As we prepare for the 2014 NFL season, the Sports Fan Playground blog & store have a variety of items & content devoted to the start of the season.
The blog has comprehensive NFL team previews for all 32 teams going into the upcoming season. The previews will discuss the offensive & defensive units, new coaches, big time players that have come & gone through the offseason, as well as predictions in terms of records.
NFL Team Previews & a comprehensive NFL team store is available at the Sports Fan Playground blog.
Along with the NFL previews, the Sports Fan Playground has deals at its NFL store on various items including jackets, jerseys, hats, t-shirts & much more from all teams around the entire league. The store has top selling jerseys from the 2014 NFL rookie class available from top players such as Johnny Manziel, Michael Sam, Jadeveon Clowney, Blake Bortles & many others.
To go along with the rest of the NFL content available on the blog, the store also has complete NFL TV schedules for all 32 teams, including times, locations & TV channels the games will be located on.
For some, however, the NFL might not be their favorite thing…………the Sports Fan Playground has Saturday college football covered with deals at its college football team stores which represent the Big 12, Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 & SEC & represent top programs such as Alabama Crimson Tide, Auburn Tigers, Michigan Wolverines, Ohio State Buckeyes, Texas Longhorns, USC Trojans, Stanford Cardinals, Michigan State Spartans, Notre Dame Fighting Irish & many other elite program stores, at low prices.
For more information, check out the rest of the Sports Fan Playground blog.
Here in the midwest, & in other parts of the country, people are getting ready for the new season to begin. No, not to play football, not to play basketball, not to play baseball. People are getting ready for the fall bowling season.
You may read this blog & say “what in the world is this guy smoking?” but let’s be honest, bowling is the #1 recreational sport & highest participated sport in the United States. In many cities, especially where it gets cold during the winter, bowling is a great way to stay active, social & competitive, while not being out freezing your buns off.
But, what are some other reasons that bowling can be the coolest game around? We will break down the great sport & talk about why you should possibly think about joining & maybe inspire your children to join in a local league.
Bowling Equipment Doesn’t Cost Tons of Money For Kids Early On.
Joining as a young person, many areas have sanctioned USBC bowling leagues for children where kids can bowl for scholarship money & the money is saved up as they get older. For the young kids & teenagers, the leagues are typically on Saturday mornings & afternoons & the kids are able to qualify for youth tournaments, get used to the team atmosphere & learn what its like to be in a competitive environment.
But, as with any sport, to be truly competitive, you have to have quality equipment. For the beginning bowler, your equipment can be around $130 to $150 dollars, which is cheaper than hockey, golf, & many of the major high school sports such as football, basketball & baseball, especially if you are paying for multiple children.
Brunswick is one of the most trusted & synonymous names associated with bowling anywhere in the world. This Brunswick T-Force ball is a 6-pound ball & is currently priced at $34.95. Many kids start off with 6-pound plastic balls to begin their bowling careers so that they get the confidence of keeping the ball on the lanes and getting high pin counts.
The great thing about bowling for young kids is that most of the equipment doesn’t have to be bought again for several years until they truly develop their skills better. The $100 to $110 is even a high number – many plastic balls (bowling balls that don’t hook) can be as cheap as $30-$40 & are good enough to just get the kids used to the sport & give them a great chance to discover if its a sport that they truly want to continue with in the future.
These Brunswick men’s bowling shoes are on sale for as low as $19.95, with the average price being around $25. Bowling shoes typically last about 3-4 years for the average bowler throwing 2-3 times a week.
Along with the bowling balls, the other main equipment that young bowlers normally have when they are in a league are bowling bags & bowling shoes. The shoes can be supplied by the lanes, but many times, people want to have their own for safety purposes.
The bowling bags can either come in the roller model or the single-ball carry model. For most kids, they will go with the single-ball carry model because they are a lot cheaper & the kids don’t have the skills early on to graduate to the next level of foller bags yet.
This is a single-ball bowling bag from BSI, which is available as low as $6.95, with the highest price being $24.95. This is a normal-size bowling bag for a child starting off for the first time on a league.
Children In Bowling Leagues Have The Ability To Win Scholarship Money.
In most of the leagues that are sanctioned by the USBC, the kids that compete in the various tournaments, as alluded to earlier, can compete for scholarship money while having the ability to compete against the best in their regional area, as well as the entire country for the top tournaments such as the Pepsi Championships.
In their own house leagues, the prize money at the end of the season, which comes partly from their dues that they pay each week, will go towards scholarship money for any school that the student chooses to go to. Along with that, it is a great way to be scouted by strong bowling schools to compete in NCAA competition, so they are able to get all of their competitive juices filled.
With many schools now offering bowling at the high school level, the kids are able to earn full rides to various universities & compete not only in the USBC Youth Program, but in high school programs that will allow the kids to move on to the major NCAA programs, which are becoming stronger around the country with the television coverage from ESPN & CBS Sports Network.
Bowling Allows For Competition Without Worrying About Concussions Or Other Lifelong Injuries.
As I say that, keep in mind that yes, there are injuries that can happen while bowling, especially in the back & knees. But most of the those types of injuries are about form & technique when you are throwing, & can get better with rest & time off, which typically takes place during the summer & spring months.
For parents, they can rest well knowing that the kids are getting the feel of being a part of a closely-knit team (bowling teams are normally between 4-6 members), having great competition, & not fearing that their children are going to be hurt, bruised or have criticially debilitating injuries that will affect their regular way of life in the future, as is what happens with football & other sports.
It is easy to practice for bowling, & going back to the equipment issue, at a certain point, if a child looks as though they are going to stick with the sport & want to be involved with it for years to come, the equipment upgrades won’t have to be done every single year. Bowling is a sport that can pay for itself & as with any game, its all about how much is put into it. Its a game where people won’t complain about how much practice time is put in or if their kids are working too much on a sport. They will get the physical exercise, while learning how to compete hard & take pride in perfecting their craft.
Sterling, who famously had a telephone conversation recorded with his mistress, V. Stiviano, regarding his views of her bringing black people to NBA games & not wanting her to be around them, is suing the NBA, his wife Shelly Sterling, NBA commissioner Adam Silver & the Clippers organization for basically trying to take the team away from him, as he claims that the league violated corporate law when they approved a sale of the team for former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer & that he is the sole owner of the team.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is dealing with a tough fight against Donald Sterling in terms of being able to get him out of ownership.
While all of the procedings are taking place in court, on the NBA court, the league could have a far bigger issue to deal with very soon. Reports came out that during the testimony in the trial with Sterling against his wife & the NBA, the appointed CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers, Dick Parsons, testified in court that Clippers head coach Doc Rivers would leave the team if Sterling were still the owner by the start of the 2014-15 NBA season.
Clearly, no one can blame Rivers for his views on the situation, as many players, executives & other employees from around the league have been incredibly offended & embarrassed by the actions & words of Sterling, not only with this situation, but words & actions in the past when Sterling was making his fortune in real estate.
If Sterling is able to keep the team somehow as the new season comes in, there is a good chance, I believe, that players, executives & other coaches around the league, especially with the Clippers, will not play in the league, thus causing a complete boycott. This is going to be the biggest situation that Adam Silver will probably have to face as the leader of the league. He has to do everything in his power to get this man out of the game, especially in a league that is predominantly African-American.
The issue that could come is that Sterling has promised to leak out information on other owners around the league & possibly throw some of the them under the bus, which if their actions are anything close to Sterling’s, then the league – as well as all major sports leagues – will need to truly sit back & reevaluate the conduct of its owners just as hard, if not harder than the actual players.
The NBA players are in an interesting position. The game is very much about star power, as opposed to the other sports where it is more of a team mentality. If LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony & others decide that they won’t play games if a certain owner is running a team, the league would have no choice but to expedite all of their processes & power to get this matter resolved. The team has always been punished in a way, as very few free agents even entertained the idea of playing for the Clippers, a tone that was far different than earlier in the season when the Clippers were the destination team to play for as many people see the team on a rise to being a consistent NBA Championship contender in the next few years.
The power of the players & employees is already showing in Rivers, who has a first-year coach with the Clippers, took the team to the second round of the NBA playoffs & worked to help make the Clippers the #1 team in the city of Los Angeles, a title that had been held by the Lakers for many years. Rivers has a tremendous amount of respect in the league. A move by Rivers to leave the Clippers organization would send huge shockwaves throughout the league & could threaten to cripple the league if the situation wasn’t resolved quickly.
When Silver made his speech that Sterling would be banned from the league & fined for his actions, it received huge praise from players & fans alike. It showed that Silver was fair & firm & wasn’t going to be intimidated by the gravity of the moment & it helped to earn the respect & trust of the players. That trust will be tested in a major way the rest of the summer & for as long as this lawsuit continues.
A big question would be what happens for Clippers players? The league has megastars on the squad already in Blake Griffin, Chris Paul & a budding star in Deandre Jordan. Sponsors showed early on in the scandal that they had no problem with pulling down their advertising dollars away from the organization.
I’m guessing that the players understand that this really isn’t all on Silver, its on Sterling because of the fact that he just doesn’t want to step down as owner of the team on sheer principle alone. He has been filing lawsuits for years, ever since he became the owner of the Clippers when the team used to be in San Diego because he moved the team in the early 80s. Silver & the NBA can only move as fast as the legal process would go, but where the NBA can take some solace is that the players could only be out for so long before the game paychecks would start to truly hurt & the division of the players’ loyalties would start to take place, similar to what happens when the leagues end up in work stoppages.
No matter what happens here, Sterling has to go, no questions asked. Hopefully, he will understand that by hanging on with these lawsuits, he is hurting the very league that he claims to care so much about & the future of the team that he supposedly loves so dearly.
NFL training camps are opening all around the league, & the Sports Fan Playground has jerseys from the 2014 NFL Draft class available for sale in the blog’s official store. The jerseys that are available are from the all of the top players in the first round as well as other top names that expect to make an impact in the league in the coming season. Here are some of the top jerseys available for sale at the NFL store at the Sports Fan Playground -
Johnny Manziel – Cleveland Browns
Johnny Manziel Cleveland Browns jerseys available in various sizes at the Sports Fan Playground store.
Michael Sam – St. Louis Rams
Michael Sam St. Louis Rams jersey available at low prices at the Sports Fan Playground store.
Jadeveon Clowney – Houston Texans
Jadeveon Clowney was the #1 pick in the NFL Draft this past year, & the new Houston Texans player has his jersey available at low prices at the Sports Fan Playground store.
Along with those jerseys, the Sports Fan Playground has the jerseys available of Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Eric Ebron & many others, at low prices.
For wrestling fans, old school & new school, the WWE hit a strong home run with their WWE Network, launched February 24, even with some of the bugs that were in the program ( & still are depending on the medium that you are watching the network on). Even though the network hasn’t launched around the world yet, the fact is that the network would help from having some kind of presence on cable & satellite providers.
The WWE Network is one of the better bargains in entertainment, having thousands of hours of classic wrestling content for $9.99 per month.
Yes, the WWE Network is amazing as an app, & it should stay available in app form, but many people around the country don’t have the access or capability to watch the network, especially if you live in a rural area. For example. I happened to be in Nevada in April for business & being in the mountain areas there, there was no way I could pull in the WWE Network because of the big signal there & that high-speed internet wasn’t completely available in that area.
With so many people in the United States who still live in very suburban & rural areas, the WWE is missing out on a large chunk of the population who would probably purchase the Network & with all of their pay-per-view events in the United States on the Network, the company is losing a strong chunk of customers.
According to Worldbank.org, over 54 million people live in rural areas of the United States. If you figure that about 3-4 million of those people might be wrestling fans & another 1-2 million would be willing to actually purchase the WWE Network, that would have taken care of the WWE’s goal of hitting 1 million subscribers in year one & wouldn’t have to go through the massive cost-cutting measures that the company is going through right now, as WWE CEO & Chairman Vince McMahon announced that the company was trying to trim $20 million off of their regular budget.
At the $9.99 a month price for the channel, fans would easily pay for it & the company would become much stronger overall & reach those people in the rural areas that the network isn’t currently reaching.
If the channel were to launch on cable or satellite, it would work as an alternative for the people who don’t have the other systems, or the company could make the WWE Network app strictly their on-demand channel & let the live stream be exclusively on the cable & satellite channel & make the content that shows on the channel immediately available on the app when the shows are completed.
By having the WWE Network live stream running as a regular network on Xfinity, DirecTV & others, yes WWE might have to share some of the revenue streams, but due to so many customers not being able to cut the cord yet with their satellite & cable services, the company will still bring in a strong revenue & be able to turn a profit far faster than just being on an app that many people who are past the age of 55 may not understand.
Right now, the WWE Network is one of the best entertainment apps in the United States, hands down. The collection of shows & events that are available is unprecedented & looks to only get better with shows coming such as the Monday Night War, which looks as though it will be a slam dunk for the company, similar to how WWE Legends House was earlier this year.
It just seems to be, as a die hard wrestling fan, that the WWE Network is poised to succeed, & once more people have access to the service, it will take off the way the fans & the company believe that it will & it should have from the very beginning.
With the college football season – especially the SEC season – starting in just over 4 weeks, the Sports Fan Playground has deals on various NCAA apparel & accessories, including the entire Alabama Crimson Tide store, which is marked down up to 80% off through the start of the upcoming season.
Items that are currently marked down includes t-shirts, shorts, replica jerseys of great Alabama players such as A.J. McCarron, Mark Ingram, Joe Namath, Eddie Lacy, C.J. Mosley & others.
Along with the jerseys, the store has deals on tailgating items including canopies, grill covers, items for the bedroom, bathroom & kitchen; items for food & many Alabama products for dogs, including dog jerseys.
The Crimson Tide will be looking to avenge their loss to the Auburn Tigers & the Oklahoma Sooners at the end of last season with a strong recruiting class, which is tops in all of college football, under coach Nick Saban, who has led the Tide to 3 national championships in his time in Tuscaloosa.
Here are some of the items that are currently marked down right now at the Sports Fan Playground store -
Alabama Crimson Tide Cornhole Game
Alabama Crimson Tide cornhole toss game on sale for $80.34 at the Sports Fan Playground store.
Alabama Crimson Tide Metal License Plate Tag
This Alabama Crimson Tide License Plate Tag is available for $4.89 at the Sports Fan Playground store.
Alabama Crimson Tide A.J. McCarron Autographed Replica Jersey
Autographed A.J. McCarron Alabama Crimson Tide Nike Jersey – available for $249.99 at the Sports Fan Playground.
Alabama Crimson Tide 2014 Schedule T-Shirt
Alabama Crimson Tide t-shirt with the 2014 schedule on the shirt is available for $19.95 at the Sports Fan Playground.
The last time we got together (3 days ago), we talked about basically the Cleveland Cavs & Miami Heat making moves to keep their teams relevant after LeBron made his decision to go back to the Cavs. Here are some other teams in the league who have been winners & losers over the last few days.
NBA Free Agency Winners
The Pacers got rid of Lance Stephenson after he wanted some absolutely absurd contract demands to stay in Indiana & ended up getting a strong deal with the revamped Charlotte Hornets.
Lance Stephenson, formerly of the Indiana Pacers, is betting big on himself by signing with the Charlotte Hornets for far less money than the Pacers were offering, hoping to get in position to get a bigger deal in the future.
While Stephenson was a great defender & a guy who could get under many players skin (see the Eastern Conference Finals from this year with the ear blowing), his act was wearing thin big time. It was time for the organization to move on & it was clear that Pacers President Larry Bird wasn’t going to put up with Stephenson’s shenanigans much longer.
Shortly after it was announced that Stephenson was moving on, the team signed free agent guard Rodney Stuckey, formerly of the Detroit Pistons, to a one-year deal. This is a great deal for the Pacers because Stuckey has much of the same game that Stephenson does & it gives the Pacers another scorer who can easily put up 17-19 points per game, when motivated.
With it looking like George Hill will be the point guard for the foreseeable future, this signing will allow Stuckey to play the shooting guard position (the position he is naturally made for) & give Paul George some extra help with the scoring load, which was the main area that hurt the Pacers throughout the playoff run last year, especially when they got to the conference finals against the Heat.
The Wizards have become an organization that has become a destination spot for players. The team signed former Celtics & Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce to get some veteran leadership in the team to go along with John Wall & Bradley Beal. The team re-signed Martin Gortat, their big center who can get rebounds & has proven to be a strong scorer as the season went on.
Even though the team lost Trevor Ariza, they hired quite possibly the most important person in the organization going forward in the next few years………..David Akins. Who is David Akins you ask? He is the high school coach of Oklahoma City Thunder superstar forward Kevin Durant, who is set to become a free agent in 2016. The Wizards are showing that they want to be a true player in trying to bring Durant to the nation’s capital, assuming that the Thunder won’t put together a deal this year or next that will keep Durant in OKC for the duration of his career.
With the issues of the last two seasons with Russell Westbrook on the court, where Westbrook was taking some insanely crazy shots & not always keeping Durant in the flow of the offense, Durant may see that being in the nation’s capital could mean that his superstar status can grow higher & with Wall & Beal, a new “big 3″ could develop soon.
NBA Free Agency Losers
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers had the big opportunity to capitalize on the Los Angeles Clippers misfortune by really putting themselves on the marquee, & didn’t make a single big move. Sorry if I don’t count Jeremy Lin & Carlos Boozer has big time acquisitions, they didn’t get Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James & in a year where Kobe Bryant could be playing his last season in the NBA, the organization could go all out to make the Lakers a contender immediately.
The Rockets traded Lin to the Los Angeles Lakers in thoughts of signing Chris Bosh to a max contract if LeBron didn’t sign with the Heat. Bosh went back to the Heat instead & Houston lost out on re-signing Chandler Parsons as well. The team did get Trevor Ariza from the Wizards, who could be a great wing man & help out Harden & Howard not have all of the attention on them, but the team had far bigger aspirations for this offseason & promises to Dwight Howard in making the team a championship contender & in many ways, the completely failed.
The Rockets will need to make sure that the team is in position to make a move midseason to bring in a key player for a playoff run or there will be talk that the Rockets big spending spree will have been all for nothing.
When players & teams knew where James was going to go, teams could really begin to allocate where their money was going to go & how much money they were going to truly use in the salary cap structure for 2014-15.
Of course, not every team is involved in the free agency boom as much as others. There are many big winners, but also a few losers in the entire process. Today, we will break down the winners & losers so far in the free agency period.
NBA Free Agency Winners
This is a no-brainer, here. The Cavs were going to do anything & everything in their power to make sure that the team had enough space to sign LeBron James, the man who has made the team the leading favorite according to Vegas, to win the NBA Championship.
The organization has grown in many ways since LeBron left for Miami in 2010. The team has drafted well in bringing in Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson & Anthony Wiggins, the incoming rookie who was the #1 overall pick by Cleveland from the Kansas Jayhawks program.
Having LeBron come in will be an instant boost to the franchise, its fans & the city as a whole, & James will have an instant impact on the work ethic of the players & will do everything in his power to bring a championship to the area where he grew up. Dan Gilbert & the organization should be prouder more than any organization can even imagine to be.
Many of you may say that the Heat are absolute losers because they lost LeBron James, but the team ended up winning in the long run. The team resigned Chris Bosh, a versatile player who will most likely get more of a chance to shine now that he won’t be the 3rd man in the puzzle behind James & Dwyane Wade. Yes, Bosh did receive $118 million, but in Miami, if the team is going to be competitive & not end up the way the Cavs did in 2010, they have to keep on as business as usual.
Veteran forward Chris Bosh surprised many people by signing a $118 million dollar contract with the Miami Heat late last week.
The team will be looking to keep Wade around, at a much lower cost, but because Wade is the face of the franchise & is probably the man who is most connected to the city of Miami & the Heat organization due to bringing a championship to South Beach long before the big 3 game together, he will most likely retire as a member of the Heat.
Before the James decision, the team signed some nice pieces in Josh McRoberts (formerly of the Charlotte Hornets) & Danny Granger, who was a star player less than 2 seasons ago with the Indiana Pacers. Granger will give the Heat some versatility on the floor, can get to the basket & shoot the 3-point shot very consistently.
McRoberts is a guy who can bang down low in the post & has truly developed his game into a good double-double type of player. His style of play won’t be as flashy as what Heat fans have become used to over the last few years, but the one thing fans will be able to count on will be consistent, hard working play every single night.
Plus, having McRoberts & resigning Udonis Haslem & Chris “Birdman” Andersen gives the Heat some size & toughness, two areas that I have thought the team has missed over the last few seasons during the “Big 3″ era.
Ok, so this is a surprise team on the list for many people, but the Pistons have all of a sudden had a very productive offseason. The team signed Caron Butler & D.J. Augustin, two veterans that can help out Brandon Jennings & Josh Smith.
Butler is especially a big key in the deal because of the fact that the team has been openly trying to shop Smith around to teams, but many teams just aren’t buying what Smith is selling at this point in his career. It has seemed as though Smith has underachieved greatly, & the Pistons & new Head Coach/General Manager Stan Van Gundy understand the need for great veterans in the lineup & he is stocking up with those type of players that teams need to win championships & to develop a culture.
As noted earlier, Bosh re-signed with the Miami Heat for $118 million & he received that money simply for being loyal.
Bosh had an offer on the table from the Houston Rockers for 4 years & $96 million dollars, the max that a player can get for signing with another team. It was thought that Bosh would take the deal if LeBron didn’t resign with the Miami Heat. As we know, James went to Cleveland, but the Miami Heat showed their faith in Bosh by making sure that he was one of their cornerstones for years to come.
With Bosh being 30 years old, he got his last mega money deal in the NBA, he has two NBA Championship rings, his family is set & rooted into Florida now, no state tax on his income, so Chris Bosh is absolutely a big winner so far.
Gasol was able to get out of the sinking ship that is the Los Angeles Lakers franchise right now by signing with the Chicago Bulls last week.
Gasol, who is one of the most versatile power forwards in the league, goes to another major market, which he loves being in areas with the great culture & a variety of entertainment options all around the area, & will have the chance to play off of point guard Derrick Rose, if Rose can stay fully healthy for the upcoming season.
I truly believe that Gasol was truly getting tired of Kobe Bryant & his style of motivating players, particularly being hard on Gasol for the last few seasons as the team was starting to get out of whack. The Los Angeles Lakers barely have a roster, no head coach right now & no one knows if Kobe Bryant will be back to his normal self early on in the season.
The Washington Redskins have been in the news this NFL offseason for many reasons outside of football – well, actually, one main one. Their name. I won’t go too deep into that, but the politicans as well as various organizations have been putting pressure on Washington owner Dan Snyder to change the name. So far not much has happened on that front.
Robert Griffin III will be a big piece of the offensive output for Washington football team this season, if fully healthy from his injury.
From the actual football side, the team will be hoping that Robert Griffin III, the franchise quarterback going into this third season from Baylor, will be fully recovered from his ACL surgery & be ready to play like the RGIII that was the NFL offensive rookie of the year in 2012 & led Washington to the NFC East Championship. Last season, Griffin struggled with having any kind of real mobility anywhere on the field & it affected his level of play throughout the entire season once teams realized that he had to be a traditional quarterback.
The Redskins went 3-13 & Griffin was benched towards the end of the season & Kirk Cousins from Michigan State was the starter & performed very well, which is why I am surprised the team didn’t trade Cousins this offseason. Or maybe new head coach Jay Gruden knew that he needed to stick around in case Griffin isn’t back to his regular form.
Griffin will have help in the form of a great running game led by Alfred Morris, who had a great rookie season in 2012 & followed it up with 1275 yards last season, among the best in the NFL. Griffin III & Morris in the backfield with the threat of the run from Griffin will be a great combination to make defenses have to bite one way or another if the formations are predominantly from the spread position.
Also on the offense, the team got a big time wide receiver to go deep in DeSean Jackson, who is coming over from the Philadelphia Eagles. Jackson has the ability to take the top of the defense & make huge plays every single game. Jackson, along with Santana Moss, Pierre Garcon & Leonard Hankerson bring together a strong group of receivers that will allow RGIII to not have to make every play on the field, which will make Washington that much more dangerous.
On the defensive side of the ball, Washington upgraded their secondary by signing Ryan Clark from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Clark is a great ball-hawking safety with veteran leadership & championship experience. His presence will be great for players such as DeAngelo Hall, who is a veteran cornerback, but hasn’t won much in the league.
Strong safety Brandon Meriweather is a great player, but he has a bad reputation for being a head-hunter & unfortunately, he has paid for his actions with concussions in the past, as well as fines & small suspensions from the NFL. Meriweather has to be able to put fear in receivers, but also keep control of his actions when on the field since he is going to be the target of officials.
In the linebacking core, Washington looks strong with having Brian Orakpo & Ryan Kerrigan manning the outside positions. The team should be much stronger on the defensive side, possibly being higher than 15th overall in the league.
Washington, however, will be a team that may go through some issues getting their team straight after all of the discomfort from last year & the Mike Shanahan regime & getting Jackson used to working with Robert Griffin III. The Redskins look like a 9-7 team & another team that will be in the playoff hunt this year, but in the NFC East, there are no surprises & if the team is as together as they seem to be & if they can get used to Gruden’s philosophy, Washington can mess around & win the division.
The New York Giants are a team that is one of the true enigmas of the NFL. Last season, the team’s offense was absolutely terrible, Eli Manning couldn’t stop throwing interceptions to save his life, yet amazingly, he threw for 3800 yards. The leading rusher on the team, Andre Brown, didn’t have 500 yards.
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a two-time SuperBowl Champion, but with his play over the last couple of seasons, you wouldn’t know it. Manning has to be stronger this year in order for the Giants offense to click to help their strong defensive unit.
This team had no business being 7-9. It was clearly a 5-11 or 4-12 team. The fact that they were able to scrape together a 7-9 record is a testament to the coaching of Tom Coughlin & the defense that kept the team in so many games all season (ranked 10th against the pass, 14th against the run).
However, the heart of that pass rush, defensive end Justin Tuck, is now with the Oakland Raiders. The leader of that defensive unit will have to be Jason Pierre-Paul, who has emerged as one of the better pass rushers in the NFL over the last few seasons, learning from Tuck & the retired Michael Strahan when JPP was very young in the league. The Giants also add in Robert Ayers, defensive end originally with the Denver Broncos, who can get some pass rush going.
Around the rest of the defense, the Giants are still extremely strong, especially in the secondary with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie & Antrel Rolle patrolling the area in the back. The Giants defense will be among the top 10 in the NFL again, however, any defense is only as good as an offense that will give them support & allow them to make plays late in games.
Speaking of that offense, its apparent that the Giants definitely needed an upgrade in the passing game to give Manning some support outside of just Victor Cruz. The team will depend on two LSU players this year, Reuben Randle & the rookie Odell Beckham Jr., who was a big time breakout star during the 2013 season. As per usual, the Giants will have a variety of running backs to help Manning some, but the New York Giants are never going to be an explosive offense, its not in their DNA.
The Giants are always a team that will score 21 to 25 points every game & will be in a fight more times than not with teams, especially in the NFC East with the Cowboys, Redskins & Eagles. I can’t see the team being more than 8-8 or 7-9 & this may be the season that Coughlin might be out of New York. The team will show fire & desire, but you can only do so much when you don’t have the playmakers across the field.
To learn more about the Sports Fan Playground, follow our website on Facebook & Twitter.