Author Archives: Ryan Graham

About Ryan Graham

Ryan is a journalist and blogger from Brookfield, IL. He lives in Dubuque, IA, alone, in a studio apartment a block away from work-- which is kind of depressing. He's a sportswriter for the Telegraph Herald and the man behind the infamous "Dubuque Bar Reviews," which he wrote for his blog, Coachsrant.com. If you like what you read here, why not check out his blog? I mean, maybe his other stuff is good too, who knows? You know what, it probably sucks. Yeah, never mind, screw this guy. Email: Coachsrant@gmail.com Blog: Coachsrant.com Twitter: @Coachs_Rant

Sports Blog Movement NBA Preview: Northwest Division

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1. Oklahoma City Thunder (63-19)

Kevin-Durant-SI-CoverKey Additions: Steven Adams (Draft), Ryan Gomes (Out of the league)

Key Losses: Ronnie Brewer, Kevin Martin, DeAndre Liggins, Daniel Orton

The Thunder didn’t make many moves this off-season. Then again, they didn’t really need to. Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook will lead this team to a great regular season record– anything under 60 wins should be viewed as a disappointment. Their biggest question will be the shooting guard position. Thabo Sefolosha is a great perimeter defender, but he’s more of a situational player than a full-time starter. The Thunder will need second year player Jeremy Lamb to blossom into the player they think he can be.

A player to watch here is Steven Adams. The rookie has been very impressive in the preseason and could end up unseating Kendrick Perkins at the starting center position. Overall, the Thunder are the only team that has a legitimate chance to beat the Heat in an NBA finals series. That is, provided they can get there. Continue reading

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Sports Blog Movement NBA Preview: Atlantic Division

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1. Brooklyn Nets (58-24)

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Key Additions: Paul Pierce (BOS), Kevin Garnett (BOS), Jason Terry (BOS), Andre Kirilenko (MIN)

Key Losses: Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks

Mikhail Prokhorov probably set the Nets back ten years with his moves this off-season. Prokhorov made the decision to take Pierce, Garnett and Terry off the Celtics hands, and as a result, the Nets will be expected to pay an estimated $82 million in luxury taxes. But that’s the future.For now, the Nets have given themselves about a two year window. They’re either going to win an NBA championship (which I highly doubt)– or we’ll look back on this trade as one of the worst personnel moves in NBA history. You have to admire the dude’s balls though.

As far as the roster is concerned, the Nets are stacked. Deron Williams will play most of the team’s minutes at the point. Joe Johnson will start at the two, with Jason Terry coming in to supply the occasional scoring punch off the bench. Paul Pierce is close to death but he’ll be able to give the Nets some solid minutes. His back up is Andre Kirilenko, who will serve as the team’s best perimeter defender. Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez will start in the front court. The rebound master Reggie Evans will rotate in as well.

Overall, this team has depth. They have a chance to make a run in the playoffs but the biggest key will be injuries. Can Pierce, Garnett and Terry make it through an entire season without withering away into a pile of decomposing human dust? It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. For the Net’s sake, hopefully it’s not this season.

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10 Stages of an NFL Meltdown

TP_373300_WALL_35_Bucs09161.1_11575141_8colTeam meltdowns— we’ve all seen them happen. It happened to the Jets last year. The Buccaneers are in the middle of a meltdown as we speak. If you’re a Raiders or Browns fan, you get to experience a meltdown every year! But how does it happen? How does a perfectly decent NFL team go from a preseason favorite, to an unmitigated deteriorating sack of suck in the matter of a season? Actually, the process is quite simple. Here are the ten stages of an NFL team meltdown.

1. High Expectations

In order for it to be considered a meltdown, people actually need to think your team is talented. By people, I mean any sports writer or commentator not named Skip Bayless. I believe it was Mike Florio, Editor of Pro Football Talk—and a man whose opinion I respect— who picked the Kansas City Chiefs to win the AFC West last year. Instead, the Chiefs were the worst team in the NFL at 2-14. When a respected analyst makes that big of a gaffe, only then can it be considered a meltdown.

2. The Losses

At stage two, the team will begin to lose. Badly. Okay, so maybe the first couple games were close. Then comes the blowout. The QB throws five interceptions and the defensive gives up 40+ points. “It’s a long season,” coaches will tell the media. “We’ve dug ourselves a hole but I have confidence in our guys.”

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Sports Blog Movement NFL Preview: NFC West

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Welcome back friends! It’s time to take a look at the NFC West.

Two years ago, this was easily the worst division in football. If you don’t recall, the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West in 2011 with a whopping 7-9 record. Oh how things have changed. Nowadays, the West features two of the best teams in the NFL. Even the bad teams in the division aren’t all that bad. The Rams are on the rise and the Cardinals finally have a functional (albeit washed-up) Quarterback. There won’t be any 13+ win teams here, simply because each divisional match-up will be a god damn blood bath. You won’t be seeing any (6-0) divisional records in the NFC West. Meaning that this division will be fun to watch.

1. Seattle Seahawks (12-4)

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Additions: WR Percy Harvin (MIN), RB Christine Michael (Draft), QB Tarvaris Jackson (BUF), QB Lady Quinn (KC), DE Cliff Avril (DET), Antoine Winifield (MIN)

Losses: QB Matt Flynn, RB/KR Leon Washington

Offensively, Russel Wilson has plenty to work with. Even with the injury to Percy Harvin; the remaining receivers Sidney Rice, Zach Miller and Golden Tate are still dangerous targets. Beast-Mode will continue to do his thang and the Offensive Line will continue to be dominant (They gave up the 5th least amount of QB hits last season).

PED’s or not, the Seahawks defense is easily in the top-5. The addition of Cliff Avril will help make up for the injured Chris Clemons at Defensive End. The Linebacker core is solid. K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner combined for almost 250 tackles last season. The defensive backfield is THE best in the league. Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman are All-pro caliber. Earl Thomas is just about to enter his prime at 24 years old. Brandon Browner is solid on the corner. Not to mention, Antoine Winifield is set to play the Nickle back. I don’t know of another defensive backfield with more physicality. The Seahawks are poised to make a run deep into the playoffs. I think it’s fair to say that if they can survive their own division, this team is a lock for an NFC Championship appearance.

2. San Francisco 49ers (11-5)

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Additions: WR Anquan Boldin (BAL), RB Marcus Lattimore (Draft), QB Colt McCoy (CLE)

Losses: QB Alex Smith, WR Ted Ginn Jr.

Fresh off a Super Bowl loss, the 49ers look slightly worse off than they did at the beginning of last season. Two things are going to happen offensively: First, Colin Kaepernick will struggle to move the ball through the air due to his lack of weapons. He still has Vernon Davis and the addition of Anquan Boldin will help, but only a little. The loss of Michael Crabtree for the foreseeable future will put this offense in a huge hole. The second thing that will happen offensively is that teams will adjust to the Read-Option offense that made the 49er’s offense so successful last season. Defenses always adjust. Just as they did with the Wildcat offense, defenses will be on a mission to discover a way to shut down the Pistol. It will be up to Colin Kaepernick to adjust to the adjustment, so to speak. When defenses take away Kaepernick’s ability to run, how will he respond? That is the single biggest question facing the 49ers this season.

On the other side of the ball, the 49ers won’t have to change much. Their front seven is the best in football, bar none. Everyone knows about the great linebackers in Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis. However, the real key to that defense is a guy that no one talks about. I’m my opinion, he’s the best 3-4 defensive end in the league. I’m talking of course, about Justin Smith. He doesn’t show up on the stat sheet but Smith’s unique ability to occupy blockers is crucial to that defense. He’s the biggest reason that Aldon Smith got freed up enough to record 19.5 sacks last season. In fact, Aldon Smith recorded his 19.5 sacks in the first 13 games of the season. With three games to go, Justin Smith went down with an injury. Sure enough, Aldon Smith’s sack totals in the final three games were 0.0, 0.0 and 0.0.

Okay Jon Gruden, enough Justin Smith boners. The 49ers will struggle a bit in the beginning of the season until Michael Crabtree returns. Once #15 gets back into the line-up, the 49ers should be in position to fight for a wildcard berth. 

3. St. Louis Rams (8-8)

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Additions: WR Tavon Austin (Draft), RB Zac Stacy (Draft), T Jake Long (MIA), TE Jarred Cook (TEN), OLB Alec Ogletree (Draft)

Losses: RB Steven Jackson, WR Danny Amendola

The Rams are going to beat a lot of good teams this year. They’re not a great team yet, but they’re a dangerous. I equate them to Northwestern in the Big10. The “Cardiac Cats” always seems to sneak up on ranked teams like Michigan or Wisconsin and take them down to the wire or even beat them. We saw it last year when they went (1-0-1) against the eventual NFC Champion 49ers. This team could go 10-6 easily if they were in another division.

Offensively, Sam Bradford will have to improve this year. He turned the ball over a little too much last season with 13 INT’s and 4 fumbles and his completion percentage was below average at under 60%. I don’t think the Rams will lose much going from an aging Steven Jackson to a young Daryl Richardson. Richardson averaged 4.8 yards/carry to Jackson’s 4.1 last season and frankly, it was just time to move on. The Rams have a nice little receiving core with Tavon Austin, Austin Pettis, Chris Givens and Brian Quick. The addition of Jake Long should improve an already improving offensive line that went from last in the NFL in sacks given up in 2011 to 14th in 2012.

Defensively, the Rams have solid pieces. Chris Long will be strong off the edge and they have a young linebacking core with the addition of Alec Ogletree who should develop into a serviceable pro. Their two corners are solid. Cortland Finnegan is a fucking asshole but I’d still love to have him on my team. Janoris Jenkins is a stud and will be a Pro-Bowler this year. Keep an eye on rookie Safety T.J. McDonald; he’ll surprise people this year.

This simply isn’t the year for the Rams. Unfortunately, with so much young talent in their division, it doesn’t look like that year is coming anytime soon.

4. Arizona Cardinals (7-9)

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Additions: QB Carson Palmer (OAK), G Jonathan Cooper (Draft), RB Rashard Mendenhall (PIT), DE John Abraham (ATL)

Losses: QB John Skelton, QB Kevin Kolb, RB Beanie Wells, WR Early Doucet

It’s possible that I’m being too generous here by giving the Cardinals seven wins. It’s not that I think that Carson Palmer will suddenly turn this team around single-handedly. I do, however think that Larry Fitzgerald is about to go OFF this year. It’s been three years of frustration for Fitz. It’s been three damn years of interchangeable Bumblefuck McShitHead’s throwing him bounce-passes. NO MORE! Now he has a somewhat functional Quarterback and he’s about to ruin your life.

As far as how the rest of the roster is constructed, well, it’s a team. That’s more than the Oakland Raiders can say. It’s not a great team but it’s good enough to win six or seven games. Rashard Mendenhall is WAY past his prime but he’ll get most of the carries unless Ryan Williams can get his head out of his ass. The Receiving core is very top-heavy with Michael Floyd along with the aforementioned Fitzgerald. The Tight ends suck and the offensive line is still shit.

Defensively, the Cards are a little better. The front seven is strong with Darnell Dockett and Karlos Dansby. Patrick Peterson will be a borderline Pro-Bowler this year. The suspension of Daryl Washington for the first four games will hurt their pass rush. Overall, there’s not much to say about this team. They’re certainly not good enough to make a run into the playoffs. Yet their not bad enough for me to make fun of. Just another Arizona Cardinals season for ya’: Perpetual mediocrity.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my input on our NFL Preview here at Sports Blog Movement. Let’s hope you’re as excited for the start of the season as I am! HUCK IT, CHUCK IT, FOOTBALL!!!!!!

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Sports Blog Movement NFL Preview: AFC West

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What’s up kids? I’m here to talk to you about the AFC West!

This might just be the worst division in the NFL.  Take away the Denver Broncos and you’re left with a fat sack of bad. It wasn’t always so. The Chargers were once a perennial 10+ win team. Believe it or not, of the four teams, the Raiders have the most divisional championships. The Chiefs use to be… well on second thought, the Chiefs were always terrible. This division is sure to be a train wreck. One that you’ll get to witness mid-afternoons on CBS (because you know, these teams are too cool to start their games at 12 PM Central Time like everyone else.)

1. Denver Broncos (13-3)

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Additions: WR Wes Welker (NE), RB Monte Ball (Draft), C Dan Koppen (NE)

Losses: RB Willis Mcgahee, OLB Elvis Dumervil

Let’s face it, the Broncos have Peyton Manning. Ergo, the Broncos will win a lot of games. Their biggest strength lies in their passing game. Manning has a ridiculous amount of weapons at his disposal in Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker. Their Running Back situation is in flux but it won’t really matter. No team in their right mind will load the box against Peyton Manning. A one-legged Chimpanzee could play Running Back for the Broncos and end up with a 700 yard season.

Defensively, the loss of Von Miller for the first six games will certainly hurt. Without Miller who had 18.5 sacks last season, the next best pass rusher on the team is Derek Wolfe with a meager 6.0 sacks. Elvis Dumervil is also gone, so for the first part of the season, the Broncos will have trouble generating a pass rush. However, the defensive backfield is as solid as ever. Champ Bailey and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie make up one of the best Corner Back tandems in the league. Rahim Moore and Mike Adams are both solid NFL Safeties. The defense should be able to do enough to help Manning. This team will look unstoppable during the regular season. Just think where this team would be now if they would’ve kept Tim Tebow. Eat your heart out Skip Bayless.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)

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Additions: T Eric Fisher (Draft), QB Alex Smith (SF), WR Donnie Avery (IND), TE Anthony Fasano (MIA), Head Coach Andy Reid (PHI)

Losses: RB Peyton Hillis, WR Steve Breaston, QB Matt Cassel, QB Brady Quinn, TE Kevin Boss

Hey! What do ya know! The Chiefs have… a QUARTERBACK! They finally got the memo from HR. I mean, it’s probably important to have a Quarterback, but I don’t know, that could just be logic talking. Wow 9-7! That’s a big deal for the Chiefs! Alex Smith will be a GOD in Kansas City. He’s not even that good, but shit! You can’t get much worse than Lady Quinn. The offense has a decent amount of weapons with Dwane Bowe, Dexter McCluster and Jamaal Charles. They’ll end up somewhere in the middle of the pack offensively.

The real key to the Chiefs’ success this year will be their defense. The Chiefs’ D is stacked with young talent. Tyson Jackson and Dontari Poe are two up-and-coming Defensive Linemen. Derrick Johnson is still doing his thing at 97 years old. Tamba Hali is the best pass-rushing Outside Linebacker that no one talks about. Justin Houston will be a stud Linebacker someday. On the back end, you have a young Eric Berry at Safety who is blooming into a superstar. Cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Dunta Robinson are two borderline Pro-Bowl players. Overall, Andy Reid and the gang will surprise a lot of people this year. Two years from now, they’ll probably go 2-14 again. But for now, WOO HOO!

3. San Diego Chargers (6-10)

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Additions: T DJ Flunker (Draft), WR Keenan Allen (Draft), RB Danny Woodhead (NE), WR Eddie Royal (DEN)

Losses: TE Dante Rosario, LB Shaun Phillips

I feel bad for Phillip Rivers. I really do. “Okay Phil, here’s the plan: We’re gonna take away all your receiving weapons and give you no running game. Sound good? You’ll still be able to put up those big numbers right?” Now sure, Rivers has made his fair share of mistakes as well. But come on dude! Give him something to work with. Malcolm Floyd? Really? All defenses have to do is quadruple-team Antonio Gates and Rivers is screwed. There haven’t been any changes over the off-season that make me think 2013 will be any different from last year. Ryan Matthews is still fumbly and injured. The Offensive Line (which gave up the forth most sacks last year) is still a mess. The Charger’s number two receiver is Vincent Brown. Yeah… Vincent Brown. Good luck with that, Phillip.

Defensively, no one really scares me. Shaun Phillips (last year’s sack leader) is gone. Kendall Reyes and Cam Johnson (Who? and Who?) are set to start on the Defensive Line along side the above-average Corey Liuget. Manti Te’o is there. So there’s that. Derek Cox and Eric Weddle are the only two Defensive Backs worth noting. The aging Dwight Freeney was brought in to provide what ever pass rush he has left in those old bones. Overall, I’m unimpressed. The Chargers will toil away in mediocrity, beating playoff teams and getting blown out by shit teams. They’ll look playoff bound one week and the next week they’ll have six turnovers and look like they’ve never seen a football before. When it’s all said and done, they’ll finish under .500 and it’ll be back to the drawing board.

4. Oakland Raiders (1-15)

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Additions: QB Matt Flynn (SEA), WR/KR Josh Cribbs (CLE), QB Tyler Wilson (Draft), RB Rashad Jennings (JAX), LB Nick Roach (CHI)

Losses: QB Carson Palmer, WR Darius Heyward-Bey, TE Brandon Meyers, RB Mike Goodson

Do the Oakland Raiders know they’re a football team? Seriously? This has to be the sorriest excuse for a roster that I’ve ever seen. Matt Flynn? That’s your answer? Flynn could maybe be as good as Matt Cassel was in Kansas City. That means his best-case scenario is playing like shit for a couple years, getting injured and then listening to the fans cheer as he gets carted off the field. Denarius Moore and Rod Streator are his biggest weapons… Jesus. Darren McFadden will get injured like always. Once Matt Flynn gets benched, his back up is Terrelle Pryor. So that should be fun.

On the defensive side, I’ve heard of like three players. Charles Woodson will start at Free Safety since he’s too old and slow to play Corner Back anymore. Tyvon Branch is a decent Strong Safety. Tracey Porter and Mike Jenkins will start at Corner Back. Their most notable Linebacker is Nick Roach. Sio Moore and Kevin Burnett are the other two Linebackers. Lamarr Houston, Vance Walker, Pat Sims and Jason Walker make up the Defensive Line. See what I mean? Like what the fuck?

This is going to be a shit show. No. Worse than that. This is going to be an unmitigated three-day County Fair and Music Festival of shit– a shit Carnival. A shit Extravaganza. A shit Circus! Come one, come all! Pack up the cooler and cram the kids into the SUV. Don’t be the guy that misses out on all the fun and excitement! 

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Eight Simple Rules for Winning Your Fantasy Football League

People seem to think that Fantasy Football is this vast and complicated game. Everyone creates their own player ranking system and participates in mock draft after mock draft. They stress over match-ups and have a heart attack when they realize their two best players have the same bye week. Fantasy Football is not a science. You can never predict the amount of fantasy points a player will put up from week to week. Most of the time, it’s completely random.

With that said, there is a system that you can use that will help you at least give yourself a chance to win your league. I’ve used it in the past with great success. It doesn’t involve player rankings or mock drafts. All you really need is a general understanding of NFL teams and how the NFL game is played. Here are eight rules, which if followed will at the least, put you in position to win your Fantasy Football league. Because when it comes down to it, your fate is mostly up to chance.

1. Understand the Nature of the NFL

The first step to winning a Fantasy Football league is coming to grips with the fact that you can never be the reason that your team wins, but you can sure as hell be the reason that it loses. NFL coaches aren’t concerned with fantasy points. They’re more concerned with keeping their job and pissing away valuable years of their lives. The sooner you realize this, the better off you’ll be. To that point, players will have off games. Either because they weren’t featured in the game plan that week or maybe they just had a bad game. Players will always regress to their mean. If you have a good player, don’t bench him after one bad game or even two bad games. If you’re confident that he’s a good player, ride out the slump until he gets back on track.

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NFL Coaches Who Will Get Fired Next Season

In today’s NFL, coaches get fired for three basic reasons:
1. They get stuck with a shit team.

(See Ken Whisenhunt or anyone who has coached the Browns or Raiders in the past decade)

Sometimes, coaches just get screwed. They get stuck with a retread Quarterback playing on his third team, skill players that are considered “projects” and a secondary with more holes than a Louis Sachar novel. There’s only so much a coach can do. You can polish a turd but you can’t make it win super bowl rings. Never mind the lack of talent on the roster, the wasted draft picks and the kicker that gets a $16 million contract (I’m looking at you, Raiders). After two 6-10 seasons, someone has to be the scapegoat right?

2. People hate them.

(See Mike Singletary, Norv Turner)

Sometimes coaches are just flat-out despised by either the fans, the media, their players, team management or a combination of the four. Sometimes they deserve the criticism. They might call a Wide Receiver reverse on 4th and inches or get caught banging someone they shouldn’t have been banging. They could also just be a complete fucking lunatic. In those cases, fuck it, let ’em have it. But in today’s world of internet memes and Facebook trolling, people just start to hate things because other people hate them. All this hatred builds up and gains momentum until it gets into the GMs’ heads and forces their hand.

3. “It’s just time to move on.”

(See Lovie Smith, Andy Reid, John Fox)

You hear that phrase thrown around all the time with NFL coaches. It basically translates to, “We’re bored of this coach, let’s go find a new one.” Most times, the coach getting fired has had a good amount of success. But after years of playoff futility, it gets to a point where everyone just seems to agree that the coach in question should be fired.

Below is a list of current NFL coaches, followed by a grade that represents their level of job security.

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