Road to the Super Bowl: Contenders will rise and pretenders will fall, who will be left standing #nflplayoffs

After nearly six months of NFL games the playoffs has arrived and all that remains are the serious contenders for the NFL title. Although there may still be a few more poser among the six teams remaining, at the end of the weekend their true colors will shine bright as only four teams will inch closer to representing their conference and ultimately celebrating a NFL championship in the Big Easy.

in a rodg we trustSix out of the head coaches remaining in this single elimination tournament are entering unchartered waters as they each attempt to build a legacy similar to one time Super Bowl Champion Packer Head Coach or four-time Super Bowl  winning Coach Belichick of the New England Patriots. Each of these franchises quarterbacks all have compelling stories: Peyton Manning’s (Denver Broncos) fused neck; Russell Wilson’s (Seattle Seahawks) small stature and 3rd draft selection; Colin Kaepernick (SF 49ers) youth and inexperience; Joe Flacco’s (Ravens) clutch gene missing an unaccountedbrady manning for; Aaron Rodgers (GB Packers) will his arm hold up to three games of 60+ passes due to a deficient  running game; Matt Schuab (Houston Texans) will he finally get the monkey off his back and shake off the bug of inconsistency; Matt Ryan (Falcons)will he finally win a game when it counts the most; and last but not least Tom Brady (NE Patriots) will he be forced into another shootout.

Although each of these quarterback will get their fare share of headlines this weekend do not be fooled by their gold boy looks and smiles because the outcomes of each of these games will ultimately won on the defensive side of the ball. The Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots bend but don’t break defenses have been serviceable during the regular season but they both know that the playoffs is a different beast all its owntalib and johnson. Both former Super Bowl Champion teams will rely heavily on their secondary to produce turnovers. The Patriots corner back Aquib Talib will be left in man coverage against the Texans All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson. Green Bay’s Charles Woodson will certainly test the youth and inexperience of 49ers quarterback Kaepernick.

The Seahawks, 49ers, and Broncos each have a number of game breakers on the defensive side of the ballseahawks each team will certainly keep the offensive coordinator and the quarterback up the night before game day. The secondaries of the Seahawks and the 49ers play most games in man coverage which gives the defensive coordinator the luxury of blitzing at a high rate. The Broncos led by All-Pro linebacker Von Miller dominate the line of scrimmage giving opposing quarterbacks very little time in the pocket.

The Atlanta Falcons certainly have their fare share of talent on the defense including a stud at linebacker in Sean Witherspoon and free safety Will Moore in the secondary. Unlike their dirty bird defenseplay-off peers the Falcons often gets overlooked but this weekend they will have an opportunity to cast their embarrassing loses to cellar dwellers into the sea of forgetfulness. As the epic battle of titans grows near tune be sure you have your pop corn ready, because this weekend its going down and it promises to be a good one Also be sure to join me Saturday 1030 EST for my NFL Playoff Primer for this weekend’s games. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark.

Anthony Denmark is a writer for eatdrnkslpsprtz.com. Follow him on Twitter@eatdrkslpsprtz2, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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My college football blues – The thrill is gone 9 months until the euphoria returns #collegefootball

The Euphoria that follows the kick off of a new season of college football unfortunately inches closer and closer to its final curtain call. The All-american teams have been announced, the hardware has been handed out, and the well deserved assistant has finally earned the chance to run a program. This year was marked by new faces like Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman and the return of Notre Dame from the depth of mediocrity contending for a National Championship after so many yearspetrino of years of disappointment. And who can forget Coach Petrino and the motorcycle scandal that kicked the 2012 college football season off with a bang conjuring up memories of another native Arkansan’s fall from grace.
The Preseason Magazine you bought in May is now wrinkled up in your bathroom or its being used for scrap paper for the little ones. And although your preseason magsfavorite team may have made it to a bowl game, your jubilation at their success is met with sadness because the next game will be the last game. Each week you feverishly switched channels and scheduled your days around the big game that was coming on that Saturday.With each punt return or hail mary that was answered it was the topic of conversation with your friends and peers in the workplace.
Only a Handful of days remain, when we must find something else to fill this void and although the NFL and basketball are options, they just do not hit the spot. What is the cure for this madness? How can we go on? preseason magazines do not come out til June and recruiting will be over in February. The agony the pain of manziel cutcollege football fever, an addiction that spreads from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea.
A Toast to a great season, may it hold us over until another arises that first fateful day in September. Too the true college football fans continue to EAT DRINK SLEEP SPORTZ and we shall enjoy each touchdown as if it was the last one. Be sure to check out my radio show eatdrnkslpsprtz radio every Tues/Thurs. 630 EST and Sat 10am EST for more sports news from myself and friends. Stay tuned… I know I will. – A.Denmark (eatdrkslpsprtz2)
Anthony Denmark is a writer for eatdrnkslpsprtz.com. Follow him on Twitter@eatdrkslpsprtz2, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

What I learned from the 2012 College Football Season! #road2bcs #collegefootball

ImageThere is one week left in the 2012 College Football season. One week left of fight songs, trash talk, and bad bowl games before we finish off the season with Alabama and Notre Dame going head to head for the BCS National Championship.

With that in mind, here are my Top 5 things we learned in 2012:

Image5) Florida State isn’t back…yet: 11-2, ACC Champions and a spot in a BCS bowl game for the first time since the 2005 season. Am I a spoiled fan, or an I being realistic? Many would say I’m a spoiled fan, but here’s why I expected more from 2012. I never thought this FSU team would win a BCS title, but I thought there was a good shot at being in the conversation. That all ended with a mind-boggling 1-point loss to a bad NC State team. Near-losses to VT and GT, combined with a 1-1 record against ranked teams and you can see why I say FSU isn’t back…yet. This program is headed in the right direction. Head Coach Jimbo Fisher is recruiting the right type of players and coaches. He’s shown that he has an eye for talent and he’s certainly learned to be a more effective head coach, winning some games the Noles would have lost in previous years. While I still believe Fisher needs to hand over play calling duties to an offensive coordinator, if he can continue to build on his success, the Noles can be in the hunt in 2013 and beyond.

4) It’s time for Mack Brown to retire. Mack Brown is getting dangerously close to being forced into retirement much the way several legends have in the past. His 2010 season was a disastrous 5-7, but he recovered with a decent 8-5 in 2011 which had many thinking it was just a blip on the radar. However, the Longhorns struggled to an 8-4 regular season mark in 2012 and showed no signs of returning to the college football elite. The defense, which thrived in 2011 regressed this year, giving up 30+ points 6 times. The offense struggled to find an identity, changing QBs several times as neither David Ash or Case McCoy has been able to be “the guy” for Texas. Mack Brown has earned the opportunity for one more year, but at some point, it’s time to move on.

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Image3) The coaching world has changed. Years ago, coaches were given 5 years to prove whether they were the right guy for the job. While that changed a few years ago (see Tyrone Willingham at ND), what we’ve seen this year has been downright crazy. Gene Chizik won a National Championship at Auburn in 2010 and was fired 2 seasons later, albeit after a disastrous 3-9 season where AU became the first SEC team to have a conference title and a winless conference season. Ellis Johnson was given one year at Southern Miss where he took them to an 0-12 season. Patience is a virtue and college football has none (patience or virtue). In this win or else era, it’ll be interesting to see how many programs get caught breaking rules in the coming years. Then again, with Auburn, they were supposedly cheating and still  went 3-9.

2) Preseason Polls mean NOTHING.

Look at the preseason AP poll (granted the AP poll means nothing anyway). Atop the poll, you will see the USC Trojans. The top ranked team in the nation finished 7-5. Look at the current AP poll. The top ranked ND Fighting Irish are nowhere to be found. They finished the season 12-0. At some point the AP and Coaches polls need to realize that preseason polls are useless and are based off of last year’s finishes, rumors, innuendos, and practice reports. While we all love to see the polls and talk about them, this year truly has shown us how worthless being the pre-season #1 team in the country is.

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1) It’s the SEC and everyone else.

I admit it, I’m an SEC hater. I can’t stand when people root for their conference as if Alabama winning a national title means Auburn won one too. I’m a Nole fan and I NEVER want to see Miami or UF win a national title. Sorry, it’s the truth. And while I think the SEC was somewhat overrated (or rather overvalued) this year, they were still the best conference in college football. The reason I say they were overvalued is because the majority of the conference refuses to play legitimate out of conference schedules (yes I know we played Murray State and Savannah State), and the polls seem to disregard losses when they occur within this conference (see Alabama barely falling after a loss and 2-loss SEC teams jumping 1-loss teams all season). That said, this conference still has 5 of the top 10 teams in college football (Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU and Texas A&M). With a chance at a 7th straight National Champion coming from the SEC, the other conferences have a lot of catching up to do.



As we close out another college football season, it’s time to also look forward. In less than 2 months, signing day will be upon us. In less than 4 months, spring practice will start. 8 months from now, those meaningless pre-season polls will be out and fall camps will begin. And before you know it, that first kickoff weekend will be here!

Enjoy the off-season!

Dwight Howard – ailing back, 4th quarter liability, questionable work ethic = Max contract?? #dwightmare

Last night Dwight Howard record his fifth consecutive double-double, but what did it matter if the Los Angeles Lakers continued their losing ways with a dismal 2-8 road record. Although Dwight has already been voted to his 6th consecutive All-Star game the question must be asked, has he reached his ceiling? Have we alreadysuperman rises seen the best of what he has to offer? For nearly nine seasons fans have witnessed Superman run like a gazelle and dish out punishment leading the league in rebounding and block shots.

But after off-season back surgery fans have only seen glimpses of the dominant force who clearly is not operating at 100%. Although his early return may be for the good of the team in the long run Dwight is only doing himself and the Laker franchise a disservice. Dwight is currently averaging career lows in a contract year and after a disastrous last season which ended with his exit more than his performance will be used to determine who enters the Dwight-sweepstakes and what will be the final asking price this summer.

d12Yes, Dwight is averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds but have anyone ever left you so unimpressed because the player was truly capable of doing more especially judging by his performances in season’s past. Although D-12 may never be considered a mediocre player averaging twenty points per game does not automatically make you elite or does it automatically give you entry into the NBA Basketball Hall of Fame.

When compared to the other big men who dawned the purple and gold Dwight ranks in a distant seventh at best when compared to the other Laker big men:

  1. Wilt Chamberlinlaker big men
  2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  3. Shaquille O’Neal
  4. George Mikan
  5. Bill Walton
  6. Pau Gasol
  7. Dwight Howard

The big men ranked ahead of Dwight were dominant big men who took pride in their craft whose games and skills expanded and improved each year while they were in the NBA. Although Dwight’s legacy has yet to be determined in its entirety an ailing back and a continued lack of maturity may end up being his demise.

Each year in the league his current teammate Kobe Bryant added something new to his repertoire in his questdunking dwight for greatness. Since coming into the league straight from high school what new has Dwight Howard added to his game beside the occasional dunk and swat. Those who are great are always working on their games, its apparent that the same cannot be said about Dwight Howard who seems to be more concerned with becoming an actor and promoting his new Adidas shoes.

d12 decisionDwight will certainly become a wealthy man because of the game of basketball but once he can no longer run faster or jump higher than his peers what legacy will he leave. In the NBA there are many tells of ‘shoulda, coulda woulda’s, if Dwight does not grow up he will end up on that list and not in the Hall of Fame. As the season progresses he future with the Lakers and his play will be watched closely. Will he be a Laker next year? Another True Hollywood Story, stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

Los Angeles Lakers: From first to worst? Another true hollywood story #lakernation

Last night the Los Angeles Lakers reached a new low as they were run out of the arena by the Cleveland Cavaliers bringing their abysmal road record to 2-7. At the start of the season the Laker faithful envisioned a return of the Showtime Lakers but so far this season it seems like Kobe has been the only one who is showing up for games while his peers look like their just collecting checks. The personnel on the court clearly do not fit the system that D’Antoni wants to run and with the front office already strapped for cash the question many will ask is what do they do now?

An 82-game season has already cost the Lakers their starting point guard Steve Nash the first quarter of thed12 brick season, due to age and nerve damage in his shin his return continues to be unknown. In his quest for the big stage among the stars of Hollywood Dwight Howard has consistently folded under pressure, proving to be liability and deflecting blame for his poor play in crunch time. (9-21 from the stripe against his former team the Orlando Magic).

Too make matters worst the wear and tear of 16 year pro career in addition to his yearly commitment to the Spanish National Team has finally caught up to Pau Gasol who is currently collecting DNP (do not plays) due to arthritis in his knees. Although he has struggled to assimilate into D’Antoni’s offense the contributions of a career 18 pt 10 reb has certainly been missed.

laker best losersWith the Laker front office having large contracts and no desirable assets outside of Kobe Bryant it looks like a long season of unmet expectations appears to be in store. As the frustration continues to mount expect there to come a time when Kobe reaches his breaking point like he did back in 2007 when he demanded to be traded.  Although Phil Jackson is somewhere laughing at the current state of the Lakers it is critical that this team exhibit some resilience or they risk missing the playoffs all together.

If the Lakers went from title favorite to not even sniffing the playoffs a once proud franchise would be in a phil chipcomplete state of embarrassment and total disarray. At this rate its safe to assume that Gasol and Metta World Peace have played their last season in a Laker uniform as their contracts are likely to be bought out at season’s end. The fate of Dwight Howard remains unknown but judging by Coach D’Antoni’s man crush it appears that the Lakers are committed to making Dwight their franchise player.

Despite failing to meet expections the Lakers have been anything but boring so far fire dantonithis season. As D’Antoni’s former team the New York Knicks continue to thrive his Lakers continue to lose using the same broken system that cost him his job in New York. Who would have imagined that the Lakers would have to settle with the Knicks sloppy seconds. If only the Lakers front office had a reset button the season may have turned out so different. As the drama and suspense continues stay tuned. I know I will – A. Denmark

New England Patriot Dominance and NFC Parody – in search of a NFC King #superbowl

Parody in the NFL has become a widespread phenomenon that has infected the entire NFC. The only team that appears to be immune to its elixir are the New England Patriots who continue to widen the gap of dominance over their AFC counterparts. NFC division leaders New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, and Atlanta Falcons have all been remarkably inconsistent all season suffering loses to unacceptable opponents and conference cellar dwellers.

The regular season is nearly over and no dominant team from the NFC has separated themselves from the packNFL Playoffs 2013 as a prohibitive favorite to represent the conference for the Super Bowl in New Orleans. Unlike the NFC teams the Patriots continue to stomp on the throat of their opponents and it would not be considered presumptuous for their fans to start booking flights and making hotel arrangements to Bourbon street for another shot at another Super Bowl.

As the playoff picture begins to become more clear fans and odds makers alike have no clue who will contend. At the start of the season the Green Bay Packers were projected to have the best chance to win another Superbowl.

Green Bay PackersAlthough the play of the Packers has been impressive at times, the Packers have failed to overcome the injury bug as well as produce a serviceable running game. Last week against the reigning Super Bowl Champion New York Giants they were thoroughly dominated as the G-men defensive line made life for Aaron Rodgers a nightmare.

Led by Eli these same New York Giants have also been remarkably inconsistent recently ending a 4-game no touchdown pass drought. Despite holding onto a slimColin Kaepernick San Francisco 49ers lead in the division over the resurgent Washington Redskins there chances of repeating and potentially missing the playoffs all seem like unsurprising outcomes. Their NFC Conference Championship foe the San Francisco 49ers are still breaking in quarterback Colin Kaepernick who has been both electrifying and riddled with mistakes all alike.

The Falcon continue to prove pundits right with two embarrassing loses to two teams with records below .500.Cam Newton Carolina Panthers Despite an 11-2 record has their ever been a team with such an impressive record that everyone presumes will make an early playoff exit like they have done in times past The last three Super Bowl winners were NFL wildcards which means teams like the dangerous Seattle Seahawks and the talented but inconsistent Chicago Bears may serve as more than just first round exits during the postseason.

As the season progresses the Patriots eventual crowning as AFC Champion seems like a certainty. However, history has shown us that the Super Bowl Super Bowl 48 New OrleansChampion may come from the NFC for the fourth time in five years. Although the Patriot’s eventual foe has yet to be determined their challenger promises to be compelling none the less. Will the Giants and Falcons shake the bug of inconsistency? Will the 49ers led by their unproven quarterback prove pundits wrong and return to the site of their last Super Bowl run in 1990? Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

Road2Final4: Louisville Cardinals, second in the state but favorite to win NCAA title #louisvillecardinals

The state of Kentucky is home to one of the most heated rivalries in the country, longtime friends and familyhouse divided members often do not speak when the Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals battle for state supremacy. Since Coach Calipari’s arrival to the Bluegrass State the Wildcats have dominated the rivalry, attracted the nation’s top recruits, and won conference and national championships.

However, only a few miles away another Hall-of-Fame coach was slowly building an elite program by developing final four cards talent with diamond in the roughs who did not appear destined to shake the hands of Commissioner Stern after playing one year of college basketball. The talent that Rick Pitino has assembled in Louisville finally looks ready to not only to regain state supremacy but also bring another national championship back to the state of Kentucky.

The Cardinals are led by senior point guard Peyton Silva and slasher Russ Smith silvawho each spent the summer improving their games and ignored the lure of the NBA Draft. Silva was once known just for his scoring but each year he has continued to refine his skills by getting his teammates the ball.  Not known to see a shot he did not like Russ nicknamed ‘Russ-diculous’ by Coach Pitino has finally begun to play within the offense and seldom goes rogue unless a scoring punch is needed (scoring a career-high 31 points against UMKC.)

The frontcourt is led by Gorgui Dieng an import from Sudan who brings a defensive presence to the Cardinal not in my housefrontcourt that makes opponents think twice before coming into the lane. His partner in crime Chane Behannan who despite being an undersized forward is a monster on the boards who has finally shook the injury bug that plagued him last year.

Pitino appears to have the pieces in place to make some noise in March, there is very little drop off from the second unit who are led by sophomore guard Wayne Blackshear and two former Parade All-Americans, sophomore guard Kevin Ware and former Virginia Tech commit forward Montrezl Harrell.

card swagExpectations in Louisville could not be higher and although the Cards have lost their defensive intimidator in Gorgui Dieng to a broken wrist until December 19th their play in his absence has truly been impressive. Coach Pitino has used the absence of his defensive stopper as an opportunity to build depth and get minutes for his talented but inexperienced big men who he will need come tournament time.

Although it has taken Pitino longer than expected to build another title contender armed with the experience from last year’s final four run the time to crown a new king of Kentucky may be fastcard big east champs approaching. The Cardinals have the senior leadership and the talent to contend, but will they finally win when it counts? The battle for Kentucky on December 29th will determine more than just a ‘W,’ but bragging rights, recruits, and maaybe even a number seed in the tournament. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark