Super Bowl LI Preview

What’s up, guys! Happy Super Bowl Sunday.  Welcome to my preview of the big game. I’ve been out all weekend and we’re short on time so it’ll just be a quick one, but I think you guys will enjoy it. Let’s get into it!

When the Falcons run the ball

The Falcons have the NFL’s premier running back tandem in Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman.  Both are dangerous weapons as pass-catchers and rushers.  The Patriots are tough against the run, but the primary focus for New England’s defense will be Matt Ryan and his plethora of targets, allowing opportunities for Coleman and Freeman to make big plays.  EDGE: Falcons

When the Falcons throw the ball

No disrespect to the newly crowned MVP Matt Ryan, but the key to this offense is wideout Julio Jones.  Jones, at 6-3′, is the most dominant receiver in the NFL.  The Patriots will be hyper-focused on keeping him in check, but he’s not the only scoring threat in the Falcons receiving corps.  Mohammed Sanu and lightning-quick Taylor Gabriel combined for 10 touchdowns this regular season, and as I mentioned above, Coleman and Freeman are talented pass catchers.  The Patriots boast one of the best secondaries in the NFL, but the Falcons air attack (and Jones in particular) will be too much for them to handle.  EDGE: Falcons

When the Patriots run the ball

The Patriots also have multiple options in the backfield.  LaGarrette Blount is a grind-and-pound type, whereas Dion Lewis and James White are dual-threat backs.  Expect Lewis and White to have a big impact on this game, as the Falcons’ front 7 is more suited to defend a bruiser than dynamic, light-footed backs like the two.  The Patriots should have the edge here.  EDGE: Patriots

When the Patriots pass the ball

The loss of star tight end Rob Gronkowski for the season to injury didn’t faze future Hall of Famer Tom Brady much.  The legend has been just fine with star Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, who has developed into an extremely dangerous deep-ball threat, and tight end Martellus Bennett, who has filled in for Gronk quite nicely.  The Falcons’ secondary will need to be extremely disciplined to avoid getting picked apart by Brady.  Even if they do, it’s unlikely they’ll have much luck in this scenario.  EDGE: Patriots

Who wins?

The Patriots have been here before, winning four Super Bowls since 2002 and playing in six.  Heck, Tom Brady has more Super Bowl appearances than the entire Falcons team.  But Atlanta isn’t like any team they’ve faced in those six Super Bowl appearances.  Offensively, the Falcons appear unstoppable.  The young and talented defense isn’t too far behind either, but Matt Ryan and co. are the reason Atlanta is here.  The Falcons are on such a roll I doubt that history will play much of a role this year.  It’s never a good idea to bet against Brady and Belichick, but if there is a time for it, it’s right now.  You heard it here first: The Falcons will win Super Bowl LI 28-23.

51 Awesome Facts about the Super Bowl

It’s not a major sporting event without one of my factoid articles.  To prepare you for Sunday’s big game, I have compiled 51 amusing tidbits of information about the Super Bowl that you can use to impress your friends and family.  Enjoy!

  1. The Patriots have lost the coin toss in each of the team’s four Super Bowl victories.
  2. Matt Ryan will be the first Super Bowl quarterback to wear no. 2.
  3. The 12 years between Ravens great Ray Lewis’ two Super Bowl titles is the longest gap between rings for a single player in NFL history.
  4. There has never been an all-Wild Card matchup in the Super Bowl.
  5. The Falcons did not record a penalty in their only other Super Bowl appearance in 1999.
  6. The Cowboys and the Steelers are the only two teams to have played each other in a Super Bowl more than twice (3 times).
  7. The Browns are the only team to have never hosted or played in a Super Bowl.  (The Jaguars, Texans and Lions are the other active teams to have never appeared in a Super Bowl.)
  8. The colleges most represented in Super Bowl LI are Alabama (5 players) and….. Rutgers.  (Also 5 players).  Rutgers!
  9. Prior to the season, more people bet on the Browns to win Super Bowl LI then the Falcons.
  10. NFC teams won 13 consecutive Super Bowls from 1985-1997.
  11. The lowest-scoring Super Bowl was Super Bowl VII, in which the Redskins and the Dolphins combined for 21 points (Dolphins won 14-7).  The highest-scoring was the 49ers 49-26 victory over the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX.
  12. 2016 was the first year ever that the defending Super Bowl participants both missed the playoffs.
  13. The Falcons are one of the 13 active franchises to have never won a Super Bowl.
  14. Tom Brady will be going for a record 4th Super Bowl MVP on Sunday.  He is currently tied with Joe Montana at 3.
  15. Pass rusher Charles Haley owns the most Super Bowl rings with 5.
  16. The Ravens are the only team with multiple Super Bowl appearances that owns a perfect record in the game (2-0).
  17. John Elway holds the record for most Super Bowl interceptions with 8.
  18. Raiders QB Rich Gannon tossed a record 5 interceptions in Super Bowl XXXVI.
  19. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans has hosted the most Super Bowls of any stadium.
  20. 11 of the past 12 Super Bowl winners have worn white jerseys.  The Patriots will wear white on Sunday.
  21. There are two people to have won a Super Bowl as a defensive coordinator and a head coach.  Patriots coach Bill Belichick is one of them.  Falcons Dan Quinn would join him with a win.
  22. Bill Belichick will have been a head coach in 10 Super Bowls by the time Sunday’s game wraps up, the most ever.
  23. There has never been a Super Bowl overtime.
  24. The largest margin of victory occurred in the 49ers’ 55-10 whipping of the Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV, whereas the smallest was the Giants 20-19 win over the Bills in Super Bowl XXV.
  25. The host team has never played in a Super Bowl, which makes me surprised that “the Super Bowl host curse” isn’t really a thing.
  26. The 49ers are the only team to have scored exactly 49 points in a Super Bowl.
  27. The longest Super Bowl drive, pulled off by the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, lasted 9 minutes 59 seconds
  28. The Bills lost four consecutive Super Bowls from 1990-1993.
  29. Packers offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga (21 years 332 days) was the youngest player to start a Super Bowl.  Ravens kicker Matt Stover was the oldest at 42 years and 11 days.
  30. Super Bowl XVII, played in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, was the most attended Super Bowl at 103,667.  The smallest crowd was for Super Bowl I (then called the AFL-NFL Championship) at 61,946.
  31. The NFL/NFC leads the conference Super Bowl head-to-head record 26-24 over the AFL/AFC.
  32. The Patriots lead the all-time series with the Falcons 7-6 and have won four straight.  The last meeting was in 2013, when New England won on the road 30-23.
  33. 1.33 billion chicken wings will be consumed on Sunday.
  34. The Cowboys and the Bills combined for 12 fumbles in Super Bowl XXVII.
  35. No franchise has ever won 3 consecutive Super Bowls, making the NFL the only major pro sports league to have never had a three-peat champion.
  36. The fewest points ever scored by a team in a Super Bowl was 3 by the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI.  The most was 55 by the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV.
  37. Somehow Vladimir Putin has possession of Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s 2004 Super Bowl Ring.
  38. The halftime score of Super Bowl IX was 2-0.
  39. A complete list of the Super Bowl records Tom Brady holds: Most games played, most games started, most career completions, most consecutive completions, most completions in a game, most career passing yards, most career touchdown passes, and most attempts without an interception in a game.  Wow.
  40. The winner of the coin toss is 26-24 in the Super Bowl.
  41. Dolphins QB Bob Griese completed just 6 passes in his team’s Super Bowl VIII victory over Minnesota.
  42. No team has ever come back from a deficit of more than 11 points in a Super Bowl.  Three teams have come back from a 10 point deficit, the most recent being the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX.
  43. The longest field goal in Super Bowl history was 54 yards.
  44. Parts of the film Black Sunday, about a terrorist attack at the Super Bowl, were filmed during Super Bowl X.
  45. Only two teams have won the Super Bowl after losing it the previous year, the Cowboys in Super Bowl VI and the Dolphins in Super Bowl VII.
  46. The cost of a 30-second Super Bowl commercial was $5 million this year.
  47. There has never been a punt returned for a touchdown in a Super Bowl.
  48. Peyton Manning is the only quarterback to have won a Super Bowl with two different teams.
  49. The team that scores first is 34-16 in the Super Bowl.
  50. The game is broadcasted in 34 different languages.
  51. The most consecutive Super Bowl appearances by an individual was QB Gale Gilbert, who played for the Bills from 1990-1993 and the Chargers in 1994.  Oh, and his teams lost each time.  Poor dude.

Bonus (because I couldn’t fit it on the list):

Pretty cool stuff, am I right?

Thanks for reading.  I’ll be back shortly with some more Super Bowl content, so be sure to stay tuned!

 

 

January 12 MLB Blog: Analyzing the Mallex Smith deal

Welcome back to another MLB blog.  For more Noahsports, be sure to follow me on Twitter @NoahSports1.  Also – be on the lookout for my MLB Team Overviews starting later this month!

BRAVES TRADE SMITH FOR PROSPECTS

The Braves added more talented arms to their loaded farm system yesterday, trading outfielder Mallex Smith and reliever Shae Simmons to the Mariners for lefty prospects Luiz Gohara and Thomas Burrows.

The 23-year-old Smith had nowhere to play in the Braves crowded outfield, especially after Atlanta signed fellow center fielder Ender Inciarte to a 5-year extension.  Simmons, who missed all of 2015 and most of last season with Tommy John surgery, wasn’t expected to play a late-inning role in the Braves’ improved bullpen.  In short, while talented, both were pretty expendable pieces for the Atlanta Braves.

The return for the two are the real headliners in this deal, however.  Gohara, who was the no. 3 prospect in the Mariners’ system, is a power pitcher with tremendous upside.  Burrows is a relief prospect that gets a lot of swings-and-misses.

Gohara’s potential and ridiculous ceiling resulted a lot of excitement generated among the Braves’ fan base yesterday afternoon – and a lot of questions among the Mariners’, which was confused as to why arguably the team’s most coveted prospect was dealt.  In Ken Rosenthal’s story on the deal, he reported that a scout had texted him saying “Giving up Gohara, worst move EVER!”

Gohara does carry a lot of bust potential – medically, his shoulder is an area of concern, he’s had his bouts with control issues, and, considering the snail’s pace of his developmental process, he’s one of those big-time prospects that could flame out and never make it past Triple-A  – but the upside is that of an ace.  Gohara, a former international signee from Brazil, is very much a risk worth taking, as is Burrows.  If everything goes right, the Braves will end up with a no. 2 starter and a late-inning reliever.

As the Braves examined their shiny new toys, the trade-happy Mariners immediately went back to work, swapping Smith to the Rays for Drew Smyly just an hour after acquiring him.  It was the whopping 11th deal this offseason by Jerry Dipoto and company.  The Mariners appear to be going all-in for 2017, and will likely be a playoff contender once again.  Whether they actually make it is a bigger question.

FACT OF THE DAY

Have you ever heard of @BaseballFact on Twitter?  It’s an account that posts an amusing tidbit of baseball information once or twice a day.  How whoever runs the account acquires all of this information, I have no idea.  You’d probably find it pretty cool if you agree with me that baseball history is as fascinating as anything in sports.

Here’s the basic idea of what you’ll find on the account:

Pretty neat, huh?  I just thought I’d give them a shoutout since I have used their findings in past articles.

 

 

College Football Playoff Preview

Welp, it’s finally here.  After one of the craziest regular seasons in college football history, it all comes down to this: The College Football Playoff.

We have no time to waste.  To preview, I’m going to break down the major X-factor in each game and offer my prediction.  Enjoy!

Peach Bowl: 1 Alabama vs. 4 Washington 
3 PM, ESPN, Atlanta

X-factor: Washington pressuring Jalen Hurts

If we match the two teams up, the only area we see Washington with a true advantage is when Bama passes.  Here are the two reasons for this.

  1. Bama freshman QB Jalen Hurts isn’t a deep-downfield passer.  He just isn’t.  It’s not in his game.  He’s not accurate, he lacks arm strength – it’s a true weakness for him.
  2. Washington has one of the best secondaries in the country.  The Huskies finished 8th in the country in IPG (interceptions per game) with 1.38, and consider they played in one of the most QB-loaded conferences in the Pac-12.

It might sound like the key to the game is for Washington’s secondary to force turnovers, but if you really break it down, it all comes down to how often the Huskies’ pass rush will be able to force Hurts into transitioning to pocket passer.  Alabama’s offensive line hasn’t really had any trouble protecting Hurts, but Washington has proven to be very much capable of pressuring the quarterback.  If they can force Hurts to make a couple of bad throws, they’ll have a serious chance in this one.

Prediction:

I think this game will be closer than expected, but no matter how explosive an offense Alabama has proven they can shut it down.  Still, I imagine that the winner of the turnover battle will win this game.  Washington’s secondary talent is legit – S Budda Baker and CB Sidney Jones are among the best at their position in the country – but Alabama isn’t going to make a ton of dumb mistakes offensively, and if they do, they’ll correct it the second time around.  The Tide’s exhausting ground-and-pound style on both sides of the ball should result in them getting just enough points to squeak by the Huskies.  Don’t underestimate Washington, though.  They have the best chance to win of any Tide opponent this year.  PICK: Alabama 24-17

Fiesta Bowl: 2 Clemson vs. 3 Ohio State
3 PM, ESPN, Phoenix

X-factor: Who wins the big-play battle

How are we supposed to break down a game like this?  Alabama and Washington are different teams with different stories.  Clemson and Ohio State are, like, identical.

In a game in which the teams match up as well as this, a single play can decide the game.  This is why I believe that the “big play battle” will be a huge factor in the second semifinal.

You might be thinking, what is the exact definition of a Big Play?  There isn’t one, really.  This is why it is difficult to find statistics about specific gains in yardage, I imagine.

An article about key components of this game on espn.com pointed out the two team’s “chunk play” statistics, but what I’m looking at here are plays that can decide the outcome of the game, a.k.a long touchdown scores, key turnovers, etc.

In terms of big play abilities, once again it is tough to find an edge with these two teams.  The Tigers’ pairing of Deshaun Watson and Mike Williams, one of the more explosive wideouts in the country, usually combine for a couple of huge plays a game.  Ohio State’s running backs Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel are very capable of breaking loose as well.  This is a difficult aspect of a game to predict, but OSU QB JT Barrett lacks the playmaking abilities of Watson and doesn’t have weapons like Williams, so I think Clemson gets one or two more big plays than the Buckeyes.

Prediction:

They have experience.  They can pass.  They can run.  They can defend those things.  They have elite coaching staffs.  How are we supposed to choose?   It sounds silly, but it could come down to who wants it more, and in that case you have to go with Clemson and Deshaun Watson, who is as hungry to break through and win it all as any one player in the country.  Like I alluded to above, I also believe Look for him to take over the game late and lead the Tigers to a narrow victory.  PICK: Clemson 44-41

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miami Beach Bowl Preview

MIAMI BEACH BOWL

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2:30 PM, ESPN

Miami Beach Bowl History

  • 2015: Western Kentucky 45, South Florida 35
  • 2014: Memphis 55, BYU 48

Season In Review: Central Michigan

The only reason the Chippewas are here is because of a botched call.  As you might recall, wayyyy back in Week 2, Central Michigan stunned then-no. 22 Oklahoma State on one of the craziest endings in sports history – a Hail-and-lateral play on an untimed down that only happened because of a misinterpreted rule.  After the stunning victory, Central Michigan was decidedly average the rest of the way and limped to a 6-6 record (3-5 in the MAC).

Season In Review: Tulsa

Tulsa showed tremendous progress under Phillip Montgomery in 2016, recording their first winning record in 3 years.  Unfortunately, the Hurricane missed out on the AAC title game after heartbreaking losses to then-ranked Houston and Navy, the eventual division winner.

Preview

There should be lots of offense, something that has become a tradition of sorts in this bowl game.  The Chippewas have an extremely talented QB in Cooper Rush, and Tulsa’s dynamic duo of QB Dane Evans and RB James Flanders have led the Hurricane to a Top-15 scoring offense, nationally.

Staff Picks

Noah: fullsizeoutput_a51 Nate: fullsizeoutput_a51