The Big Interview

The biggest interview in American Sports has started. The NFL Combine is an opportunity for young College Players to run drills and workout in front of NFL teams. The event is staggered over 4 days with different positions on different days. It helps teams confirm what they have been watching or bring someone to the forefront in time for the NFL Draft. Success and Failure doesn’t really change much as the prospect also have a Pro Day, which is similar to the Combine, but it can have a say in whether a player goes in a higher round.

The first days are dedicated to media interviews with the prospects. The first day of actual workouts and drills are dedicated to Offensive Lineman, Running Backs and Special Teams players. They run the basic drills of the 40 yard dash, Bench Press, Vertical Jump, Broad Jump, 3 Cone Drill, A 20 Yard Shuttle and a 60 yard shuttle. Not all the drills are important to ever position, as an example the 40 yard dash is more important for Running Backs than Offensive Lineman but scouts will look at the 10 yard split for the OLineman rather than the whole 40 yard time. Then the players will have position specific drills which are more important and you can see the techniques up close.

The second day, which is today (27th Feb), is the day that usually presents the most intrigue as the Quarterback Prospects enter the Combine. Everyone will have eyes on the top QB prospects, Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch and Conor Cook. The QBs will have to show Athleticism and a good arm to show teams they are capable of moving the chains.

This sequence continues with other positions in the Combine. Tight Ends and Wide Receivers will be in Indianapolis with the QBs. The Defensive Lineman and Linebackers will workout on Sundy and the Defensive Backs finish the combine on Monday. Kicking the Draft train into full gear. There is money to be made for the young men at the Combine and a good performance, although it won’t change much, can make a difference to some teams.

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Will the real England Cricket Please Stand up?

The England Cricket team showed the two sides they have. Under Peter Moores (and many coaches before him) England typically struggled with the bat in the One Day Formats often losing 5 wickets for less than 100 runs. They had a tendency to collapse when teams starting putting pressure on. This was the England everyone was used to. This was England Cricketing Identity despite a T20 World Cup win.

Under Trevor Bayliss, England have been praised for their aggressive batting. Hitting over 400 twice in his short reign (The only two times they have hit 400+ ever). England were playing well in Tests, ODIs and T20s for the first time in a long time. They brushed aside a strong South African Team in South Africa in the test series just a month ago and were leading 2-0 in the 5 match ODI series but the England of old started to creep in and they ended up blowing the series 3-2 in old England form. Then they couldn’t recover for the T20s mistakes cost England the first game losing on the last ball and then they were blown away in the second game and that was the series.

Despite the struggle England have promise. They have young, power hitting batsmen who can clear the rope with ease. They have a strong-ish, if inexperienced, bowling attack outside of England stalwarts Stuart Board and James Anderson. Performances like the ones they have had are to be expected as this team grows. They are young and without a big name headache, like KP, in the side. It falls to England’s experience to guide them. Eoin Morgan, Stuart Broad, Alistair Cook and Jimmy Anderson must guide young players like Jos Buttler, Chris Jordan, Alex Hales and turn them into consistent run scorers and wicket takers for England.

IF that happens then England could make a run at winning one of the World Cups. It would take England being at the absolute top of their game and one or two of The Aussies, NZ, India or Sri Lanka being off the boil for one game. It’s not a jaw dropper to think they may do it but it would be a surprise but it would take England finding their identity to do it.

A Review: Leicester City

The fairytale of Leicester City has captured the imagination of all Premier League and Football fans in England and over the world. At the same point of the Premier League season last season Newly Promoted Leicester City were bottom of the Premier League and looking destine to return to the Championship with a whimper.

 

After a late run that saw Leicester survive in the Premier League many thought they would be in a similar position again. However, they shocked the world. Jamie Vardy, another fairytale player having been the first million pound non-league player, was in such good goalscoring form that he could score a goal in he looked at the ball hard enough. He broke the Premier League record for goals in most consecutive games and Leicester started to dominate.

Claudio Ranieri, in his first season as manager, built on the good work done by Nigel Pearson, who left the club after an incident in Thailand involving 3 of his players, keeping the players motivated and getting the best out of the flair players at the club.

The Key Players:

Jamie Vardy – The England International has been the story of the season. Having been playing non-league football just 5 years ago. He is now one of the most feared strikers in the Premier League.

Riyad Mahrez – Mahrez, in Vardy’s Shadow, has had a good as season as Vardy. Mahrez, like Vardy, started the season on fire and has continued his form throughout the season. He has been the biggest part of Leicester’s rise than anyone else (including Vardy).

Ngolo Kante – Not the first name that will pop into most people’s head when talking about Leicester but he has been a solid influence on the team throughout the season having appeared in every single league game this season. It is an underrated trait to be able just to keep fit and appear in the every game, especially over the hectic Christmas period.

Can They Do It?

That is the question. Can Leicester break the glass ceiling in the Premier League and win it. Can they hold off Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City? People want Leicester to win the Premier League but in the end they will fall short. Having lost last week at Arsenal, cutting the cap to 2 points, Leicester now have to match Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City for the rest of the season. They will still finish comfortably in the top 4 but I will stick my with earlier prediction of Arsenal winning the Premier League.

Why do people like being spectators?

sports-crowd1-630x420In a series based around asking fans what they like about sports, why they like the sports they do, what do they find in watching, as well as playing, sports. I will be doing the first one and guests (hopefully) will be filling in the slots in a once a month interview series.

Guest: Me

What sports do I like?

Based on the content of this site it is clear where my two main focuses are. NFL and Football. To me they are the two sports that dragged me in and opened my eyes to sports all over the world. However, they are not the only sports I enjoy. I also enjoy watching cricket and I keep up with results and happenings in the NBA and MLB. My sporting likes are transatlantic and probably very common for a sports fan in 2016.

What sports do I play?

None, sadly, due to a number of factors. These are time related. However, I would welcome the chance to play football again like I used to.

The joys of spectatorship?

As I have said about I enjoy watching sports as much as I like playing, in some cases more. I am a guy that like statistics and weird interesting facts and I feel that sports provides most of the things I enjoy in doing something or watching something. Whenever they are at home I attend Bristol City games and have done so since I was 4 years old. Lots of football fans enjoy watching games on TV but nothing beats sitting amongst tens of thousands of other people on a Saturday Afternoon/Tuesday Evening watching the game as it unfolds and cheering along. One day I hope to have a similar experience with an NFL game.

Teams/Players you support? Why?

Football: Bristol City

Reason: I live 10 minutes from the ground and I have grown up supporting them and I couldn’t support anyone else.

Cricket: Gloucestershire CCC

Reason: The Bristol based Cricket team. It is popular to support Somerset but Gloucestershire are the team that play in Bristol and that is why I support them.

NFL: New England Patriots

Reason: The ‘nearest’ team to the UK but also because I remember being up at about 2am on a Sunday Night in 2004 and somehow ended up watching the Super Bowl which the Patriots won and it sucked me and I have never wavered since. A hugely successful but massively unpopular (to other fans) in the league but you cannot waver.

The other sports I watch (NBA and MLB) I am only a casual follower and to say I support any one team would generous. I follow results and major events but I don’t avidly follow them and that isn’t enough for me to pick a team.

Super Bowl 50 Review

Tsuper-bowl-50-logohe NFL season is now, unfortunately, over. No more NFL games until the tail end of the year where we can look forward to 21 more weeks of great NFL action. The Super Bowl wasn’t a classic. It didn’t live up to it’s billing as two heavyweights fighting for the prize but it was never going to be as exciting and as amazing as Super Bowl 49. Super Bowl 50, however, showed us that Peyton Manning had learned the lesson of his past play-off and Super Bowl failures.

In the past, Peyton had to do it all but now he followed the formula of his boss John Elway much like I stated in my ‘how each team will win’ post I said that was the key to a Broncos victory and that was what got them the Lombardi Trophy.

From the very start something seemed off with the Panthers and they appeared to never really get going offensively. The Panthers offensive line play was terrible and the Broncos Defence was quick and powerful enough to keep Cam Newton contained and stop him producing Game Breaking runs. Cam couldn’t bail out his offence but showed flashes in small bursts of The Panthers big play potential. The Broncos Defence shut down the Panthers and made the Panthers look like they were 1-15 rather than 15-1 coming into the Play-offs. The Broncos were a question mark to even make the post season after the

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Manning lifts his second Lombardi

struggles of Peyton Manning playing through injury and Brock Osweiler being nothing more than solid in relief of the future first ballot Hall of Fame QB. The Broncos defence stepped up in the Play-offs. They were the reason that the Broncos got to the Super Bowl shutting down two other future Hall of Fame QBs in Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady. When the biggest game of the year came along The Broncos Defence raised the bar again and shut down the NFL MVP. It wasn’t pretty by Peyton Manning. It wasn’t the 400 yard, 4 TD, 0 INT, offensive masterclass we have seen from Manning for the other 17 years of his career but it got him his second ring. It has cemented his legacy, if it wasn’t already, Peyton matches his Brother, Eli, with two Super Bowl Rings and there is little doubt about his legacy even if he didn’t dominant the Super Bowl.

The 24-10 Victory was a fair reflection of the game. The Panthers were wildly inconsistent  and showed they have potential but they seemed overawed by the occasion and Cam Newton didn’t handle the pressure well. They made mistakes, as did both teams, but the game didn’t feel like a Super Bowl. The teams played like it was an early season game. Mistakes were plenty. Touchdowns were hard to come by and like I also predicted it would be a close defensive battle. If it was Peyton Manning’s last game then it was one that will mean so much. It wasn’t classic Peyton but it was shut down defence and Super Bowl 50 will live long in the memories of the Denver Broncos but I don’t think it was be ever considered a great Super Bowl.

 

Superbowl 50: How each team will win?

Just TWO days until the biggest game in the NFL. The two number 1 seeds play each other in the Superbowl for the 3rd year in a row. This is a post outlining how each team will win Superbowl 50.

How the Denver Broncos win?

The key to Denver Broncos winning another Superbowl is mirroring the formula they adopted in the late 90s to win the Superbowl back-to-back with an ageing John Elway. John Elway is General Manager and Executive Vice President of Football Operations and with another ageing Quarterback running the ship, Peyton Manning in his fourth year in Denver, will have to use the same strategy to get Peyton his second ring. The key to those Super Bowls will be great defensive play and establishing the run. The last time the Broncos made the big game they were blownout 43-8 by trying to throw the ball and were picked apart by a great defence. They are the top defence in the league and it will be their key to victory. Cam Newton is a Dual Threat Quarterback and stopping him will be the biggest key.

How the Carolina Panthers win?

The 15-1 Super Bowl favourites, Carolina, are searching for their first Lombardi and this is the best chance they have ever had. They have dominated the NFL from start to finish. All teams but one were laid to waste. 15-1 has been a dangerous record for teams and they have struggled to finish the job but this year The Panthers have a simple task in order to win the Super Bowl. Continue what they have been doing all season. Great QB play with pressure from their defence forcing turnovers, much like they did in the NFC Championship. They will have to face a tough defence on the opposite side but Cam Newton has faced the Seattle Seahawks twice this year and he did great against them in both games. That is the key to victory for the Panthers

Who will win?

Now the big question. Who will win? This a tough Super Bowl to predict, much like last year, as both teams are capable of scoring big points and keeping the opposition to a low point total. The Patriots and The Seahawks delivered a classic last year and I feel this year will be another classic. The Broncos and The Panthers match up well and in a similar vein to last year it will be a low scoring game where the teams who want it more wins. Both teams have reasons for wanting it more (Age for Broncos/Manning, A first SB for Panthers/Newton) I feel that The Panthers have the edge and they win their first Lombardi Trophy continuing what they have done all year.

Score Prediction: Panthers 24-20 Broncos. 

The most exciting day of January

February 1st 2016. The most exciting day in January for football fans across the UK. More commonly known as Transfer Deadline Day. For Premier League teams it is the last chance to strengthen their teams in the hopes of achieving their goals. For Football League teams it’s the last chance to sign players permanently but there is still the loan window which will re-open in one week.

The 2016 January Transfer window was relatively quiet in the Premier League with no superstar or blockbuster signings by any teams. The biggest news of Transfer Deadline Day was not even a transfer. It was an announcement about the appointment of Pep Guardiola as Manchester City Manager from the start of next season with Manuel Pellegrini stepping aside when his contract expires in June.

We saw reporters camped out at grounds/training grounds to report on news as it happened but there was nothing unexpected or out of the ordinary. Every signing was one that had been reported on the day before and mostly consisted of clubs and players signing the paperwork and announcing. There was no Robinho to Man City this year. No real shocks or surprise. The best deal of the day was in The Championship, with promotion chasing Middlesbrough signing the most lethal striker in the division, Jordan Rhodes, for an initial £9m fee in the hopes of returning to the Premier League.

The biggest fee in this Transfer Window was in Stoke who signed Giannelli Imbula for a club record £18.3m. A few teams (Newcastle and Stoke in particular) outspent La Liga and The Bundesliga in their quest for survival. Teams get itchy trigger fingers and fans hope for something to happen but this year, it seems, that most teams were smart enough to get their business done earlier in the window.