Thursday, October 20, 2016

NBA Preview

By Travis Stahl

Football season is in full swing.  The World Series is about to begin.  College football is bringing campuses across the country alive every weekend.  Quietly while nobody has noticed the new NBA season is set to start next week.  Kinda snuck up on us.  It was an eventful off season since the Cleveland Cavaliers won the championship last June.  We had lots of player movement, a few noteworthy retirements and an intriguing group of rookies make news headlines.  I don't want to write a preview about every team and you don't want to read that.  So let's do one of my favorite activities.  I will give you all you need to know about each team with just three words.

Eastern Conference
Boston Celtics - Legitimate title contenders
New York Knicks - Still no defense
Washington Wizards - Just treading water
Orlando Magic - Should be better
Charlotte Hornets - Improving every year
Toronto Raptors - Very talented team
Cleveland Cavaliers - Reigning NBA Champs
Chicago Bulls - Too many guards
Atlanta Hawks - Howard won't help
Milwaukee Bucks - Quietly very scary
Indiana Pacers - Might surprise people
Detroit Pistons - Not even close
Philadelphia 76ers - Should improve drastically
Miami Heat - Very odd plan
Brooklyn Nets - Worst NBA team

Western Conference
Dallas Mavericks - One last go
Memphis Grizzlies - The decline begins
New Orleans Pelicans - Playoffs or bust
San Antonio Spurs - Still a contender
Oklahoma City Thunder - Post-Durant woes
Utah Jazz - Will shock people
Los Angeles Clippers - One last run
Houston Rockets - Might be better
Los Angeles Lakers - Not there yet
Portland Trailblazers - Always exceeding expectations
Sacramento Kings - Supreme dumpster fire
Denver Nuggets - Team lacks direction
Minnesota Timberwolves - Very bright future
Golden State Warriors - 75 win season?
Phoenix Suns - What a mess

Injuries can change a lot of fortunes over the course of a season but I will still walk out on the prediction limb just so I can look bad later.  In the Eastern Conference finals I will take Cleveland against Boston with the Celtics pulling off the monumental upset.  In the West I think it will be the Warriors against the Clippers in the conference finals with Golden State winning. I'll take the Warriors over the Celtics in the NBA title match-up.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Purdue Needs a New Coach

By Travis Stahl

Hey, remember that time we wrote about Purdue football?  Yeah, that's because it never happened.  The Boilermakers have been nonexistent in the college football world since Joe Tiller left.  That was a long time ago and to be honest the only reason we are talking about them now is because Purdue needs a new head coach after finally firing Darrell Hazzell.  Let's be realistic, the Boilers likely aren't going to be playing for a national championship.  But they could easily win eight games a season and go to a decent bowl game.  If Mitch Daniels was smart he would be adding these three names to his speed dial right now.

Les Miles - I get it, Miles isn't going to be flashy which is all the rage right now in college football.  But the guy can recruit and there is a lot of talent in Fort Wayne that Tiller used to get to West Lafayette that has been lost.  Right now there are only two players on the Purdue roster from Fort Wayne.  Miles will get that talent and much more and could transform the Boilers into a pretty physical presence in the Big Ten.  It won't be cheap to bring Les to town but it might be money well spent.

Lane Kiffin - The current Alabama offensive coordinator and former head coach at USC and Tennessee has certainly had some character issues to resolve.  Kiffin did not handle the spotlight well last time.  At a school like Purdue that won't be an issue.  Kiffin could easily come to town and if he stays quiet do a solid job.  The guy can coach up an offense and he has a ton of experience at an early age.  If Kiffin has learned his lesson from the USC and Tennessee jobs then being at Purdue would be the next logical progression in becoming a head coach again.

Brian Kelly - Let's be honest here, Notre Dame fans would not shed any tears if Kelly left town.  And maybe when he made the jump from Cincinnati to Notre Dame that was too big of a leap.  Kelly's offense clearly isn't working on a national scale with the Irish but paired down in the Big Ten at Purdue it might work just fine.  I understand this would be a step backwards for Kelly but it's not like NFL teams are beating down his door right now.  And, coaching the Boilers would certainly be a lot less pressure.

Purdue could easily be a relevant program in college football.  Heck, look at how far Indiana has come with Kevin Wilson.  Purdue could do that.  There would be no shame in winning seven or eight games and playing in the Las Vegas Bowl.  In fact, right now that would be a dramatic improvement.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Weekend Trip

By Travis Stahl

I realize you wouldn't know it to look at me but I'm kind of outdoorsy.  I enjoy getting out in nature and doing things like hiking and camping.  It doesn't need to be anything fancy, just a dry place to sleep and nobody to see for miles around.  Being out in nature like that isn't for everyone but I love it.  This past weekend I was fortunate enough to go on a three-day camping and canoe drip down the Eel River and I loved every minute of it.

We put our canoes in the water just south of the bridge in Collamer.  Once all the gear for four guys was loaded we pushed off.  I had never been in a canoe in my entire life but was pretty sure I could figure out how to row.  My job in the front of the canoe was to keep an eye out for submerged rocks or other would be obstacles and direct the guy in the back where the clear path was.  It was so quiet on the river, not a sound around anywhere except the slow trickle of the water around us.  We canoed for close to 45 minutes before reaching our camping destination.

In the past camping with this group has gotten kind of extravagant with ornate meals and lots of modern devices.  But this time we decided to be minimal.  All meals we cooked on the open fire including our morning coffee.  That meant we had to cut and split enough fire wood to keep the camp fire burning for three days.  During our stay I was able to learn a lot of the history of the area.  I learned what farmers lived where, where the Block Bridge and Heidi Bridge are located and where some of the old mills were that were located along the river.  It was hard work to make camp and sustain it but worth every ounce of energy.

One morning I was awakened by splashing in the water.  I thought it was one of the other guys who had gotten up early and was throwing rocks in the river.  Nope, it was a beaver slamming his tale on the water trying to scare us away from where he wanted to be.  I was shocked at how loud that sound was but my gosh what a fitting way to be woken up in the morning on the river.  We were also able to spot several birds, a few squirrels and frogs and as we canoed further down the river we saw a mother deer with her baby down by the water.  Luckily we did not run into any snakes as my reaction would have taken my peg down the masculinity chart a few notches.

When I got home Sunday I was exhausted.  I didn't want to do anything.  After breaking camp, canoeing to an exit point and then hauling all of the gear and the canoes up a steep embankment in the rain I  was just spent.  But I would do it all again in a heartbeat.  Being on the river in the canoes and camping all weekend just brings you back to nature and quiets your soul.  There are no words for how refreshing it is.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

NFL Power Rankings

By Travis Stahl

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I think the Minnesota Vikings are good.  Pretty obvious right?  The Vikings defense this year is just ridiculous.  We're talking last year's Denver Broncos good and that was enough to win a Super Bowl.  How crazy it would be if Minnesota goes on to play in a Super Bowl with Sam Bradford at quarterback and no Adrian Peterson.  It just might happen.

1. Minnesota Vikings
2. New England Patriots
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Atlanta Falcons
5. Denver Broncos
6. Dallas Cowboys
7. Oakland Raiders
8. Philadelphia Eagles
9. Seattle Seahawks
10. Green Bay Packers
11. Baltimore Ravens
12. Buffalo Bills
13. Houston Texans
14. Washington Redskins
15. Cincinnati Bengals
16. Los Angeles Rams
17. Arizona Cardinals
18. Kansas City Chiefs
19. New York Giants
20. Indianapolis Colts
21. Detroit Lions
22. Carolina Panthers
23. New York Jets
24. Jacksonville Jaguars
25. Tennessee Titans
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
27. Miami Dolphins
28. San Diego Chargers
29. Chicago Bears
30. San Francisco 49ers
31. New Orleans Saints
32. Cleveland Browns

Did you know Chip Kelly still has a job in the NFL?  Yeah, it's true he's coaching the 49ers straight into the ground.  That's exactly why San Francisco is at the bottom of the power rankings along with the Saints and Browns.  There is little to no direction in San Francisco or New Orleans so don't expect to see either of those teams improve any time soon.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Dear Jerry,

Dear Mr. Jones,

Hello old friend, it's been a while.  My friend Brandt was down there to see you two weeks ago and it reminded me I better drop you a line.  First of all, let me apologized for those Ezekial Elliot comments prior to the draft.  You were right and I was wrong.  As I was watching our beloved Cowboys beat the pants off the Bengals yesterday I realized there's something else we need to talk about.  Tony Romo.

I saw Romo on the sideline yesterday and heard the announcers say Tony could possibly play after the by week.  Let me be the first the say no he can't.  Healthy or not, man-crush or not, you can't allow Tony Romo to walk back on to that field as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.  Listen amigo, I like the guy just as much as you do but we both know his time in Big D is over.  Shed the tears, give him a big old hug and then put him on a plane to the Jets.

This Dak Preskott kid can play quaterback in the NFL.  You see it.  The fans see it.  Heck, even Jason Garrett sees it.  If we sit this kid and bring Tony back in we're done for.  The players love Dak as much as we do and more importantly they want to play for him.  Nobody ever said that about Tony Romo.  And really, we weren't supposed to win this year anyway.  Right now this is all gravy.  Think about moving forward.  Come on Jerry, how much longer is Tony going to actually play anyway?  This just speeds up the process.

I don't know if you've seen or not but the Jets have this guy named Ryan Fitzpatrick playing quarterback.  He's just god awful.  He's so bad Buffalo didn't want him around anymore.  New York would give us anything for Romo right now.  Heck, they might even be willing to give us one of those stud defensive tackles they've got.  We couldn't hope for anything better.

Think about it for a day or two.  But don't wait too long or the Jets will figure all of this out.  We need to jump on this deal early.  The future in Dallas is not named Tony Romo com padre.  We have come to exciting grips with that and look forward to our future with Dak.  Also, Brandt says he likes what you've done with the place.  Good job.

Texas T

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Bears Need Direction

By Travis Stahl

A couple of weeks ago if you will remember I gave the Chicago Bears a bit of a pass due to the substantial injuries the team had suffered in the defensive secondary.  Then the Bears went out last weekend and beat a Detroit Lions team that isn't too bad.  A win is a win.  But when I watch the Bears I can't help but feel an overwhelming sense of confusion.  What is this team?

Head coach John Fox did a tremendous job in Carolina and Denver.  So far in Chicago things have not been great.  To this point general manager Ryan Pace has joined Fox in largely dodging criticism so far because others in the NFL are so bad (I'm looking at you Ryan Grigson).  Still, I'm at a loss with the Bears.  What is the identity of this team?  Where is the team going?  I'm sure Pace and Fox have a plan but right now I don't see it.

Let's start with the good.  The Chicago linebackers are a solid group.  I know there are some injuries there as well but Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman and Leonard Floyd are a solid core.  And rookie Nick Kiatkowski can flat out play.  Offensively with Kevin White and Alshon Jeffery at receiver you have to think that group is well covered also.  Those two are both big and explosive targets for a quarterback to get the ball to.

However, there are still a lot of problems on this team with not much relief in sight.  There's Kyle Long and then ... not much else.  Bobbie Massie is playing tackle.  Green Bay cast off Josh Sitton is playing guard.  The line has continued to be a work in progress well into the start of the season.  Now, quick, can you name me a defensive lineman on the Bears?  Nope.  Both lines need a lot of work and that is how you build a team, from the inside out.

Oh, what's that you say, we haven't spoken about quarterback yet?  What are the Bears going to do at the most important position in football?  It would appear with Jay Cutler's thumb injury he is likely done in Chicago.  Brian Hoyer is a good guy but not a long-term answer.  It would be wise of the Bears to at some point draft a quarterback in the third or fourth round to develop.  The team can't really afford to take a quarterback high in the draft with so many other needs.

Teams are built through the draft and not in free agency.  The jury is still out on Pace because we haven't gotten to accurately see how his picks are going to pan out.  This is very much a team in transition still and until the Bears find "the face of the franchise" they are still going to appear to be a team without direction.  Yes, there are some bright spots.  But it is difficult to see how those positives are all going to fit together.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

NFL Power Rankings

By Travis Stahl

We always have to go back to the quote by the late Dennis Green.  Four weeks into the season NFL teams are who we thought they are.  If you're good we know it.  But if you're bad, there's no hiding it now.  Here are our first power rankings of the season.  Keep in mind, this is not just a list of who has the best record but which teams would stand the best chance of beating those ranked below them.

1. Denver Broncos
2. Minnesota Vikings
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. New England Patriots
5. Philadelphia Eagles
6. Atlanta Falcons
7. Oakland Raiders
8. Seattle Seahawks
9. Baltimore Ravens
10. Dallas Cowboys
11. Houston Texans
12. Green Bay Packers
13. Cincinnati Bengals
14. Washington Redskins
15. Buffalo Bills
16. Kansas City Chiefs
17. New York Giants
18. Los Angeles Rams
19. Arizona Cardinals
20. Carolina Panthers
21. New York Jets
22. Jacksonville Jaguars
23. Miami Dolphins
24. San Diego Chargers
25. Chicago Bears
26. Tennessee Titans
27. Indianapolis Colts
28. San Francisco 49ers
29. Detroit Lions
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
31. New Orleans Saints
32. Cleveland Browns

Not one single person could have predicted the Vikings would be this good.  But Minnesota has beaten Green Bay, Carolina and the Giants in consecutive weeks.  That's impressive.  As for the Browns, at least they've been close a couple of times.  They can hang their hat on that.