Let’s Not Overhype Saquon Just Yet…

Regardless of your fandom, you should be excited to see Saquon Barkley play in the NFL. I shouldn’t be the only one watching his first regular season game against Jacksonville on Sept. 9th.

This man is building up so much hype for the New York Giants and for the newly-drafted NFL class. If one player can generate so much buzz about an entire season, it’s already very impressive.

Just look at his highlight reel from his career at Penn State and tell me he’s not going to be fun to watch.

Big play after big play, like clockwork.

Maybe it’s the media that has set big expectations for him or maybe it’s the Giants organization, being that they skipped on drafting a future franchise quarterback to develop behind Eli Manning. Now they’ll get to run the ball the way they’ve wanted to for years.

But us as fans are to blame as well; the amount of anticipation we expressed in the desperate waiting for Barkley’s entry into the league does seem a bit overwhelming. His Giants jersey is already the No. 1-selling on online pro shops everywhere.

Much of it is deserved after his career of tearing apart college defenses on the ground and occasionally in the air. But it’s a matter of if his maturity allows him to handle all the stresses.

Leave it to ESPN to add to the already-immense pressure.

The leading sports media outlet in the world listed Barkley as one of the best players under the age of 25, before he’s even played a single down…

These so-called “experts” are delusional. Listing Barkley rather than Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara (RB, New Orleans Saints) is a crime. Better yet, an absolute joke.

Yes, it’s no doubt he’ll be good, but ESPN is going the route of hyping up a soon-to-be New York hero. As Barstool Sports wrote, the media will always try to draw attention to the next big thing in the Big Apple.

“O’dell Beckham Jr. was supposed to be that guy. But due to a combination of his own mercurial nutjobbery, lack of postseason success and missing almost all of last year, that hasn’t panned out,” Jerry Thornton writes.

We all watched the same film, read the same reports, and we can all collectively say and agree that he has the greatest potential we’ve seen out of any draftee in years. But now’s not the time for rash assumptions.

The pressure has already built up enough on him. We shouldn’t continue to add to it other than wishing him the best. However, it is common when we see someone of so much skill and speed now competing with the big boys. Personally, I feel it’s a shame that Barkley got kind of sucked into all of that.

The New York Giants want to avoid seeing an overhyped bust just as much as the fans. Hopefully, he’ll conquer all expectations.

 

 

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Top 5 2018 CFB Offensive Prospects by Position

I’m not the only one counting down the days until college football begins, right?

A little less than a month away, there are a handful of players making waves and turning heads before the season gets underway. Many of them are aiming towards a national championship, but only a few are destined to be first round prospects in April’s NFL Draft. There’s a lot to prove and a lot of scouts to impress, so without further ado, here are five prospects from each position to look out for during the 2018 college football season.

Quarterbacks

(Note: so far, this is looking to be one of the weakest class of quarterbacks in years. There are hardly any standouts and will probably only be two drafted within the first round.)

1. Justin Herbert, Oregon

Scouts are already saying that Herbert has big-time potential, which is essential for Oregon if they want to get back to the top of the Pac-12 conference. Although he only played eight games last season, the now-junior completed 67-percent of his passes for 1,750 yards with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. As a true freshman, he racked up 1,936 yards with 19 touchdowns and a 64-percent completion rate.

Strengths: Good size, strong arm, patience in the pocket, pass placement that leads receivers out of coverage, ability to pick up yards running

Weaknesses: Field vision

2. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

Another quarterback entering his junior season, Stidham finished 2017 with 67-percent of passes completed, 3,158 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. He steadily improved upon his struggles from the beginning of the year and rounded off the season by knocking off both undefeated Georgia and Alabama. Scouts have praised him for his potential as well saying he could end up being a high-first round pick if he stays consistent.

Strengths: high football IQ, good throwing mechanics including a quick release, vastly improved field vision against the rush, very mobile with excellent speed

Weaknesses: needs to fix side arm release, not that physically gifted compared to Herbert

3. Drew Lock, Missouri

Lock grabbed the media’s attention by setting an SEC single-season record for touchdown passes in 2017 with 43, while also completing 58-percent of his passes for 3,964 yards. Missouri has been known to be a lacking team over the past couple seasons. Lock turned that around in the last half of the year winning six straight games after the Tigers had a 1-5 start. Talk about a tear. He was very wise to return to Missouri before turning pro, because there are a lot of improvements to make.

Strengths: big-armed gunslinger with great ability to throw any pass, good size, tight window passing, downfield passing, mobility

Weaknesses: accuracy, field vision, prone to overthrow, a little too powerful, needs to be consistent with timing and anticipation

4. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State

An ankle injury in the Egg Bowl ended his season early, which probably helped him decide to return for his senior year. He amassed 29 total touchdowns with 14 of them rushing and 1,782 yards. However, his high interception total (11) doesn’t excite a lot of scouts, but as Dak Prescott’s successor, he has a lot to prove this season if he wants to compete in the most challenging conference in college football.

Strengths: pro size, breakaway speed, charisma

Weaknesses: accuracy, pocket passing, too many forced passes

5. Easton Stick, North Dakota State

A lot of media buzz has generated after three nice seasons with the Bison, and what a statement to make after Carson Wentz entered the NFL. Just look at his consistently improving season statistics:

Screenshot (2)

He unfortunately wasn’t listed on NFL team’s preseason watch lists with other first- through fourth-round projections. That could quickly change midway through the season.

Strengths: quality arm, mobility in and out of pocket, ability to make NFL throws

Weaknesses: needs to learn how to fit the ball in tight windows, connection with receivers, needs faster throwing motion

Running Backs

1. Bryce Love, Stanford

Currently getting a shocking comparison to Chris Johnson, Love is better than other smaller backs who have gone in the first round in the past (David Wilson, Jahvid Best, etc. At 5-foot-10 and 196 pounds, he’s tough and extremely fast. If you need proof, watch the video and how his vision of the field sends him to the end zone in a matter of seconds. This early Heisman candidate is deadly, as he’s already putting up NFL- like numbers (8.1 yards per carry, 2,118 yards, 19 touchdowns).

2. Damien Harris, Alabama

Harris took a very long time to develop into a well-rounded back. Scouts has compared him to Doug Martin when he was a dominant runner in the NFL. With great vision, good contact balance, and strength, Harris has the potential to be elite, especially since he was Alabama’s leading rusher. In 2017, he averaged 7.4 yards per carry with 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s due to explode for even more this season.

3. Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma

Anderson is now the next man up for the Sooners now that Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine have moved on to the NFL. The now-feature-back had an impressive 2017 season with 5.9 yards per carry for 960 yards and 11 touchdowns. While he is quick with a superb ability to get to the second level of the defense, he’ll need to develop better acceleration to burn defenders on his way to the end zone.

4. Mike Weber, Ohio State

Limited by a hamstring injury for a few games, Weber still took 96 carries for 608 yards with 10 touchdowns. He won the starting job to replace Ezekiel Elliott out of a group of highly recruited and talented backs. In his impressive debut season, he averaged six yards per carry for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns.

5. Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M

From his freshman year onward, Williams has looked like he’s got potential. The Aggies’ offensive line struggled, however, during his sophomore year and only totaled 575 yards on the ground. After getting a commitment out of the No. 1 offensive tackle out of high school, Kenyon Green, Williams will look to have an easier time boosting his draft stock. During his freshman year, he picked up 6.8 yards per carry with 1,057 yards and eight touchdowns.

Wide Receivers

1. A.J. Brown, Mississippi

The Ole Miss Rebels have had a hard time getting their swagger back over the past couple seasons, but A.J. Brown has been a standout on an offense that lost its starting quarterback to injury. He still managed to total 75 receptions for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns. Brown is quick with polish and physicality and dangerous with the ball in his hands. With broken tackles left and right, he has tremendous yards-after-the-catch potential.

2. Ahmmon Richards, Miami

Brad Kaaya lacked the consistency to really show Richards’ true ability in 2016 and in 2017, he only played seven games because of a hamstring injury. He still displayed his play-making ability in his appearances, averaging 19.1 YPC. Here are his statistics from his previous two years:

2017: 24 catches, 439 yards, three touchdowns

2016: 49 catches, 934 yards, three touchdowns

3. Deebo Samuel, South Carolina

Scouts are excited about the rise of this young projected 2nd rounder. If he stays healthy, he may go even earlier. In 2017, he displayed explosive speed and play-making ability with 15 receptions for 250 yards and three touchdowns. However, in the third game of the season, he broke a bone in his left leg. But after returning a kick for a touchdown in each of the two games prior, the Gamecocks knew they’d have him primed and ready for the following season.

4. N’Keal Harry, Arizona State

Poised to be the leading receiver for the Pac-12 conference this season, Harry was able to snag 73 passes for 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns in 2017. Scouts report him as a late first-rounder or an early second-round pick. I expect him to be picked late in the first round if he can find enough speed to separate from the pro-caliber cornerbacks on his routes.

5. Marquise Brown, Oklahoma

Very fast and an instant threat to score, Brown can practically catch a pass whenever he wants to. As a sophomore, he averaged 19.2 yards per catch for 1,095 yards on 57 catches with seven touchdowns. He needs to get stronger for the NFL, but his thin frame will do for now because of his explosiveness. Just needs to work on adding weight while maintaining his speed.

Tight Ends

1. Noah Fant, Iowa

To me, Iowa has become “TE University” in recent years after the amount of prospects they’ve produced; Fant can continue the trend after his breakout sophomore year, hauling in 28 passes for 486 yards and ten touchdowns. He can only get stronger and become a better blocker to climb up the draft boards. This kid is dangerous.

2. Caleb Wilson, UCLA

Wilson shined in the Bruins’ legendary comeback over Texas A&M, catching 15 passes for 208 yards. He was Josh Rosen’s most reliable receiving threat prior to a season-ending foot injury, therefore, his statistics don’t add up to much. However, scouts are eyeing him to be an early second-round weapon for the lucky NFL team that drafts him.

3. Kaden Smith, Stanford

Stanford is no stranger to producing great tight ends for the NFL, with most of them being solid blockers and productive receivers. Dalton Schultz is long gone and playing with the big boys professionally, so Smith should be seeing more playing time with the Cardinal. Look for him to build upon his resume after catching 23 passes for 414 yards with five touchdowns back in 2017.

4. Tyler Petite, USC

Although his college highlight reel has yet to be created, Petite had a great junior season with Sam Darnold at quarterback, catching 23 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns. But now it’s time to break in a new quarterback after making only minor contributions to the offense over his past three seasons. His blocking also needs to improve drastically before he can see himself as an early third round pick.

5. C.J. Conrad, Kentucky

Seeing something great come out of the Kentucky football program is surprising to me to say the least. But they have a stud in Conrad who, in 2017, caught 16 passes for 286 yards and four touchdowns. Unfortunately, his season ended early because of a foot injury that needed surgery. Although there was limited opportunities for him to shine, he has a lot of upside to grow and build his draft stock this coming season.

Tackles

(disclaimer: some of the videos, if you choose to watch, won’t point out the linemen)

1. Jonah Williams, Alabama

Are you surprised an offensive tackle from Alabama is at the top of the list? Williams was a freshman when he earned a starting spot at right tackle for the Tide back in 2016. Now at left tackle in replacement of Cam Robinson, he’s reliable covering the blind side and very intuitive in the run game and pass protection. Williams’ size and speed will be very special for the NFL team that chooses him.

2. Trey Adams, Washington

Forced to return to the Huskies for his senior year after an ACL tear in October 2017, Adams is and will be a first round pick come April. He’s shown great range, quickness, athleticism, and agility after a far-from-flawless season opener against Rutgers. He was rated as one of the best pass protectors in 2016 and should be just as dominant once the season is in full swing.

3. Greg Little, Mississippi

Little showed big potential (see what I did there?) as a freshman starter for Ole Miss, but his sophomore year was lackluster at best. Scouts have reported that his recent gains of experience will make him elite as a junior in a conference full of highly-touted offensive linemen.

4. Bobby Evans, Oklahoma

Evans and Orlando Brown were a dangerous tag team last season with both of them covering the right and left ends of the pocket, respectively. He opened up a lot of holes in the run game and protected No. 1 overall Baker Mayfield diligently. Evans will be moving to the left side of the line this season and is projected to go within the first four rounds of the NFL Draft.

5. Michael Deiter, Wisconsin

The B1G Championship illustrated that Deiter needed to return to the Badgers in 2018, being constantly flustered by the skill of Ohio State’s defensive line. To put it in perspective, Nick Bosa made Deiter his “bitch” and showed him that there was a lot to work on with his technique. After replacing Ryan Ramczyk at left tackle in 2017, Deiter made a solid season with good size and athleticism. If he wants to be a first-round pick, he needs to get better leverage on the ground game.

Guards

1. Ross Pierschbacher, Alabama

Yes, yet another Crimson Tide lineman. Don’t act surprised.

Bo Scarborough and Damien Harris have this man to thank for opening up so many holes in the trenches. Pierschbacher has played both left guard and center for the Crimson Tide as a solid run blocker. This season will give him the opportunity to improve his pass blocking ability as Alabama will try to move him between guard and center.

2. Beau Benzschawel, Wisconsin

Both Alabama and Wisconsin will have a lot of offensive linemen featured in the early rounds of this coming NFL Draft. Benzschawel adds to that list due to his bulky size with an ability to fire off the ball and generate the most important thing an interior lineman can do: push. His linear build does hurt him in retrospect, but he’ll beat you off the ball and make you regret lining up against him.

3. Alex Bars, Notre Dame

Although he has experience at right tackle for the Fighting Irish, Bars will be a better fit at inside guard this season and for his foreseeable future in the NFL. But head coach Brian Kelly and offensive line coach Jeff Quinn will have to make a decision whether he’ll be the right replacement for Quenton Nelson or Mike McGlinchey. Violent in the trenches, he pounces off the ball ready to attack like a proper interior lineman.

4. Michael Jordan, Ohio State

Bursting onto the season during his freshman year starting at guard, Jordan showed great improvement in 2017 as a sophomore. There’s a recent trend of interior linemen from the Buckeyes going in early rounds and he should be able to follow that, no questions asked. Jordan already has good size to go with his strength and athleticism. With a little bit more development, he’ll be able help the Ohio State offense dominate the B1G Conference.

5. Dru Samia, Oklahoma

Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma backfield was fronted by some quality offensive linemen last season and Samia is one of them. After moving from right tackle his freshman year to right guard the following season, he provided steady pass protection and holes for running. All he needs to do is gain some size and strength and his frame will be perfect for the NFL.

Centers

1. Dalton Risner, Kansas State

Performing well on both the inside and outside of the o-line, the Wildcats’ coaching staff knows they have a shuffle piece in Risner to move around at their disposal. Simply put, he’s been reliable anywhere he’s put. However, for the NFL, moving back to center will be his best fit.

2. Connor McGovern, Penn State

As aforementioned, some of the best running threats we saw last season would be nothing without their interior linemen. By far, the best running back we’ve seen in years, Saquon Barkley, has this man to thank for making him look good. McGovern opened a lot of holes for him as a quality run blocker and will need to maintain consistency as a pass protector for quarterback Trace McSorley. Great height and arm length makes McGovern a great fit for an NFL center spot.

3. Jesse Burkett, Stanford

There’s a reason why Burkett is playing for Stanford: he’s a very smart blocker. Overall, he has the best ability out of every center to block up to the second level of the defense. Only a little bit of size, however, but he makes up for it with a good combination of skills and athleticism.

4. Sam Mustipher, Notre Dame

As one of the shortest centers in this upcoming draft, Mustipher (6-foot-2) would be rated higher if he were taller and had more length. His size does limit him in certain aspects, but he has proved to be an impressive blocker for Notre Dame. Steady in pass protection and aggressive in the trenches, Mustipher may be a huge surprise this season.

5. Jake Hanson, Oregon

Hanson had a good season in 2017 and is still questionable as an entry into this upcoming NFL Draft. Why? Maybe it’s because he still has some strength to develop and experience to gain as a well-rounded center. The decision is ultimately up to him when he feels ready. As a quality athlete with some quickness, Hanson should know what he has to work on and will grow as a dominant interior lineman.

 

A World Cup to Remember

I’ll be honest: I didn’t expect much out of this year’s World Cup when it first started. The USA wasn’t participating and both Italy and the Netherlands, two countries known for being dominant in international play, didn’t qualify.

After all, what events could altogether top the memorable (and hysterical) 7-1 routing of Brazil by the hands of the Germany?

Much to the surprise of the soccer world, Germany’s dominance from four years ago failed to follow them to Russia. Going 1-2 in group play with shocking losses against Mexico and South Korea, they were eliminated from the competition.

The headlines didn’t stop there; as the tournament advanced into the knockout stage, we continued to see more upsets and heartbreaks.

After Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portuguese squad suffered a loss to his Real Madrid teammate Luis Suárez and Uruguay, rumors started to stir up about the five-time Ballon d’Or award winner leaving his club team in Spain. On July 10th, it was announced that he would be transferring to the Italian club Juventus as part of a four-year, €100 million deal.

A move that shook the entire soccer world, Ronaldo’s new deal was the highest ever for a player over 30 years old, and the highest ever paid by an Italian club. Wanting a new challenge in his career, he departed Real Madrid after nine years of play bidding the fans an emotional farewell.

“I just have enormous thanks for this club these fans, and this city. But I believe the time has come to open a new stage in my life, so I have asked the club to accept to let me go.” – Cristiano Ronaldo

Moving on through the tournament, we saw superstar Lionel Messi and Argentina unable to reach the final again, Russia shocking Spain in penalty kicks, Belgium brush aside Brazil, and Croatia reach their first ever World Cup final in team history.

Who could’ve predicted Croatia being the dark horse out of every other team in this year’s tournament? With their last fighting breath, they came back from an early England goal to win in extra time in the semifinals. That, to me, is a sensational story. With the class they showed and the drive they exhibited battling back from deficits during their games, they deserve all the recognition in the world.

Onto the final, France’s young squad consisting of Benjamin Pavard and 19-year-old Kylian Mbappé settled in with veterans Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann after struggling to get Croatia out of their defensive zone. After a controversial VAR call led to a successful Griezmann a penalty kick, the momentum shift was obvious. Paul Pogba and Mbappé would soon enough follow in scoring goals and bring home France’s second FIFA World Cup Trophy in 20 years.

You can’t say that international soccer isn’t exciting to watch, especially on a grand stage such as this. Yes I’ll admit, its popularity here in America has failed to live up to its potential. Even when the USA national team is competing, we couldn’t care less. Sad but true.

Every four years though, we get to witness one of the greatest events in all of sports and there’s no denying that these are some of the best, marketable athletes (and actors if you account for the flopping) in the world. Soccer is the world’s sport, where there’s no predicting who is the most dominant, and this year’s tournament proved that point.

#NeverDone

First off, I want to extend a massive congratulations to the city of Philadelphia and the Eagles organization on winning their first Lombardi trophy Sunday night. It was a long time coming, but they finally were able to take home their first Super Bowl win since… well, before the Super Bowl even existed.

Nobody can argue that both offenses did a miraculous job last night, making for historical numbers in combined total yardage. However, it all came down to who could torch the opposing defense, especially on third down where it all mattered.

The Eagles offense ran their RPO offense like I had never seen before. They were stellar. Whenever faced with a third down, they continued to come up big. Donnie Jones only had to punt once.

On the other side, the Patriots offense was running like they had all season. The big plays happened but it just wasn’t enough. In the end, the offensive line got tired and overwhelmed by the pass rush which caused Tom Brady to lose a fumble on an attempt to throw.

The better team won. What else is there to say?

But what does this mean for the Patriots now? They made so many big moves in the offseason and only some actually paid off. The addition of Brandin Cooks was by far one of the greatest transactions they could’ve made for the franchise. A deep threat receiver who made it a nightmare for defensive backs to cover. Losing him impacted the team’s performance significantly Sunday night.

And I will never understand why Malcolm Butler didn’t start on defense. Whatever the coaching decision was there, I feel that they’ll be reflecting on that for a long time. One thing that is for certain, you will never see him play another down for the Patriots ever again.

As for Tom Brady, he’ll have to wait for his next shot at history-making until next season. People can’t continue to argue that he isn’t the greatest quarterback to ever play the game of football. He’s already proven that. He didn’t choke last night; he put up some of the best numbers by a losing quarterback in a Super Bowl. The postseason is where he shines the most, but his performance was not a determining factor in the final decision Sunday night.

I’m happy to see an organization like Philadelphia, who’s waited practically a lifetime to see their beloved team win their first significant championship since the AFL-NFL merger. That’s my sports-fan persona talking.

As for my diehard-Patriots-fan persona, I know this isn’t the end. Far from it. Knowing how much the organization has built up since the dawn of the millennium and how much they’ve already accomplished, everybody knows that they’ll be back and with a vengeance. A loss like this on such a grand stage will loom over Tom Brady’s head and the entire franchise like a storm cloud. The coaches and players will be picking apart every little thing in order to get back to the same place they were this season.

Every team needs improving, including the “evil empire” that is the New England Patriots.

Ever since the postseason began, the Patriots started a social media the social media hashtag “#NotDone” to show that there’s still more on their plate and that there’s a job that still needs to be done. I didn’t think that this was the right one to use. If you’re a team in the NFL, the goal isn’t to win just one championship; it’s to win several and to cement your legacy as one of the stoic franchises that football has ever seen. While the Patriots have already done this, their job is far from over.

They might be down and out right now, but the Patriots are #NeverDone.

We’ll be back…

A New Face of New York?

On November 29th, it was reported that multiple sports figures had received write-in votes in New York City’s 2017 Mayoral Election. New York Knicks star center Kristaps Porzingis received the most votes with eleven. Coming up short was the American League Rookie of the Year and Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge.

I guess it could be considered an honor, considering fellow Yankees greats Derek Jeter, Joe Torre, and Joe Girardi also received write-ins.

Now originally, I was going to write this solely on what postseason improvements and further developments Judge could make to his game. Obviously, hitting more home runs is still of utmost importance, but learning how to clobber something other than an off-speed pitch should be at the top of his list. The media flashed in our faces every single day how much his strikeout amount was turning more heads than his home run total. If you’re a Yankee fan like me, you got pretty tired of it.

But since then, a lot has happened in New York.

After Joe Girardi was dropped as manager, another Yankees alum stepped in to take over; one that I thought would be the most unlikely candidate given the many options and directions the front office could’ve gone with.

Aaron Boone surely does have a place in Yankees history, famously known for doing this to the rivaled Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

Just when you thought the New York-Boston rivalry couldn’t get any better… oh, it grew substantially.

There are a lot of concerns, however, with him having no experience at a coaching position. Especially as the manager of the New York Yankees, a job that comes with a lot of pressure.

But as long as he has the right guidance, he’ll know exactly what lies ahead for him in the coming season. There’s a lot to prove. Can he handle it?

Shouldn’t be a problem, considering the early Christmas gift the Yankees got from all-time great, Derek Jeter. As the new co-owner of the Miami Marlins, Jeter has been cleaning house and being scrutinized for doing so. Why? Because he sent his former team one of the best sluggers in the game.

National League MVP and league-home-run leader Giancarlo Stanton is now a New York Yankee. What does this mean?

It means that the Yankees have been gifted an unfair advantage over the rest of the American League. It means that the Yankees are still the evil empire of baseball. It means that the Yankees are still one of the most hated franchises in all of sports.

And it’s incredibly satisfying.

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Feliz Navidadd!!🎊🎄😂

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Now there’s many faces of New York sports. Maybe one too many. Will Judge become overshadowed by Giancarlo’s bat and presence or will he learn from one of the best hitters to ever step up to the plate?

I assume it’s going to be a tag team of sorts with Gary Sanchez also thrown into the mix, tattooing balls all over the park.

While I’m still in full-fledge football mode, baseball season is right around the corner and now I’m even more excited than I already was.

Injuries Are Killing Football

This 2017 NFL season sucks.

I won’t lie, it has been interesting thus far, especially with the Rams and Jaguars being some of the league’s best right now,… but it still sucks.

Devastating, season-ending injuries have taken some of the best talent that we’ve seen over the past couple years. We get extremely excited to watch these players demonstrate these abilities and then watch all their season’s potential fall. While it’s painful for us to handle, I can’t imagine the grief that these stricken players go through.

For me, it all started when Julian Edelman was carted off to the locker room during a preseason game against the Lions. Hours later, it was revealed that he had suffered a non-contact ACL tear. All New England fans alike were heartbroken, especially after the amazing season he and his team just had.

Many wondered what would become of the Patriots and Tom Brady without one of their main weapons on offense. We chose to bite through the pain and keep moving forward. So far, the season has been very shaky for the Patriots, but it can only get better… hopefully.

But then the list of extremely talented, seriously injured players continued to grow from there. Now in Week Nine, the names are staggering:

QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, Carson Palmer
RBs: David Johnson, Dalvin Cook, Spencer Ware
WRs: Julian Edelman, O’Dell Beckham Jr., Allen Robinson
TEs: Greg Olsen
OTs: Joe Thomas, Jason Peters, Zach Strief, Joe Staley
OGs: Marshal Yanda, Mike Iupati
Cs: Ryan Kalil
DLs: JJ Watt, Stephon Tuitt, Solomon Thomas, Cliff Avril, Sharrif Floyd
LBs: Dont’a Hightower, Whiney Mercilus, Tamba Hali
DBs: Stephon Gilmore, Jason Verrett, Eric Berry, Malik Hooker
Ks: Dan Bailey

Looking at it from a glance, the list is compiled of names who’ve been decorated in the game of football. Major awards, conference standouts, Pro Bowlers, etc.

Personally, it killed me the most when David Johnson went down Week One because I picked him first overall in fantasy. My team hasn’t been the same ever since.

I think the worst it came to was this week when Deshaun Watson went down with an non-contact ACL tear in practice, just a day after the Astros won their first ever World Series. What a heartbreak for the city of Houston who had come off a major hurricane and had already lost their hero JJ Watt earlier in the year.

Watson is a rising star and his 19 touchdown passes lead the league – an impressive stat for a rookie that didn’t even start the season opener. He was well on his way to earning Rookie of the Year and the unfortunate injury halted that campaign.

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Stay tuned… ⏱ 1/2

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I look forward to seeing what he can accomplish next season.

But with all the injuries at the quarterback position, Colin Kaepernick still has not been contacted for a job, but that’s not the issue at hand.

The injuries might’ve done something to the “wow” factor of the game and the reason why we all tune in every Sunday in the fall. But it has done something to the postseason. Imagine what the playoffs will be like now; the NFC North is anybody’s without Aaron Rodgers and the Packers taking it every year, the Rams and Jaguars may get their first taste of playoffs in a while, and we’ll get to see if Tom Brady can pull it off again (I’m secretly hoping this happens).

Takeaways from a “Breakout” 2017 Yankees Season

The 162-game season that Major League Baseball brings to us every year is a lot to follow sometimes. But coming off an extraordinary season where a 108-year curse was broken, the 2017 season was destined to be, in my opinion, one of the most highly-anticipated years of baseball.

Why? Because after last November, when the Cubs took Game 7 of the World Series and brought a championship trophy back to Chicago for the first time since 1908, you truly realize that baseball is a sport where absolutely anything could happen.

But for one team, this season wasn’t supposed to be the most exciting, especially since campaigns in the past couple years didn’t exactly match up to par. Incumbent New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi went into this season as a “lame duck,” meaning that if his team didn’t produce, he’d be getting the pink slip of disapproval at the end of the year.

And here we are now; throughout chipped teeth, thumbs-down hand signals, and fans being struck by foul balls, the Yankees made it further into the postseason than anybody could have possibly predicted. Among all the talks that this would be a rebuilding year and that they wouldn’t win more than 80 games, they laid all the speculations to rest and made this their season.

For most of us Yankee fans, it all ended abruptly when, in Game Seven of the ALCS, we watched the Astros offense tear up the field like they have all season. Most, if not, all of us, went to bed feeling defeated. I myself went up to bed early before the game even ended, partly because I couldn’t stand to watch anymore and mostly because I had a rugby game the next day.

We showed such promise in the previous postseason games leading up to that and to have it all come to a close the way that it did, it was heartbreaking. The name of the game for the American League postseason was “home field advantage.” If you played at home, the chances of you winning were extremely high. The Yankees won each one of their home games during the postseason, but so did the Astros. When an entire city that has recently come off a tragedy is rallying behind their team, you can’t be surprised when they take the whole enchilada.

And yet, people will still hate the Yankees, no matter who’s on the team. Young faces, old faces, you name it. The Baby Bombers will still get the hate that their predecessors have dealt with for years. Just ask a disgruntled Barstool Sports employee.

Hate to say it, but he’s right. Having the highest payroll and the most tenured history out of anyone in the game of baseball won’t make you the most popular team among nationwide fans. The Yankees have always been good, even dominant. It’s the progression and development of opposing organizations that have caused New York to fall behind and catch up.

The end of the season brought along high hopes though. For one, both Girardi and GM Brian Cashman have both been extended invitations to stick around for next year, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t (update as of 10/26: Girardi announced that he wouldn’t be returning as the team’s manager after 10 years at the helm). As for overall team and player gameplay, many things need to be addressed and dealt with before the team can come anywhere near where they left off.

Hitting

The bats were hot, and then they were cold, and then they were hot again; a frequent trend of this season. The highs and lows of the offense showed us that there’s more to come from a lineup that definitely has a lot of building room for next season.

Aaron Judge made our hopes for this year strong when he when on a home run rampage, hitting tape-measure-worthy moonshots that left his teammates, fans and opponents with their jaws on the ground. He proved he was no joke in the Home Run Derby in July, but afterwards, things went on the decline. He kept striking out, finishing games with no hits and leaving the batter’s box frustrated. When you’re that age and you create a media frenzy on yourself, everyone’s out to criticize you. Sports media outlets continued to keep track of how many consecutive games Judge would strikeout and how far his average was dipping below .300. But you’ve got to hand it to him: no matter how many times he came up short in an at-bat, he didn’t argue with the umpire and moved on to the next one. Around the end of the season, he started to pick back up and had a couple big-time home runs for the team during the postseason. He even broke the rookie record for most dingers in a single season. What he needs to work on for next season is consistency, because that’s what would’ve landed him the AL MVP trophy. The Rookie of the Year award will certainly do.

(Sir) Didi Gregorius became an unlikely household name. The Yankees will never, ever (in my opinion) find a more prolific, franchise shortstop whose name is not Derek Jeter. For Didi to take up this role in the fashion that he did with all the love and enthusiasm he has for both the game and his players, it’s what us fans love to see. He led the team in batting average and was third on the team in home runs… may I remind you he’s a shortstop? Having his attitude and energy in the clubhouse certainly boosted everyone’s morale. Having his ability at the plate was an added bonus. Those two home runs in Game Five of the ALDS were a nice touch, too. I hope to see him do even greater things in 2018.

Gary Sanchez was yet another Baby Bomber that showed what fierce bat could do for a powerful offense. There’s just one thing that needs to be worked on for next season: plate defensiveness. There were too many passed balls and wild pitches that made for costly mistakes. Although he is young, proving yourself as a well-rounded catcher early on will go a long way. In the offseason, I know for a fact that he’ll be taking a lot of bumps and bruises trying to block pitches from going to the backstop. He has a wide base that should be used to his advantage, and the organization will be pleased once they see the improvements he’s made come time for pitchers and catchers to report for spring training.

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Baseball is not easy. Its a physically and mentally challenging sport. Criticism, whether constructive or otherwise, does not phase me. I welcome it because at the end of the day most of it comes with love and the desire to help me be better. And you know what? Nobody, nobody expects more from me than me. So I take it all in and just smile because I am blessed. Have a great day. #iamgary #elgary // El béisbol no es fácil. Es un deporte que te reta física y mentalmente. Las criticas, sean constructivas u otras, no me molestan. Las invito porque al final del día la mayoría vienen con amor y el deseo de ayudarme. Y saben qué? Nadie, nadie espera mas de mi que yo mismo. Por eso lo tomo todo tranquilo y con una sonrisa. Buen día.

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All around the offense was poised for a phenomenal year, and it looks like 2018 will be the same story, but hopefully with something bigger in the fall.

Pitching

Without run support, your pitcher is going to have a terrible time. That’s why when the bats are hot, the more the ace is going to feel composed up on the mound, but the rest of the team around you is going to hold you accountable to keep the momentum rolling. But as much as the defense can’t rely on the offense to get the job done, the same can be said vice versa. Perfect example: Brett Gardner’s two-RBI single in Game Five of the ALDS saved us from facing total playoff elimination after Sabathia hit the wall in the fifth inning.

The Yankees rotation this year was shaky, up-and-down, sometimes inconsistent, synonyms… to a point where we questioned whether we could survive in the playoffs behind the starters we put out there. Even acquiring Sonny Gray didn’t exactly help either. Am I the only one who felt it was agonizing to watch opposing runs being given up in the first inning or earlier?

It all came down to the bullpen, which was one of the best in baseball. Acquiring Tommy Kahnle and bringing back David Robertson at the deadline proved to be beneficial to how the team decided to round out regular season play. Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman could only do so much, so the extra heat was extremely necessary. Plus, I only had so much faith in Chapman after blowing a couple saves that I wasn’t sure having him as our main closer would help us in October.

Luis Severino: a fiery inferno on the mound. Masahiro Tanaka: a lit match that burns out after a while. I’ve said before that Severino could have been a dark horse in the AL Cy Young nominations if not for Chris Sale and Corey Kluber. I’ve also said before that Masahiro Tanaka is the most inconsistent, international pitcher that the Yankees have seen in a while. Both statements are opinions. The stats are there to form your own.

We may also have seen the end of CC Sabathia’s career in pinstripes. This being the final year in his contract, his future is uncertain. He told the New York Post that New York is where he wants to be, but whether the front office wants to negotiate a new contract remains to be seen. If this is the last time that we see him take the mound for the Yankees, then it’s been a hell of a career. He’ll go down in history as one of the best lefties to ever play the game of baseball.

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Now I can’t wait for 2018. I’ll stick with football for now up until the last second of the Super Bowl, but baseball has continued to blossom its excitement factor. Fans young and old are falling in love all over again with the new, young faces of the game that have been plastered all over sports media outlets, front pages of magazines and newspapers and the posters that hang overhead of a child’s bed. The World Series may still be well underway, but us Yankees fans are definitely looking forward to the future.