From The Hartford Civic Center in Hartford, CT
April 2, 1995
Three years after raking in over 60,000 fans to nearly fill a domed stadium, the WWF experienced the ignominy of putting their biggest show of the year on display in a shopping mall.
Imagine, shunted in between your local Best Buy and Bed, Bath, and Beyond is a moderately sized civic center, and that building is housing the eleventh annual WWF WrestleMania, in the middle of one of the smallest states in America.
Coming down from the enthralling and hallowed Madison Square Garden of one year prior, perhaps Vince McMahon was better off holding WrestleMania in an actual garden.
Despite dodging a bullet in July of 1994 by being acquitted on charges of steroid distribution, Vince McMahon was still reeling. Toymaker Hasbro pulled their licensing out, declaring the WWF a “dead brand”. The stench of illicit happenings in the World Wrestling Federation was enough to gag a large number of fans into turning away from the product. Those that stayed were treated to the rise of wrestling’s most cartoonish circus atmosphere to date, with silly storylines and nonsensical characters (garbage men, race car drivers, pig farmers, etc).
Attendance waned at television tapings and house shows. Pay per view buyrates were largely sliding. In 1994, the WWF began the still-running tradition of having sponsors for pay per views (Dominos Pizza would be the first for Summerslam ’94).
To top it all off, McMahon watched Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage both defect to WCW and bring mainstream attention to Ted Turner’s “rasslin’” company. McMahon tried celebrity tie-ins to shuttle fans into his product, such as Leslie Nielsen, Chuck Norris, and senile NFL great Art Donovan, but to little avail.
However, at the 1995 Royal Rumble, two celebrities would become intertwined with WrestleMania XI, and it would help save the day.
Shawn Michaels, long considered to be on the fast track to stardom after his stellar performance in the ladder match at WrestleMania X, won the 1995 Royal Rumble match from the #1 position. Lasting around forty minutes in the fastest Rumble match in history (just one minute intervals), Michaels survived all the way to the end of the match with the #2 entrant, Davey Boy Smith. After a false elimination that gave impression to the British Bulldog’s victory, Michaels snuck back into the ring (with only one foot having touched the floor), and deposited Smith over the top.
Shawn Michaels would be facing his former bodyguard, Diesel, for the WWF Championship. The two men went their separate ways after Survivor Series 1994, when Michaels inadvertently superkicked Diesel for the third time in three months.
Diesel, three days later, won said WWF Championship by defeating Bob Backlund at Madison Square Garden in just eight seconds. Diesel survived a title defense against Bret Hart at the 1995 Royal Rumble, wherein five different men (Michaels included) interfered.
Michaels was convinced that he had created the monster of “Big Daddy Cool”, and was equally convinced that he could break him as well. In Diesel’s mold, Shawn Michaels brought in Sid Vicious, now simply known as Sid, to be his new bodyguard, and to convince the world that Diesel was as replaceable as anyone.
In addition to winning the Royal Rumble match, Michaels won the opportunity to be accompanied to the ring by Baywatch sensation Pamela Anderson. In 1995, Anderson was at the apex of her fame, starring on a syndicated show that was watched worldwide, and it catapulted her into permanent stardom. Getting Baywatch’s own CJ Parker was a coup for the WWF, and would certainly turn some relatively positive attention toward the big event.
But Anderson wasn’t the only star who was tied in with that year’s Royal Rumble. Sitting front row at ringside to the January spectacular was future NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor. The fearsome linebacker was seated with friends, taking in the action, when he suddenly became a part of the show.
Bam Bam Bigelow and Tatanka had failed in their bid to become WWF World Tag Team Champions, and it was Bigelow’s clumsiness that was the difference maker. As the “Beast From the East” seethed in loss, he stomped around ringside on the verge of a tantrum. That’s when he caught “LT” giggling, and Bigelow perceived his merriment to be a slight against his manhood.
Bigelow confronted Taylor, who seemed keen on playing peacemaker. Taylor’s good natured attitude fell on deaf ears, as Bigelow shoved Taylor over a row of chairs, creating a new hot button story.
In WWF vernacular, Bigelow was suspended for thirty days for touching a spectator, but before long, the two men were signed to meet at WrestleMania in the main event.
Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler handled commentary duties for the second straight year, while Jim Ross provided post-match interviews from the aisleway. Special Olympian Kathy Huey sang “America the Beautiful”, while Anderson, Jenny McCarthy, Nicholas Tuturro, and Jonathan Taylor Thomas were on hand as window dressing for the World Title match. Lawrence Taylor had with him an entourage of NFL defensive greats, including the likes of Reggie White and future Horseman Steve McMichael.
The Allied Powers def. Eli and Jacob Blu in 6:34
(Lex Luger was in the World Title match one year earlier. The British Bulldog was the runner up in the Royal Rumble. The best thing you can do is give them the no-sell twins? Unusual opener)
WWF Intercontinental: Razor Ramon def. Jeff Jarrett by disqualification in 13:32
(Solid match, made interesting with future DX members 123 Kid and The Roadie serving as seconds. Historians may note that Kid performed what may be the first televised crotch chop in wrestling history. BREAK IT DOWN!)
The Undertaker def. King Kong Bundy in 6:36
(That’s four. Undertaker’s urn would be stolen, mid-match, by Kama, who apparently melted it down into a necklace fit for the jivest of pimps. Hmmm)
WWF World Tag Team: Owen Hart/Yokozuna def. The Smoking Gunns in 9:42 to win the titles
(Wanna hear something awesome? Watch this match, and listen to the crowd reaction when Owen pins Billy Gunn and gets his first piece of gold in the WWF. Owen’s celebration seems to be at least half legitimate, and it makes you happy for a deserving man)
I Quit Match: Bret Hart def. Bob Backlund in 9:34
(A far cry from their classic at the 1994 Survivor Series. With Rowdy Roddy Piper as referee, the match seemed to be little more than rushed comic filler, and that’s no use for either Hart or Backlund. Bret called it his worst PPV match in his WWF tenure, and for good reason)
WWF World Heavyweight: Diesel def. Shawn Michaels in 20:35
(Really good match. Michaels ended up being escorted by Jenny McCarthy, while Diesel arrived with Anderson, who was, in character, repulsed by Shawn’s ego. Of course, she married the likes of Tommy Lee and Kid Rock. To paraphrase Jeffrey Ross, keeping it cleaner, doesn’t she screw anyone with talent?)
Lawrence Taylor def. Bam Bam Bigelow in 11:42
(The best celebrity match in wrestling history. Bigelow could take a beating, and Taylor obliged with wicked forearms, hard slams, and even sold admirably for Bigelow. The highlight was Vince McMahon’s ring introductions for both men’s entourages, doing his best pre-game PA announcer impression)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
WrestleMania XI was premised as a two match show, and both matches were loaded with outsiders and celebrities in order to entice casual buys. With a lot of wrestling fans either turning to WCW or ECW, or tuning out altogether, at the time, Vince McMahon had to try and grasp as much of a new audience as possible, and thus resorted to these means.
The most telling image of the show was in the post-match of Diesel vs. Michaels. When Diesel won, he stood in the ring with his arms raised, celebrating with Anderson, McCarthy, Thomas, and Tuturro, in an attempt to achieve some kind, any kind, of rub. Diesel’s World Title reign had been lukewarm thus far, and his match with Shawn would basically be the peak.
Late in the match, the crowd was booing Diesel’s forced “fist pumping” gestures (to insinuate that he was loading up on ‘Diesel Power’), and it was clear that making Kevin Nash into a Hogan clone was failing miserably.
McMahon couldn’t have forced Diesel down the fans throats any harder, even if he’d used a plunger. But the image of Diesel celebrating, flanked by pseudo-stars, still left a foul taste in our mouths.
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.
-So we come upon an interesting show: one that is generally panned as one of the weaker entries in the annals of WrestleMania history, yet is also considered a show that helped save the WWF. On April 2, 1995, WrestleMania emanated inside a shopping complex at the Hartford Civic Center in Hartford, CT. The WWE at this point was in shambles, due largely to a stale and cartoony product. WCW was picking up steam due to the acquisitions of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, and would soon be knocking on Vince McMahon’s door with Monday Nitro. What to do?
-You bring in a retired all-pro linebacker, that’s what you do. But hey, we have time to get back to that. On with the show!
-Here to sing the national anthem, Kathy Huey who is a Special Olympian. She actually does a good job, given her condition, and it makes me feel good to see that sometimes Vince McMahon can show some sensitivity and compassion.
-Our hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler, with Jim Ross doing post match interviews in the aisleway. It should be noted that Ross did most of the interviews while shrouded in darkness, so that we couldn’t see the aftermath of his bout with Bell’s Palsy.
-Please don’t try and tie the last two thoughts together; I won’t be held responsible for your anguish.
-Hey, remember last year when Bret and Owen Hart kicked things off with a stellar match? This time it’s….The Allied Powers and the Blu Brothers. Because, you know, incredible opening matches are just SO 1994! The Blus have Uncle Zebekiah with him, who is Dutch Mantell. Could Dutch come up with an opener this bad when he worked in TNA? I believe he could.
-The Powers, for the unaware, are Lex Luger and Davey Boy Smith. Wow, Lex is opening? In a perfect world, sure, but I just never thought I’d see the day.
-The match is nothing more than a six minute exhibition to show the world that yes, Luger and Bulldog have plenty of power moves and that, yes, Luger can be forced to jerk the curtain. So I kind of half got what I wanted.
-I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Vince referenced the Battle of Normandy during the ring intros for some reason. That was the basis for the 1998 Tom Hanks Movie “Saving Jobber Luger”.
-Bulldog gets Jacob Blu with a top rope sunset flip for the pin. No one ever noticed that Jacob and Eli Blu was similar to Jake and Elwood Blues. Slick could have managed them in the Cab Calloway role. They’re on a mission from God….to completely suck.
-JR, the Phantom of the BBQ, interviews Zeb in the aisle, but the production on this show is so shoddy, you can’t make anything out. Bret vs. Owen ain’t got spit on this, kids.
-Nicholas Turturro of NYPD Blue tries to do an interview backstage, but the production woes continue. If that was his brother John holding the mic, everything woulda been smoother. Why hasn’t WWE had a character like Jesus Quintana? I already know what his catchphrase would be, but Eric’s never going to print it. So just look it up.
-123 Kid and Razor Ramon try an interview, but the production is bad there as well. Did Vince have to give a large up front fee to one of the celebs and it detracted from the show’s production? Just how much WAS Steve McMichael holding out for?
-Next up, we have Razor Ramon and Jeff Jarrett for the IC Title. Jarrett, the champ, is seconded by The Roadie, who was not quite fat yet. Razor has Kid, who is wearing something out of the Royce Gracie Ladies collection. Seriously, if Kid didn’t have a slight five o’clock shadow, he looks like Alanis Morissette dressed as a ninja.
-Quick shout out to Wrestlecrap.com forum member Jazzman, who is really big on Miles Davis and lives in New York. He won a mention just by responding to one of my posts. That’s right, I’m so bored with this show already that I’m giving out space to random strangers. I feel like Vince when he hires the guest hosts for Raw. “TIMBA-WHO?”
-Razor attacks, because he’s sneaky, and goes to town on Jarrett, who at the time was basically a heatless champion with a nasally hick voice that leeched off of a 1970′s heel act and seemed overly dated. Nowadays he….umm….yeah.
-Roadie helps Jarrett cheat and get to safety at various points. You know, The Road Dogg never gets his due. Yeah, he got lazy in the ring in later years, but he made bland talents like Jarrett and Billy Gunn look exceptional with his timing, natural ability, quick wit, and penchant for working the crowd. When DX was him, Gunn, X-Pac, and HHH, it was Dogg that had the most charisma. Shame that drugs dragged him down, because if he had a better look, he’d have easily been a main eventer. Oh, you didn’t know?
-Jarrett tries to take a walk after Roadie saves him from a Razor’s Edge, but is scared back to the ring by the Kid. What was Kid gonna do, sing “You Oughta Know”?
-Good seesaw battle, as at this point, Scott Hall was a damn fine worker for a man his size. I always liked his matches with Jarrett, because Hall could bring the charisma and timing, and Jarrett would do the basic legwork, and it evened out.l Kudos to both.
-Things begin to drag late in the match, when both men knock each other out on a couple of occasions. Way to bring it for the biggest show of the year.
-Jarrett manages to get the Figure Four, but Razor reverses. Soon, Razor goes into his finishing sequence, but Roadie clips him on the Edge attempt for the cheap DQ. Kid runs in to even things out and busts out a couple of pre-DX crotch chops. Awesome. Know what’s the opposite of awesome? All four of these men were in TNA in 2002, working in the main angle that ended one of the weekly PPV’s. It would have happened sooner, but Dogg was still under house arrest for his drug probation. Good thing TNA learned their lesson and stopped using drugged-out has beens.
-Meanwhile, Turturro catches up with Shawn and Sid as he does his best to try and find Pamela Anderson. Did he check the men’s room stall? I think his career was floating in the commode. Also, Sid screams and Jenny McCarthy covers her ears. Fun Jenny McCarthy fact: if you refuse to give her attention, she pouts and yells “MY KID HAS AUTISM!”. What a whiner.
-At ringside, former Chicago Bear Neil Anderson has a chance to kill Todd Pettengill and doesn’t take it. This makes Justin sad.
-Up next, Undertaker vs. King Kong Bundy in a match over a stolen urn. Screw People’s Court, the ring is the best place to settle petty crime. Vince takes a moment to mention that Taker is undefeated at Mania. Hmmm….
-Your referee for this match: Striking baseball umpire Larry Young. He will face the CEO of Caesars in the finals for “least important WrestleMania celebrity ever”
-Bundy’s staggering through this match. I like the guy, but this was definitely a weird person to make a comeback, considering he didn’t have his 1980′s mobility. Undertaker gets bored with trying to have a passable match, steals the urn back from Ted Dibiase at ringside, and hands it to an overjoyed Paul Bearer. If the urn was a missing child, Bearer the kid’s dad, and Bearer acted that happy to see him again with that facial expression, I think I’d call Chris Hansen next.
-Kama comes to ringside and steals the urn, either to put a curse on it or give it as a gift to one of his escorts. The advantage of having multiple gimmicks. Next up on Schizo Wrestler Happy Hour: Glen Jacobs pulls a kid’s tooth, sets it on fire, and then says “Wanna see how I look in leather chaps?”.
-To further distract us from the thrillingly slow paced match, Quasi-Rosso interviews Kama, who promises to melt the urn down and make a chain out of it. There’s an idea for WWE films: melting a mystical urn and it creates a curse! Like whoever wears it will forget all but three moves.
-Taker ends it with a flying clothesline to improve to 4-0. His record in Mania matches that are actually good is still 0-0.
-Pamela Anderson is missing! So is Jimmy Hoffa, but I don’t see Nick Turturro looking all disheartened over that.
-MONGO! Wow, this show had the two best Horsemen ever: Mongo and Sid. Sid has half the brain you do and Mongo has twice the charisma of Paul Roma. All we need is Ole and Benoit and my dream stable is set.
-Meanwhile, Bob Backlund plays chess with a tentative looking Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Why’s he so nervous looking? Did Terry Garvin whisper something into his ear?
-Now for something with a bit more meat to it: The Smoking Gunns defend the tag straps against Owen Hart and a mystery partner, who is the returning Yokozuna. Speaking of meat, MAN Yoko got fatter during the layoff. He’s a blonde rug away from looking like Tammy Sytch. Owen picked Yoko for the simple reason that he’s beaten Bret. I love that little character touch that makes Owen look so petty. Basically, he’s just playing the role of his brother Bruce, who was watching with a beer in one hand while muttering “If only I were 6’2, if only I were 6’2….”
-The basic story is that when Owen’s in, the Gunns beat the hell out of him, but when he tags Yoko, the big man dominates. Basically, it’s Jeri-Show, V1. The Gunns were a decent team, but it was 1995 and nobody was taking cowboys seriously anymore. This was the first time I ever cheered for Yoko, as I just wanted Owen to have a belt. I don’t even care if he beat Alundra for the Women’s Title. I would have supported his decision.
-The Gunns manage to hit the Sidewinder, but the ref counts slow for some reason and Owen kicks out. See? Even the ref thinks that Owen deserves a belt more than Billy “Screaming means Selling!” Gunn.
-Wait, THAT’S why the ref slowed the count: he couldn’t end it until Yoko came in and applied a nervehold! That’s like ending one of Rock’s matches before he can do the People’s Elbow. All the pros have to get their moves in, man! It’s just how wrestling works!
-After Bart takes a header to the floor, Yoko CRUSHES Billy with a belly to belly and then lands the Banzai drop to an INCREDIBLE pop. Yoko tags Owen and you can hear the fans buzzing. Owen was just so fun to watch that even though he was a bitter heel, the fans wanted to see him compensated in some way. Sure enough, he pins dead Billy to get his first taste of WWF gold. He celebrates with both belts like a maniac in a truly priceless moment.
-Lawler says that Cornette exclaimed “Michael Jordan AND Yokozuna are back”. Well, except these days, you still hear rumors that Jordan’s mulling another comeback. Yoko? Not so much.
-Pettengill goes to interview Bam Bam Bigelow and the production snafus continue. This is like the production value on the set of an amateur porn. Umm, not that I would know how that goes….
-Up next is an I Quit match, where the loser must say “I QUIT” over the microphone. Quick time out to mention #11 for Mr. Howard Finkel. You go Howie.
-Rowdy Roddy Piper is the guest referee for this grudge match between Bob Backlund and Bret Hart, which Bret had the audacity to call the worst PPV match of his career. Concussions seem to have made him forget War Games 1998 but screw it, it’s Bret’s book.
-The match starts out as one would expect, with some back and forth feeling out, followed by frenzied attempts to get a submission from one another. Although the two men have a certain level of gravitas built up over their feud, Piper kills the mood by yelling “WHADDYASAY?!” over the mic during the submission attempts. Piper’s going to make a great homeless guy that hands out pamphlets one day, I can just feel it.
-Bret’s not comfortable at all, and Piper’s throwing him completely off his rhythm. Funny moment as Lawler tries to bring up the fact that Bret beat somebody kinda important at WrestleMania 8, and goads Vince into guessing who. Vince guesses the British Bulldog, and Lawler is flabbergasted. Way to play dumb, Vince. Just for a goof, Lawler should ask Michael Cole who Randy Orton beat for his first World Title.
-Bret locks Backlund in a Figure Four and Piper’s weird motions prompt Lawler to ask if he’s hitting Backlund with the mic. Piper hauling off and beating a man with a microphone is funny, regardless of the context. Also, Lawler insults the French commentators for being ugly. Notice how bored I am? I’m bored.
-Backlund begins to work the arm, setting up for his crossface chicken wing. Crowd is just enthralled I tells ya. Fortunately, Bret doesn’t want to keep his rat waiting, so he reverses Backlund’s chicken wing attempt into one of his own for the submission win. Remember how Bob was supposed to say “I QUIT?”. He just simply said “YEAH!” instead. What a gaffe by Backlund. Maybe he was in charge of the production staff for this show?
-Backlund says he saw the light. Then he was hit by the train. Stupid train.
-Pamela Anderson is missing, so the sympathetic WWF does the right thing and….pairs Jenny McCarthy with Shawn instead? Because, you know, if someone’s inexplicably missing, they just replace them instead of being worried. Tonight, Jenny McCarthy gets to play Johnny Nitro to Shawn’s CM Punk, then.
-Technical difficulties during a Diesel promo. This is as opposed to Diesel’s NORMAL difficulties, which include tearing his quad while running on a canvas.
-So the celebrity roll for the World Title match: Not-John Turturro (ring announcer), JTT as the kids called em (timekeeper), Jenny Mcarthy (Shawn’s broad) and….Pamela Anderson (Diesel’s broad). Pamela looks gorgeous as she always did in this time period, but is so bored to be here. You know, because Baywatch is so much more dignified and classy.
-Diesel beats down Shawn Michaels before the bell, with his song still playing, and then poses for the pyro with CJ Parker. I love when they make the heels look like dipwads in big situations. You know you’re in a “kid friendly” era when the heels look dumber than Batman villain sidekicks. Speaking of which, does anyone else think Cody Rhodes and Burt Ward are related?
-Shawn takes another header to the floor and a cameraman gets wiped out. Did I mention there’s like 50 cameramen there at ringside? It’s like the queue outside Spago when Kim Kardashian goes out to dinner.
-Now for a fun spot, as Shawn tries to slide between Diesel’s legs and gets double goozled, lifted, and dropped onto the top rope for the classic crotch-the-villain spot. Some things never get old. There must be a law of wrestling that states that no babyface must do the horsey-ride-on-the-top rope spot ever.
-Shawn decides “Screw this, I’m stealing the show again”, and performs the super reverse cross body off the top onto the floor on Diesel. Damn, I was hoping he’d wipe out a few more paparazzi.
-In hindsight, Vince was nuts for making Nash his guy. The one he should have pushed to the top was Razor Ramon, who had a better name, more charisma, was a better wrestler, and was in his prime. You have Shawn beat Razor for the IC belt in the fall of 1994, THEN have RAZOR beat Backlund for the title, then you do champ vs. champ at WrestleMania, so Shawn can cash in the “I beat the champ once, I can do it again” saga. Instead, there’s reserved Kevin Nash shoehorned into being Biker Hogan. Does anyone have the financials for 1995 handy? I need a good laugh.
-Shawn has to resort to a sleeper to try and keep Nash down. A sleeperhold on a boring champion. Mmmm, delicious coincidence. Another reason that this match wasn’t quite perfect is that Shawn’s the villain, but he’s fighting from underneath. Why not have Sid demolish Diesel outside the ring to make it 2 on 1 and make Diesel the underdog since he’s, you know, the babyface? I hope this doesn’t make too much sense, now.
-As the fight spills to the outside, Earl Hebner tries to jump out to keep Sid at bay, but twists his ankle on the landing. This is kinda important, because when Diesel and Shawn get back into the ring, Shawn nails him with Sweet Chin Music, and Hebner is nowhere to be found. Take note, Bret: Shawn never whines about the “Hartford Screwjob”, so you need to let go of your anger, man. Hebner is finally thrown back in by Sid, and Diesel kicks out on two. Crowd seems kinda sad and I, as a Shawn fan, was bummed, but hey, I don’t see HBK smashing monitors now.
-So to help swing things Shawn’s way, Sid cuts off the turnbuckle pad with a pocket knife. Is Sid such a pathetic wuss that he needs to cut the pad off? Just untie it or rip it, you fool. Notice that I didn’t make the “You mean he didn’t bring his scissors?” joke. I feel that I’m above certain lowbrow humor.
-After Shawn tries for the exposed buckle, Diesel blocks and lands a back suplex, then he begins to “rev up” with his “Diesel Power”. When Hogan does it, it’s cartoony and fun, but when Diesel does it, he just looks like a total tool and the fans let him know it. Who would have guessed that Diesel would be the funny one of the now just 14 or 15 months from now? Certainly not me?
-Rev rev rev, rev some more and Diesel ends it with the Jackknife to thoroughly piss me off and make me swear off WWF for about 26 seconds. 11 year old Justin was not happy. Diesel then celebrates with the B-level celebrities to put a definitive stamp on his title reign. Great match, thanks to Shawn, but the bad taste was evident.
-Sid cuts a crazed promo backstage while Shawn makes disgusted faces. Was Shawn disgusted over losing, or over Sid’s promo? We may never know for sure.
-Salt n Pepa perform “What a Man”, and I’m under the assumption that Jason Knight of ECW is coming out. Two great bits of comedy: in the show’s opening montage, Salt n Pepa posed with a smiling Bret Hart in a video that Julie’s lawyer called “Exhibit 56J”, and then Vince tops the insanity when Pepa shakes her booty at the camera by going “WOOOOOOOOOW”. For once, it seems Bret and Vince can agree on something.
-So Vince introduces each man’s entourage for the main event. On the heel side, King Kong Bundy, Tatanka, Nikolai Volkoff, Kama, IRS, and Ted Dibiase. For the faces, NFL all-pros Ken Norton Jr, Chris Spielman, Rickey Jackson, Carl Banks, Steve McMichael, and Reggie White. Wow, the NFL players have more collective United States Titles than the heels. That’s incredible.
-Bigelow and LT make their entrances. If that’s the best they can do for LT’s song, then Vince must harbor some hatred on the man. Maybe four years earlier, Vince had bet $50,000 on “no way Scott Norwood misses this kick”. I’m an Eagles fan, but c’mon Vince, no hate necessary.
-Pat Patterson is the referee. That’s because he knows LT’s laid some mean hits on wide receivers, and has even split open a few tight ends. Alright, I’m done now, I promise.
-Ever wonder why Bigelow got to be LT’s opponent? Rather than teach LT to throw worked forearms and punches, they just said to themselves “Who on the roster can take the world’s deadliest forearm smash and only be slightly fazed?”. Bam Bam, duh! LT throws some scary forearms too. If that were a lesser man taking them, he’d look like Mike Tyson after the Lennox Lewis fight.
-LT lands a nice bulldog as well. That’s the real reason Pat’s the ref: to communicate with Taylor as an experienced vet and help keep the flow going. It’s those little subtle tricks from WWE that you have to admire.
-The cornermen get into a skirmish just to add to the fun of the match, which has actually been pretty good by celebrity standards. Taylor even sells admirably, especially when Bigelow works in some submission holds. Now would be a good time to have Bill Parcells as LT’s manager. “GET UP! BE HURT ON YOUR OWN TIME!”. That’d be fun.
-Bigelow lands the moonsault, but blows out his knee and cannot cover. Maybe LT lived up to his reputation and sent some hookers to Bigelow’s room the night before? Maybe those hookers also went to Bundy’s room. That might possibly explain why a flying clothesline kept him down for the three count.
-LT gets himself a nice pop from the crowd by landing kind of a half powerbomb, half gutwrench suplex on Bam Bam. For the lack of real substance in this match, I have to give credit and say that LT’s doing his part. The only thing missing is Joe Theismann in Bigelow’s corner. He can hit us with gems like “Great wrestlers make great matches” and then kvetch about how you’re watching the sloppiest match in the history of time. On the upside, ESPN football’s been more watchable without him and Tony Kornheiser.
-Now to bring it home, LT lands a couple more forearm shivers, followed by one giant one off the middle rope for the win. The NFL players celebrate while Dibiase chews Bigelow out for losing to a football player. Could be worse. Wait 18 months when he loses to an overrated mixed martial artist named Kimo. The real MVP of the match was Pat Patterson, who should do refereeing every time there’s an inexperienced or potentially awkward performer involved. In other words, he would become Drew McIntyre’s personal ref. That might look fishy.
-The NFL players get down with Salt n Pepa to close things out. It’s not quite the Super Bowl Shuffle, but I guess I’ll take it. I’ve learned not to be too picky with shows from this era.
-CYNIC SAYS: Seven matches, eh? Granted, many things were accomplished. LT got the media attention that Vince wanted, Shawn and Diesel had a great match, Bret and Taker went over, Owen got his first belt, and Razor and Jarrett got their needed face time. Technically, I wouldn’t say this was a BAD show….
….but it wasn’t WrestleMania.
Had this been an In Your House, or even Summerslam, I don’t think it would have been given the flogging that it’s gotten over the years.
To put it insensitively, as a friend of mine did 15 years ago, the WWF’s involvement with the Special Olympics in this time period was interesting, since those events were held in Connecticut. The ACTUAL Olympics were held in Atlanta, the home of WCW, in 1996. So WCW’s backyard gets the world class athletes, and WWF’s stomping grounds host the events with the disabled and mentally challenged. I won’t make a joke here, but I will say that the parallel was definitely worth noting.
Solid show, but nothing I would call good. See you next time, as we discuss a sixty minute match and the inherent perils of trying to transcribe it into readable text.
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.
It is finally here. The last game of the 2013/14 NFL Season, before the NFL moves into the off season, has finally arrived. Super Bowl XLVIII which will emanate from Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on February 2, 2014 will kick off at 6:30PM, EST. Viewers, and NFL fans, I am sure, have been bombarded with wall to wall coverage, and I am sure they are looking forward to the Super Bowl ads(I already saw one), and the Bruno Mars/Red Hot Chili Peppers Half time show (they couldn’t have gotten the three living members of Led Zeppelin?). I am sure people are looking forward to the game as well.
This year’s edition of the Super Bowl features two teams who couldn’t be any more opposite. Representing the AFC, are the Denver Broncos, led by QB Peyton Manning. Representing the NFC, are the Seattle Seahawks, led by QB Russell Wilson, but known more for their “Legion of Boom,” defense. The Broncos have the NFL’s #1 Offense, and the Seahawks have the NFL’s #1 Defense. This should be, on paper, a pretty interesting game, as to how the Seahawks defense will try to stop Manning’s prolific offense. On the other side, how will Peyton Manning try to outwit the defense of Seattle. Tons of strategy will be going into this game, for sure.
I hope that this will be a great game. I hope that the referees do not become a storyline concerning either team. That being said, I am going to analyze this game, and make my prediction.
The Seattle Seahawks:
The Seahawks got to the “big dance” by getting the #1 seed, and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. That “12th man” certainly came into play all season, and even though the “Hawks” lost one game at home, it was not a question they played way better at home. In the playoffs, they defeated the New Orleans Saints in the Divisional Round. In the NFC Championship Game, they defeated their NFC West rivals, the San Fransisco 49ers.
The big question mark I have about this team is that they are not at home. Can they play in that atmosphere, where they won’t have their “12th man?” Can Russell Wilson step up to the challenge? Will CB Richard Sherman have a big day despite all the distractions concerning his speech? At the press conferences, the man was STILL apologizing. The media needs to chill, in my opinion. How will the oft-injured Percy Harvin play? Will Harvin be a factor? Can they get Marshawn Lynch going. I
If the Seahawks can put up some points, and keep it close, perhaps they can have a shot. Russell Wilson needs to step it up in this game. The defense needs to pay attention to what Manning is doing. They also have to be aware when they are jamming Manning’s receivers. Depending on how the game is called, they have be aware that the receivers, like Decker, and Welker, will beg for a flag, instead of trying to catch the ball. Can’t commit a dumb penalty.
The Denver Broncos:
The Broncos got to the Super Bowl, like the Seahawks did, by getting the #1 seed. QB Peyton Manning obliterated NFL records for passing, and the offense set new offensive records. Great. Peyton and the Broncos get plenty of carrots as a reward. In the playoffs, the Broncos defeated the San Diego Chargers (who had one of the stupidest game plans ever) in the Divisional Round, and beat the New England Patriots (whose defense let Peyton go up and down the field at will) in the AFC Championship Game.
The big question mark I have about this team is can they do what other “high scoring” teams in the past (1990 Bills, 1998 Vikings, 2007 Patriots) could not. Can they win on Sunday? Looking at their past two games, they scored 26, and 27 points. That is interesting. Of course, the media has been yammering about the weather, and how it will affect Peyton Manning. Well, I had no idea that Peyton Manning was the ONLY player on the field. It is true that he has a poor track record, when the temperature is under 40 degrees, but this is football.
If the Denver defense can continue to play like they did in the playoffs, and if Welker can hang on to a ball or two, the team definitely can win this game. Of course, when you have Peyton Manning, you always have a chance to win. I also expect the other receivers to have good games. Knowshown Moreno’s health is a concern, but I expect that there will be some sort of a running game. The Broncos should prepare for a physical game.
My Pick: Well, in my opinion, this is a game where I think it will get very physical. Can the Denver Broncos, a team that is basically a finesse team with a decent defense, defeat the Seattle Seahawks, a team that is a throwback to teams with a hard nose running game (and throw when needed), and play tough defense? Can Peyton Manning cap off a great year with a second Super Bowl ring? What will become of his legacy if he doesn’t?
Can Russell Wilson become the second QB of African American descent to start and win a Super Bowl since Doug Williams of the 1987 Washington D.C. Super Bowl winning team? Can Peyton Manning do what Kurt Warner failed to do (won with the St. Louis Rams in SB36, tried to win SB43 with the AZ Cardinals, but lost to the Steelers), and win two Super Bowls with two different teams (won SB41 with Indianapolis Colts and is trying to win with 2013 Broncos).
As you can see, there is a lot of history on the line. I think it all comes down to the experience. Broncos Head Coach John Fox, while not a Super Bowl winning head coach, has been to the Super Bowl as head coach of the Panthers, who lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl 38. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has never been to the Super Bowl. Yes, Carroll has several National Championship wins, but that was in College at USC. This is the big time. Peyton Manning, and Wes Welker (rather infamously) both have been to the Super Bowl, so they have an idea what to expect. Very few, if any of the Seahawk players or staff have Super Bowl experience, maybe one or two.
My pick to win the Super Bowl: I have picked against them all post season, and I have been wrong. Well, might as well go with the saying, “If you can’t beat them, join’em.” The Denver Broncos will be your Super Bowl XLVIII Champions.
Personal Note: I honestly don’t care who wins this game. I have no dog in this fight. If both teams could lose, I would be very happy. However, there has to be a winner. Of the two, it is the lesser of two evils, so I guess I’d like to see the Seahawks win. I am just not a Peyton Manning lover, and I never have been, and never will be. The deification of the guy by ESPN and NFLN makes it worse.
[ad 1Before I get the asinine, “that’s because you like Brady, or Big Ben,” comment, I am sorry to disappoint some, but there are a lot of “great” artists, athletes, etc., that I just never liked.Perhaps that subject will be for a future blog. Look, I recognize that Peyton is an awesome QB. I just am not a fan of his. He never appealed to me as a player, and I have seen him play in person.
Hope you enjoyed the blog, and the 2013-14 season.
It was the interview heard around the world. Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman intercepted a pass from San Fransisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick that was intended for receiver Michael Crabtree. Sherman’s heroics would seal the game and a trip to the Super Bowl for the Seahawks. Right after the game, Richard Sherman would then go to the sidelines, and give Fox reporter, Erin Andrews one of the most memorable post-game interviews ever. The immediate reaction to the interview would also make it one of the most notorious interviews ever.The interview is right here as follows: http://youtu.be/5rWHDZDBk9w
Richard Sherman, as many know, in a CNN interview, did apologize for the distraction he caused. He said he did not mean to distract from his teammates, and said it was “immature” to attack Crabtree. He did say that he was very shocked by the reaction to the interview, particularly by those on Twitter who used racial slurs, and by those who called him a “Thug.” He also said that he felt that “Thug” is the new “N word.” He also explained about how he performed on the field (http://youtu.be/t1n3JrRhssQ)
In Richard Sherman’s defense, what really annoyed me was how the NFL media, the sports media, and sports fans acted as if they never heard of players trash talking before. I just was amazed at the reaction on Twitter, and on my Facebook timeline. I look in other NFL groups on Facebook, and I saw “Thug,” “Monkey,” and the like. What is up with that? Why was it necessary to call Sherman a thug? I have seen fans/media complain that too many NFL players use all the cliches, such as “We did it as a team.” “It is what it is.” Now, when we see Sherman, who is brutally honest, he is a thug? Fans/media can’t have it both ways.
Richard Sherman, as many know, graduated from Stanford. Like fellow Stanford alumnus Colts QB Andrew Luck, Sherman is no dummy. Both men are highly intelligent. Both are very articulate. Both are very charitable. Both men also play in a gladiator sport. The sport is very physical, and very emotional.
Both men, even though Luck plays offense ( and is supposed to be the face of his franchise), and Sherman plays defense, leave it all out on the field. The big difference is that both men handle things differently, as far as the “switch” from being a warrior on the field to being interviewed off the field. Sherman, and many others, are just more animated. That does not make him a thug.
I could go all day giving examples, but I would like to know why athletes like NHL stars Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and former NHL stars like Tie Domi are not considered “thugs.” Not only do they trash talk, they get into fights. I realize that fighting is part of the sport of hockey, but I just don’t understand why someone, especially a notorious player like Domi, who was an enforcer, was never called a “thug.”
Hockey could be considered a “gladiator sport.” The players go all out, and are very emotional. Yet, if any of these guys runs their mouths like Sherman did, they are called “emotional.” To have guys who are “enforcers,” to me, definitely makes it a gladiator sport. Again, the enforcers are not “thugs” in the eyes of their fans, but Sherman is a thug because of a very animated interview.
Even NFL head coaches get into the act of trash talking. The Harbaugh brothers come to mind easily. What about the Ryan brothers? I could fill this entire paragraph with everything that NY Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan has said. I could also go on about what his brother, Rob has said over the years, and don’t get me started about their father, Buddy. Former Falcons coach Jerry Glanville is the king of trash talking. Barely any head coaches liked him, especially former Steelers Head Coach Chuck Noll. Yet, none of these people are considered “Thugs.”
That all being said, the one thing that really gets under my skin is the hypocrisy of the reaction of the media and fans is that during the October 14, 2014 game between the Patriots and the Seahawks, Tom Brady and Richard Sherman, and the other Seahawks were trash talking each other. During the TV timeouts, Brady gave Sherman a hard time, pointing to the scoreboard saying “We’ll see you after this win.” After the Seahawks’ win, Sherman made his infamous remark, “You mad bro’?” (Sorry.Tom. You deserved that one.) In a Fox Sports spot, Sherman explains what happened: http://youtu.be/QdD5PlDAT6A
Well, all that week, The media and fans thought that was so funny, and so cute. I mean, Richard Sherman was turned into a media sensation. People LOVED his “trash talk” then. Even though I admit Brady probably deserved a little trash talk back from Sherman, and I admit his comment was, and is very funny, what I don’t get is that Sherman was trash talking. Sherman ALWAYS trash talks. What happened with Erin Andrews was trash talking.
Sherman was being funny and cute in the eyes of the fans and sports/NFL media, when he was trash talking Tom Brady, a first ballot Hall of Famer. However, to this same crowd, he is a “thug,” when he is trash talking some WR after a very emotional game? I am just having a terrible problem with this. Why was he called a “thug” in reaction to a very animated interview after a very emotional game, when he was NOT called a “thug,” when he had that trash talking incident with Tom Brady? Fans and the media can not pick and choose in these situations, and call themselves fair minded. It is stupid, in my opinion, to consider Sherman a “thug,” regardless, but to cheer him on in one instance, and to call the man a “thug” in a similar instance is the height of hypocrisy.
As I have pointed out, talking trash is done by many athletes, even Peyton Manning. Trash talking even spreads into horse racing as well. What bothers me is that Richard Sherman seems to be the one that is being made the poster child for trash talking. Not only that, he is being made a target for racial slurs. It is very sad to see this behavior in 2014.
Richard Sherman is not the first to do trash talking and he is not going to be the last. I just have a hard time understanding, when Sherman did that trash talking in his interview with Erin Andrew, why people were acting like Captain Renault in “Casablanca” when he closes down “Rick’s Cafe,” when he says, “I’m shocked..shocked, there’s gambling allowed.” My hope is that the word “thug” is used for actual criminals, which Richard Sherman is not.
To conclude this, I am NO Seattle Seahawks fan, not at all. I just felt I had to write this blog, because I feel that Sherman is getting a raw deal from the media, and from fans. I am not saying he is perfect, not at all. I am not even in love with trash talking. I don’t like it much, to be honest. I believe in “acting like you’ve been there before.” I am just writing this blog in Sherman’s defense because I think this young man is being treated unfairly, and wanted to stand up for what I think is right.
With Super Bowl 48 a few weeks away, the stage is now set for Championship Sunday, on January 19, 2014. After the four Divisional Round games played this past weekend, it has come down to the final four. The final four teams left are: The New England Patriots, the Denver Broncos, The Seattle Seahawks, and the San Fransisco 49ers. On Championship Sunday, the Denver Broncos will face the visiting New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, and the Seattle Seahawks will face the San Fransisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game The winners of each championship game will face each other in the Super Bowl on February 2nd in my home state of New Jersey, at Met Life Stadium (I realize it’s the NY/NJ Super Bowl, but let me have a moment.) for the Lombardi Trophy.
This weekend’s Championship Sunday should be awesome. In the AFC, we have two teams lead by two first ballot Hall of Fame QBs in both Peyton Manning (Denver) and Tom Brady (New England). The two have a tremendous rivalry, where in 14 head to head match-ups (including playoffs), Brady leads Manning 10-14. In their playoff match-ups, Brady leads 2-1. I liken the rivalry to the famous Affirmed and Alydar rivalry where in 10 meetings Affirmed defeated Alydar 7 of the 10 times, including all three 1978 Triple Crown races. In this case, Brady’s Affirmed, and Peyton’s Alydar.
In the NFC, there is a budding rivalry, where NFL fans are seeing two up and coming QBs who are coming into their own. Colin Kaepernick of the San Fransisco 49ers, who lead the team to last year’s SB, looks to avenge the in season shellacking by the Seahawks, led by the young QB, Russell Wilson. Both these teams are anchored by two awesome defenses. What is great about this rivalry is that these two teams are from the same division (NFC West), and even the two head coaches don’t like each other. Jim Harbaugh (49ers) and Pete Carroll (Seahawks) have a bit of a feud going back to when they were college coaches.
As for my picks in my Divisional Round Blog, I went 3-1. I didn’t do too bad. I am glad I did do a lot better than in the Wild Card Round Blog. Yes, Denver and Peyton Manning fans, I whiffed on picking the San Diego Chargers. No one is right all the time.
In speaking of picks, in this blog, I am going to make my picks for the two Championship Sunday games. I hope that whether I am right or wrong, NFL fans will get to see two great games. Not only that, I hope fans will get to see two of the best teams that will give all of us NFL fans an awesome Super Bowl at Met Life Stadium on February 2nd.
I want to say that I know the NFL keeps giving us news 365 days a year. However,outside of the Pro Bowl, it is very sad to me that there are only three real games left. This season has been very interesting. I sure will miss it.
Without further ado, here are my picks for Championship Sunday, January 19, 2014:
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: The Denver Broncos vs the New England Patriots
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High
When: 3:00PM, EST on CBS
Analysis: This game is going to be a battle of two AFC powerhouses. For the visiting New England Patriots, it is Tom Brady. For the Denver Broncos, it is Peyton Manning. The rivals meet again. These teams got here by two very different ways. The Broncos got here by setting offensive records, with the help of a pretty decent defense. Peyton Manning was a powerhouse all by himself, setting passing and TD records.
The Patriots got here by grinding out games. Tom Brady did not have a great year as far as stats, but he led his team which suffered major injuries, and had rookie receivers learning the offense. The Patriots had to find different ways to win. The team astounded the “experts,” every time they won.
Going into this game, I am going to expect the Patriots to not be as conservative with their offense as the Chargers were in the first half of the Divisional Playoff (the conservative play-calling by then Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt really hurt the Chargers’ chances). I expect the Patriots to throw, or run as the defense dictates. I also expect their running game, especially LeGarrette Blount, who ran for 4 TDs in the Divisional Round game against the Colts, to be effective, as I think their O line is better.
I do not think Tom Brady’s little flu bug will be much of a factor, as he is off the Patriots’ injury report. Even though Tom Brady didn’t throw a TD in the Divisional Round game, he threw some crucial first down throws. I also expect him to be “Tom Terrific” in this game. Bill Belichick will likely devise some sort of defensive scheme to take away Julius Thomas. The much maligned Patriot defense, including DB Devin McCourty, DE Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins, etc., will be very competitive in this game.
On the other side, I am thinking Peyton Manning will try to exploit the middle of that Patriot defense. I am pretty sure we will be hearing him say “Omaha,” a million times. Of course, he will try to get the Patriot defenders off sides. Like Wes Welker did against the Chargers(Welker was selling that “contact” to draw that BS call like Edge sold against the Undertaker), I expect the Broncos receivers to sell any kind of contact to the officials to attempt to draw a flag. I mean, they could do something like try to catch the ball. I also expect Jack Del Rio to try to blitz Tom Brady, and try to bring pressure. I expect Champ Bailey and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to attempt to make an impact also.
My Pick: I have been going back and forth between these two teams. It is very hard to pick between these two, because both are lead by two of the very best QBs EVER to put on a helmet. The chalk pick is The Denver Broncos. Vegas likes the Broncos. I think most people know that ESPN loves the Broncos (especially Peyton Manning).
Who do I like? Well, the beginning of the year, in my pre-season blog, I picked the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl. Despite all the ridicule I have personally taken, and despite hearing all the hating on the team from ESPN, NFL Network, and the Profootballtalk guys on that NBC Sports Network show, I have stuck to my guns. Whatever happens, I am sticking with my pick.
Winner: The New England Patriots
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: The Seattle Seahawks vs. the San Fransisco 49ers
Where: CenturyLink Field
When: 6:30PM, EST on FOX
Analysis: As Manning and Brady have a decade plus rivalry, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick are just starting out on theirs. The two have met three times, with Wilson ahead 2-1. However, this meeting is huge. This is for a trip to the Super Bowl, and for NFC Supremacy. I hope that both of these dual threat (both running and passing) QBs can show us NFL fans that they are the future of the NFL. I would like to finally see a game where both bring out the best in each other.
Russell Wilson and his Seahawks haven’t impressed me lately. Their vaunted defense did get run on by the Saints during some points in the game. Wilson didn’t throw a TD, but he didn’t need to, as Marshawn Lynch was a huge beast. Lynch was just unstoppable,but Russell did throw that crucial first down to pretty much ice the game. The Seattle defense did do their job overall. They limited Saints QB Drew Brees and the Saints Offense. The Saints did try to make a comeback, but it was no use.
The 49ers just overwhelmed Cam Newton and the Panthers. Cam Newton had no idea what to do when he kept getting sacked and hit by the 49ers’ pass rushers. Ahmad Brooks was awesome. It was one of his best games. Even though it was a penalty, that leap that Brooks did was fantastic. Kaepernick was awesome. I thought it was a little bush league to make fun of Newton’s “Superman” celebration, but evidently, the Panthers had made fun of Kaepernick’s celebration too at one time. The game was a hard hitting game. The 49ers deserved to win.
For this game, I am expecting a lot of hard hitting defense from both teams. This is a game where we are seeing two division rivals. The head coaches (Jim Harbaugh (49ers) and Pete Carroll (Seahawks)) have a personal feud going all the way back to college. The players (at least on the field) “hate” each other. I expect both sides to be barking at each other, especially that Seahawks DB Richard Sherman.
I don’t think we are going to get a ton of offense. I don’t know if the Seahawks are going to have WR Percy Harvin for the game, due to his concussion. Marshawn Lynch will be carrying the load for the Seahawks. RB Frank Gore, WR Michael Crabtree, and TE Vernon Davis will likely be targets for Kaepernick. All this depends on the game plan and how each defense plays.
My Pick: This game for me, is a bit easier than the other. I know the Denver crowd, and the altitude can be a factor, but they are NOTHING compared to Seattle’s “12th man.” The Seattle Seahawks have a home field advantage like no other. If this game were anywhere else, I might think about picking the 49ers. That is, IF this game were anywhere else.
My Pick: The Seattle Seahawks.
That is my blog. To all fans of these four teams: Good Luck. Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/giopontifan
I hope all my readers survived that “Polar Vortex,” or the “Deep Freeze,” as I call it, because this weekend, January 11-12th, will be a hot one for NFL fans. This weekend will be Divisional Round Weekend where the winners of both the AFC and NFC Divisional rounds will move on to each of their respective conference championship games. The match ups this weekend look to be very intriguing indeed. I expect better games this week than last week’s Wild Card Weekend. I also hope to do better on my picks in this blog, too.
In speaking of last week’s Wild Card Round, I went 2-2. I was NOT happy. I did have the Colts winning. I am not sure if it was because of LUCK (pun intended), or the combination of injuries and Andy Reid’s incompetence, but the Colts pulled that win out of the fire. The Saints surprised the Eagles by winning a playoff game on the road. I had the Eagles as the winners.
I got burned on Sunday, picking the Cincinnati Bengals. Why, I did that, I don’t know. I should have known not to pick a team that has yet to win a playoff game in over 20 years. You live and learn. However, thank you Colin Kaepernick for making my picks respectable by leading your 49ers to victory over the much heralded Green Bay Packers.
Now that I have lamented my picks, without further ado, here are my picks for this weekend’s Divisional Round Games in the order they will be played. Enjoy.
Saturday, January 11th: NFC Divisional Round
(1) Seattle Seahawks vs .(6)New Orleans Saints: 4:35PM, EST on FOX at CenturyLink Field
Analysis: The Saints are going into the toughest place to play in all of the NFL. Any team that plays the Seahawks at home has to deal with the “12th man,” referring to the ultra loud home crowd that makes it tough for the visitors. The last time the Saints played against the Seahawks during this season, they got destroyed. Even though the team proved against the Eagles they could win on the road, I think Seattle will be tough sledding.
Seattle, I admit, has had some close calls. The hapless Tampa Bay Bucs gave the Seahawks a run for their money, before the Seahawks finally won. The Cardinals came into Seattle, and stunned everyone with a win. In 2011, the New England Patriots nearly won, and really should have.
The Seahawks also have a tendency to get a bit over-aggressive on defense. I am also not in love with their offense, so the Saints could try to capitalize on that. The team is not totally flawless. Then again, they are virtually unbeatable at home.
My Pick: As much as Who Dat Nation thinks they can pull the upset, I honestly do not see it happening. If they do, when I go to WrestleMania in New Orleans, I will apologize to the first person I see wearing a Saints jersey. However, I don’t think I am going to have to do that.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks move on to the NFC Championship Game.
Saturday, January 11th: AFC Divisional Round
(2) New England Patriots vs. (4)Indianapolis Colts: 8:15PM, EST on CBS at Gillette Stadium
Analysis: The Indianapolis Colts go into Foxborough, MA, and renew their rivalry with the New England Patriots, coming off their 45-44 victory over the KC Chiefs. Andrew Luck has been lauded by ESPN, Profootballtalk.com, and NFLN as the Second Coming of Peyton Manning, the man he replaced. Luck has been lauded as this “legend,” based on this one playoff victory. I know the media loves their hyperbole, but let’s pump the brakes, shall we? Luck did lead that comeback, but he did throw THREE INTS along with the four touchdowns, so let’s not crown him one of the greats yet.
The Colts are coming off an emotional win. Yes, I realize that Chuck Pagano has prior experience on the defensive side with his former team, the Ravens (who didn’t make the playoffs), and can make life tough for the Patriots’ offense, especially with Robert Mathis (who should get Defensive Player of the Year, in my opinion). I realize the Colts are younger and healthier. I must remind you that Luck and company are facing two REAL LEGENDS in Coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady.
In speaking of Belichick and Brady, this game will be an interesting game as far as strategy. I agreed totally with Coach Belichick that the Colts’ signing of former Patriot and Seahawk WR Deion Branch for likely intelligence purpose is way overrated. Teams change their codes/signals all the time. As Pagano is playing checkers and mind games, Belichick is playing chess. I am thinking that Coach Belichick has something up his sleeve to slow down Luck and that offense.
Another thing is that the Patriots have been battling injuries all season long. They lost top players on both sides of the ball. They lost Rob Gronkowski for six weeks on the PUP list. They lost him later to an ACL injury. They lost Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, and others. They now lost Brandon Spikes. That will hurt them defensively.
That being said, the fact they are IN the playoffs, with a bye, is an accomplishment in and of itself. Will the injuries finally catch up to them? We will have to see. Tom Brady has led this team this far, it will be interesting to see how much further he can take them.
My Pick: I really have gone back and forth with this game. I am sure most of the “experts” will be picking the Colts, especially with their love affair with Andrew Luck. I mean, they loved that kid before he was drafted last year.
I have heard all the reasons why the Patriots will lose this game. Sure the Patriots are decimated by injuries. Sure, Tom Brady is a little older. Sure, many pundits have wondered how the Patriots “have won all these games.” I just think it’s their mental toughness that has carried them through the season. I am likely going to be a contrarian, and pick the Patriots to win this game, but I still feel that as long as they have Belichick and Brady, this team has a shot.
Winner: The New England Patriots stay “Boston Strong,” and advance to the AFC Conference Game
Sunday, January 12th: NFC Divisional Round
(2) Carolina Panthers vs. (5)San Fransisco 49ers: 1:05PM, EST on FOX at Bank of America Stadium
Analysis: The San Francisco 49ers go into Charlotte, NC to face the Panthers for a trip to the NFC Championship game. The 49ers bring in the wonderful Colin Kaepernick at QB, and their suffocating defense. The team just dismissed the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card Round. The 49ers lost to the Panthers, 10-9 at Candlestick Park earlier this season, and hope to turn it around this time around in the playoffs. In other words, if you love a defensive type of a game, this is your game.
As we saw in the Green Bay game, I am expecting Kaepernick to use his speed to escape the pass rush of the Panthers’ defense. Given the results of the teams’ prior meeting, which could be described as a slug fest, I also expect a low scoring game, considering both these teams have hard hitting defenses.
I also suspect the fact that this is going to be Panthers’ QB Cam Newton’s first playoff experience, so the 49ers’ defense will certainly take advantage of Newton’s playoff inexperience. This will also be Panthers’ Head Coach Ron Rivera’s first time coaching in the playoffs as a head coach, so I am sure he will be making some playoff mistakes that the more experienced Jim Harbaugh will capitalize on.
Analysis: As much as I love Cam Newton, and have admired his growth, both as a QB and as a person, I think his inexperience in playoff games will hurt him. I think Colin Kaepernick, and his experience, along with that 49ers defense, will be too much.
Winner: San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, January 12th: AFC Divisional Round
(1) Denver Broncos vs. (6)San Diego Chargers: 4:40PM, EST on CBS at Sports Authority Field at Mile High
This should be a fun game, if you like offense. San Diego defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in last week’s Wild Card round, and now have the task of trying to eliminate the Denver Broncos, led by the media darling, QB Peyton Manning. As just about everyone on the planet knows, Peyton Manning set a ton of passing records this past season at age 37. Now, he has to worry about winning a playoff game against Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers.
During the season, the Broncos and the Chargers split the series. The Broncos beat the Chargers in San Diego, and the Chargers beat the Broncos in Denver. The San Diego Chargers have historically given Peyton Manning trouble, even when Manning was with the Colts. The Chargers have handed him losses in the regular season, and in the playoffs. I find it interesting that many teams hadn’t copied the Chargers when they’ve had to face Manning.
Anyway, the Chargers have a pretty decent shot to knock the vaunted Broncos out of the playoffs. Looking at the Broncos, though, they have the returning Wes Welker (concussion), they have Eric Decker (who should worry more about catching the ball, than always looking for a flag every time). The Broncos have Knowshon Moreno and plenty of other weapons for Peyton to use. Without LB Von Miller, lost due to injury, the Denver Broncos do look a bit vulnerable on defense. After all, CB Champ Bailey is not the man he used to be, and has been battling an injury. Philip Rivers and company may be able to exploit some weaknesses with their passing game, and their running game.
Analysis: I am going to be contrarian again, and go with the Chargers. This is the “hot” team that gets on a run. I am not a fan of the Chargers, and I cannot stand Philip Rivers, but this team appears to have what it takes to defeat a team like the Broncos. As I said, they also appear to have Manning’s number. This should be a good game.
Winner: San Diego Chargers.
So, those are my picks. I went with: Seahawks, Patriots, 49ers, and Chargers.
The fantasy football season is finally over and for some of you, it is time to put 2013 to rest and look forward. Like you, several fantasy studs will be looking to bounce back in 2014 and it is never too early to put these guys on your radar.
The wonderful thing about fantasy football is that like many NFL players, you get the chance to rebound and turn things around in under a year. So injuries and situations resulted in several bust picks in your draft. Some of those busts will be permanent while several others are poised to be undervalued in the 2014 draft.
Just take a look back at this year’s draft and you’ll see where fantasy players were evaluating backwards instead of looking forwarding and capitalizing on undervalued studs. Jordy Nelson, Josh Gordon, Matt Forte, and DeSean Jackson are just a few guys who were busts in 2012 and turned it around in 2013. Here are ten that have the potential to make some big comebacks next year.
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins - Of everyone on the list I love RG III’s potential for a bounce back year. RG III had a lot of things working against him and should have a fresh start next season. Daniel Snyder reportedly loves RG III so the new coaching staff will have to roll with the former Baylor Bear. As much as people bash him he still had all double digit weeks but two when he started. We saw flashes of what this offense could be and as long as everyone is back healthy, a healthy RG III can only go up.
Eli Manning, New York Giants - The Giants will have a new offensive coordinator for the first time in Eli’s NFL career and that is a good thing. A healthy David Wilson is expected to return and could wind up forming one of the NFC’s most potent committees with Andre Brown. The offensive line has to get better and we have already seen what Eli can do with protection. Eli has been a stellar fantasy QB for years and I am willing to chalk up one bad season to a fluke. A new offensive coordinator should breathe fresh life into Eli and the entire Giants offense.
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens - The impetus for writing this blog was Ray Rice. Rice burnt a lot and I mean a lot of players this season. You certainly can’t blame Cam Cameron this year. Rice was playing hurt with shoulder and hip injuries. Running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery will be replaced in the offseason. There is just no way that a guy as talented as Rice drops off that quickly at this stage of the game. One thing that is concerning is John Harbaugh’s desire to diversify the backfield. That said, Rice has enough talent to break big runs that I don’t see this being a big problem. It’s worth monitoring in the offseason but I wouldn’t let it dissuade me from taking Rice if he fell far enough.
Maurice Jones-Drew, TBD - MJD is a free agent and all indications are that the Jaguars are going to make a hard push to keep him. MJD quietly had a decent year but didn’t put up anywhere close to the numbers he has put up in past years. Jones-Drew still had 764 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns through 14 games. He could end up elsewhere and I could easily see a scenario where he winds up in a dual situation as the goalline back. It’s tough to say not knowing exactly where he is going but I have high hopes that the former fantasy king will rebound.
Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts - Okay I am going out on a real limb here. The only drawback here with Richardson is that I think the bar has been set so high that he just may never be able to reach it. Look, he just can’t be that bad. The guy had 11 touchdowns in 2012 with a Cleveland Browns team that is not nearly as complete as the Indianapolis Colts. I don’t think anyone can really explain what happened here other than he just didn’t learn the playbook fast enough. The guy was a stud in college and had a pretty decent rookie season. Don’t be fooled by the postseason, the Colts are a team that want to run the ball. The Colts invested a lot into bringing him over and I have to think that they will do everything possible to make him an integral part of the offense.
Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins - Wallace showed flashes of big things with the Dolphins yet never came close to realizing his full potential. I think this is a case of Wallace needing a full offseason to get comfortable with the system and his QB. He is far from done. There is still something there. I think once everyone gets on the same page Wallace could be a top 10 receiver. He should be a value next year with his projected ADP.
Andre Johnson, Houston Texans - Johnson will be getting a new coach and most likely a new QB. It is hard to analyze his upcoming year without knowing what the Texans look like or who they will draft. That said, Johnson showed that he still has it during a brief period with Case Keenum. Between Arian Foster coming back healthy and a better offensive mind taking over the coaching duties, I think Johnson bounces back huge next season.
Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles - Here is a guy you need to put on your radar. Maclin has been out of sight and out of mind this year due to a preseason injury. He will be stepping right into one of the prolific offenses in the NFL. Foles and Maclin showed they had real nice chemistry last season and that was before Chip Kelley rolled into town. I love Maclin next year and I think he is going to be a tremendous value at his ADP. Beat writers are already predicting he’ll be the slot guy. Sign me up!
Danny Amendola, New England Patriots - What happened with Amendola this year? Injuries and a new offense produced one of the most disappointing seasons in his career. Fantasy players expected big things out of Amendola and Tom Brady. Unfortunately it never happened. Once again the key here is injuries. If Amendola can stay healthy I think he and Brady could put together some nice numbers. It’s always a risk but the risk will be worth the reward if Amendola slips far enough in your draft.
Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks- Like many I drafted Harvin with my final pick in the draft hoping for some major upside in the playoffs. It didn’t happen. For Harvin, all he can do is go up. He will have an entire offseason in which he stays hopefully healthy. Pete Carrol and Darrell Bevell are probably salivating over all of the trick plays they can run with Harvin. I think fantasy players will be scared off by his injuries and steer clear of him long enough for him to drop to a value pick. Look at what Harvin did with averages QBs in Minnesota? The sky is the limit for him and Russell Wilson.
The 2013-14 NFL Regular Season is in the books. I can not believe the playoffs are already upon us, and Wild Card weekend is this weekend, January 4-5, 2014. Where has this season gone? With all the off the field (and some on the field) drama, great plays, and the alphabet network in Bristol, CT going crazy over every move Peyton Manning makes, this season pretty much flew by. In some ways, I am glad it’s over.
There has been so much drama, particularly off the field. I never seen so much drama before. No team was immune, either. There was drama and controversy concerning QBs feuding with the Head Coaches. A high profile Tight End is in jail for an alleged murder. A Line Backer serves a six game suspension for PEDs. A couple of team officials get busted for DWIs. To top it all off, there was “Black Monday,” on December 30, 2013, where six (so far) head coaches lost their jobs.
Obviously, there is a ton of stuff that has happened during this past NFL season. In this blog, I will hit as many highs and lows as I can. I will discuss the events that I thought made the season the most interesting. I found the season, myself, to be a roller-coaster. Who needs the soaps, or even WWE, when you have the NFL to give you real life drama?
So, without further ado, here is my review of the 2013-14 Season and my brief Wild Card Picks for this weekend. I hope you will enjoy this blog.
I will start with my brief Wild Card Picks for this weekend. The four games are as follows: Saturday, January 4th, the Kansas City Chiefs(5) face the Indianapolis Colts(4) in Indianapolis, IN, followed by the New Orleans Saints (6) facing the Philadelphia Eagles (3). Sunday features the San Diego Chargers (6) going into Cincinnati to take on the Bengals (3). The last game of that day is the San Fransisco 49ers (5) going into the legendary, frozen tundra of Lambeau Field to take on Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers.
For Saturday, I am going with the Colts at home. The Colts went into Kansas City this season, and just destroyed them. I think having home field advantage will help Andrew Luck and company. The Eagles should defeat the Saints. That Super Dome for the Saints reminds me of certain racehorses who absolutely need their Lasix to run well. I just don’t see them going into Philly and winning.
The Chargers struggled to defeat Kansas City’s BACKUPS in Week 17. The weather is going to be bone chilling, and as long as Bill Leavy is not going to be the referee (see Leavy’s crew’s failure to miss the Chargers’ illegal formation on that Succop Field Goal Attempt that helped the team win), I see the Bengals winning this game. Finally, Bengals QB Andy Dalton will win his first playoff game.
I know there’s usually an upset every weekend. I know Aaron Rodgers is back, and he had that great game against the Bears, despite some rough patches, to win the division for the Packers. I know ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith calls Rodgers a “bad man,” but I think the 49ers are clicking on all cylinders. I am think the 49ers will win this game.
To sum it all up, my picks for Wild Card weekend are: Colts, Eagles, Bengals, and 49ers.
Now to my 2013-14 Year in Review. I will be using my favorite literary device, the Good , the Bad, and the Ugly.
The New England Patriots show their resiliency, despite adversity: What does an elite team, that was just in the AFC Championship Game the previous season, do when the following happens? The team’s top flight TE is going to miss the first six weeks of the season due to recovery from injuries. Their other top flight TE winds up in jail for suspicion of murder, and is cut by the team. Your elite QB has to adjust to new receivers who are rookies, and who himself, suffers a minor hand injury. On top of this, the injured TE returns for a few weeks, only to wind up back on the IR, due to another serious injury.
Most teams would have folded, but not the New England Patriots. As QB Tom Brady said, they are “grinding them (games) out.” Sure, the so called “experts on NFL Network and ESPN were saying all season that the team were not going to make the playoffs, and they could not do anything without either Rob Gronkowski (the injured TE), or Aaron Hernandez (the TE in jail). The “experts,” also could not figure out how the team was winning.
Well, not only did the Patriots make the playoffs (got a #2 seed also), but they did win games (12-4). They did it, by not giving up. They kept fighting. They suffered major injuries to top players (Wilfork, Mayo, Kelly, etc.), but still kept going. Love them or hate them. The Patriots are a team that is showing so many ways they can win. They are creative with the passing game, and have a real good running game. QB Tom Brady is showing the NFL what a real MVP is, by leading this team through a rough season, to the playoffs, despite having a “down year” statistically.
Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos set records: If you have read my NFL work, you know that I am not a Peyton Manning fan. I also have made it clear that I also hate the deification of him, particularly by ESPN. I am tired of the Papa John’s commercials. I am tired of the Master Card ads, and the deification of Archie Manning. I am tired of hearing about the entire Manning family.
That being said, I do respect his talent. I respect his knowledge and respect for the game. He had a great season, especially at age 37. Did I mention he had four neck surgeries also? This season, along with weapons like Eric Decker, Wes Welker, and Julius Thomas, Manning set the Season TD record of 55 TDs. Manning also set the Season passing yards record. Manning will likely be the MVP of the league for the 5th time.
The Maturation of Panthers QB Cam Newton: When Auburn’s Cam Newton was picked #1 by the Carolina Panthers in 2011, many questioned his ability to be a professional QB. His doubters questioned his quarterbacking skills, and especially his maturity on and off the field. Speaking for myself, I was not one of them. I could not have cared less about that “scandal” at Auburn concerning his dad. I also could care less that he went to Auburn or Alabama. I honestly liked what I saw from Newton on the field in college.
In Newton’s first year, he was dynamic, both as a QB and as an NFL player. He would be throwing for several hundred yards a game. He would be making plays with both his arm and his feet. When he scored a TD, he’d perform his trademark “Superman” posture. He was a real exciting player to watch. Unfortunately, the team finished 6-10, but the very exciting Cam Newton was voted 2011 Rookie of the Year.
Problems with success emerged in Newton’s second season (known as Sophomore slump). The team wasn’t doing well, and Cam was taking the losses and his own mistakes personally. He got criticized heavily by fans and the media for his behavior. The team finished with a record of 7-9, and even head coach Ron Rivera was rumored to be on the “hot seat,” as far as his job was concerned.
Throughout this year, we saw a very different Cam Newton. He appeared to take the criticism to heart, and became more of a leader. He realized that he did not have to attempt to win the game by himself. He has matured off the field as well, as he sounds much more in control in press conferences. With the guidance of his head coach, Ron Rivera, Cam Newton has learned to not get overwhelmed when things are not going well (see Week 17 game against Falcons), and lead the team out of bad situations. He has now led the Panthers to not only a playoff game, but the 2nd seed in the NFC.
So Many Disappointing Teams: During his WrestleMania 27 feud in 2011 with Albert Del Rio, WWE World Champion Edge said in a very ironic promo, “Destiny can change in a blink of an eye.” The irony behind that was that even though at WrestleMania 27, Edge retained his title (for once), and interrupted Alberto Del Rio’s “destiny” of becoming World Champion, a week later, Edge’s destiny was that he’d be forced into (legit) retirement due to neck injuries from wrestling, and he’d surrender the belt.
As for the statement itself, as the saying goes, “Ain’t that the truth!” There were so many disappointing teams that were in the playoffs last year, and also were Super Bowl caliber teams that one would think would be destined to have similar seasons this year. Boy, does destiny change fast. Then again, NFL means, “Not for long.”
The first game of the season between the Denver Broncos and the defending champion Baltimore Ravens should have given Raven fans a clue. The Ravens had lost leaders on defense (Reed, Lewis), and play-makers on offense (Pitta (injured, but returned later), Boldin). To their credit, Ozzie Newsome, their GM, locked up QB Joe Flacco for 120 Million dollars. However, the team’s defense was just good, not great. Their offense was very uneven. They had a hard time scoring TDs near the very end of the season.
The Ravens won games that they shouldn’t have, particularly that Lions game on Monday Night. Had those Lions been more disciplined, they would have won. How do you lose a game to a team whose “offense” (if you want to call it that) is the KICKER? I mean, the Ravens beat the Lions (with all their talent) with FIELD GOALS. That is some offense. I still could not believe that all the ESPN “experts” picked the Ravens over the Patriots the following week. No way was Belichick and Brady going to lose to a team whose offense is the kicker. Ravens got pummeled by the Pats, and lost to Cincinnati, and are gone from the playoffs.
What happened to the Atlanta Falcons? Here they were last year, one game away from the Promised Land, and this year, they struggled to win a game. Everyone, from NFL Network to ESPN, heck, even I picked them to win the NFC South. What happened? Some will say injuries hurt them. Every team has injuries. Again, look at the Patriots. They’re decimated with injuries, and managed to make the playoffs.
Matt Ryan, who is a very good QB, did not have his targets for much of the season, who were injured. His O line was not much help either. However, if he’s the elite QB that the press says he is, he’s supposed to be able to work with what he has. The same also applies to the aforementioned Joe Flacco. Both guys are very good, but I wouldn’t call them elite.
The Texans, the Steelers, and the New York Giants were also just huge disappointments as well. I have never bought into Matt Schaub as a top QB. He is a decent QB, who had excellent weapons, such as Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, and Owen Daniels. The Texans’ defense was top notch. What really killed the team was Matt Schaub’s Pick Sixes. I think what happened was that once he started throwing one or two, and the criticism started, the criticism got in his head. He then could not get out of the habit. The team was put in such a hole that they never could undo the damage. Gary Kubiak not only suffered a TIA, but was fired before the end of the season.
The Steelers never completely recovered from their 0-4 start. I think Mike Tomlin, the head coach, at times, never had that team ready to play. The relationship between QB Ben Roethlisberger and Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley has been in question. The offensive strategy and the aging defense had also hampered the team. The majority of the blame for the Steelers’ recent inability to make the playoffs the last two years falls on the front office.
How on earth in a league that is a passing league do you basically stay in the “dark ages,” and draft offensive line players that just run block, and are terrible at pass blocking? The team has 100 million dollar QB, and do not have an O line to protect him. The Steelers also need to not only depend on the draft. They need to go out into free agency, and get play-makers for Ben. They have very good receivers, but they need upgrades at the TE position. The Steelers must get younger at defense, and at defensive coordinator. Todd Haley must go.
The Giants are baffling. This is the team that twice defeated New England with two lucky plays, right? This is the team that has a Manning at QB, right? Of course, it is Eli Manning. The same Eli Manning who in 2011, said he was an “elite QB,” and went out and beat the Patriots, albeit with another lucky play. Well, not only did Eli lead the league in INTs, evidently, he and his receivers are not on the same page. Fortunately, Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride retired, so I hope there will be improvement in that area.
It also didn’t help that the offensive line was a mess, and rattled with injuries. On the last game of the season, Eli himself suffered a high ankle sprain, thanks to the mess of an O line. The Giants defense was also a mess. The Giants took forever to win a game. Poor Tom Coughlin, I would watch the game, and he looked like he was going to explode, the team played so badly. I was kind of surprised that Coughlin didn’t get fired. This team has a lot of housecleaning to do.
The Officiating: I don’t know which was worse this year, horse racing stewards (especially at Santa Anita Racetrack), or NFL officials. All over the NFL map, there was one or two games where the analysts did not talk about the game, but talked about the officials’ controversial call. For me, the referees should seen and not heard. Some of those calls that were made just blew my mind.
While I do not wear a tin foiled hat, and say “the NFL/referees are trying to screw “X team,” I just wonder why, in Commissioner Roger Goodell’s zeal to make the game “safer,” do referee crews constantly make inconsistent calls in similar situations. I mean, “offensive pass interference” in a Packers vs Lions game, should be “offensive pass interference” in a Ravens vs. Chargers game.
The call that really annoyed me this season took place in the Super Dome at the 49ers at the Saints Game. 49ers’ defender Ahmad Brooks sacked QB Drew Brees, causing a fumble, which the 49ers recovered. The ref threw the flag for “roughing the passer.” That cost the 49ers 15 yards, and the Saints wound up winning the game. Brooks was fined nearly $16,000, but even though the NFL claimed the call was “correct,” appeals officer Matt Birk approved Brooks’ appeal of his fine.
This call drove me nuts. It was a hard hitting play, and in my opinion, Drew Brees was selling that hit like a car salesman. I mean, WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels could not have done a better sell job. Besides, it is not Brooks’ fault, he hit a QB that is 5′ 11.” Drew Brees is also one of the “Golden Children,” who get the star treatment (a defender coughs near them, the poor soul gets a flag). That also worked against Brooks. I mean, it was a big hit. This is football, not a garden party.
QBs vs. the Head Coaches. Wow. I know in the NBA, it’s a player’s league, and even in the NFL, many stars get preferential treatment. I am talking about guys like P. Manning, Brady, Brees, etc. Every team knows the top guys get breaks, especially the QBs. However, I never seen so much feuding between QBs and their head coaches like I saw here.
As we know, now former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano butted heads with then QB Josh Freeman. Schiano was thought to have undermined the team’s vote for captains, leaving Freeman without being named captain. Schiano also was accused of leaking damaging information concerning Freeman, such as his being late for meetings, and not being in the team photo. There were allegations that Schiano leaked information that Freeman was in the drug program. Eventually, Freeman was cut, and wound up with the Vikings.
Now former Washington D.C. NFL team coach Mike Shanahan also feuded with his QB, Robert Griffin, III. The feud started in the playoff game against the Seahawks, where RGIII tore his ACL, and Shanahan left the injured 2012 Rookie of the Year in the game. Shanahan was greatly criticized for his move. During the off-season, Shanahan had to deal with Team RGIII, and their campaign. The campaign consisted of a countdown to when RGIII would be back on the field. It also had a special that aired on ESPN about RGIII’s recovery. Shanahan was not too keen dealing with a QB who is a bit of a Diva, and who is also a favorite of Washington owner Dan Snyder.
RGIII and Shanahan clashed over whether RGIII would play during the pre-season, both privately and publicly. From the time RGIII got on the field in Week One against the Eagles, it was obvious that he wasn’t himself yet. As the season progressed, RGIII would be publicly throwing people under the bus, whether it is his own teammates, or the coaching staff. Things came to a head when Shanahan benched RGIII for the last 3 games “to keep him healthy.” I realize that RGIII was not playing well, and was getting hit a ton, but I just thought Shanahan was just trying to get fired, and that’s what happened at season’s end.
The 2013 fantasy football season may go down as one of the most inconsistent seasons ever on the waiver wire. While the wire did not provide a lot of options throughout the season there were a few gems that saved or even made seasons. It is time to celebrate those waiver wire heroes.
Many of the so called fantasy football experts got most of it wrong missing out on guys like Keenan Allen and over valuing players like CJ Spiller. Unfortunately it was important to make the right moves in your draft because if you relied on the wire for all of your positions you were toast. Fortunately a tweak here or there was possible by playing the wire.
Playing the fantasy football waiver wire is a tricky game. It requires patience, foresight, and the ability to look at a player’s situation objectively. Remember, any starting quarterback or running back can look like a monster for one week in the right situation. Having the ability to see through that and find that diamond in the ruff that will shine for an entire season is a talent all in itself.
The fantasy season is over and it is time to start analyzing studs and duds. I went back and looked at all of the guys that fell through the draft and onto the waiver wire and the amount of talent available on the wire this season was stunning. If you picked up any of these players, the chances are good you were either in the playoffs a serious contender. While leagues vary in size of 6-16, I based this roster on a 10 team league standard. Without further a due I give you the 2013 All Waiver Wire Fantasy Football Team.
I used the preseason ADP from the collective rankings of experts over at FantasyPros.com. I felt that these preseason rankings offered the best perspective of expert analysis across the board.
Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles - Foles was probably not drafted in any 10-14 team leagues yet wound up putting up double digits in every game but one as a starter. I am an Eagles fan and while I certainly thought about taking Foles due to Vick’s durability issues there was nothing I saw from Foles last season that led me to believe he could get it done. Foles had at least 1 TD in every game but one and threw for over 200 yards in all but 3 starts. Foles would have finished much higher if he had started every game with those stats. What I loved about him was consistency. Nobody will be sleeping on this guy in 2014.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins - Tannehill was one of those guys I always thought had the potential but would never reach it on the Dolphins. He still has a way to go but you couldn’t do much better if you were able to get him off of the waiver wire. He finished in the top 15 and started every game for the Dolphins. To be fair there were a couple of experts that have Tannehill ranked right around where he finished yet the majority had low expectations. He wasn’t a TD machine yet had only one game all season without one. He threw for over 200 in 13 games and was more consistent than he got credit for. If you had the right depth in other positions you could have done real well with Tannehill as your QB. Tannehill was ranked 24th among QBs in the preseason according to his ADP. He’d be a great second QB next year as he is only going to get better.
Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams - Did Stacey win you a championship? Probably not because unfortunately he didn’t get going until the end of the fantasy regular season. However, if you had the right depth he could have gotten you through those bye weeks better than anyone else you could have picked off of the wire. Injuries opened up the door for this monster back to make an impact later in the season. Stacy was a boom or bust player for the most part with more booms than busts. Unfortunately his biggest bust came in the most important week of the season, week 17. If you were fortunate enough to play 16 & 17 as cumulative weeks, you still got 29 points out of him which isn’t nearly as bad as the 3 he mustered up in Week 17.
Rashad Jennings, Oakland Raiders - Jennings was ranked 71st among RBs according to preseason ADP yet finished just outside of the top 20. I don’t think it is unfair to say that Jennings could have been a top 15 or even top 10 back if he started all sixteen games. The guy was a beast when he had his opportunities. I will be the first to admit I never saw it. I passed when he was available as he showed me nothing when he had the chance to start for the Jags. Something clicked in Oakland and you really got some great value out of this guy if you were able to get him off of the waiver wire.
Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers - I was lucky enough to grab Keenan Allen and I still don’t even know that happened. I was in first place and even after a couple of good weeks he was still hanging around. A disappointing 2012 season with Cal created doubt in the NFL draft which caused him to be overlooked by many experts heading into the fantasy season. More importantly there was the Phil Rivers factor. Rivers regressed terribly last year and nobody expected him to rebound at his age and without the “QB genius” Norv Turner around. Not only did he turn it around, he was fantastic. Allen was ranked 75th according to preseason ADP. Not one expert had him ranked above 44. Quinton Patton was ranked ahead of him! Allen finished in the top 20 and helped guys like me secure an unstable position, trade some depth, and never have to think twice about who to play in the WR2 spot once you grabbed him.
Julian Edelman, New England Patriots - Edleman was right down there with Allen, ranked 71st according to preseason ADP yet finished with 145 points ahead of guys like Wes Welker, Torrey Smith, and Mike Wallace. You can’t blame the experts for missing out on Edleman. We were all led to believe that Brady would be connecting with Danny Amendola or the crop of new receivers. Injuries changed the course of history and Brady had no choice but to develop chemistry with Edelman. He had a couple of clunkers in the championship weeks but it is hard to criticize a guy who gave you four big double digit weeks in a row 12-15.
Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos - Thomas is a tough one because in 12 team leagues he was probably rostered yet he was available in a lot of 10-teamers. Thomas was awesome, especially if you grabbed him off of the wire. Rob Gronkowski owners lucked out with Thomas as they didn’t miss a beat at that position. Thomas finished third among all TEs which is phenomenal considering his ADP and 19th overall ranking. Like Tannehill, there were a couple of experts who were real bullish on Thomas in the preseason yet the majority felt otherwise.
Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins - Another guy who didn’t appear on many rosters on draft day was Charles Clay. Clay was the 41st ranked TE according to his ADP yet he finished in the top ten this season with 113 points. As far as bang for your buck on the wire, Clay is right behind Foles on this list. He didn’t have a lot of TDs but as far as consistency goes, you can’t find many more consistent TEs on or off the wire than Clay this season.
Carolina Panthers - Many experts will tell you that fantasy defenses don’t win you championships. I tend to agree but they certainly do help. The Panthers finished number 3 overall so if you had them, you did pretty well for a few weeks. The Panthers were ranked 24th overall coming into the season. How badly did the experts get defense wrong this year? The Texans were ranked 3rd overall coming into the season yet finished dead last!