Monday, March 27, 2017

Third Town a Charm for Raiders?

The entertainment capital of the world just got a whole lot more entertaining. If you haven't heard by now, the Oakland Raiders are the latest NFL franchise to get the green light to relocate after 31 of 32 team owners approved the move. And when they leave Oakland for their new home which most likely won't be until the 2020 season when the construction of their new $1.7 Billion dollar domed stadium is expected to be complete, they'll be playing where no NFL team has ever played before -- Las Vegas. It's been a long time coming for Vegas to be taken seriously by the NFL even if the possibility of the Raiders coming to town has only been in the news for a few blinks of the eye after Raiders owner Mark Davis was given the shaft by Commissioner Roger Goodell when he tried moving the team to Los Angeles a little over a year ago. After those hopes went up in flames in favor of the Rams relocating to L.A. instead, Davis had his sights set on the glitz and glamour of Sin City. All the NFL needed to make the lofty dreams of relocating the Raiders (or any other franchise for that matter) to Las Vegas a reality was an organization to take the risk which in this case proved to be the NHL. And now just nine months after Sin City was approved for its NHL team -- the Vegas Golden Knights, Las Vegas will be awarded its second professional sports franchise. 

It's hard to believe that after being deprived of a single professional sports team for so long, Vegas will now have two at the drop of a hat. But with the issue of gambling no longer a blockade and now archaic as its ever been at least in regards to a pro sports franchise, Vegas is no longer looked upon as being that forbidden destination for an NFL team. Or in Disney terms, Vegas is no longer that dark place on the map like in the Lion King that Mufasa tabs as off limits for Simba to step foot on although he would later do so anyways. Players living in Vegas and playing for the Raiders will now have to follow strict guidelines that prohibits them from sports betting. And though this is nothing new, now calling the world capital of gambling home could be a bit more enticing seeing as their new facility will be next door to a casino. Similar to how those playing for teams like the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos, two places that in recent years legalized the use of marijuana, have to avoid using the drug.
Relocation is something Raiders fans know all too well after then team owner Al Davis moved the team from Oakland to Los Angeles in 1982 only to head back to Oakland some 13 years later. But at least then the Raiders were some 370 miles away from their birthplace and still in the state of California. Now they're taking on an entirely new image by moving out of state, albeit only a state away. Still, it's worth seeing if the fan base which is among the most loyal fan bases in all of football is willing to follow them on their latest and perhaps their most disappointing business endeavor, especially considering few teams in all of sports mean more to their community than what the Raiders mean to the city of Oakland. With a deal already in place to move the Golden State Warriors who are currently next door neighbors to the Raiders at Oracle Arena across the bay to San Francisco, Oakland sports fans will soon be left with only the MLB's Oakland Athletics. But with the A's still playing ball within the crumbling walls of the Oakland Coliseum which is said to have had pluming issues for years now and is the only remaining MLB team that still shares a home with an NFL team, who's to say the Athletics won't be next to pack up their bags and leave? Or perhaps the city of Oakland can take note of the A's being their last hope and somehow work a deal to at least keep one of their beloved franchises in the East Bay.

What's also unfortunate for Oakland Raiders fans is the timing of the relocation. For the first time in over a decade, the Raiders are relevant again and are coming off a rejuvenating 12-4 season in 2016 and making the playoffs for the first time since 2002. With a promising crop of talent led by QB Derek Carr, WR Amari Cooper and reigning Defensive MVP Khalil Mack under the tutelage of head coach Jack Del Rio, the Raiders are finally on the right path of competing for a Super Bowl. Sadly, if and when that title comes, it'll most likely be while calling Vegas home and not Oakland. Then again had Carr not suffered a season ending leg injury in the second to last week of the season, they could've been a real threat to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the AFC. In what will be the NFL's third relocation in the last 14 months, the Raiders will now leave the 6th biggest media market in the country for the 40th, joining the Rams' decision to flee St. Louis for L.A. last season and the Chargers' decision to leave San Diego for January. This many moves in such little time is never a good thing for a league but after living in Vegas for three quarters of my life, I have a hard time seeing an NFL team NOT succeeding here. In my personal experience I've learned that Vegas is a city that thrives on whats new and whats in, so if you're a Vegas local and weren't a football fan already, chances are it won't be long before you see the light.

Follow me on Twitter: @FraserKnowsBest

Monday, March 13, 2017

49ers lead Busy Offseason with Free Agent Frenzy

With a new general manager and head coach on board to help right the ship in San Francisco, the 49ers made quite the splash in the free agent market and wasted little time to do so. In just the first 49 hours (instead of the first 48, get it?) of NFL free agency, the 49ers brain trust of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan signed a plethora of new talent as the franchise looks to turn the page under its newest regime. Day 1 of free agency opened with the Niners signing seven players to come aboard -- QB Brian Hoyer, WR Pierre Garcon, WR Marquis Goodwin, TE Logan Paulsen, FB Kyle Juszczyk, K Robbie Gould and LB Malcolm Smith. More signatures would hit the dotted-line on Day 2 as QB Matt Barkley, WR Aldrick Robinson, DB Don Jones and LB Brock Coyle all agreed to contracts to round out San Francisco's busy free-agent frenzy. But GM John Lynch began his new line of work even earlier than that.

With defense being the glaring weakness for San Francisco after allowing the most yards (both total and rushing) and points in franchise history this past season, the 49ers were quick to land a run-stuffer in DT Earl Mitchell who was recently released by the Miami Dolphins. Other early signings included WR DeAndre Carter and CB K'Waun Williams as well as Jeremy Kerley who was inked to a new three-year contract extension after leading the team in receptions (64) and receiving yards (667) in 2016. It's safe to say Shanahan is trying to duplicate what he had on offense in Atlanta by contacting players he's already familiar with and why wouldn't he? Carcon for example ran amok in Shanahan's system, totaling a career-best in receptions (113), targets (184), and yards (1,346) with the Redskins in 2013. Tight-end Logan Paulsen also served under Shanahan for all four of his years with Washington from 2010-13 and is known for being an exceptional blocker at the tight-end position. Receiver Aldrick Robinson is another player that is well familiar with Shanahan, having followed him around the league from Washington for three years to Atlanta this past season where he hauled in a season-high 111 receiving yards on four receptions vs the 49ers in Week 15.
There's also receiver and Olympian Marquise Goodwin who provides Shanahan with a burst of speed on offense, allowing him to stretch the field and help fill the void of the recently released Torrey Smith. And then there's the unknown of DeAndre Carter who grew up in San Jose just a stones throw away from Levi's Stadium and was a notable receiver at Sacramento State receiving FCS First-Team All-American honors in 2014 but went undrafted and has yet to hit the field in an NFL regular season game. All Shanahan is missing in terms of targets is a go up and get it receiver like he had in Julio Jones. However, that one will be much harder to come by as Jones is hands down the best receiver in the league and a once in a decade type talent. But we could all expect a receiver or two to be selected by San Francisco in April's Draft. After making the Pro Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in 2016, the 49ers made Kyle Juszczyk the highest-paid fullback in league history with a four-year, $21 Million contract. The signing comes a year after the team did away with the fullback position under head coach Chip Kelly and some reports say Juszczyk could've signed for more elsewhere but took less to play in Shanahan's system. Expected to be another target for the quarterback to throw to, the versatile fullback out of Harvard who caught 78 passes over the last two seasons will be used by Shanahan much like he used Patrick DiMarco in Atlanta.

As for the most important position in all of football -- quarterback, the 49ers finally added two QB's to the roster after Colin Kaepernick's recent decision to opt out left a gaping hole at the position. Veteran QB Brian Hoyer was the first to land via a 2-year deal after serving last season as Jay Cutler's backup before being forced into the starting role after Cutler sustained an injury in Week 2. Hoyer played well for the Bears and became the first QB in franchise history to throw for over 300 yards in four consecutive games before a broken arm ended his season in Week 7. Hoyer finished the season with six touchdowns and zero interceptions before being replaced by Matt Barkley who coincidentally signed a 2-year pact with the Niners a day after Hoyer did. Since falling from grace and once upon a time being projected as not only the first quarterback taken in the 2012 Draft but the first pick overall, the former USC Trojan has yet to prove that he's capable of being anything but a backup QB at the NFL level. Nonetheless, he and Hoyer will more than likely be competing alongside whoever the third and possibly fourth quarterback is come training camp.
Another pair of shoes to fill will be those of kicker Phil Dawson who signed with the rival Arizona Cardinals and will now be replaced in San Francisco by long-time Bears kicker Robbie Gould who agreed to a two-year deal after signing late last season with the New York Giants where he converted on all six of his field goal attempts. At the time of his departure from Chicago, Gould had set franchise records for the most field goals made (276), field goal percentage (85.9), field goals made from 50-yards or more (23) and total points scored (1,207). Here's to hoping he can duplicate those numbers in a 49er uniform as the 42-year old Uncle Phil was a favorite among the fans and players alike.

Back to the defensive side and with the 49ers switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme on defense, linebacker Malcolm Smith who had a disappointing two-year stint across the Bay with the Raiders, will try and rebound under new 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. Like Shanahan who targeted multiple players he was familiar with, Saleh spent three seasons with Smith in Seattle where he served as the Seahawks' defensive quality control coach and watched from the sidelines as Smith took home Super Bowl MVP honors in Super Bowl 48. Hopefully the two reuniting together again in the NFC West can do Smith some good. Two defensive players signed to help make an impact on special-teams is linebacker Brock Coyle and defensive back Don Jones. Though lots of work has been done in the short time Shanahan and Lynch have been with the team, there's still plenty of work to be done in preparation of the 2017-18 season and the Draft is the next area of focus.
It's worth noting that newly hired general manager John Lynch has already matched former Niners GM Trent Baalke's free-agnet signings from 2012 to 2016 in a matter of days. 49er fans haven't been the only ones giddy about the team's recent acquisitions as media members from both NFL Network (Ian Rapoport) and ESPN (John Clayton) have taken a liking to San Francisco's moves and praised them for adding depth and spending wisely opposed to shelling out cash to the top-tier names on the market. These deals have already made them one of the most improved teams in the league according to Clayton who ranked them fourth just behind Jacksonville, Detroit and Tennessee. Sure a few of the deals might have been slight overpays, but with more than enough in spending money and John Lynch in the drivers seat for the first time, it was to be expected. Not to mention the fact that incoming players know the rebuild in San Francisco is a process and thus a few more dollars will be needed to attract free-agents. That could all change in the coming years, though, if and when we begin to see positive results on the field.

Follow me on Twitter: @FraserKnowsBest 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Dirk Joins Elite 30K Club

Last night Dirk Nowitzki joined an elite group of basketball legends by becoming just the sixth player (first international member) in NBA history to score 30,000 career points after dropping a 25-spot (all in the first half) at home against the Los Angeles Lakers. In what's been a forgetful season for the Dallas Mavericks who currently sit nine games under .500 and 1 1/2 games out of the eight seed in the Western Conference standings, the Mavericks' all-time leading scorer and future Hall of Famer still gives Dallas fans something to cheer for while averaging nearly 14 points and 7 rebounds per game. It's something both the fans and Dirk have grown accustomed to as their relationship has now spanned 19 seasons and will likely reach 20 as the German native has expressed his plans to return next season. If his 20th season is spent in Dallas next year which it almost certainly will considering the family-like relationship between Nowitzki and Mavs owner Mark Cuban, Dirk will tie a record with Kobe Bryant for the most seasons with a single franchise throughout an entire career.

Entering Tuesday's game needing 20 points to reach the milestone, Dirk was well on his way to that mark after scoring 18-points in the opening quarter alone and getting his team off to a fast start. And the basket that would catapult Dirk into the 30,000 point club would be none other than a fadeaway jumper, only not of the one-footed variety he's become known for. After draining a three-pointer to eclipse the 30K mark, Dirk was mobbed by Cuban and his teammates while receiving a standing ovation from the Dallas crowd. It would be an emotional moment for all involved including Dirk's coach and mentor Holger Geschwindner who was in the building for the historic night. The 7-footer would finish the game with 25-points, all scored in the first half, in a 122-111 win against the Los Angeles Lakers. Out of the six players to reach the feat, Dirk becomes only the third to put up 30K with one team, Kobe and Karl Malone (Utah Jazz) the others. After a Draft day trade in 1998 that led Dirk to Dallas by way of a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, it's been quite a ride for the 13-time NBA All-Star and former Finals (2011) and league MVP (2007).
Despite not playing for one of the NBA's glamour franchises or even in a city not known for its basketball which comes secondary to the game of football in the state of Texas, Dirk helped bring the city of Dallas its only championship in the four major sports since the turn of the century. Dirk also stormed his way to greatness the way you're supposed to while also serving as a phenomenal ambassador to the game overseas. Not to mention he's as clean on and off the court as they come having done it for nearly 20 years without a single fuss as the soon to be 39-year old Nowitzki has never been linked to a single incident with the law, a rarity nowadays which makes him the perfect model athlete in this day and age and one we'll soon be celebrating in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Follow me on Twitter: @FraserKnowsBest 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Lakers make Magical hire

With the NBA currently in its All-Star break and some 50 games into the regular season, the Los Angeles Lakers which consists mostly of a young crop of talent, are enjoying some time off the court in preparation of the final stretch. But while the team sent zero players to participate in the actual All-Star Game itself, the organization has remained every bit as busy in the front-office. And on Tuesday, team owner Jeanie Buss made the announcement that both Mitch Kupchak who had been with the Lakers organization since 1981, including six years as a player before spending the last two plus decades in the front-office as general manager, and Jim Buss (executive vice president of basketball operations) would be relieved of their duties. And the man Jeanie would replace her own brother with is one that knows the Lakers franchise as well as anyone -- Mr. Earvin "Magic" Johnson. After helping lead them to five NBA titles in the 80's, Magic isn't quite done helping the Lakers return to being the dominant franchise he remembers them as.

The move to bring Johnson aboard is a seismic shift in the landscape of the Lakers organization and is one Jeanie Buss says she should've made years ago as the franchise is suffering from its worst playoff drought in team history which will reach four consecutive seasons come seasons end. And in just his first day on the job, Johnson wasted little time before making phone calls to get a deal done just days before Thursday's trade deadline as he shipped guard Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets in exchange for small forward Corey Brewer and a first round pick in this year's draft. Williams, a former Sixth Man of the Year Award winner in 2015 with the Toronto Raptors, is having the best year of his career while averaging 18.6 points per game coming off the bench. With the Rockets (40-18) being one of the better teams not only in the Western Conference this year but in the entire Association, the acquisition of Williams provides depth to a team already stacked with shooters including Eric Gordon who won Saturday's Three-Point shooting Contest and is second in the league in points off the bench, trailing only his new teammate.
The trade figures to help both teams as the Lakers add another draft pick in their ongoing efforts to rebuild and Houston adds another shooter which now gives them the top two highest scorers coming off the bench. Not to mention Rockets superstar James Harden gets some much appreciated help while leading the league in assists per game (11.3) and trailing only Russell Westbrook and Isaiah Thomas for the scoring title. With the Western Conference looked at as being Golden State's to lose, Houston is one of the teams that isn't expected to stand in the way of the Warriors but at least stands a punchers chance and could cause problems for the back-to-back Western Conference Champions come playoff time.

Back to the Lakers, Los Angeles is suffering yet another disappointing season at 19-39, one win better than the Phoenix Suns for the worst record in the West and third worst overall, but has already surpassed last season's win total of 17-65 under first-year head coach Luke Walton. After a fast start to the season which saw L.A. win six of its first ten games for the first time since the 2011-12 season, Walton's team has taken a step back whether that be a result of a series of injuries they've endured or the young guys are experiencing exhaustion while still getting acclimated to the grind of the NBA season. Or perhaps a combination of the two. Moving forward, Johnson promised in his interview with Spectrum Sportsnet that when it comes time to making a pitch to a player in the free-agent process, that it won't be about telling old stories about the organization's past success during the Showtime Lakers or the Kobe-led Lakers, but rather "the new Lakers." For me personally, this comes off as especially important considering its an area that Kupchak struck out in numerous times in the past few seasons when attempting to lure star players via free agency. With a new GM expected to be announced in the coming days, only time will tell if the hiring of Magic will pay off. But at least for now it's a hire that ensures Lakers fans they've got someone in the drivers seat who cares dearly about the organization and one who will give it his all to try and right the ship in Tinsletown just like he did on the court.

Follow me on Twitter: @FraserKnowsBest  

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Niners set for New Era under Shanahan/Lynch

From Niners ball boy to head coach - For 49er fans the wait is finally over as the once proud San Francisco football franchise held a press conference on Thursday to officially introduce and announce the hiring of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan as their newest general manager and head coach. It's been a long time coming for the Niners who have been without a coach for over a month after deciding to relieve Chip Kelly of his duties following the final game of the regular season -- a 25-23 loss to Seattle. GM Trent Baalke was also let go following the loss, though his firing wasn't as big a surprise. Since then 49ers CEO Jed York searched high and low to find the next candidates to help pull the franchise from out of the rubble. And while the hiring of Shanahan would make him the team's fourth head coach in as many years, it finally feels like Jed got it right with this one.

Brought in to become the 20th head coach in franchise history, Kyle Shanahan who spent the last two seasons as offensive coordiantor of the Atlanta Falcons, grew up around the 49ers organization, serving as the team's ball boy as a teenager while his father Mike Shanahan served as offensive coordinator for three years. The elder Shanahan helped lead San Francisco to a victory in Super Bowl 29 before heading off to Denver where he would win another pair of Super Bowl's as head coach of the Broncos. With son Kyle now in the drivers seat, he'll try to instill the same success his father did with the team he grew up helping as he and his father become the seventh father-son coaching tandem in NFL history. But with Shanahan behind schedule due to Atlanta's trip to the Super Bowl which prevented the 49ers from hiring him until after the Falcons' season concluded, there's lots of work to be done in between now, the start of free-agency and April's Draft. One glaring hole is the vacancy at the team's defensive coordinator position. As for the offensive job, there won't be any interviews needed as Shanahan has expressed he'll be the one in charge calling the plays on offense.
What's different this time around compared to San Francisco's hiring's of the past, is the patience and commitment York figures to have with Shanahan and Lynch. With both Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly each fired from the head coaching job only one season into their four year deals, it's obvious that the rebuild is going to take much longer than the time each of the past two coaches were given. Hoping the third time is a charm for the Niners after York's decision to part ways with Jim Harbaugh which proved to be a day in infamy and a decision that has left a sour taste in the mouths of 49er fans as the team's been trying to pick up the pieces ever since, both Shanahan and Lynch agreed to six-year pacts. Though both guys are new to their positions, the excitement by the 49er Faithful couldn't be greater heading into next season. And with a projected cap space of $87.6 Million dollars on the books, San Francisco could make a splash in the free-agent market.

One position they'll surely have their eyes on is at quarterback as the 49ers currently have zero QB's under contract. With Colin Kaepernick most likely to exercise his player option to opt out of his contract to play elsewhere in 2017 and Blaine Gabbert, Thad Lewis and Christian Ponder all free-agents, next year's staff could look entirely different at the quarterback position. Early rumors have Shanahan kicking the tires with several potential QB candidates such as Matt Schaub, Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins. Having worked with Cousins for two years in Washington where Shanahan served as OC, the two have history together. The same can be said about Schaub who served three seasons with Shanahan as a Houston Texan and this past season as Matt Ryan's backup with the Falcons. Serving as Schaub's QB coach in 2007 before moving to OC for each of the next two years, Shanahan helped Schaub lead the league in passing in 2009, earning him his first of two Pro-Bowl appearances. Unfortunately, Schaub is entering his year 36 season and is over a year removed from his most recent start. But given the fact that he knows Shanahan's system already and could sign at a much more affordable rate as a free-agent opposed to having to be traded for like both Cousins and Garoppolo, it might not be such a bad move.
First we'll have to see what direction the Niners go in with the Draft and whether or not they'll take the risk of drafting their quarterback for the future with the second overall pick. Even so, Schaub starting while the rookie QB watches from the sideline and learns from a distance instead of being thrown into the mix right off the bat, might not be such a bad idea after all. Shanahan brings with him his impressive resume that helped the Atlanta Falcons put together the number one offense in the league as well as aid Matt Ryan to an MVP Award. Under Shanahan's tutelage, the Falcons ranked 1st in the league in points per game (33.8), 2nd in total yards (6,653), 3rd in passing (4,725), 5th in rushing (1,928) and tied for the fewest giveaways. Those stats are a day and night difference from what the 49ers produced on offense this past season, ranking among the league's worst in almost every category. However, Shanahan's most recent performance in the Super Bowl has drawn criticism for the way the final two quarters played out on offense. With Atlanta leading by 25-points midway thru the third quarter, the Falcons would fail to score again as New England pulled off the largest comeback in Super Bowl history to win its fifth title. Part of the blame was put on Shanahan for not running the ball as often as many say he should've, especially considering how well the run game worked in the first half. Then again it was Atlanta's defense which allowed their opponent to score on each of their final five possessions.

From commentator to GM - For John Lynch who attended school at Stanford and played collegiate football under 49ers great Bill Walsh, the general manager position is entirely new for the 9-time Pro-Bowler who played strong safety with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos. Though he has zero front-office experience, Lynch has a plethora of football knowledge having played the game at a Hall of Fame level and serving the past eight years in the broadcast booth as a color commentator with the NFL on FOX. Despite his inexperience at the position, those who know Lynch best have had nothing but positive things to say after news broke that he would become the 49ers next general manager. The news came as a surprise to everyone considering his name was under the radar and was never mentioned by the media among candidates interviewing for the job. Lynch later revealed that it was his request that the interview process was kept a secret between him and 49ers brass to test whether or not he could trust 49ers CEO Jed York.
Foreign to his new position, Lynch wasted no time to make his first move by adding Broncos Vice President of Player Personnel Adam Peters to his staff. The hire garnered praise and many around the league have called the move a home run as Peters is said to be one of the most respected talent evaluators in the NFL, not to mention he comes from a winning background having been a part of three Super Bowl victories with the Broncos and Patriots. Lynch followed up that move by naming former Lions GM Martin Mayhew as the team's Senior Personnel Executive. With a long way still to go for the Niners, the franchise finally appears to heading in the right direction with the foundation in place to return the 49ers to prominence. But of course, only time will tell.

Follow me on Twitter: @FraserKnowsBest

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Pats Shock Falcons in Super Bowl LI

For the fifth time, the New England Patriots are Super Bowl Champions. Led by the greatest quarterback-coaching tandem in NFL history, the Patriots pulled off the unthinkable by completing a 25-point comeback in the first ever Overtime Super Bowl. With the Falcons leading New England by a score of 28-3 midway through the third quarter, the game seemed to be all but over as Atlanta appeared to be on their way to claiming their first ever Lombardi Trophy. So much so that President Trump even reportedly left his Super Bowl party early once the Patriots fell into their 25-point hole. But Tom Brady and company would have none of that as they would soon orchestrate the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, while treating us to an instant classic in the third most watched Super Bowl ever.

Making their record-setting seventh Super Bowl appearance, Brady and coach Bill Belichick would have their fair share of mistakes early on as the tide quickly turned against them following a scoreless first quarter. With New England marching on offense and putting together what appeared to be a promising drive, things would soon go up in flames as running back LaGarrette Blount was stripped of the ball just two plays into the second quarter. The play would ignite a scoring barrage by Atlanta who scored 21 unanswered-points in a span of 12 minutes. After Devonta Freeman began things off with a 5-yard touchdown in which he cut far left and found his way into the end zone untouched, QB Matt Ryan who was named MVP the night before, needed only five plays to extend that lead, ending the drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to his tight-end Austin Hooper. Things would only get uglier the rest of the half as the Patriots were plagued by a series of unfortunate firsts.
After failing to score in a quarter for the first time in their last 32 quarters, came Blount's first fumble in 16 games. It would also mark the first time the Patriots would trail in a game since Week 12. Then came an 82-yard interception returned for a touchdown by Robert Alford to make it a 21-0 game. It would be the first return for a touchdown of any kind all year against New England and the first pick-six thrown in Brady's postseason career. It wasn't long before you began seeing coach Belichick on the sidelines, pencil and paper in hand, making early adjustments to address in the locker room come halftime. With only a field goal to show for at the half, the Patriots would watch their deficit climb to 25-points following a second touchdown pass from Matt Ryan on Atlanta's second possession of the third quarter. Leading 28-3 with a quarter and a half remaining, New England would need to pull off the largest comeback in Super Bowl history if they wanted to award their future Hall of Fame coach and quarterback duo with an unprecedented fifth ring. But while most teams would fold under pressure when facing such a deficit, Brady remained calm and poised as ever despite his team having its back against the wall. After a touchdown pass to backup running back James White who had himself a game to remember, the Patriots managed to inch a bit closer before the start of the fourth quarter, despite a missed extra-point by kicker Stephen Gostkowski, his fifth missed PAT of the year.

With Atlanta ahead 28-9 thru 3 quarters, the Falcons seemed destined to win and had the odds in their favor considering teams leading by 19 points thru 3 quarters in the postseason were an unbeaten 93-0 all-time. But if anybody was going to put that record to the test, you knew it would be Brady. Another Gostkowski field goal to start the fourth quarter helped make it a two-score game. And on Atlanta's ensuing possession, the New England defense would step up and put the ball back into their captain's hands. Facing 3rd and 1, the Falcons elected to opt for a pass play as Ryan was blindsided by middle linebacker Dont'a Hightower who made it to the quarterback freely after Devonta Freeman failed to pickup the blitz, resulting in a fumble recovered by New England. With new life and only 25-yards to go, you could feel the momentum shift immediately as Atlanta suffered their first turnover of the postseason. A touchdown pass from Brady to Amendola five plays later and a successful 2-point conversion on a direct-snap up the middle to James White made it an 8-point game.
Pinned back at their own 10-yard line, the Falcons quickly found themselves at mid-field as a wide-open Devonta Freeman gained 39-yards on the first play of the drive. Two plays later Julio Jones would display the type of footwork that would make Super Bowl hero Santonio Holmes proud as Jones somehow contorted his body and got both feet in-bounds to make a spectacular 27-yard catch, despite his momentum falling towards the sideline all while securing the ball. It would be the last positive of the day for Atlanta, however, as they soon found themselves going backwards. With the ball at the 22 and kicker Matt Bryant standing by in case of a field goal attempt to make it a two-score game, the Falcons would be doomed by a 12-yard sack and an offensive holding call which knocked them out of field goal range and allowing Brady and company to pull off a comeback for the ages. Entering the game, the longest drive the Patriots had put together all season was 91-yards, and with the game on the line, New England would need to duplicate that mark in order to tie the game.

With three and a half minutes to go and a pair of timeouts remaining, Brady would march his team into the end zone with time to spare. But not before a miraculous catch that almost wasn't as Atlanta nearly intercepted the ball which would've sealed the win for the Falcons. Instead, receiver Julian Edelman came down with an awe-inspiring reception that rivaled that of David Tyree's helmet catch against Brady and the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Surrounded by three defenders, Brady looked for Edelman down the middle but had the pass batted up into the air by Robert Alford. With Alford falling back on the play and landing on his back, the combination of Alford's foot and the hand of safety Ricardo Allen prevented the ball from hitting the ground which then allowed Edelman to get both hands on the ball as all four players hit the ground simultaneously. Though the catch would feature" 70% of luck" according to Edelman himself, it would help gain another 23-yards to keep the drive alive and avert disaster. Four plays later, James White scored his second of three touchdowns with a 1-yard run up the middle. Still needing to tack on the game-tying 2-point conversion, New England would to just that. With WR Danny Amendola in motion, Brady threw a dart to his receiver who was met at the goal-line, barely breaking the plane and knotting the game at a dead-even 28-28.
Heading into overtime, the Patriots seemed destined to win whereas Atlanta was left stunned at the fact that they had squandered a 25-point second half lead. And after winning the coin toss and electing to receive, New England marched their way to the 2-yard line before once again handing the ball to James White who put the finishing touches on the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history by breaking the plane to win it, 34-28. Hoping to get another crack at it and pull off some late-game heroics of his own, the reigning MVP was left watching hopelessly from the sideline as his defense was unable to keep the Patriots out of the end zone. While many have blamed the Falcons collapse on the offense for simply disappearing in the fourth quarter, Atlanta's defense allowed New England to score on each of their last five possessions, including their game-winning touchdown in OT to the tune of 31-unanswered points. Though I agree that they probably should've ran the ball more, if Atlanta stands their ground and stops at least one of New England's two-point conversion attempts, it's Matt Ryan and the Falcons who are the ones celebrating a tinker-tape parade. Instead, the Brady-Belichick regime etches yet another milestone into their legacy, becoming the first-ever QB and coach to hoist five Lombardi Trophies.

As for the Falcons who remain one of 13 NFL franchises yet to win a Super Bowl, the road back to Super Sunday figures to be a much harder task given they'll be without offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan who agreed to take the reigns as the next head coach of the San Francisco 49ers on Monday. Shanahan will be replaced by college offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian after serving in last month's BCS title game with the Alabama Crimson Tide. As for the Patriots, they now trail only the Pittsburgh Steelers' 6 Super Bowl titles and tie the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys with 5. With the loss, Matt Ryan became the eighth MVP since 2000 to make it to the Super Bowl and lose (0-8). Completing 17 of 23 passes, Ryan threw for 284 yards and 2 touchdowns but suffered that pivotal fumble which helped New England turn things around. Brady on the other hand set Super Bowl records for the most pass attempts (62), completions (43) and pass yards (466) to go with his pair of touchdowns and one interception, helping him claim Super Bowl MVP honors for a record 4th time. Many (Brady included) think it was Patriots backup running back James White who deserved the award, as he rushed six times for 29 yards, tallying a record 14 receptions for 110 yards and adding three total touchdowns to become the first player to ever record two rushing touchdowns and one receiving in a Super Bowl.
Now begins the speculation and chatter of whether or not we've seen Tom Brady in uniform for the last time. With a record five Super Bowl's under his belt and a promising young quarterback behind him in Jimmy Garoppolo for the Patriots to fall back on if need be, the man has nothing left to prove having already etched his name alongside his boyhood idol Joe Montana as the game's all-time greats, regardless of how you want to rank them. But with Belichick at his side and no real threat in the AFC to get in the way of yet another title run, why wouldn't he return for No. 6? After sticking it to his critics and redeeming himself from the Deflategate scandal, it's obvious that the fire still burns inside of Brady and that he's not ready to release his grasp on the league just yet.

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Super Bowl LI Preview: Falcons vs Patriots

With both the AFC and NFC Championships in the books and new conference champions crowned, the table is officially set for Super Bowl LI. And with each team coming off of blowout victories, there should be no shortage of fireworks when Tom Brady and the New England Patriots square off against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons come February 5. But aside from claiming division crowns and dismantling their opponents in the playoffs in blowout fashion, the road these two teams have taken to get this far are very different from one another.

In what will be New England's fourth trip to the Super Bowl in the last decade and an NFL record 9th appearance overall, the Patriots who feature the number one ranked defense in the league, were able to shake off the early distraction of being without their star quarterback for a quarter of the season as Tom Brady served his 4-game suspension due to his connection with the Deflategate scandal. While the team would go 3-1 in his absence to begin the year, they wouldn't skip a beat upon his return either and were near perfect with their leader on the field to the tune of a 14-2 regular season record while ranking tops in the league in Wins and Losses: 11-1 (1st), Point Differential: +208 (1st), Points Per Game: 30.7 (2nd), and Points Per Game Allowed: 15.9 (1st). Even a red-hot team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, winners of nine straight, couldn't get in the way of Brady and company as the Patriots handed Pittsburgh their worst loss in an AFC Championship in their 16 trips -- a 36-17 shellacking on Sunday. Brady would register a near perfect performance by passing for 384 yards and 3 touchdowns in the victory that would send his team to the big game. His go-to target in that game? Undrafted journeyman Chris Hogan who hauled in a career-best 180-yards and two touchdowns on 9 receptions.
As for the Falcons who made it this far under second-year head coach Dan Quinn by way of their high-octane offense which led the league in scoring spearheaded by MVP candidate Matt Ryan, the big game will be only the second trip to the Super Bowl for Atlanta in the franchise's 51 year history. With the Falcons' one and only Super Bowl appearance coming in 1998 -- an eventual loss to the Denver Broncos in the last game of John Elway's Hall of Fame career, the franchise is still seeking its first piece of hardware. Finishing atop the NFC South with an overall record of 11-5 during the regular season, the Falcons were a mediocre 7-5 on the year through their first 12 games before flipping the switch and winning their last four to closeout the season strong and hold off the surging Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the division. And while most teams lacking Super Bowl experience are unable to translate their regular season success to the playoffs, the Falcons offense has been every bit as potent in the postseason as evident of their 44-21 handling of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers who entered Sunday's NFC Championship winners of 8 straight and playing out of this world at the QB position. But in the biggest game of his career and the Falcons' last game at the Georgia Dome, QB Matt Ryan was able to match and out-duel the performance of Rodgers by throwing for 392 yards and 4 touchdowns in a turnover-free game which gave him a passer rating of 139.4, the second-highest ever posted in a conference championship game behind only Kurt Warner's rating of 145.7 in 2009, bidding the perfect farewell to the team's home since 1992 and further solidifying his case for something no Atlanta Falcon has ever won before -- an MVP Award.

Ryan also added a rushing touchdown in Sunday's win over Green Bay to become the first-ever QB in Falcons franchise history as well as the first in playoff history to pass for four touchdowns and rush for another in the same game. He also became the first QB in history to record a passer rating of 120.0 in six consecutive games. Ryan's favorite target and in my opinion the best receiver in the league -- Julio Jones, led the way with a game-high 180-yards and a pair of touchdown grabs on nine receptions, eerily similar to Hogan's stats for the Patriots. Another team performance like that in a winning effort would make the Falcons the highest-scoring team to ever win a Super Bowl. Not to mention a title would do wonders for the city's fan base as Atlanta's only championship in either of the four major sports (NFL, MLB, NBA & NHL) came in 1995 (Atlanta Braves). But as we all know, that last win is always the hardest to get. And with history on New England's side, odds makers have the Patriots as 3-point favorites out of the gates. In case you were wondering the last time the Falcons defeated the Patriots, you'd have to go back to Week 10 of the 1998 season during Atlanta's only other Super Bowl run and before Brady was even drafted. Since then, the Patriots are a perfect 4-0 against Atlanta in the Brady era and are one of six teams the 2-time league MVP has never lost to in his career.
What also makes this match-up intriguing is that it will mark the seventh time the league's No. 1 scoring offense will meet the league's No. 1 scoring defense. A stat that figures to favor New England considering No. 1 offenses are 1-5 all-time versus No. 1 defenses in the Super Bowl. The last team sporting the league's best offense to fall victim to the league's best defense was Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos who set numerous records on offense during the regular season but were no match for the Seattle Seahawks' dominant defense in 2014 at Super Bowl 48. In fact, the only team with the No. 1 scoring offense to defeat a team with the league's No. 1 ranked defense was the 1989 San Francisco 49ers who blew out the Denver Broncos in record fashion with the largest blowout in Super bowl history, 55-10. A win for New England would give them five Lombardi Trophies, tying them with the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys for the second most Super Bowl victories of all-time with five. Brady will be trying just as hard to bring the Patriots their fifth title. Regarded as one of if not the greatest quarterback of all-time, Brady who will be making a record seventh Super Bowl appearance, can silence the critics once and for all if he's able to capture that elusive fifth Super Bowl ring, one for the thumb if you will, to add to his Hall of Fame resume.

But unless you're a Patriots fan, live in New England or just a Tom Brady fanboy, there's no reason you shouldn't be rooting for the Falcons to claim their first ever Super Bowl win. Unless for some odd reason you enjoy seeing the same thing over and over again. That's no diss to Brady and Pats head coach Bill Belichick who are undoubtedly the greatest quarterback-head coaching duo the NFL has ever seen, but the two have long been the commander and chief of the Evil Empire. You know, that team you've grown tired of watching win year in and year out. The Falcons on the other hand are both refreshing (seeing as they've never won it before), and exciting to watch. The Little Engine That Could, if you will. And for what it's worth, a computer simulation of Madden17 predicted back in August that the Falcons would make it to and win Super Bowl LI. With that said, here's to hoping for an exhilarating game (unlike last year's snoozefest) and a Falcons victory. Prediction: Falcons 27, Patriots 24.

Catch Super Bowl LI from Houston - Sun, Feb 5 Live on FOX @ 3:30PM PST.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

DeFo a Positive in a Negative Season for 49ers

With the San Francisco 49ers' 2016 season officially in the books and very few bright spots to look back on, one thing Niners fans can be excited about is defensive lineman DeForest Buckner who was named to the 2016 All-Rookie team by the Pro Football Writers of America. Despite San Francisco's struggle-filled season in which they finished with a franchise-worst record of 2-14 and failed to send a single player to the Pro Bowl, Buckner tallied 6 sacks and 73 tackles in his rookie campaign. After being taken by the 49ers in the first round of last year's draft (7th overall), the Oregon alum played alongside last year's first round pick and Oregon Ducks teammate Arik Armstead and even out-shined him on the field. Though Buckner was left still seeking his first sack through the first four weeks and sat out in Week 5 with a foot injury, he returned to the field in Week 6 vs Buffalo where he would record the first two sacks of his career. The game would serve as Buckner's coming out party as he also recorded 9 tackles and his first of two fumble recoveries on the year.

Buckner would continue to grow better as the season wore on as he recorded three sacks in the final four games of the season, further proving the 49ers made a good choice in the draft by selecting him. A freakish athlete weighing in at 300 lbs. and standing at 6-feet, 7-inches tall, the kid is a force to be reckoned with and is one of the building blocks that the 49ers will look to build on going forward as they look to right the ship on defense, something that has ailed them in each of the last two seasons. The same goes for the offense which ranked among the worst in the league in 2016 -- 27th in points per game, 31st in yards per game and dead last in passing yards per game. But help should be coming in 2017 if the rumors are true that Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is the next man in line for the Niners' vacant head coaching position after the firing of Chip Kelly. Seeking their fourth head coach in as many years, Shanahan has been San Francisco's top candidate alongside Patriots OC Josh McDaniels since the job became available. But with both Shanahan and McDaniels still on the sidelines helping their respective teams in hopes of winning this weekend and making a trip to the Super Bowl, the 49ers who are the only team without a head coach at this point, are left playing the waiting game until either team is eliminated. And with recent reports of McDaniels pulling his name from consideration for the job in San Francisco due to an unwillingness to relocate across the country, the job appears to be Shanahan's for the taking. And after helping the Falcons rank 2nd overall in yards per game over the past two seasons, why wouldn't it be?

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

49ers Drop Finale, Fire Baalke & Kelly

Week 17 - Hoping to close out the 2016 regular season on a positive note, something they've had very few of this year, the (2-13) San Francisco 49ers would play host to the rival (9-5-1) Seattle Seahawks. Of the 22 starters for San Francisco that played in Week 3 when these two teams last met, only 11 would be healthy enough to play in this one and it showed early on. With 49ers running back Carlos Hyde out with a knee injury, backup Shaun Draughn would get the call to start Sunday and would give Seattle a gift right out the gate. On the second play of the game, Draughn would fumble the hand-off exchange from QB Colin Kaepernick, recovered by the defense. With Seattle already in scoring range, the 49ers would comp the NFC West champion Seahawks with an early 3-point lead on Steven Hauschka's field goal.

However, Kaepernick and company would answer back quite nicely on their next possession by marching 75 yards as a trio of short passes would result in big gains which ultimately set up Draughn who redeemed himself by running it in for a 1-yard touchdown to put the Niners ahead, 7-3. After forcing a three and out on defense, San Francisco's next possession would also end in success, turning a 14-play drive into another touchdown as Draughn punched in yet another 1-yard score, this time converting on fourth down. But after taking a 14-3 lead following a hot start from Kaepernick who logged over 100 yards passing in the first quarter but threw for only another 115 the rest of the way, Seattle would storm back with 19 unanswered-points, seven of which coming off another 49er turnover as DuJuan Harris was stripped of the ball. With Seattle pinned back in their own end zone, San Francisco would manage to get two of those points back as a high snap on a punt attempt was airmailed out of bounds over the head of Seahawks punter Jon Ryan for a safety. The 49ers would inch even closer on a fourth quarter touchdown from Kaepernick to tight-end Garrett Celek to make it a 2-point game with under six minutes remaining.
But even with Seahawks backup quarterback Trevone Boykin taking over for Russell Wilson (258 yards passing, 1 touchdown) under center midway through the fourth, the 49ers were unable to get a stop on defense when they needed it most as Boykin and the Seattle offense successfully milked the clock, sealing the 25-23 victory. With Seattle's ticket to the playoffs already punched, the Seahawks improved to 10-5-1 on the year and will host the winner of the second NFC Wild Card -- Detroit Lions. As for San Francisco, the loss would drop the 49ers to 2-14 on the year, tying a franchise worse record of 14 losses in a season. It would also be their seventh consecutive loss at home, setting a new franchise record. With much speculation regarding the firing of 49ers GM Trent Baalke heading into the week, the team made the announcement official following the game and he wouldn't be shown the door alone. After inking head coach Chip Kelly to a contract last offseason, the 49ers decided to relieve Kelly of his duties just one year into his four year pact he signed last January. All this coming after someone paid to have a plane fly over Levi's Stadium before kickoff with a banner that read: Levis Stadium, The House That Harbaugh Built.

The move comes after another disappointing season by the Niners who will now be in search of a new GM as well as their fourth head coach in as many years as the state of the franchise continues to spiral out of control since 49ers CEO Jed York cut ties with Jim Harbaugh in favor of Baalke who is now without a job. Niner fans have been calling for Baalke's head since the decision and though it came much later than we would've hoped, better late than never as the team seeks a new direction. While the hiring of Kelly was looked at as being an experiment to try and help revive the luster of Colin Kaepernick's career who took the league by storm upon winning the starting role at QB, the firing comes off as unfair given what 49ers brass was asking of Kelly in such little time. Known as an offensive mastermind, the talent on offense simply wasn't there for Kelly to attempt to work his magic and the defense was equally as bad following the injury to All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman, giving up the most rushing yards in a season in NFL history. And with Kaepernick most likely the next to go as he has a 2017 player option and can opt out of his contract, next year's 49ers team figures to be an entirely different crop of players as they possess the No. 2 overall pick in April's Draft.

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Monday, December 26, 2016

A Rivalry Renewed as 49ers Edge Rams in Epic Comeback

Week 16 - With the (1-13) San Francisco 49ers on the road for the final time in the 2016 NFL season, Chip Kelly's 49ers would pay a visit to the L.A. Coliseum to face the (4-10) Rams, the one and only team San Francisco has had any luck against this season. But since their dominant 28-0 victory over the Rams to begin the season, a lot has changed for both teams. While the 49ers have yet to win a game since the Monday Night opener and entered Sunday's game suffering a 13-game losing streak, their worst losing skid in franchise history, the Rams have also had their fair share of ups and downs, including the firing of head coach Jeff Fisher less than two weeks ago which came just days after the team announced they signed him to a 2-year extension. Both teams would also have a different quarterback under center since their Week 1 meeting.

In the house that witnessed the first NFL completion of 49ers all-time great QB Joe Montana, San Francisco would face off against the number one overall pick Jared Goff who grew up a Niners fan and wears No. 16 in honor of Montana. But on Christmas Eve in front of a predominately pro-49ers crowd, Goff would want nothing more for Christmas than to earn his first career NFL victory against the team he grew up rooting for in a match-up between two struggling NFC Western Division foes. Unfortunately for the Cal Berkeley alum, the 49ers would have other plans as Colin Kaepernick and company would plan to play the role of the Grinch who stole Christmas. On Los Angeles' first drive, Goff would be greeted by 49ers cornerback Tremaine Brock who jumped out in front of Rams receiver Kenny Britt for his first interception of the season and returning it 39 yards to put San Francisco in striking distance. Just two plays later, Kaepernick would find his running back Carlos Hyde across the middle who then found the end zone for a 19-yard score. But the Rams would have no problem answering on their ensuing possession as a 51-yard kick return by Pharoh Cooper ignited Los Angeles' offense to score 21 unanswered-points, including their first seven on a 1-yard run in by Todd Gurley.
The 49ers offense would run into some problems of their own as their ensuing possession went into flames much like L.A.'s first possession as Kaepernick overthrew his intended target and was picked off by defensive back Cody Davis. The Rams would pull ahead just one play later as Tavon Austin took the hand-off to the house for a 30 yard touchdown. The run would be the longest rush of the season for the Rams and gave them their first set of back-to-back touchdown-scoring drives since Week 6. An uneventful stretch on either side of the ball from both teams in the second and third quarters would set up a roller coaster ride in the fourth. One play into San Francisco's first drive of the fourth quarter would end in disaster as Carlos Hyde caught a pass and was struck in his left knee by E.J. Gaines immediately after turning his head and planting his foot. With the ball squirting out and recovered by a Rams defender, the ruling on the field was an incomplete pass but would later be reversed to a fumble as L.A. challenged the play. While the 49ers would turn the ball over, the worst news would be that of Carlos Hyde's health as he was forced to leave the game with what was later revealed to be a serious MCL sprain that wouldn't require surgery but would put an end to Hyde's 2016 campaign.

Already in field goal range after recovering the fumble, Goff would complete his one and only touchdown on the afternoon, a 2-yard pass to rookie tight-end Tyler Higbee to make it a 21-7 game. Though the 21 points scored by the Rams would be their most points at the Coliseum this season, it wouldn't be enough. While we've seen the 49ers squander a handful of 14-point leads this season, we've never seen them come back from one. At least not until Saturday as Kaepernick worked some late game magic with his team trailing 21-7 with 10:32 remaining. After making it beyond mid-field and facing a fourth and 8, Kaepernick would keep the drive alive by finding his receiver Rod Streater along the sideline for a 10-yard gain. Following two consecutive incompletions, Kaepernick would decide to do it himself, dodging tackles and scrambling for a 13-yard touchdown to pull his team within seven. In need of a stop, the 49er defense would come through after forcing a Rams three and out to give Kaepernick and co. one last chance.
With just over three minutes to march down field and two timeouts remaining, the 49ers would make their way into enemy territory after a series of short passes. And with 36 seconds remaining, Kaepernick would find Streater streaking down the middle for the touchdown. But instead of going for the game-tying point after, Niners head coach Chip Kelly kept Kaepernick and the offense on the field to try and go for the win. And after solid coverage by the defense and with nobody to throw to, Kaepernick would take it in himself, soaring into the air and extending the ball past the pylon for the successful two-point conversion. Despite the 49ers taking a 22-21 lead with under a minute remaining, the game wouldn't be over just yet as a taunting penalty by San Francisco would give the Rams an extra 15-yards from the spot of the ensuing kick. With the ball at the 42 yard line, Goff would be picked off by Rashard Robinson, sealing the victory and stealing a win from Goff who was left still seeking his first career victory. San Francisco managed to pull off the epic comeback without their bell cow in Carlos Hyde who ran for 38 yards on the afternoon and fell just 12 yards short of his first career 1,000 yard season. The 22-21 victory was San Francisco's first over the Rams at the L.A. Coliseum since 1976.

For a team that has struggled mightily on defense this year, San Francisco managed to hold Goff to only 90 yards passing on 11 of 24 attempts and contained Todd Gurley to just 67 yards on the ground (23 carries), logging another solid performance against the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year. Meanwhile, Kaepernick tossed for 266 yards passing, 24 of which went to Hyde.
Week 17 Preview - Coming off only their second victory of the season, the (2-13) 49ers will look to closeout the 2016 season with a winning streak as they return to Levi's Stadium to face the bitter rival Seattle Seahawks who are coming off a 34-31 loss at home to the Arizona Cardinals. Having already clinched the NFC West Division at 9-5-1 and not much to play for in this one, I'm guessing Seattle will most likely rest a majority of their starters for a good portion of this game, giving the Niners somewhat of a chance to defeat Seattle for the first time since December 2013. In their first meeting earlier this year, Seattle ran away with the 37-18 blowout victory at home as running back Christine Michael scored two touchdowns on the ground and rushed for over 100 yards. But with Michael now on the Packers and the Seattle run game not quite what it used to be, it's been the passing attack that has led the offense. And with defensive studs Earl Thomas out for the season with a broken leg and Kam Chancellor nursing an ankle injury, the Seahawks defense isn't quite as stout which could be alarming heading into the playoffs. Not to mention how much better the Seahawks are at home opposed to on the road which they'll be come playoff time.

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