NFL Playoff Pick 'Em Contest, Super Bowl 0x31 Round: The final round of SportsFilter's annual NFL playoffs prediction contest is here. Pick the winner of the game, the spread and 10 bonus categories. Nerfballpro leads by two points and is making a bid to go wire to wire.
Josh Gordon: I Am Not an Addict: Josh Gordon has written an essay on Medium about his suspension. The gist is that he's made mistakes but he's not the substance abuse addict that sports pundits who don't know him have claimed. "I am not someone who deserves to be dissected and analyzed like some tragic example of everything that can possibly go wrong for a professional athlete," he writes. "I am not going to die on account of the troubled state you wrongly believe my life to be in. I am a human being, with feelings and emotions and scars and flaws, just like anyone else. I make mistakes -- I have made a lot of mistakes -- but I am a good person, and I will persevere."
College Football Playoff Pressured to Change Dates: The College Football Playoff is under pressure on two fronts to adjust dates for its semifinals and championship games. ESPN execs are lobbying CFP officials to move next season's semis off New Year's Eve where it competes with countdown shows. The NFL is considering expanded playoffs with one new game on Monday night competing with the CFP championship. CFP executive director Bill Hancock says the games won't move: “We picked Monday night because it was open and it was the best night for our game. We announced that in June 2012. We established that our game was going to be on Monday night for 12 years."
"Give 'em the works, Cubby! We ain't got a minute to lose!": Back before Super Bowl media week was a circus, Dick Schaap conspired with Fred Dryer and Lance Rentzel to turn it into a circus. "We came into the shop as guys from Southern Cal and left as 1920s reporters. Scoops was the ace reporter. Cubby was the cub. I was the mentor; he was the protégé."
Josh Gordon Fails Substance Test, Out for Another Year: The fantastically talented Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon has failed a substance test -- this time for alcohol -- and faces a one-year suspension. Gordon failed a marijuana test in college at Baylor, began his NFL career with a two-game substance abuse suspension and was suspended again after driving while impaired during the off season. He led the NFL in receiving yards his rookie season with 1,646, but this new incident puts his entire pro career in jeopardy. Another talented wideout with substance abuse problems, Justin Blackmon, has missed the last 24 games in Jacksonville due to suspension.
Stats Guru: Patriots Hold Onto Ball Far Better Than Any Other Team: Sports quantitative analyst Warren Sharp has found an interesting statistical anomaly involving the New England Patriots: The team has fumbled dramatically fewer times than any other NFL team the past five years, measured in term of fumbles lost per offensive play run: "There is no other team even close to being near to their rate of 187 offensive plays (passes+rushes+sacks) per fumble. The league average is 105 plays/fumble. Most teams are within 21 plays of that number." The Patriots five-year run of non-fumbling is the best five-year run of any NFL team in the last 25 years, raising the question of how the team is able to hold on to the ball so much better than anybody else.
11 of 12 Patriots' Balls Deflated, ESPN Reports: The NFL inspected the balls used by the New England Patriots during the AFC Championship Game and found that 11 out of 12 were inflated 2 pounds per square inch below NFL rules, NFL sources told ESPN. The balls had been inspected under three hours prior to game time by the referees and were properly inflated, the sources said. No word yet on any potential punishment. One source described the league as "disappointed ... angry ... distraught." Jackie McMullen of ESPN writes that if Belichick was involved, he should be suspended for the Super Bowl.
Patriots crush Colts in the rain: Foul weather didn't slow down Tom Brady and the Patriots as they beat Andrew Luck and the Colts 45-7 (the second worst drubbing in AFC Championship history). This will be the Pats' 8th Super Bowl trip, tying them for the record with the Steelers and the Cowboys; and Brady's and Bill Belichick's 6th, tying them with Mike Lodish (player) and Don Shula (coach).
Seahawks Advance to Super Bowl 0x31 with 16-Point Comeback: Down 16-0 at the half and 19-7 with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth, the Seattle Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers 28-22 on the first overtime possession with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse. Wilson was terrible until he wasn't, throwing four interceptions before leading one of the greatest comebacks in an NFL playoff game. The Seahawks become the first Super Bowl champ to reach the game the next season since New England in 2005.
NFL Playoff Pick 'Em Contest, Conference Championship Round: Pick the winners and the spread of the NFC Championship and AFC Championship Sunday, along with the top passer, rusher and receiver. The first game is Green Bay at Seattle at 3:05 p.m. Eastern Sunday, followed by Indianapolis at New England at 6:40 p.m.
The Gaming Obsession of the Green Bay Packers:
Which game do the Green Bay Packers obsess over during their down time? Madden 15? Poker? Dominoes? Something a little more...nerdy.
Boy Asks All 32 NFL Teams: Why Should I Be Your Fan?: A 12-year-old boy in Yukon, Oklahoma, wrote to every NFL team in December, asking them a simple question: Why should I be a fan of your team? Cade Pope got one letter back, hand-written by Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, along with a replica helmet signed by the team's All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechley. "We would be honored if our Carolina Panthers became your team," Richardson replied. "We would make you proud by the classy way we would represent you."
Buckeyes Win College Football Playoff: The Ohio State Buckeyes won the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship, defeating Oregon 42-20 at AT&T Field in Arlington, Texas, Monday night.The Buckeyes overcame four turnovers thanks to Ezekiel Elliott (36 carries, 246 yards, four touchdowns), Cardale Jones (16-of-23 passing for 242 yards, a passing TD and a rushing TD) and a defense that swallowed the vaunted Ducks attack, forcing six punts.
Colts Silence Broncos Offense, Make Peyton Manning Look Old: Peyton Manning has his ninth one-and-done in his playoff career after Andrew Luck led the Indianapolis Colts to a 24-13 road victory over the Denver Broncos, putting Indy in its first AFC Championship Game since 2009. Manning went 21-for-40 with only 152 yards, leading to headlines talking about retirement.
Packers Rally Past Cowboys, Who No Longer Love the Refs: The zebras giveth, the zebras taketh away. Trailing 26-21 late in the fourth against the Green Bay Packers, the Dallas Cowboys thought they had a first-and-goal from the one yard line after Dez Bryant acrobatically caught a fourth-down pass from Tony Romo. But replay officials reversed the call because the ball touched the ground and Bryant briefly lost control of it afterwards. Green Bay didn't give the ball back and advanced to the NFC Championship Game despite quarterback Aaron Rodgers being limited to the pocket due to a calf injury. His bullet to tight end Richard Rodgers completed the team's comeback in the final quarter.
Seahawks Bottle Up Panthers, Look Like Favorites to 'Re-Pete': The Seattle Seahawks turned a 14-10 nailbiter at the half into a 31-17 no doubter, defeating the Carolina Panthers and advancing to the NFC Championship Game. Kam Chancellor sealed the win with a 90-yard pick-six touchdown that followed two incredible non-blocks of a field goal as the first half ended. After leaping the line once to disrupt a kick, Chancellor did it again, foiled only by a penalty for running into the kicker. Under coach Pete Carroll, Seattle is the first defending Super Bowl champion in a decade to win a playoff game the next season.
Patriots Edge Ravens as Belichick Displays Some Trick Mojo: The New England Patriots won a 35-31 AFC Divisional Round classic over the Baltimore Ravens, taking the lead with 5:13 left on a Tom Brady to Brandon LaFell touchdown. That score makes Brady the all-time leader in playoff passing TDs with 46, passing Joe Montana. Patriots coach Bill Belichick reached into his bag of tricks with the Patriots down by 14 in the third, lining up six receivers, having one tell the refs he's ineligible and snapping before the Ravens could figure out who to cover. "It was clearly deception," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who took a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty to call attention to it.
NFL Playoff Pick 'Em Contest, Divisional Round: Pick the winners of each playoff game and the spread, along with four bonus categories. This round begins at 4:35 p.m. Eastern today with Baltimore at New England, followed by Carolina at Seattle tonight, then Dallas at Green Bay and Indianapolis at Denver on Sunday.
Cowboys Defeat Lions After Controversial Penalty Non-Call: The Dallas Cowboys rallied to defeat the Detroit Lions 24-20 in the NFL playoffs, scoring a go-ahead touchdown with under three minutes remaining after a Lions drive ended on a pass interference call that was announced and then cancelled by referee Pete Morelli. He explained the reasoning to a reporter after the game, stating that head linesman Jerry Bergman had the best angle and thought it was face-guarding, not pass interference.
Hard hitting preview of the upcoming Cowboys/Lions wildcard game.: Featuring a cameo by Aaron Rodgers.
From That Guy On Your Fantasy Football Team: Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas has written to all the fantasy owners who picked him: "If I don't have a huge fantasy production day, I'm not trying to personally sabotage your team. ... There is a small minority who always take it one step further if you let their fantasy team down, and they all seem to congregate in my Twitter mentions."
NFL Playoff Pick 'Em Contest, Wild Card Round: Pick the winners of each playoff game and the spread, along with some extra categories. This round begins at 4:20 p.m. Eastern today with Arizona at Carolina, followed by Baltimore at Pittsburgh, Detroit at Dallas and Cincinatti at Indianapolis.
Ducks v. Bucks in Arlington: The post-BCS era started with a firm (if unintentional) repudiation of the BCS, as defending national champion Florida State was embarrassed by perennial bridesmaid Oregon and defending-minus-one (and -minus-two) champ Alabama was beaten by perennial SEC victim Ohio State.
New York Jets Fire Rex Ryan, GM John Idzik: The New York Jets have fired coach Rex Ryan after six seasons and GM John Idzik after two. The New York Times calls owner Woody Johnson's move "a tacit admission of a mistake Johnson made by insisting during the interview process 23 months ago that the new general manager retain Ryan as coach. Such a demand winnowed the pool of candidates, costing the Jets a chance to hire executives with stronger resumes." Dave Caldwell began his GM tenure in Jacksonville by firing one-year coach Mike Mularkey, so he could pick a new coach (Gus Bradley) and begin the rebuilding together. Is it ever a good idea to pair an existing coach who needs to win now with a new GM?
NFL Pick 'Em, Final Week: Final week of the contest, which some of us (not naming names) gave up in despair. Wmwtm leads with 2,170 points and four players are within 60 of the lead.
Sources: Jim Harbaugh Expected to Take Michigan Job: Two members of the San Francisco 49ers staff and a third NFL source said Saturday they expect 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh to accept a six-year, $48 million contract to become the head coach of the University of Michigan.
Concussions Send West Virginia Quarterback Out of Football: After suffering five concussions in the past 14 months, West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Clint Trickett is retiring from football. The senior had hoped to play in the Liberty Bowl as his final game on Monday, but he can't get medically cleared following the concussion he suffered five weeks ago. Trickett admitted not telling the team's medical staff about some of the concussions. "In fairness to our training staff, they didn't know. I didn't tell them, so that was on me," he said.
Rogue Cheerleaders Hope to Win Over New York Giants: If you see cheerleaders as you head into a New York Giants game, they're not official. A former Washington cheerleader operates the Gotham City Cheerleaders, a group that performs outside the games and at other events in the hopes the Giants will eventually let them in. The Giants are one of six NFL teams with no cheerleaders and co-owner John Mara has said, "It's just not part of our philosophy."
ESPN Keeps Expanding Bowl Season With Its Own Games: There are 39 bowl games this year in college football. ESPN owns 11 of them. One of this year's network-created newbies is the Camellia Bowl, played in Montgomery, Alabama, at the 92-year-old Cramton Bowl, the longtime home of the BlueGray Football Classic and host to 20 Alabama games through the 1950s. The bowl was created to match up Sun Belt and Mid-American Conference teams and the inaugural opponents are Bowling Green (7-6) and South Alabama (6-6). The guaranteed payout for each team is only $100,000. "We realize this isn't Ohio State-Alabama in New Orleans," said Pete Derzis of ESPN Events.
The FSU Problem: 'The Florida State football program has become the Florida Man of college sports. Any story that begins "A Florida State player … " is liable to end almost anywhere except, remarkably, in jail.'
Bitcoin Bowl Brings Virtual Currency to St. Pete: The first Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl will be played on December 26 at Tropicana Field between N.C. State and UCF. The bitcoin processor BitPay bought the naming rights, paying for the deal in the virtual currency, and the event has grown beyond the game. A nearby town in a "Bitcoin Beach" initiative convinced 65 percent of its businesses to accept the currency, touting no transacation fees or chargebacks as incentive. Five bitcoin ATMs will be installed at the game and concessions will take it as payment. A sign that this isn't all bitvana, from the Tampa Tribune: "A downside to the coin is that its value fluctuates. But BitPay has offered area merchants the opportunity to accept it from customers and then receive the exact dollar amount of the transaction back into their bank accounts."
Wage Lawsuit by Bills Cheerleaders Details Appalling Treatment: The Buffalo Bills make over $200 million in revenue a year but not a penny of that goes to the team's cheerleaders. A minimum wage-violation lawsuit filed by five of the Buffalo Jills details how they had to pay $650 for their own uniforms, got no wages, had their Facebook accounts monitored, were told how to handle their menstrual cycle and were required to visit a plastic surgeon who pitched them on breast augmentation. And then there's this: "The Jills were required to attend a golf tournament for sponsors. The high rollers paid cash -- 'Flips for Tips' -- to watch bikini-clad cheerleaders do back flips. Afterward, the men placed bids on which women would ride around in their golf carts. A not-incidental detail: The carts had no extra seats. Women clung to the back or, much more to the point, were invited to sit in the men’s laps."
Oklahoma Judge Asked to Overturn High School Playoff Game: On Wednesday, a district judge in Oklahoma will rule on whether to invalidate a high school football playoff game because of an officiating mistake. Locust Grove defeated Frederick A. Douglass 20-19 after a 58-yard Douglass touchdown pass was reversed with 64 seconds left. A coach had accidentally bumped a referee during the play, and the referees wrongly threw out the score instead of assessing a five-yard penalty on the extra point or kickoff as the rules dictate. To those who scoff at the idea the mistake should result in a partial or full-game do-over, Oklahoma City public schools general counsel Brandon Carey said, "Just because it hasn't been done doesn't mean it’s not the right thing to do."
Tide-Buckeyes, Ducks-Noles: It's official -- the participants in the College Football Playoff will be the four power-conference champions that played a conference championship game. #2 Oregon takes on undefeated defending national champions #3 Florida State in the Rose Bowl, while Nick Saban's #1 Alabama faces Urban Meyer's #4 Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. #5 Baylor and #6 TCU are left out, handicapped by being in the 10-team Big 12.
538: 7 Other Schools That May Follow UAB Out of Football: The number crunchers at 538 look at the financial situation that led University of Alabama at Birmingham president Ray Watts to announce the shutdown of the school's college football program this week. Eight other schools have added football programs since UAB in 1996, and seven of them have similarly difficult funding situations: Florida Atlantic, Florida International, South Alabama, UT-San Antonio, Georgia State, Old Dominion and UNC-Charlotte. "All of them are based in the South, and all of them felt they had a chance to succeed because of the prestige of the game and the fertile recruiting grounds in the region. But they've found it incredibly expensive to field a competitive FBS program," writes David Goldenberg. "And as the Big 5 power conferences start to crank up the financial pressure -- both with lavish spending on facilities and upcoming allowances for players -- it's possible that some of these programs could join UAB on the sidelines."
College Football Fan Map: The New York Times has given college football the fan map treatment, creating an interactive map of fan allegiances based on Facebook likes. "All told, 84 programs can reasonably claim to be the most popular college football team somewhere in the United States," the paper reports. You can zoom in on the interactive map to see zip-code specific findings. One discovery: "The most consistently loyal fans in America live in Wisconsin. More than 87 percent of fans in some Wisconsin ZIP codes support the Badgers, a level that isn't reached anywhere else, our estimates show."
Texans' Andre Johnson Takes At-Risk Kids on Toys 'R Us Shopping Spree: A group of 8-16 year old kids from family protective services in the Houston area were taken to a local Toys 'R Us by Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson and given 80 seconds to fill an empty shopping cart with any toy they wanted, bought by him as Christmas presents. They also got a videogame system and some games on top of that. The bill was $16,266.26. Johnson has done this for eight straight years. The 80-second-spree idea was his uncle's. His reaction after the first year: "Wow, I didn't think they could grab that much stuff in that amount of time."
Bye-bye Blazers:: The University of Alabama at Birmingham has shut down its football program, becoming the first Football Bowl Subdivision level team to do so since 1995.
Ticats lose Grey Cup 20-16 to Stampeders : It was the illegal block that broke hearts. A penalty call on Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Taylor Reed negated what would have been a 90-yard, go-ahead punt return by Brandon Banks with under a minute to play as the Ticats lost the Grey Cup 20-16 to the Calgary Stampeders. Meanwhile, McMaster loses the Vanier Cup to University of Montreal in a heartbreaker
Richard Sherman uses cardboard cutout to send NFL a message: The ever-eloquent Richard Sherman took a shot at the NFL on Tuesday, and did so in a way that garnered laughs from all the media members in the room.