Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What Does Manning Have Left?

By Travis Stahl

If we learned anything from the great George Michael it's that we've got to have faith.  As sports fans we believe deep down in our souls that our team is going to come through when it's needed most.  We have faith that this is going to happen with unwavering certainty.  How many Denver Broncos fans have faith right now that Peyton Manning is going to return the team to the Super Bowl.  Probably not as many as three weeks ago.  If you've watched the Broncos play recently you can tell something is not right with Manning and it could end up costing the team in the playoffs.

In the last three games against the Rams, Bills and Chargers Manning has averaged just under 200 yards passing and only one touchdown per game.  Granted, there are some other factors at play here.  All three of these defenses are pretty good and Denver has been without tight-end Julius Thomas until last Sunday.  Plus, at this point nobody can confirm or deny whether or not Wes Welker is even still alive.  Has he caught a pass all year?  There has also been an added emphasis by the Broncos to run the ball more late in the season.  That has paid off as Denver leads the league in rushing over the three game span in which Manning has not played well.  Last week in San Diego Manning was also dealing with the flu.

That is a lot of factors to consider before jumping to the conclusion that Manning is starting to lose it.  But this is a quarterback who never had the strongest arm to begin with and is now 38 years old.  We probably shouldn't be too surprised that Manning is wearing down as the long NFL season progresses.  That could be the biggest factor in why Denver has turned to the run now, to try to preserve Peyton for as long as they can.  If the Broncos win this week against the Bengals they will secure a first-round bye in the playoff which could potentially give Manning two vital weeks to rest and recharge his arm.  But even a healthy Peyton Manning at this point in life isn't what it used to be.

Manning's ball flutters and hangs much more now than it did when he was younger and again, that is to be expected.  The problem is can throws like that find their targets enough against teams like Seattle and New England who have the most talented sets of defensive backs in the league?  If Denver keeps running the ball the way they are now it will certainly help because the Broncos can then run play-action passes off ball fakes from Manning.  Nobody in the league runs play-action better than Peyton and that could create some openings that wouldn't normally be there.  That's probably all the Broncos can hope for at this point.

Manning is one of those rare players that actually loves to practice.  But at some point even he is going to realize this might be his last hurrah.  We hate to see great players like this in the thralls of decline.  It is painful and sad because we want them to maintain their status how we best remember them.  Despite his diminished skills we still believe Manning will find a way to win, that's just what he does.  The faith we have in Manning delivering another Super Bowl ring to Denver though is starting to slowly slip away.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Worst 5 Teams in Sports

By Travis Stahl

You know what we haven't done for a while?  Make fun of bad teams.  There is nothing more humiliating than a team without direction.  At least with a team like the Philadelphia 76ers you can look at the roster and point to some young talent and see a plan for the future.  There are a lot of franchises out there right now that are bleak.  No talent, no coaching, no general manager and no prospects for the future.  Let's kick some bad teams while they're down with our five worst franchises at the moment.

1. New York Knicks - The Knicks are off to their worst start in franchise history and right now sit at 5-21 and find themselves 14.5 games out of first place and we haven't reached Christmas yet.  Everyone on the team hates Carmello Anthony because he refuses to allow the triangle offense to function.  Instead, Melo does what he always has and always will, he chucks up shots.  I'm betting Phil Jackson is glad he came back for this.
2. New York Jets - Like the Knicks, this team has a serious lack of young talent and no direction.  Point to one guy on the Jets roster you can point to and say "he's our cornerstone."  You can't.  This is what a team looks like that is getting ready to clean house.  It's easy to turn a team around quickly in the NFL but this mess is going to take at least three years to fix.
3. Detroit Pistons - Joe Dumars is out and Mario Van Gundy is in.  His name isn't really Mario but he looks just like the Nintendo character so I will stick by my statement.  Guess what team has a record equally as bad as the Knicks?  Yep, Detroit.  The Pistons are still trying to recover from the bad roster moves of Dumars, namely the Josh Smith signing.
4. The Los Angeles Lakers - Yes the Lakers still have Kobe Bryant doing his best Butch Cassidy impersonation as he goes out of the NBA with all guns firing.  LA's second best player is a tool named Nick Young.  Are the Lakers comfortable building around Young?  I wouldn't be.  There is a slight possibility that free agents find the Lakers more appealing once Kobe leaves.  Until that happens this team has nothing.
5. Washington Redskins - Yes, there are a couple of good young defensive players and the team has running back Alfred Morris.  Who is the quarterback fo the future?  Is this owner going to spend money wisely on free agents moving forward?  Will a head coach be allowed to bring in players that fit his system and then coach that system for more than three years?  If you answered "no" to all those questions the way I did you understand the constant mess that is the Redskins under owner Dan Snyder.

Our list this time didn't include any baseball or hockey teams.  In both MLB and the NHL the talent is pretty evenly distributed.  No teams are horribly down in the dumps which is odd.  Maybe once the hockey season gets past January there will be a team that stands out as significantly bad.  But in baseball even the teams at the bottom of the divisions had around 75 wins.  As usual, we will keep you updated and let you know which fan bases have the most to worry about.  Right now it looks like the Chicago Bears are on deck.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Things I Think

By Travis Stahl

When guys come down with the flu we think we are dying for sure.  We have to lie around on the couch covered in blankets and watching TV.  That's the only documented cure for the flu medically speaking; you have to watch TV, take in a steady stream of Niquil and not move for 48 hours.  If you were lucky enough to grab hold of your flu bug this weekend you got a good couple of days of sports to soak in.  The NFL was amazing, the Heisman Trophy was presented and there were even some big moments in the NBA.  Here are some random thoughts from the weekend in sports.

1. I love Marcus Mariota the Heisman winning quarterback from Oregon.  He's a great player.  Let's remember what a fabulous player he has been in college and not focus on his career in the NFL because I don't think Mariota will do well in the NFL.
2. I think LeBron James is on the down side of his career.  I know he scored 41 points the other day.  But this is LeBron's 12th season in the NBA and he has played the equivalent of two extra seasons in playoff games.  Remember, when Michael Jordan was at this stage in his career he was entering his second-to-last season in Chicago and had not played any where close to the number of playoff games LeBron has.
3. Speaking of Jordan, Kobe Bryant passed MJ on the NBA all-time scoring list.  Kobe has lived his whole life to be exactly like Michael Jordan.  The only difference is people don't like Kobe.
4. Hold your horses Seattle fans.  I know the Seahawks are good and the defense might be back on track.  But three of their recent wins have come against the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers twice.  Those aren't exactly great teams right now so it's hard to judge exactly how good Seattle is.
5. Woe is Kentucky right?  The mighty Wildcats lost Alex Polythress for the season to a knee injury during practice.  Then Kentucky went out and man handled North Carolina.  One talking head the other day went so far as to say the five Kentucky bench players would be voted No. 2 in the nation right now if they were their own separate team.
6. Remember how outraged everyone was at the end of last year when Golden State fired Mark Jackson?  We were outraged, they could never get a better coach than Jackson.  Enter Steve Kerr who never coached a game in his life.  Oh, by the way, the Warriors won their 16th-straight game over the weekend.
7. Floyd Mayweather Jr. agreed to fight Manny Pacquiao possibly on May 2.  It's sure to be a good fight.  But, this fight should have happened two years ago when both boxers were still at the top of the sport.
8. If you aren't impressed with the New England Patriots right now you don't understand the game of football.  This is the most complete team the Patriots have had in years.  Right now with Peyton Manning's health in question there isn't another team in the AFC that can go in to New England and stand a chance.
9. Seattle, Arizona, Dallas, Philadelphia, Green Bay and Detroit.  One of these teams isn't making the playoffs.
10. In case you were wondering, Trent and I are owning our fantasy basketball right now.  Trent has a commanding lead in the West and I am in front in the East.  The powers collide this week in what is hopefully a finals preview.

If you do come down with the flu any time soon keep your head up.  Bowl season is starting and it is looking like there are going to be plenty of significant NFL games on the schedule down the stretch.  Milk it for all it's worth.  That's your right as a guy.  Sure, it's miserable having a debilitating cold.  But enjoy it, you've earned it and now you get to rest up.

Friday, December 12, 2014

College Basketball is in Trouble

By Travis Stahl
Something very weird is happening right now in college basketball.  I realize it is only December and according to state law we aren't required to care about college basketball until at least the end of February.  But I'm not sure what to make of this recent trend so I thought I would just throw it out there and see what sticks.  By and large, there are not really any great teams in college basketball right now outside of Kentucky.  And there aren't even very many really good teams in the sport right.  Instead, college basketball fans are left with a handful of above average teams and a whole country full of teams that can lose on any given night.

Here is how down college basketball is right now.  The Michigan Wolverines are on of the top five teams in the Big Ten.  So, in what we consider to be one of the best basketball conferences in America, Michigan is better than the majority of the teams in that league.  First, on December 6 the mighty Wolverines, ranked No. 17 in the country at the time, were defeated by the New Jersey Institute of Technology.  I'm sure the Highlanders are a scrappy bunch of lads.  They should not beat Michigan.  The Wolverines followed up that loss by falling to Eastern Michigan.  That also should never happen.  But it did and those kinds of losses are mounting up especially in the Big Ten.

A couple of weeks ago Indiana lost at home to Eastern Washington.  Nebraska lost to a team named Incarnate Word.  The No. 15 ranked Miami Hurricanes lost to Green Bay.  Providence lost to Brown.  Ole Miss lost to Charleston Southern.  The list goes on and on.  Division I basketball teams are not supposed to be losing games during the cream puff part of the schedule in late November and early December.  This is supposed to be the time of year when you bring in some dog to run in to the ground on your home court and get the fans and players in a frenzy.  If Michigan, Miami and the others are losing these games what chance do we really think they will have in the NCAA tournament in March?

Granted, we are a long way from March and a lot can happen in that time.  Teams can get healthy, fix some mental errors and come together as a cohesive unit.  But we've been talking for a long time now that the gap between the haves and have nots in the college basketball world has been shrinking.  None of us realized that gap in talent had dwindled this much.  I'm all for rooting for the underdog.  I love seeing teams like Gonzaga and Wichita State ranked highly and making runs in the tournament.  But we would like to think that even NJIT wouldn't stand a chance on the court with a team like Butler.  It's now looking like those teams have the ability to do more than just compete, they can win.

Having teams like Butler and Virginia Commonwealth in the NCAA tournament winning games is good for the sport.  Having teams like Incarnate Word and Charleston Southern beating good teams from power conferences is not a good thing.  It signifies what we have thought all along, the talent in college basketball is not very good.  Yes, there are pockets of talented teams here and there.  But for the most part the great players don't exist any more.  Right now, who would be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft?  We don't know!  There isn't a college basketball player that stands out as significantly better than everyone else.  Parity is now the rule in college basketball across the board.  The race is officially on to see who will lose to Kentucky in the title game.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Johnny on the Spot

By Travis Stahl

Here we sit 13 games in to the NFL season.  At this point, as Denny Green used to say, teams are who we thought they are.  Except that isn't true this season.  We don't know who a lot of teams are.  Heck, we don't even know who is going to be in the playoffs outside of Green Bay, Denver and New England.  Maybe Seattle?  Maybe.  Other than that there are still a lot of playoff spots up in the air.  That is why the reeling Cleveland Browns decided now is the time to make the move to Johnny Manziel.

Despite the free fall of the last two weeks with Bryan Hoyer at quarterback Cleveland still has a chance to make the playoffs.  It's not a good chance, but it's a chance.  If the Browns had stuck with Hoyer his play wasn't exactly shining like a beacon of hope.  There was no way the team could feel confident that Hoyer was going to not only get the team to the postseason but then do something significant once there.  With Manziel there is still the unknown.  Maybe he gets the team to the playoffs and maybe he doesn't.  But you won't know if you don't try and that is what Cleveland is doing, they are rolling the dice and hoping for the best.

The importance of putting Manziel in this weekend against the Bengals is more than about trying to make the playoffs this season.  It's also about seeing what Manziel can do in these last three weeks.  Cleveland needs to find out right now if this kid can play in the NFL.  The Browns need to see a spark in Manziel that he can put this team on his shoulders and carry them to victory.  That's what you expect from first round quarterbacks.  This team has enough good players on the offensive side of the ball to help out any quarterback.  Hoyer couldn't take advantage of that so Cleveland needs to know if Manziel can or not.  Plus, Hoyer is a free agent after this season.  If Manziel looks good in these last three weeks then the Browns go in to next year with him as their guy.  If he stinks up the joint Cleveland can extend Hoyer for two years.

Since the Browns have come back in to the league they have constantly been looking for "The Guy" at quarterback.  It wasn't Tim Couch and it wasn't Derek Anderson.  It doesn't appear to be Hoyer either.  Will it be Manziel?  The only way to find out is to put the ball in his hands.  For whatever reason some players are just blessed with a large amount of dumb luck to compensate for a lack of skills.  When John Forcade filled in for Bobby Hebert in New Orleans in 1987 and 1988 the guy fell over backwards into countless wins.  Maybe that is Manziel, a guy with limited ability who stumbles into victory.

You can't fault Cleveland for making the move now.  The coaches had pulled Hoyer in favor of Manziel after the Buffalo loss but gave Hoyer another chance last week against Indianapolis.  Hoyer managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  It's time to give Manziel a chance and see what happens.  Heck, this could be the biggest move for Cleveland since returning to the league.  Of course, it could also lead to the team looking for another new quarterback for next season.  It's all on Manziel now, let's see how he handles the spotlight and this football team.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Be Adaptive is Changing Lives

By Travis Stahl

Hunting season is big in this neck of the woods.  People hunt turkey, squirrel and of course deer.  I don't understand the allure to sitting in the cold, dark woods but there are people who love it.  As much as some people love to hunt and shoot they may not have the physical ability to do so anymore.  One local company, Be Adaptive Equipment, and it's owner Brian Kyler are doing all they can to support hunting season.    Kyler and his company manufacture devices to assist people with disabilities so they can enjoy hunting and shooting.

I was sitting around the other night and my wife was on Facebook.  She finds this video here and asks me if I had seen it before.  I was shocked when I started watching and saw my friends Trent and Eric on here.  I knew that Eric was an avid shooter and that Trent would go over from time to time.  And, I guess I knew that both Eric and Trent had some special equipment that would mount to their wheel chairs and allow them to fire guns.  What I never considered was where that equipment came from.  That's right, Be Adaptive Equipment.

Kyler and his company began manufacturing equipment for Eric and the business took off.  Be Adaptive can produce mounts for people with limited or no use of their arms to fire a gun or bow or even to hold a fishing pole.  The mounts enable users to fire the weapons with the use of a mouth piece.  The guns then have hydraulic recoil mechanisms to reset the gun or bow and prepare for the next shot.

Kyler, who has a background in fabricating, is helping to give people an opportunity they may not otherwise have.  The company's website, shows some of the products available to people with physical disabilities.  Be Adaptive is returning a freedom to people they may not otherwise enjoy.  The products from Be Adaptive are enabling hunters with disabilities to enjoy a sport they may have thought was lost.  Check out the website and the video, you will be impressed at what Kyler and his company are providing.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Purdue is for Real

By Travis Stahl

What once was lost now is found.  I'm talking about Purdue basketball and success in the same sentence for the first time in ages.  Nobody saw it coming but the Boilermakers are now 6-1 in this young college basketball season with some pretty significant wins.  Last year it looked like head coach Matt Painter was on his way out the door and just like that Purdue looks like a pretty good basketball team.  I realize it's early, but this is a Boilermakers team that could easily be playing in the NCAA tournament at the end of the year.

The Boilers started off with a couple of easy wins before losing to a respectable Kansas State squad two weeks ago.  Since that time Purdue has blown out Missouri, defeated a BYU team that goes to the tournament every year and most recently knocked off North Carolina State.  Yeah, who knew right?  And this team isn't done with tough games before the Big Ten season.  Purdue still has out of conference games against Notre Dame and at Vanderbilt.  If the Boilers win those games the rest of the Big Ten better look out.

I remember listening to the radio last year and one of the Purdue assistants was on.  This coach was talking about how Painter and the assistants were just pouring their hearts into coaching the kids last year and they just weren't responding.  Apparently that has changed because this team is responding big-time.  Purdue has 10 guys playing significant time and is getting balanced contributions from all of them.  The team's leading scorer is Vince Edwards at 13.1 points per game with teammates Isaac Haas at 12.0 and Kendall Stephens scores 11.9 points per game.  This is shaping up to be a gritty group of kids that all play together and want to win for each other.

Getting through the Big Ten isn't going to be easy.  But it's not going to be as hard as it was in years past either.  Other than Wisconsin and Michigan State there aren't any other powerful teams that could roll through everyone.  The Boilers could easily finish third or fourth in the league depending on how healthy they can remain.  Painter typically puts squads on the floor that are going to get after people defensively and this year will probably be the same.  If you can play defense and rebound in the Big Ten you are in every game.

Everyone thought Painter was going to endure another miserable year this season and be fired at the end of it.  The masterful recruiting job Painter did early on in his career was starting to look like a fluke.  Now that Purdue looks like a legitimate team again we should credit Painter.  He has done a great job of bringing in a group of kids that enjoy playing and working together.  Right now, the Boilers are the best basketball team in Indiana.