NFL Preseason Week 1: Packers @ Browns

Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Browns Sat. Aug. 13, 2011 7:30 p.m. EST

The defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers are still on cloud nine after winning a title last February, but now it is time to get back to business as they will open their preseason against the Cleveland Browns on Saturday night.

Unlike many other teams in the NFC Conference, the Green Bay Packers kept their team relatively intact as their number one goal was to get their injured players healthy and ready to go for the NFL regular season. So even though the competition in the NFC Conference like the Philadelphia Eagles and the division rival Chicago B

Jermichael Finley

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ears made move to improve their rosters moving forward, the Green Bay Packers were content and are more than ready to defend their Super Bowl title this season.

It is uncertain at this point in time just how long the Packers’ starters will be playing against the Browns in Cleveland this Saturday, but there will definitely be some faces on the field in green and yellow that haven’t been on the gridiron in quite some time. The two players that should impact the Packers more than any others that didn’t get much time on the field last season due to injury are running back Ryan Grant and tight end Jermichael Finley.

It is pretty remarkable that the Green Bay Packers were able to defy the odds and win a Super Bowl title last season without Pro Bowl caliber players like Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant, but coming into this season the Cheese Heads are a scary sight with these two offensive beasts coming back healthy and ready to go. The one player that will benefit most from the return of the starting running back and tight end is reigning Super Bowl MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Not only will Aaron Rodgers no longer have to do everything on offense with his arm due to the return of running back Ryan Grant to get the ground game going, but it

will take the pressure off Rodgers in the passing game as well with arguably his best redzone target back in the mix in Finley.

Whether or not Grant and Finley are a 100% healthy and still the Pro Bowl caliber players they were before they went down last season remains to be seen, but the Packers will be happy to get them back in order to defend the Super Bowl title.

As for the Cleveland Browns, the playoffs might still be way down the road, but they will look to develop quarterback Colt McCoy and get another Pro Bowl season out of running back Peyton Hillis. The offense will almost certainly be dominated by the running game with Hillis get a lot of carries this season, but McCoy might be able to surprise some people if he can strike up some chemistry with his receivers.

So keep your eye on Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley from Green Bay and Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis of the Browns in this preseason game. All these players will be looking to make an impression.

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NFL Preseason Week 1: 49ers @ Saints

San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints Fri. Aug. 12, 2011 8 p.m. EST

The San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints are two teams in the NFL that have made some considerable moves in the offseason in order to improve their rosters moving forward. There is no telling whether or not either one of these two football teams will be a playoff bound as of right now, but on Friday night in the Big Easy we will get a taste of the new-look 49ers and the revamped Saints.

The 49ers probably made the most drastic moves in comparison to the Saints as they have brought in new head coach Jim Harbaugh and free agent Pro Bowl caliber wide receiver Braylon Edwards. These two moves were high on the priority list for San Francisco as this team is way too talented to miss the playoffs every single season.

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Hiring head coach Jim Harbaugh was without a doubt a step in the right d

irection for this struggling storied NFL franchise, but the former Stanford head coach will have his work cut out for him in his first season in the Bay Area. Not only is this team extremely talented on both sides of the football, but they are equipped to win now which puts a lot of pressure on the new head coach that is used to winning football games with quarterback Andrew Luck at Stanford.

Sometimes all a football team in the NFL needs a new head coach to bring in fresh blood to a struggling franchise in order to get back on track. The perfect example is head coach Rex Ryan who breathed new life into the New York Jets and now that team is a perennial Super Bowl title contender. Jim Harbaugh coming into San Francisco and having the same effect on the 49ers is somewhat of a stretch, but possible as he does have the talent at his disposal to make it happen in the near future.

The first test for Jim Harbaugh will be tough one as the San Francisco 49ers will go to the Big Easy to take on the New Orleans Saints in their first preseason game of the year. The New Orleans Saints are a team looking for some redemption as they are coming off an extremely disappointing playoff loss to the lowly Seattle Seahawks that was embarrassing to say the least.

With the Saints getting dominated by one of the worst teams in the league in the playoffs, Sean Payton and company had to go back to the drawing board and as a result they have traded Reggie Bush to the Miami Dolphins and drafted Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram.

There is no telling whether or not Mark Ingram will be the answer to this team’s struggles in the ground game, but he definitely has the potential to be star behind superstar quarterback Drew Brees in the Saints’ backfield.

It will be interesting to see what Jim Harbaugh and Mark Ingram can do in their NFL debut this Saturday night in the Big Easy.

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Could Dwight Howard be a good fit with the Dallas Mavericks?

The Dallas Mavericks are coming off their most successful season in franchise history as they were finally able to win an NBA title and prove to the rest of the league that they are a force to be reckoned with from here on out. Even though the Mavs are built to win for at least one or two more years, the consensus is that they could use some younger talent moving forward in order to keep up with teams like the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat.

Heading into the upcoming NBA regular season, the Dallas Mavericks have some big decisions to make as they have three free agents to either re-sign or let move on to another team. The biggest priority for the Mavs at this point in time in terms of free agency is re-signing backup point guard J.J. Barea. With Barea coming into his own during the playoffs last season, the Mavs know that value of their backup and will hope that he will return.

Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic, 2008–09

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After re-signing J.J. Barea, the Dallas Mavericks will put all their energy into re-signing forward Caron Butler and center Tyson Chandler. These two free agents are also pivotal to the success of the team moving forward, but they might be used in a different way as they could be involved in a sign-and-trade deal for superstar center Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic.

Last season the Orlando Magic did everything they could to convince their face of the franchise in Dwight Howard to stay with the team. With Howard becoming a free agent after next season, the pressure is on the Magic to get him to re-sign a contract extension as soon as possible. The only problem the team faces right now is that Dwight Howard has made it known that he intends to become a free agent after next season which might force the Orlando Magic to trade him before next season or before the NBA trade deadline which usually is in February.

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This situation is very similar to the one in the Mile High City last year when the Denver Nuggets were forced to trade superstar forward Carmelo Anthony because the perennial All-Star refused to sign a three-year contract extension. So just before the NBA trade deadline, the Denver Nuggets traded Melo to the New York Knicks.

Next season, the Orlando Magic will most likely have to do the same thing and one potential suitor for Dwight Howard is with the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs would like to keep the same championship team intact, but knowing Mavs’ owner Mark Cuban if he had the chance to get another superstar like Dwight Howard to play alongside Dirk Nowitzki he would jump at the opportunity.

In my opinion, the Dallas Mavericks best option would be to sign-and-trade both Caron Butler and Tyson Chandler to the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard. If Mark Cuban can make this deal happen, the Mavs will almost certainly be favorites to repeat next season.

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NBA Matchup: San Antonio Spurs @ Portland Trail Blazers

San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers Fri. March 25, 2011 10 p.m. EST

There is no question that the San Antonio Spurs have been the most successful team in the NBA this season as they have defied the odds all season long and remained  relatively healthy throughout the majority of the NBA regular season. With just 14 losses on the season, the Spurs have been incredibly tough to beat at home and away, but they have struggled as of late with two devastating losses to the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers and the revamped Miami Heat.

Along with losing to the defending champs and LeBron James’ squad, the NBA leading Spurs also recently fell to the Denver Nuggets (115-112) in the Mile High City. This was obviously a very close game as the Spurs were almost able to come away with the win, but without their All-Star big man and face of the franchise in Tim Duncan (ankle) this team has become vulnerable inside the paint.

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On Friday night, the San Antonio Spurs will try to get back on track with a win over the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden. This will be no easy task as the Blazers are fighting for playoff position right now in the Western Conference and the Spurs will be without Duncan once again as he will miss this three-game road trip (Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies).

As for the playoff seeding for the Spurs, San Antonio is sitting pretty at the time being as they are six games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers and seven ½ games ahead of the Dallas Mavericks. With just 11 games left in the NBA regular season, the San Antonio Spurs will almost certainly clinch the top seed in the Western Conference; unless they have a complete meltdown in this few games of the season and the Los Angeles Lakers stay hot before the playoffs.

Coming into this matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers, LaMarcus Aldridge and company have won seven out of their last ten games and will be looking to get closer to clinching the five seed in the West as they are battling the Denver Nuggets who are a game and a half ahead of them.

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 Portland Trail Blazers, LaMarcus Aldridge and company

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The biggest concern for the league-leading Spurs in this game with the Blazers at the Rose Garden is how they will guard All-S

tar snub forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Without Tim Duncan in the paint, the Spurs will be seriously exposed in this game and could be headed for a second consecutive loss if they can’t find a way to contain Aldridge on the block.

Without Duncan, these two teams matchup fairly well, but there is one mismatch that might ultimately tilt the scales in the Spurs favor as the Blazers will have trouble guarding Manu Ginobili. In the end though, I see the Blazers coming out on top in this one as the Spurs will struggle against Portland on their home floor at the Rose Garden.

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Is the Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose this season’s NBA MVP?

At the beginning of this NBA regular season, the Chicago Bulls had made some key additions to their basketball team in order to take into the next level and be able to compete with the best of the best in the Eastern Conference. After signing former All-Star forward Carlos Boozer to play alongside center Joakim Noah and superstar point guard Derrick Rose, this squad was considered to be much improved, but whether or not they could contend in the East was debatable.

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 17: Derrick Rose #1 of ...

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Fortunately, with everyone paying attention to what the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat were doing this season, the Chicago Bulls have been able to fly relatively under the radar all season long and has results of reach the top of the Eastern Conference. Not only was this a surprise to say the least has no one expected the Bulls be this good as fast as they have over the course of the season, but they have seen All-Star point guard Derrick Rose turn into arguably one of the best players in this league.

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Along with improving its shooting all around inside and out, Rose has become a triple threat with the ability to score, pass and p

lay lockdown defense at the point guard position for the Chicago Bulls. This has been a huge blessing in disguise as no one really expected this kid to be as good as he is now, but the one way he will get rewarded is through solid play during the playoffs and a possible run at an NBA title.

Even though most people believe that seems like the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat could be facing off against either the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers or the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals this season, but doesn’t seem to be the case anymore as the consensus is that the Chicago Bulls might be ready to take the next step and go all the way this year.

Obviously, there is still a long way to go, but the Bulls have definitely showed that they can contend the best the best as they have beaten teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat this year.

Along with possibly being NBA Finals bound, the Chicago Bulls might also see the MVP award come back to the Windy City. Not since Michael Jordan got his five MVPs during his time in Chicago back in the 90s have the Bulls even had a contender to win the award,

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but most people around the league along with NBA analysts believe that Derrick Rose should win the NBA MVP hands down.

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Many people are still making the case for Lebron James (Miami Heat), Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat) and Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic) for the NBA MVP award, but the consensus is that Derrick Rose should win the unanimous vote and be this season’s NBA MVP.

Whether or not this actually happens remains to be seen, but if the voting was done today, Derrick Rose would almost certainly be the frontrunner.

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