the same effect.

Show that you want to work harder than everyone else because it will not only help you reach your goals, but it’ll drive others around you to reach the same level of their true potential. This will lead to a more productive atmosphere where everyone is in friendly competition with each other and, in turn, will get shit done.

It’ll also make you more reliable to others, including those above you who will ask you to do a job for them. Are they going to look at you as a dependable adversary to carry out the task or are they going to look past you and hand it off to the next person who’s better than you? That’s up for you to decide.

Build good habits, show you belong and work as hard as you can until you earn the respect from your fellow peers.