Kansas City Chiefs Trade QB Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins

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The NFL offseason hasn’t even started yet and it’s already more interesting than MLB’s. There probably wasn’t a trade in the world with more implications to it than this one. The Kansas City Chiefs trade quarterback Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins for cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third round pick. The Redskins followed that up by signing Smith to a 4-year $94M extension, $71M guaranteed to add on to the one year left on his deal that he already had with KC. Smith is coming off a career year in Kansas City as he finished with 4042 yards passing with 26 TD’s and 5 INT’s and was the highest-rated QB in the NFL with a rating of 104.7 in 15 games played. Smith now becomes the quarterback of a Redskins team that disappointed in 2017, going 7-9 and missing the playoffs.

The Chiefs look to be all in on Pat Mahomes, it seems. Mahomes was the 10th pick in the 2017 Draft out of Texas Tech and a guy the Chiefs forfeited their 2018 first rounder to the Bills in order to acquire. Mahomes got to start in Week 17 and he was pretty solid, going 22-35 with 284 yards with no TD’s and 1 INT, as he led the Chiefs to a 27-24 victory over the Broncos. Mahomes has probably the most talented arm I’ve ever seen but he came out of a college system at Texas Tech that translates about as poorly to the NFL as humanly possible. He didn’t appear in an NFL game until that Week 17 matchup against the Broncos and while he still does have some things to work on, he did a lot of things to be excited about.

But if I’m Kirk Cousins, I am PISSED OFF. Cousins had been the constantly franchise-tagged starting quarterback for the last few years now, even leading the Redskins to a playoff berth in 2015. He kept trying to get a contract extension to be in DC long-term but the Redskins refused to give it to him, instead opting to franchise tag him every year and basically make every year a contract year for him. Then the Redskins go and trade for a guy to replace you that has one year left on his deal and he immediately gets a huge extension despite not having taken a snap for the team yet. Kind of a dick move, Snyder. If there is a silver lining to all of this it’s that now Cousins can get out of this toxic relationship and play for a team that will be more than willing to give him the extension that he’s earned (because let’s face it, Cousins is in the discussion for top 10 quarterbacks in the league right now).

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So who are some teams that should make a run at Cousins? Well for starters the Cleveland Browns. Now yes, Cleveland is a place where quarterbacks go to die, but Cousins is a far better quarterback than anybody that has passed through Cleveland since their revival in 1999. If anybody can break the streak of horrendousness, it’d be Cousins. Plus this draft class is not very Browns-friendly so perhaps Cousins would be the safer route to go. He’ll command a lot of money, sure, but the Browns don’t really have any big contracts and are expected to have over $100M in cap space this offseason.

Another team that should consider Cousins is the Broncos. There’s a lot of talent on this team but they’re being held back by poor quarterback play. They’ve gotten the most out of Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch hasn’t developed the way they’d hoped. Kirk Cousins could be just what they need to get back into not only playoff contention, but maybe even Super Bowl contention. They’re expected to have about $28M in cap space this offseason so they’ll probably have to shed a contract or two before they’ll have the space to sign Cousins, but it’d definitely be a sacrifice worth making in order to return the team to its former glory. Plus the Broncos pick 5th and the two best quarterbacks in this year’s class, Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold, will both likely be gone by then so free agency may be the safest route.

The Jets are another team that should be in on Cousins. They pick after the Broncos at #6 in the 2018 Draft so they’re just as unlikely to land Rosen and Darnold as Denver is. Plus the Jets will have the cap space, as they’re expected to have about $79M in available funds this offseason. The Jets got the most out of the 38 year-old Josh McCown and it’s high time they got younger at the position because Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg are definitely not the answers for the future.

The Arizona Cardinals could also be a team that could take interest in Cousins. After Carson Palmer’s retirement, there’s a huge hole at the quarterback position that will need to be filled if they want to contend in the very difficult NFC West. They’ve got about as much cap space as the Broncos so they will likely need to cut some dead weight to be able to afford Cousins, but again, like with Denver, it’d be worth it. The need is also greater for Arizona because they’re picking 15th this year and not only will Rosen and Darnold be gone by then, but probably Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield, too.

The Bills ought to be interested in Cousins because they pick 21st and 22nd thanks to a trade with the Chiefs and unless they use that package to trade up into the top 5, there’s no way they’re landing any of the top quarterback prospects. They’ve got about $31M in space so if they signed Cousins, they probably wouldn’t be able to get anybody else without shedding some contracts. The Bills made the playoffs for the first time in the 21st century last season but poor quarterback play from Tyrod Taylor buried them in the Wild Card Game against the Jaguars. Speaking of segues…

The Jaguars are the last team that I think should be in on Cousins. Their lack of faith in Blake Bortles was a big factor in their losing the AFC Championship game to the Patriots despite the fact that Bortles was playing some of his best football in that game. Signing Cousins could be the difference in blowing a 10-point 4th quarter lead in the AFC Championship game to not only going to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history, but winning it. They’ve only got about $25M in free space so they’re going to have to lose a few deals before they’re able to make a run at Cousins.

So with the trade of Alex Smith, this offseason just got a Hell of a lot more interesting, especially as it pertains to Kirk Cousins. Let me know what you think of this trade in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Things I Prefer Over the Pro Bowl

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For those who have followed my blog, you may know that I hate the Pro Bowl. It’s a great idea in theory, but there is so much risk involved for a pointless game that it really defeats the purpose. Just ask Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert, who hasn’t been the same since he injured his hip at the Pro Bowl a couple years ago. Plus, to try and protect players, they’ve neutered the rules so much that they’ve taken out some of the more exciting elements of football, such as blitzes and complex schemes (at least, they’re exciting to ME, that is). I’ve literally seen a Pro Bowl where the players went a couple of plays as if it were their walkthroughs. It’s bad. It’s not even in Hawaii this year, which takes away a lot of the incentive to actually attend the game for these players. So let’s take a look at a few things that are more enjoyable for me than this awful game.

1. WWE’s Royal Rumble

This one’s not really a joke, I genuinely love this event, and it’ll be on at the same time as the Pro Bowl so automatically you’ll get better TV, provided you’re willing to shell out the money for this Pay Per View. Nobody illegally streams anyway, that’s definitely not the better route to go.

2. My Own Birth

At least with this I’ll get to watch and see for myself if I came into the world exactly how my mom says I did: ass first.

3. 2 Girls 1 Cup

I don’t feel human emotions when I watch the Pro Bowl. I did feel the very real human emotion of disgust the one time I watched this.

4. Jar Jar Binks

I’ve seen the theories that he’s actually a Sith lord. It’s not as farfetched as you might think. In fact, it could’ve been that Jar Jar was going to be an inverse of Yoda, someone who appears to be “goofy” at first but it’s just an act. Unfortunately for the Star Wars prequels, it was executed SO poorly.

5. Any “Vine Star’s” Youtube Channel

Except maybe that Retro Spectro guy. Other than that, guys like Logan and Jake Paul deserve my eyes more than the Pro Bowl does, and that’s saying a lot considering the heat Logan’s (deservedly) going through.

6. People Arguing About Politics

Like I said at #3, I don’t feel human emotions when I watch the Pro Bowl. I feel anger when I watch people argue about politics. Nobody respects anyones opinion anymore, they just try to talk over each other and be the loudest in the room.

7. People Getting “Triggered” Over the Slightest Thing

It’s one thing if you had a genuinely traumatic experience. But if somebody makes a joke about being OCD and you get offended by it, go fuck yourself. It’s probably not nearly as offensive as the Pro Bowl.

8. This MLB Offseason

At least I’ll be able to get some things done while nothing happens in baseball.

9. Sportscenter the 6

God that show makes me cringe sometimes.

10. People Bitching about the new Star Wars Movies

They’re good movies. Unfortunately in this day and age, if there’s a single flaw with these movies, that makes them bad in the eyes of the “fans.”

11. People Bitching about the Game of Thrones Scenes that don’t Coincide with the Books

We get it, you read the books. I read them too. There’s some stuff in the books that sucks too, get your nose out of the sky.

12. Amy Schumer stand-up

This one might be a little harsh, I’m sorry Pro Bowl, that was a low blow.

13. The First Few Episodes of Friends

I love the Friends series. But my God the first few episodes are painfully unfunny. Once the story gets going, though, the humor really picks up.

14. The How I Met Your Mother Ending

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more betrayed by a series finale. Luckily, if you skip the last episode, you actually do have some solid closure since you basically know everything that happened by that point.

15. People Who Debate LeBron James vs Michael Jordan

This is mainly due to how over-saturated the argument has become. It’s really obnoxious and I’d rather wait until LeBron’s career is over before I really get involved with the debate.

16. ‘Let’s Play’ Videos

The only time I’ll watch a Let’s Play video is if I’m considering buying a video game and I want to see if I’d like it. Otherwise these things are almost as pointless as the Pro Bowl.

17. New Simpsons Episodes

It’s really a shell of its former self, but that’s beating a dead horse at this point. I read somewhere that they’re ending after 30 seasons, but I don’t remember where I heard that or if it’s even true.

18. Feminazis

I’m all for equal rights for women, believe me. But there are some who take the movement so far that they give a bad name to people who are actually trying to make positive change. I’ve got no issue with feminists. It’s feminazis where I take issue.

19. People Who Don’t Follow Baseball Saying it’s Boring

Baseball can be slow at times, I’ll admit. But if you’re going to bitch about it, you’re not doing anybody a favor. Baseball is a thinking man’s game.

20. People Who Go To Comments Sections to Bitch About How they don’t like a Video or Article or any other Content

Thankfully I have yet to experience such a thing, but I’ll read comments sections for other things and whenever I read someone who says “this sucks,” I think to myself “then why are you watching/reading?” Just don’t consume it, it’s really not that difficult.

21. Trigonometry

This shit almost kept me out of college. It’s pretty much only useful if I want to measure the size of a mountain, which I don’t. I’ll just take peoples’ word for it.

22. NCAA’s Pay-for-Play Issue

Just let the kids do endorsement deals for Christ’s sake. Still not as big a mess as the Pro Bowl, though.

23. Reality TV

Shows like “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” “Jersey Shore,” and “The Bachelor/ette” do almost as much damage to the human brain as the Pro Bowl.

24. Hiking

It’s just walking up a hill. I mean I’ll gladly do it if my friends invite me, but it’s pretty low on my to-do list.

25. Any other Sport’s All Star Game

Baseball, basketball, and probably hockey (I wouldn’t know, I’ve never caught an NHL All Star Game) at least have some form of entertainment to them. MLB’s is a traditional baseball game while the NBA’s doesn’t care about defense and players go out of their way to do highlight plays.

And finally, things I’d rather watch the Pro Bowl over.

1. Get Kidney Stones

This is probably my biggest fear. If you gave me the choice of watching hundreds of hours of Pro Bowl footage and never get a kidney stone, or get just one kidney stone and never watch the Pro Bowl, I would choose the former every time.

And that’s it. Let me know what you like better than the Pro Bowl in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. I’m starting to give up on my Patreon account because none of you are donating to it. Except my dad. Thanks, Dad!

The XFL is Returning

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As you may have heard, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon will be restarting his failed football league from 2001, the XFL. The original rendition of this league flopped heavily due to both ratings and bad football. It took place during the NFL offseason and featured fewer rules and encouraged heavy violence. Allegedly, McMahon is restarting this league because he sees an opportunity, since the NFL’s ratings are down as of late and people have been openly complaining about the product, whether it be how the game is officiated to injuries to off the field social issues.

As I scroll through the Wikipedia article, I’m noticing some VERY interesting things about the first edition of the XFL. There were 8 teams: the Orlando Rage, Chicago Enforcers, New York/Jersey Hitmen, Birmingham Thunderbolts, Los Angeles Xtreme, San Francisco Demons, Memphis Maniax, and Las Vegas Outlaws. The Xtreme were champions in the only year of existence. There was an emphasis on combining wrestling with football, as players and coaches would be mic’d up during games and the public address announcers would talk trash while scantily-clad cheerleaders pranced along the sidelines (and were encouraged to date players). There was no pre-game coin toss. Instead, officials would roll the ball and two players from each team would dive for it in a scrum and whomever came out with it got to decide whether to kick or receive. This was referred to as the “Human Coin Toss.” The league MVP was Tommy Maddox, a former first round pick in the NFL and the quarterback that preceded Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, where he signed after the XFL folded. Former first round pick Jim Druckenmiller and current Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm were also notable players who played quarterback in the league. Former Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam played in the league as well. Runningback Rod Smart actually wore “He Hate Me” on the back of his jersey rather than his own last name.

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Some interesting rules included no PAT kick, you had to go for two after every touchdown except it only counted for one extra point, but you could get bonus points if you agreed to run the play from a further distance than the traditional 2-yard line for up to 3 extra points. Their overtime rules were similar to the NCAA except there were no opportunities for first downs, you must score within four plays. Also, before the ball was snapped, one player is allowed to get a running start toward the line of scrimmage as long as he is outside of the tackles, rather than standing still and being set. Punting was also heavily affected in the XFL. For example, punting out of bounds resulted in a 10-yard penalty, the punting team could recover the ball as long as it traveled 25 yards and regain possession even if the receiving team didn’t touch it, and most insanely, fair catches are not recognized. I’m sure when the XFL reboots, which is expected to occur in 2020, some of these rules may not be a thing.

So what can we expect to see out of the XFL? Well, we really have no idea what to expect, but here are a few things I’d like to see.

WWE Wrestlers Signed to Rosters, Wrestling Moves are Legal

This isn’t the craziest idea in the world because there are some WWE wrestlers with football experience. Brock Lesnar participated in training camp with the Minnesota Vikings. Roman Reigns was a defensive tackle at Georgia Tech. Hell, the Rock was a defensive end at Miami (FL) during the days when they were “The U.” Will they be good? Probably not, but I wouldn’t mind watching Lesnar suplex some runningbacks or Reigns spear a scrambling quarterback. Sure it might affect their wrestling schedules, but Lesnar barely shows up on WWE programming anyway and Reigns often gets booed out of the building so I’m sure some of these guys wouldn’t mind a chance to do something else.

Well-Defined Catch Rules

This is probably the biggest crutch facing the NFL right now as nobody really knows for certain what a catch is anymore. If the XFL can easily define it and have good success with their rules, we could see the NFL try and adapt. But hey, it’s Vince McMahon, whose WWE repeatedly changes its rules to fit the narrative they’re trying to tell so I wouldn’t be surprised if the rules are pretty loose.

“Exiled” Players Getting a Second Chance

The XFL is a great opportunity for guys who aren’t good enough for the NFL or guys who likely won’t make it back into the NFL to return to the spotlight. For example, I wouldn’t be shocked in the slightest to see Johnny Manziel and Tim Tebow quarterbacking teams in this new league. Maybe even Colin Kaepernick or Ray Rice. But the point is, the XFL can kind of serve as a secondary league. Hell, guys in the NFL who are in a contract year could use the XFL as a bargaining chip. If Le’Veon Bell doesn’t want to play on the Franchise Tag for the Steelers, he could threaten to go play for the Memphis Maniax.

Surprise Entrants on the Field

Let’s say a fight breaks out during the game. Let’s say Brock Lesnar is beating the Hell out of Roman Reigns. In a normal NFL game, referees and teammates try and break it up. But what if we hear Hulk Hogan’s theme music as he runs out onto the field to attack Lesnar, then takes a microphone and announces he’s joined Reigns’ team as the camera shows Lesnar’s shocked face. I can already hear the “bah gawd’s!”

The Championship Trophy is a Belt

That’s really all I have to say on this topic. You saw how the Turnover Chain worked for the U. Imagine if your goal was getting a title belt. They could treat it like the Stanley Cup and every player on the winning team gets to take the belt and do with it as he pleases.

A Women’s XFL Division

The LFL is already a thing and WWE over the last couple of years has been trying to make an improvement on how they promote women’s wrestling (which has been pretty poor in the past to say the least). Perhaps they’d be invested in a female division of the XFL with a few all-female teams that would face each other.

Weapons

Offensive linemen can use steel chairs and put opposing pass rushers through tables. Or, what if you gained a weapon you can use for one play when you stopped at a certain part of the field. Perhaps if you’re tackled on the opponent’s 30 yard line, you can unlock a ladder that you can set up in the opponent’s end zone then plant a receiver in there. They can get really creative with this.

Unfortunately, very little of this will likely happen, especially considering McMahon announced that he won’t take players with any form of criminal record, which would rule out guys like Manziel and Rice. He also said he wants it to be “family-friendly” and emphasized forcing players to stand for the National Anthem. Plus, if they do revert to their old style of rules from the initial rendition, there will be outrage from the media and players, as the safety issues that the NFL struggles with right now would be increased ten fold in the XFL. In all, I really don’t expect this to do very well in the long run. The NFL is just too dominant to compete with. I think the XFL will do well its first week or so, but once people see how bad the quality of football is, they may see it as another Arena Football League. That being said, it is fun to theorize what could become legal in was originally intended to be a more barbaric football league.

That’s it for today’s blog, let me know what you think of the XFL revival and any creative rules you might have for the product in the comments section below and hit me up on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Milwaukee Brewers Strike Twice

Thank God for the Brewers. Never thought I’d ever utter a sentence like that, but here we are. The Brewers have pulled off not one, but TWO major acquisitions today, as they signed free agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain to a 5 year $80M deal and acquired outfielder Christian Yelich from the Miami Marlins in exchange for prospects Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, Isan Diaz, and Jordan Yamamoto. Brinson is the big one, as he was Milwaukee’s top-rated prospect. I actually think the haul the Marlins got for Yelich was better than the one they got for Giancarlo Stanton if I’m being completely honest.

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As for Lorenzo Cain, he returns to the team that originally drafted him in the 17th round of the 2004 MLB Draft. Cain had been a part of the Brewers organization for about 6-7 years before being the centerpiece of their blockbuster trade for Zack Greinke from the Royals in 2011. Cain was a big part of the back-to-back AL champion Royals teams in 2014 and 2015, the latter of which culminated in a World Series championship. He was their 3-hole hitter and finished third in the AL MVP voting in 2015. In 2017, Cain hit an even .300 with 15 home runs, 49 RBI, and stole 26 bases while sporting a .363 OBP and .440 SLG. He also had 5 DRS in centerfield, which was actually the lowest of his career (he’s had as good as 18 DRS in 2013) and finished with a WAR of 4.1.

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Christian Yelich is one of the brightest young stars in the majors, as he was the 3-hole hitter for Team USA’s World Baseball Classic championship-winning team and traditionally batted at the top half of a Marlins lineup that featured the likes of Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna. Yelich had another strong season in 2017 as he hit .282 with 18 home runs and 81 RBI and stole 16 bases. He reached base at a .369 clip and slugged .439. He had a DRS of -6 in centerfield this season however he’s shown that he’s significantly above average as a defender in left, as he had a DRS of 13 in both 2013 and 2014. He ended up being worth 4.5 WAR for the Marlins. Let’s take a look at what the Brewers look like with their two new star outfielders.

1. Lorenzo Cain-CF

2. Eric Thames-1B

3. Christian Yelich-LF

4. Travis Shaw-3B

5. Domingo Santana/Ryan Braun-RF

6. Stephen Vogt-C

7. Orlando Arcia-SS

8. Eric Sogard-2B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

That has the potential to be a DEADLY lineup, especially if guys like Thames and Shaw can replicate their breakout 2017 performances. Based on this lineup, I think the Brewers can compete with the Cubs for the NL Central title. They’re going to need another pitcher if they REALLY want to show it, though. Aside from Jimmy Nelson there isn’t much in the Brewers rotation and we can’t even be 100% sure that Nelson wasn’t a fluke last season.

As for the Marlins, after trading Yelich, they have officially traded all three of their stud outfielders. First it was Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees for a washing machine, then it was Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals for some solid prospects, and now Yelich to the Brewers for the best prospects they had to offer. And people forget they also traded Dee Gordon to the Mariners a while back. However this team now has the looks of a unit that anticipates finishing last in the NL East, maybe even all of baseball. Here’s how they look without their three star outfielders.

1. Starlin Castro-2B

2. Martin Prado-3B

3. JT Realmuto-C

4. Justin Bour-1B

5. Derek Dietrich-LF

6. JT Riddle/Miguel Rojas-SS

7. Lewis Brinson-CF

8. Magneuris Sierra-RF

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Two of the prospects they acquired in their trades, Brinson and Sierra, are now the two best outfielders they have to offer. I took the liberty of putting Dietrich in left since he’s kind of a super utility guy. Plus JT Realmuto has said that he wants out and so has Starlin Castro even though he hasn’t played a game for the Marlins yet, mainly because he doesn’t want to be part of another rebuild like he was with the Cubs. Reportedly the Nationals are interested in Realmuto, I haven’t heard anything on Castro. But yeah, I don’t anticipate this team winning very many games in 2018.

As for the Royals, Cain was likely the first domino to fall amongst their core from their 2015 World Series championship team. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and to a lesser extent Alcides Escobar are all likely to sign elsewhere, basically leaving Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon all by themselves. Here’s what the Royals look like, assuming they can’t resign any of these guys.

1. Billy Burns-CF

2. Cheslor Cuthbert-3B

3. Alex Gordon-LF

4. Salvador Perez-C

5. Paulo Orlando-RF

6. Brandon Moss-1B

7. Jorge Soler-DH

8. Whit Merrifield-2B

9. Raul Mondesi-SS

Of course, this is assuming none of the other guys return. Reportedly the Royals have made a pretty good offer to Eric Hosmer. But as it stands right now, this is how they look heading into the 2018 season. Not great. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if this team finished last in the AL, just like the Marlins in the NL. The worst part about Cain leaving is that it was through free agency so the Royals couldn’t even get anything in return for him. Though I’m sure the World Series victory will be fine for an organization that historically isn’t used to a whole lot of winning.

But yeah, thank you Brewers for igniting some life into this offseason. I’ve said this several times and it’s never seemed to work, but hopefully this knocked over the first domino and now others will fall in behind them. Looking at you, JD Martinez and basically every pitcher on the market.

Some Stories I Have With Each Member of the 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame Class

Before I get into this blog, I just wanted to say that nothing is harsh enough for Larry Nassar. I will get into the ramifications a little more at a later date as it pertains to Michigan State when more information becomes public. But as it stands right now, Michigan State could be facing charges in a similar fashion to Penn State in the Jerry Sandusky case. Not good.

Now on to the more positive stuff, 6 men will be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York on July 29. 2 from the Veteran’s Committee and 4 from the Baseball Writer’s Association. From the Veteran’s Committee we have Jack Morris and Alan Trammell. From the BBWA, we have Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, and Trevor Hoffman. I won’t get too deep into their backgrounds and resumes because I already did a month or so ago. But I do have some memories of each one. This will qualify as both a baseball blog and a personal story because I actually do have some kind of attachment to each.

I’ll start with Chipper Jones, who made the class of 2018 with 97.2% of the vote. I never got a chance to see him play live in a traditional MLB game, however I did get a chance to see him play in a Spring Training game back in 2011. My high school baseball team took a trip to Disney’s Wide World of Sports for our own Spring Training and the Atlanta Braves’ facility was a part of this complex, so one night a bunch of us went to a Braves-Nationals game. That was the one time I got to see Chipper play. The Braves won the game 7-6, but nearly blew a 6-0 lead after a couple innings. I believe Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, and Dan Uggla homered. Now that I think about it, I know Heyward did, not sure about the others. I’m not even sure if Jones played, to be fair, because I can’t find any boxscores of that game. Step up your Spring Training databases MLB!

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Next up is Vladimir Guerrero, who got in with 92.9% of the vote. I remember the first time I saw Vlad play was in 2006 when he was a member of the Angels. This was quite frankly the best game I think I’ve ever attended. The Red Sox came back from down 6-3 in the bottom of the 8th and won 7-6 in 11 innings on a David Ortiz single up the middle to drive in Alex Gonzalez from second with two outs. However Vlad was NOT a factor in this game at all. He had two at bats before he left the game with a bad back. He saw six pitches. He struck out twice. Luckily for Vlad, I knew what he was capable of going into this game so it didn’t tarnish my opinion of him, it more hyped up Josh Beckett for me, who was Boston’s starting pitcher that day. I believe I saw Vlad play again when he was with the Rangers in 2010, I’ll have to fact check that one. Just fact checked it, I did. Vlad went 3-5 with an RBI and 2 runs scored in a 7-2 Rangers win. Now that I think about it, I think that was the game I went to where Tim Wakefield got yanked before finishing the third inning. His knuckleball was just not working. In fact, another thing I remember from that is the very next day, Bengie Molina hit for the cycle. What a world we lived in back in 2010. But yeah, I got to see Vlad play twice. First time he was awful, second time he was really good. But a Hall of Fame career nonetheless.

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Next we have Jim Thome, who made the Hall of Fame with 89.8% of the vote and became the third first baseman ever to reach the Hall of Fame on his first try. It’s actually a funny story about how Thome became my favorite non-Red Sox player. I was in first grade and a friend of mine had brought in this little booklet with a bunch of baseball activities for kids our age. One of these was a word search with players’ names. I noticed that one player was named Jim and I immediately grew attached to him, thinking “wow, that’s awesome!” A few weeks later I was at another friend’s house and he had the Red Sox game on. The Sox were playing the Phillies in Interleague action and I saw the screen show a graphic of the Phillies first baseman being Jim Thome. I thought to myself, “wow! That’s the guy from the word search!” Thome had been my favorite ever since that day. I only got to see him play once and that was back in 2008 when he was a member of the White Sox. I was in Florida with my grandparents and they took me to a game at Tropicana Field. Thome was hitting third that game and he homered off of Rays starter Edwin Jackson in his first at bat as the White Sox beat the eventual American League champions 6-0. I actually have another funny story regarding this game that doesn’t relate to Thome. So my grandpa LOVES to spoil me and he got us some PRIME tickets to this game. We were sitting about three rows back from the on deck circle right by the Rays dugout. Well while I was sitting there, I looked over to the Rays dugout and there’s Johnny Gomes right at the edge fixing up his gear. Earlier that day, my brother had told me to get him an autograph, kind of out of jest. But now I had an opportunity to actually get one. My grandpa gave me a pad of paper and a pen and I walked over towards the dugout and yelled “Johnny!” Instinctively, Johnny looked up and had this deer-in-the-headlights look of “oh shit, I shouldn’t have reacted to that.” I probably had the look of “oh shit, he looked up,” so as soon as I got the chance, I held out my pad of paper and said “can you sign this?” He said no but then immediately after the Rays took the field. I didn’t get an autograph, but I was such a big baseball fan/nerd that the fact that I had an interaction with Johnny Gomes was more than enough for me. My dad thinks he’s an asshole for not taking two seconds out of his day to sign a 12 year-old kid’s pad of paper, but I didn’t care at the time and I don’t care now. But yeah, that’s my Jim Thome story.

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Finally we have Trevor Hoffman. In 2016, I did a volunteership with Major League Baseball and helped move the DJ’s stage for the Home Run Derby. A benefit of this was I had free access to MLB’s fan fest for each day they were holding it. I unfortunately missed out on Trevor Hoffman twice. The first time was for getting his autograph, as he was doing a signing when I arrived. While I was in line, his hour was up and I missed my opportunity for him. However, I learned that next up was Steve Garvey, so I couldn’t complain. Here’s a picture of me getting the 1974 NL MVP’s autograph.

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The next day I actually got that hat I was wearing signed by Fred Lynn. It’s smudged now, but I know whose it is and I never had any intention of selling it. But after I got Garvey’s autograph, I wandered around the San Diego Convention Center and saw that Hoffman was giving pitching lessons. I immediately hopped in line, but once again, the line was too long and his hour was up. So I just watched him give lessons to other people, which was totally fine by me.

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I don’t have any stories about Trammell or Morris except that my mom loved both of them, as she’s from Canton, Michigan and grew up a big Tigers fan, though I’m pretty sure Lou Whitaker was her favorite. That’s going to do it for this blog, congratulations to the inductees. I’m a little peeved that Edgar Martinez and Curt Schilling got snubbed once again, but Martinez got 70.4% of the vote meaning he’s pretty much a lock for 2019. Schilling, I’m not as sure. Let me know what you think of the balloting results in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

General Sports: January 24

NBA All Star Teams Announced

<> at Pepsi Center on January 22, 2018 in Denver, Colorado.

So the NBA announced who will be playing in the all star game in Los Angeles. The players that will compete are LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, LaMarcus Aldridge, Bradley Beal, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, Al Horford, Damian Lillard, Kevin Love, Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo, Kristaps Porzingis, Klay Thompson, Karl Anthony-Towns, John Wall, and Russell Westbrook. I found it interesting how Oladipo made the team but Paul George didn’t, which is making Pacers’ GM Kevin Pritchard look pretty smart right now. I’m also very happy for Damian Lillard for making the team for the first time, though I could’ve done without his annual bitching about his getting snubbed. All in all I’d say they did a pretty good job with the rosters. Interesting how the game’s in LA but there aren’t any Lakers or Clippers being featured. Often times you’ll see them try and shoehorn a player to ignite some excitement in the home crowd, but the league will probably save that for the skills competition. Though I wouldn’t have objected to them sneaking DeAndre Jordan onto the team over someone like Al Horford or Kevin Love, which pains me to say because Horford’s on my Celtics and I still believe in Love.

Milwaukee Brewers Are a Team to Keep an Eye on for the Next Few Days

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I say this mainly because there are a boatload of rumors surrounding the Brewers and what kinds of moves they’re open to, yet there is one player that has been linked to these discussions that I’m particularly interested in, that being free agent pitcher Yu Darvish. The Brewers have reportedly made a 5-year offer to the former Rangers and Dodgers pitcher who would immediately become the ace of their staff (Jimmy Nelson has earned that nod after his stellar 2017, but come on, it’s Yu Darvish. You’re not going to shell out the kind of money he’s going to command to have him be the #2). I also heard rumblings that the Brewers were looking to trade an outfielder for an impact bat. Immediately when that was said I thought of 2011 MVP Ryan Braun because I’ve seen several articles suggesting Milwaukee should trade him. There is some young talent in the Brewers outfield so it could also be one of them in order to acquire a bigger impact bat. Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton, Hernan Perez, prospects Lewis Brinson and Brett Phillips could also be on the move as Milwaukee looks to build on an 86-76 season where they missed out on the Wild Card Game by 1 game. I’ve also seen that they’ve made an offer to the Marlins for disgruntled outfielder Christian Yelich. So perhaps some of these outfielders will be involved in that potential trade.

Josh Allen is Saying Things

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So last time I did this type of blog I ripped Mel Kiper Jr for making Josh Allen his #1 pick in his first mock draft. Well just a few days later, Allen conducted a few interviews at the Senior Bowl where he stated that he “sleeps with a football” and devotes all his free time to playing football, which includes playing Madden. He has also said that it would be “special” to “be the guy” for the Browns, making his case for number 1 pick. As you may have read, Sam Darnold allegedly made a statement that he would return to school if the Browns had the top pick, a statement he has since denied and further enforced his denial by entering the Draft despite the Browns owning the first and fourth picks. Josh Rosen, on the other hand, has blatantly stated he does not want to play for the Browns, saying he’d rather fall in the Draft than go to the wrong team. So I guess some pros for the Browns considering Allen: he actually wants to be there. It’d be super risky for the Browns to take a Wyoming quarterback, where the competition is pretty low and didn’t even put up that great of numbers. And as for the “sleeping with a football” line, I’m sure it’s an exaggeration. If not, then damn dude, don’t know how that helps your game but whatever floats your boat. Also, that photoshoot that I included a picture from above. Uncle Rico must be salivating.

Patriots Will Wear Their White Uniforms In Super Bowl LII

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The AFC and NFC alternate on who is the “home team” in the game and therefore gets to choose their jerseys. This year, it’s the AFC’s turn and the Patriots are going to go with their white uniforms. Now before you say “Jim, you’ve lost your goddamn mind blogging about this, in what way is this important,” I present to you this stat: Since 2004, every Super Bowl winner with the exception of the Packers in Super Bowl XLV wore their white uniforms. Literally all of them (except the Packers). Plus the Patriots are undefeated in their whites in the Brady-Belichick era at 3-0 and are 2-2 in their blues. You may resume telling me that it doesn’t matter what uniforms the teams wear.

LeBron James Becomes Youngest Player to 30,000 Career Points

I would congratulate LeBron on his achieving this milestone, except for one thing. He already did that. For himself. Before the game in which he’d reach the milestone even happened. To clarify for those who don’t know, LeBron posted this on Instagram.

Wanna be one of the first to Congratulate you on this accomplishment/achievement tonight that you’ll reach! Only a handful has reach/seen it too and while I know it’s never been a goal of yours from the beginning try(please try) to take a moment for yourself on how you’ve done it! The House you’re about to be apart of has only 6 seats in it(as of now) but 1 more will be added and you should be very proud and honored to be invited inside. There’s so many people to thank who has help this even become possible(so thank them all) and when u finally get your moment(alone) to yourself smile, look up to the higher skies and say THANK YOU! So with that said, Congrats again Young King 🤴🏾! 1 Love! #striveforgreatness🚀 #thekidfromakron👑

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

Now granted, LeBron getting the 7 points he’d need was pretty much a foregone conclusion, especially since his opponent, the Spurs, are without defensive stud Kawhi Leonard, who undoubtedly would’ve drawn the assignment. 30K points is a fantastic achievement and LeBron has earned every bit of praise. But come on dude. Congratulating your past self on the accomplishment is pretty cheesy, even for LeBron. But making the post before the game even happens is downright disrespectful to Danny Green, who had to guard him. If it were anybody else, I would love this cocky move. But it’s LeBron, who is the poster child for the stereotypical primadonna NBA player that we get today, so he’s not getting a pass.

That’s going to do it for today’s blog. Let me know what you think of the topics I discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

A Look at the NFL Head Coaching Hires

With Arizona’s hiring of Steve Wilks and Indy’s and Detroit’s inevitable hirings of Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia, it appears that all head coaching vacancies have been filled. Let’s take a look at how each team did with their new head man.

Arizona Cardinals Hire Former Carolina Panthers’ DC Steve Wilks

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Wilks is probably the least experienced coach in the group as far as major responsibilities go. 2017 was his first year as a defensive coordinator in the NFL and only the second time he’s ever held such a title, when he was DC at East Tennessee State in 2002. Wilks spent one year as a head coach at the college level at Savannah State in 1999 before moving to Illinois State as defensive backs coach. He’s been an NFL coach since 2005, primarily as a defensive backs coach. He had spent the last 5-6 years in the Panthers organization, where he helped create guys such as Josh Norman into what they are today. His best work has easily come as a member of the Panthers, particularly in the last couple of seasons. Carolina’s secondary had been about as weak a defensive unit as there is in football but always got masked by a great front seven. Last year, Carolina boasted the 7th best defense in the NFL in total yards and helped lead the team to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. He joins an Arizona team that has talent but has to reload after the retirements of both former head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer. I don’t think it’d be fair to expect a ton out of Wilks and the Cardinals in his first year, as that offense is going to need to undergo a lot of changes, however I do think Arizona will continue to field a strong defense.

Indianapolis Colts Are Going to Hire New England Patriots’ OC Josh McDaniels

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Josh McDaniels is arguably the best offensive coordinator in the NFL, as the Patriots are consistently at the top of the NFL in terms of points and yardage year-in and year-out. He does have head coaching experience with the Denver Broncos, however after starting his career 6-0, he crashed and burned horribly. What I think went wrong was McDaniels tried to be Belichick with his new team before he had earned that right in his players’ eyes. He traded their quarterback and top wide receiver (Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall) before even coaching a game, which probably should’ve been the first sign of things to come. I think McDaniels will have learned a lot from his failures in Denver, however, and I expect his tenure with the Colts to go much better. He has still yet to be announced as their head coach but all signs point to McDaniels becoming the head man after the Super Bowl. The Colts offensively won’t become the Patriots overnight, but I think if they can boast just an average offensive line, then I think they could be deadly if McDaniels is able to transition his system over from New England to Indy.

Detroit Lions Are Going to Hire New England Patriots’ DC Matt Patricia

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Same situation with Patricia as McDaniels, as he hasn’t been announced as the head coach yet since he’ll be coaching in the Super Bowl, however it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that he’s getting the Lions job. There’s a lot of talent on the Lions that went unrealized under previous head coach Jim Caldwell however they could never get over the hump. It is unknown how Patricia will do as a head coach because he’s never been a head coach at any level before. He’s been the Patriots’ DC since 2012 and before that served as an offensive assistant, O-line, linebackers, and safeties coach. Patricia’s defenses in New England have been the personification of bend-but-don’t-break, as they’re routinely near the bottom in yards allowed but near the top in points allowed. Patricia is notoriously well-liked by his players and it will be interesting to see how he gels with the Lions. I really don’t know what to expect out of the Lions under Patricia just because there’s nothing to go off of since he’s never been a head coach before. I think the Lions will fall somewhere between the 6-9 wins range next season.

New York Giants Hire Former Minnesota Vikings’ OC Pat Shurmur

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Pat Shurmur has been in coaching since 1988 when he was a grad assistant at his alma mater at Michigan State. He’s been in the NFL since 1999 with the Eagles’ staff and has had one stint as a head coach and another as interim head coach. He led the Browns in 2011 and 2012 and posted a 9-23 record. He was also the Eagles’ interim head coach after they fired Chip Kelly in 2015 and won his only game at that position before the Eagles hired current head coach Doug Pederson. Shurmur has spent the last two seasons with the Vikings. In 2016 he was the tight ends coach before becoming interim offensive coordinator, then keeping the job on a full-time basis for 2017. In 2017, the Vikings were able to find a lot of success on offense despite the injuries to key offensive players. Stud rookie Dalvin Cook tore his ACL in Week 4 and Sam Bradford suffered a leg injury that effectively ended his season. But I think the biggest thing that got Shurmur the Giants’ gig is the rise of Case Keenum under his watch. When a journeyman quarterback leads his team to an NFC Championship game while posting the numbers that Keenum did, the OC is going to get some looks. I think this could wind up being a sneaky good hire. There’s lots of talent on the Giants, who simply underperformed in 2017 and if Shurmur can get the most out of a guy like Keenum, doing the same for Giants players will be a breeze. I think there will be a hefty win improvement in 2018. The intriguing thing for me is going to be what he decides to do with the #2 pick in the Draft. Do the Giants take Eli’s heir or do they take a playmaker like Saquon Barkley? We’ll have to wait and see.

Tennessee Titans Hire Former Houston Texans’ DC Mike Vrabel

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Like Matt Patricia, Mike Vrabel is also getting his very first head coaching gig at any level. Vrabel was a stud linebacker with the Patriots during their initial dynasty in the early 2000’s, as he was a major part of the team that won 3 super Bowls in a 4-year stretch from 2001-2004. He has since served as linebackers and defensive line coach at his alma mater Ohio State from 2011-2013 before joining Bill O’Brien on the Houston Texans’ staff in 2014 as linebackers’ coach. When Hard Knocks focused on the Texans in 2015, we got a chance to see Vrabel’s coaching style firsthand and man, is he tough. He’ll get in your face and yell and call your mother a bitch but you also get the sense that he really cares about his guys. In 2017, he was promoted to defensive coordinator and the Texans ranked 20th in yards allowed and last in points, however a large part of that was all the injuries to key players the team had to deal with. But Vrabel’s personality is the type of thing I think the Titans need. At times they seemed a little relaxed and I think a good kick in the pants could be what takes them from an inconsistent and mediocre team to one that contends for division titles every year. I’m not so sure the Titans will make the playoffs next year like they did this year, though, especially with the rise of the Jaguars and a healthy Texans team. But again, we don’t know what to expect with a true rookie head coach in Vrabel and how his players might respond to his coaching style.

Oakland Raiders Hire Monday Night Football Broadcaster Jon Gruden

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This is easily the highest-profile coaching hire of the offseason. Jon Gruden was a pretty well-decorated coach with the Raiders from 1998-2001, then with the Buccaneers from 2002-2008, including a Super Bowl XXXVII victory with Tampa over the same Raiders team that had fired him the year before. He also holds the distinction of being the winningest coach in Buccaneers’ history and was inducted into their Ring of Honor this past season. Since being fired from the Buccaneers in 2008, however, Gruden has been the color commentator for ESPN’s Monday Night Football, where his antics had become endearing to many fans. He now rejoins a Raiders team that really regressed last season but there are a lot of talented pieces in place. The AFC West appears to be wide open next season as both the Chiefs and Chargers, who finished ahead of Oakland, were wildly inconsistent while the Broncos struggled mightily. I think Gruden gets the Raiders back in the thick of things, though we may see some early-season rust.

Chicago Bears Hire Former Kansas City Chiefs’ OC Matt Nagy

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Matt Nagy was the first coach hired this offseason, as he was introduced as Bears’ head coach one week to the day that John Fox was fired. He may have the smoothest transition out of any of these coaches as he has a quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky that has a very similar skillset to his previous quarterback, Alex Smith, and an excellent runningback in Jordan Howard. Nagy is only 39 years old and had been playing football professionally as recently as 2008 with the Columbus Destroyers of the Arena Football League. Nagy has been a coach since 2010 as a coach’s assistant with the Eagles and was an offensive quality control coach there until 2012. He had been with the Chiefs since 2013, where he served as quarterbacks coach until 2015 when he was promoted to offensive coordinator, a position he had held up until his hiring with the Bears. Under Nagy, the Chiefs experienced a lot of success on offense through ball control and ball security, as they were #1 in turnover differential in 2016 and #2 in 2017. We’ll have to see if the transition is as seamless as I think it has the potential to be, considering the similarities I find between Trubisky and Smith, because if it is, then I think the Bears could be dark horses in 2018, perhaps becoming next year’s version of the Rams. Young head coach, young quarterback, complete overhaul in offensive philosophy. It worked in LA, can it work in Chicago?

That’s going to do it for my thoughts on the NFL head coaching hires. Let me know what you think of these hires in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Is Tony Romo a Good Broadcaster?

attends 2017 CBS Upfron at The Plaza Hotel on May 17, 2017 in New York City.

Sunday’s AFC Championship game between the Patriots and Jaguars was the last CBS football broadcast of the 2017-18 NFL season, since Fox had the NFC Championship and NBC has the Super Bowl. This also means that Tony Romo’s rookie year in the booth has come to a close. Romo has probably been the most polarizing broadcaster in recent memory. For about the first half of the season, everybody was in love with his style of color commentating but the second half of the season, people grew tired of the act. As an aspiring broadcaster myself, I know everything, so I’m the perfect person to tell you how to think about how Romo did in the booth this season.

We’ll start with the positives. Romo’s enthusiasm is the biggest positive for me with how he does a game. There are so many color commentators who just lack energy in the booth and at times they can get monotonous and it often takes me out of the game. You don’t get that with Romo. He’s very into every play and in turn it gets me a little more excited with how the play went. I was also a big fan of him predicting plays, though I might be alone in that regard. The main reason I was such a fan was because it helped me learn how to spot things in certain offensive or defensive looks. I always felt that I learned something watching a Romo broadcast. His insight is second-to-none in my opinion. I don’t get much from color commentators just stating what happened. I can see what happened. Romo is able to talk about the philosophy of why certain plays work against certain formations and they’re things I try and take into account when I watch a game or play Madden. He’s also got a pleasant voice to listen to. It kind of sounds like a young kid is calling the game which kind of adds a certain charm to the broadcasts as opposed to the scruffy old guy voice you’ll often get. And I think he’s reasonably funny. Not gut-wrenching by any means, but enough so that I’ll grin at his attempts at humor. A lot of times broadcasters will be super cringeworthy when they try and crack jokes, but I think Romo’s sense of humor is solid.

Now to the part I’m sure you’re all itching for: the negatives. As big a fan as I am of Romo’s style, he can be a little much at times. He doesn’t let the game breathe with silence. It’s not like radio where dead air is the worst thing. Someone doesn’t always have to be talking during a TV broadcast. But Romo seems like he’s so uncomfortable with silence that he will find SOMETHING to say no matter how unimportant it might seem. Sometimes, it seems like he’s so scared to let silence happen that he will talk himself in circles until the ball is snapped and Jim Nantz is forced to take over. What I mean by “talk himself in circles” is that he’ll often end his point the way he started it like he was writing an essay where he basically repeats his thesis statement. He’ll start with something like “the wheel route is effective against this kind of defense, yada yada yada, and that’s why the wheel route is so effective.” I’m heavily paraphrasing here, but that’s the general gist of it. Even when he does get some silence in, you can kind of feel how tense he is about it. Silence in a broadcast always seems to be more uncomfortable with Romo than any other broadcaster. He also does this weird thing during replays where he makes these incomprehensible noises. Like when they’re reviewing whether a receiver got both feet in bounds, Romo will be like “Does he get his feet in? Yeeeeeee…ooooooooo….gaaaaaaaaah I dunno’ Jim.” Again, I love the enthusiasm he brings to the table, but that gets real old, real fast. It’d be one thing if he did it once but it’s seemingly every time there’s a close play and they look at it on replay.

So in conclusion, I think Romo is a talented broadcaster, but he’s got a lot to learn. He’s definitely an improvement over Phil Simms as Jim Nantz’s partner, I don’t think anybody’s denying that. But I think he was rushed into CBS’s prime spot a little too early. He’s pretty raw and has a lot to learn and improve on. I don’t think he’d be catching nearly as much heat as he does if he were on a team with Ian Eagle or the painfully boring Spero Dede (who I think could use a bit of Romo’s energy). The problem for CBS being, who would you replace Simms with? Because their options are Adam Archuleta, Dan Fouts, Trent Green, Rich Gannon, Steve Beurlein, and James Lofton. I may be biased because he went to Indiana, but I think Trent Green would probably be the best option if not Romo. But I think that CBS made a mistake putting Romo in with Nantz in his first season. But as far as talent in the booth goes, Tony Romo is as talented as they come. He’s just gotta work on a few things and he’ll have to learn them fast because CBS has the Super Bowl next year and I’d put all my money on CBS giving him and Nantz the job.

That’s going to do it for today’s blog, congratulations to the Patriots and Eagles on reaching Super Bowl LII, which is a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX, a 24-21 win for the Patriots. I’m going to have more stuff for the big game as the next couple of weeks go on. Let me know what you think of Tony Romo as a broadcaster in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Conference Championship Picks

So it’s come down to this. The final 4 teams left with a shot at Super Bowl LII on the line. The New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles, and Minnesota Vikings are the only teams left standing after a grueling NFL season. It’s also possibly the most interesting group of quarterbacks remaining as well, as it’s down to Tom Brady, Blake Bortles, Nick Foles, and Case Keenum. One is the greatest of all time, one is basically a meme at this point in his career, and the other two were backup quarterbacks when the season started. So let’s see who I think will go to the Super Bowl. One quick thing to note if you’re a gambling man. I’m 2-6 in the postseason so far. I’ve gone 1-3 in each round, including being winless in all of my NFC picks (the only ones I’ve hit were Jags-Bills and Pats-Titans). So take what I say with a grain of salt.

Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6) vs New England Patriots (13-3)

The Jaguars showed up to play in the AFC Divisional Round against the Steelers while Pittsburgh was thinking about New England. In fact, there has been so much dysfunction in that organization that one has to wonder if Mike Tomlin’s job is safe or not. But that’s for another blog entirely. But the Jaguars have had an incredible turnaround after having gone 3-13 last season. Doug Marrone has done a terrific job in his first year at the helm in Jacksonville and the biggest part of that resurgence has been the defense. Despite the fact that they gave up 42 points last week, I still thought the Jaguars defense played well. On all four of Ben Roethlisberger’s touchdown throws, he had to squeeze the ball into the tightest of windows or drop a perfect deep ball right into his receiver’s lap. The one rushing touchdown was a weird lateral play to Le’Veon Bell that I think would’ve caught most defenses off guard anyway. Plus, Yannick Ngakoue’s strip sack of Roethlisberger resulting in a Telvin Smith scoop-and-score was the point of no return in my opinion, especially considering Pittsburgh had been gaining some momentum. Meanwhile the Patriots started off slowly against the Titans, trailing 7-0 after the first quarter and their offense looked pretty stagnant. Then Tom Brady remembered that it was the Titans and the offense got their act together and dropped 35 unanswered en route to a 35-14 win. The defense played great, particularly the pass rush, which hasn’t been a strong suit for New England. They registered 8 sacks, bullying Jack Conklin’s injury replacement seemingly the moment he stepped into the game. The Patriots open this game as double-digit favorites, however things aren’t going as smoothly as one might expect. Tom Brady is dealing with a bum right hand after a teammate (which we just found out was Rex Burkhead) ran into it and created a lot of pain for the 5-time champ. The fact that it was Burkhead that caused the injury tells me that perhaps it occurred on a botched handoff in practice rather than some defender not respecting the red jersey. Jacksonville’s defense is a scary one to face when you aren’t 100% but if anybody can do it, it’s Tom Brady. However it does level the playing field a bit, as before it was unthinkable to ask Blake Bortles to defeat Tom Brady, but now that Brady isn’t at his best, it seems to be a more realistic belief for the Jaguars to reach the franchise’s first ever Super Bowl. I’m anticipating a lot of dinks and dunks from New England, particularly to runningbacks such as Burkhead and James White, whom I think will be the X factors in this game. I’ve got New England winning it just simply because I don’t think that Jacksonville will be able to score enough points to top the Patriots, who will be headed to the Super Bowl for the third time in 4 years and 8th time overall under the Brady-Belichick regime.

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Projected Score: Patriots 23 Jaguars 17

Minnesota Vikings (13-3) vs Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)

The ending of the NFC Divisional Round between the Vikings and Saints was probably the craziest ending I’ve ever seen in a football game. While I was watching it and saw Case Keenum heave the ball toward the sideline, I immediately figured Stefon Diggs would go for a toe-tapper to stop the clock with about 3 seconds left. He turned upfield and I thought to myself “what the Hell are you doing?!” until I realized there was only green grass ahead of him after Saints rookie safety Marcus Williams whiffed on the hit. Diggs scored the walkoff touchdown as time expired and perhaps the greatest moment in Vikings history (so far) had been cemented. One thing to say before I get to this matchup: lay off of Marcus Williams. That could’ve been anybody. It looked to me like he was trying to balance a lot of things with that tackle attempt. First of all, no, he was not going for the knockout hit like an idiot. Anybody watching could see that. He also had to make sure he didn’t get there too early or else it would be pass interference, the ball would be placed at the spot of the foul, which was well within Vikings kicker Kai Forbath’s range, and the clock would’ve stopped and he’d still be the pariah. Plus, he wanted to make sure that he tackled Diggs in bounds so that the clock would tick down to zero since the Vikings had no timeouts left to stop it. However, all those things racing through his mind appeared to throw him off his game because it amounted to nothing as he missed the tackle and Diggs trotted into the endzone, ending New Orleans’ season. Now onto the matchup itself, the Vikings will look to host the Super Bowl with a victory over the Eagles after a pretty unlikely season. After Sam Bradford torched the Saints in Week 1, it looked like it would be him that would lead the Vikings charge. However he got injured in practice, forcing Case Keenum into the starting lineup. Keenum has pretty much entered journeyman status at this point in the league, getting opportunities in both Houston with the Texans and St. Louis/Los Angeles with the Rams before being forced out of both. He was seemingly on his last legs in Minnesota and likely would’ve been the third string quarterback there had Teddy Bridgewater not still been recovering from a gruesome ACL injury a year prior. But there he was in the starting lineup and he played great, throwing for 3547 yards, 22 TD’s and only 7 INT’s with a quarterback rating of 98.3. There was a brief moment where the Vikings tried to reinsert Bradford into the starting lineup, but Bradford clearly wasn’t ready and Keenum was able to save the game by beating the Bears. They face an Eagles team who is also on their backup quarterback in Nick Foles. Carson Wentz had been fantastic all year for the Eagles heading into their Week 14 matchup with the Los Angeles Rams. He was arguably the frontrunner for NFL MVP and had the Eagles at 10-2. Then he tore his ACL diving for the goalline and Nick Foles had to be inserted into the lineup. It had been a mixed bag for Foles as Eagles starter. He played well in the Eagles’ comeback victory over the Giants in his first start, was unimpressive in their Week 16 win over the Raiders, and downright sucked in Week 17 against the Cowboys before being sat for Nate Sudfeld. Eagles fans were a little tense about how Foles would play in the Divisional Round against the defending NFC champion Falcons and their fears were not consoled very well when he threw a duck on his first pass that got knocked down by the wind. Foles recovered nicely, though, and finished the game with a solid line of 23-30 for 246 yards with no TD’s and no turnovers. The Eagles were able to come away with a 15-10 victory over the Falcons after some poor playcalling by Atlanta doomed them on the final drive. Both the Eagles and Vikings feature very impressive defenses that helped carry the team through their occasional offensive struggles and I expect a low-scoring affair in this one. However I do believe that the Vikings will prevail in this and will take on the Patriots in Super Bowl LII in their home stadium.

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Projected Score: Vikings 20 Eagles 14

That’s going to do it for my Conference Championship picks. I’m predicting it will be Patriots-Vikings for the Lombardi Trophy. Let me know what you think of my picks in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.