2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

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A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,400 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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NFL: PLAYOFF RACE MAYHEM/WEEK #17 PICKS

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     I cannot remember an NFL Season that has entered the final week of play with so many questions unanswered and so many open Playoff Spots to be had.  The AFC Playoff Picture is a little more clear than the NFC, but not by much.  In the AFC, the New England Patriots have clinched the AFC East, the Cincinnati Bengals are the AFC North winners, the Colts the South, and Denver Broncos the West.  The only other team that has clinched a playoff birth is the Kansas City Chiefs.  No seeds have been clinched and home field advantage is still there for the taking.  So there will not be many players resting this week, or at least any whose team has a significant opportunity.  The Miami Dolphins, the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, and San Diego Chargers are all vying for the sixth and final playoff spot.

     The NFC picture is even more clouded.  Not one Division has been clinched thus far in the NFC, and only the Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, and San Francisco 49ers have clinched playoff births.  The Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, and Arizona Cardinals all go into Week #17 needing a win to lock up the final 3 Playoff Spots.  And here we are, the second week without a Thursday Night Game, making Sunday the Number One Story of the year.  2013 still has a few days left and Sunday will be a significant day in many team’s 2013 Season.  There could not be much more hype going into a final weekend of a regular NFL season.

     There are also many side notes as we enter this final weekend.  Peyton Manning has a chance to add to his league record 51 Touchdown Passes.  The Eagle’s Running Back LeSean McCoy goes into the weekend in search of the rushing crown and is only 50 yards shy of an Eagles Team Rushing Record.  It was announced just today that the Packer’s Aaron Rodgers will make his first start, after missing seven games due to a collarbone injury.  The Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo suffered an injury Sunday that many are saying is season ending, but you and I both know the media drama monster that the Cowboys propose.  This should be one of the most memorable final weekends in NFL History.  So now with out further a due…my picks.

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CAROLINA PANTHERS (11-4, 1st Place NFC South)

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ATLANTA FALCONS (4-11, Last Place NFC South)

This game is a microcosm of how the 2013 NFL Season has transpired.  The Falcons were many experts picks to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.  My, my, my how wrong were they.  The Carolina Panthers lead the Division with one game to play and either need a win or Falcons loss to clinch the Division.  However; if for some reason the Panthers are upset by the last place Falcons and the New Orleans Saints can win, then the Saints take the Division Title.  On paper, this game is a huge mismatch.  Cam Newton has been stellar at Quarterback for the Panthers and has turned an abysmal start of the season into a tremendous run in the past two months.  Newton has lead the resurgent Panthers to the brink of a Division Win and a First Round Bye.  The Falcons would love to play spoiler in this one.  Every time I have picked against the Panthers this season I have been wrong.  So, I am changing my pattern and I am taking the Panthers to win the game and the Division.  They will win in comeback fashion 23-17.

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GREEN BAY PACKERS (7-7-1, 2nd Place NFC North)

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CHICAGO BEARS (8-7, First Place NFC North)

Here is a head to head contest where winner takes all and the loser goes home.  Its hard to believe that the Packers are a 3 Point Favorite in this game on the road.  The only reason that this game means anything is that tie that the Packers had a Month back.  If not for that tie, the Bears would have won the Division by default.  But that is a what if scenario that does not exist in the NFL.  The Bears were completely humiliated on Sunday Night Football last week against the Philadelphia Eagles.  The Packers on the other hand had another comeback win behind back up Quarterback Matt Flynn.  In order for the Bears to win this game, they will have to do a better job with their deep passing game.  Also, the Eagles were the first team to neutralize Running Back Matt Forte.  The Bears have the worst pass defense which does not bode well against a hungry Aaron Rodgers.  I have said numerous times that the Packers are the dark horse sleeper in the NFC if Rodgers could somehow come back.  Although Aaron Rodgers is back, and I do think this will make the game close, I am taking the Bears in an upset at Soldier Field.  The Bears win the game 31-28.

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HOUSTON TEXANS (2-13, LAST PLACE AFC SOUTH)

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TENNESSEE TITANS (6-9, Second Place AFC South)

The first meaningless game on my docket.  Well, it will not be meaningless if the Titans can beat the Texans at home, which would give the Texans the league’s worst record and the first pick of the 2014 Draft.  The Texans are the NFL’s most disappointing team.  Their defense has been ranked #1 almost all year, however, they turn the ball over and give up loads of points.  The Texans are favored by 7 in this game.  I am taking they Titans to win this game outright 17-14.

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CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-11, LAST PLACE AFC NORTH)

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PITTSBURGH STEELERS (7-8, 3RD PLACE AFC NORTH)

The Steelers are favored by 7 in this one at home.  The Steelers have avery slim chance to make the playoffs but many things would have to go their way.  However, despite the ramifications, the Steeler’s coach said this week that they will not lay down.  I expect the Steelers to come out and play Steeler Football as they best the Browns 24-21.

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WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-12, LAST PLACE NFC EAST)

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NEW YORK GIANTS (6-9, THIRD PLACE NFC EAST)

Ok, so this Division Rivalry comes into Sunday with absolutely no meaning.  There will not even be bragging rights in this one as both teams were eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago.  However, this is still a Division Rivalry and these games always have some type of meaning.  I do not see the Redskins just crawling in a whole and throwing in the towel.  In fact, last week they almost beat Dallas, which would have played the playoff spoiler.  The Giants look like they gave up months ago, which is not like a Tom Coughlin run team.  Nonetheless, the Giants are favored by three at home.  I take the Redskins to beat the Giants, handing them their first ten loss season in ten years.  The Redskins win handily 27-14.

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BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-7, SECOND PLACE AFC NORTH)

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CINCINNATI BENGALS (10-5, FIRST PLACE AFC NORTH)

So here we are, the last week of the season and the Super Bowl Champion Ravens are still in contention.  However, they need a few things to go their way.  The Bengals on the other hand, are looking to lock up a top seed and a first round bye.  If the Bengals can win and the Patriots somehow lose, they would get the second Seed.  This is a huge game for a team that was highly rated coming into the season.  The way that the NFL has been this season is crazy.  So because of that fact, I am taking the Ravens to upset the Bengals who already have a playoff spot locked up.  A win by the Ravens could possibly set up a game the following week in the wildcard round as a rematch.  The Ravens win 20-17.

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JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (4-11, THIRD PLACE AFC SOUTH)

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INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (10-5, FIRST PLACE AFC SOUTH)

The Colts who are favored by 11.5 Points at home in this game against the hapless Jaguars have been quiet beast in the AFC.  The Colts have beat the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, and Kansas City Chiefs all of who are top Playoff Teams.  The Colts are also in search of a First Round Bye and a win would go pretty far in helping their cause.  I say that Andrew Luck does not need any luck and they beat the Jags 34-20.

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NEW YORK JETS (7-8, THIRD PLACE AFC EAST)

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MIAMI DOLPHINS (8-7, SECOND PLACE AFC EAST)

The Miami Dolphins come into this Divisional Game needing a win to have a shot at the playoffs.  The Dolphins beat the jets in New York last month, but have been extremely inconsistent.  The Dolphins need a win and a few other teams to lose to make the wild card round.  Ryan Tannehill has been superb most of the year but his playing status is in question due to an injury.  The Dolphins are favored by 5.  Although, it would be a nice conclusion for Rex Ryan and the boys to get to .500, the Fish win this game and sneak into the playoffs.  The Dolphins win 23-20.

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DETROIT LIONS (7-8, THIRD PLACE NFC NORTH)

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MINNESOTA VIKINGS (4-10-1, LAST PLACE NFC NORTH)

Wow, a month ago the Lions had a comfortable lead on the NFC North and looked like a playoff lock.  However, this team has totally collapsed.  They have one of the most potent offenses in the league but cannot put teams away.  The game a few weeks in Philly in the snow really seemed to be the turning point.  The Lions were 7-5, beating the Eagles and well on their way to 8-5.  Now, three straight losses coupled with Packers and Bear’s wins has knocked them out of playoff contention.  The Lions are favored by 5 in this one but not much matters.  The biggest story will be if Adrian Peterson can come back from that horrifying injury and finish out the season.  The Vikings win 27-20.

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BUFFALO BILLS (6-9, LAST PLACE AFC EAST)

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NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (11-4, FIRST PLACE AFC EAST)

Once again, another game with huge playoff implications.  The Bills have been a door mat for the most part this season.  The Patriots need a win to lock up home field advantage and a bye in this one so Im sure Bellicheck will have the troops ready.  The loss of Gronkowski has put a weakness in the Patriots armor.  Even though the Bills have had some upsets this season and have a chance to play spoiler, I see the Pats winning this one and locking up a Bye.  The Patriots win 28-20.

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TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (4-11, LAST PLACE NFC SOUTH)

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NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-5, SECOND PLACE NFC SOUTH)

Wow, the two bottom feeders of the NFC South have a chance to play spoiler against the Saints and Panthers.  Well, I do not see this happening this week.  Drew Brees is on a mission this season.  He is tired of hearing about Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.  He wants to show the NFL that he is still a force in the league.  The Saints roll over the dead Bucs 38-21.

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DENVER BRONCOS (12-3, FIRST PLACE AFC WEST)

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OAKLAND RAIDERS ( 4-11, LAST PLACE AFC WEST)

The Broncos go up big in the first half and rest their starters the rest of the way.  A win gives the Broncos Home Field throughout the playoffs and a week 1 Bye.  The Raiders have struggled against good offenses all year and the Broncos are averaging 38 Points per Game.  Peyton adds to his record stats and the Broncos are well inn their way.  Broncos win 35-24, as the game is much closer after Denver decides to rest their starters.

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SAN FRANCISCO 49ers (11-4, SECOND PLACE NFC WEST)

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ARIZONA CARDINALS (10-5, THIRD PLACE NFC WEST)

The Cardinals have to be kicking themselves for playing in the toughest division in football this year.  They have an extremely respectable record at 10-5 and may not make the playoffs.  The 49ers already have a playoff spot locked up and still have a shot at the Division.  If the Niners win and Seattle loses the Niners can win the Division.  The Cardinals can only make the playoffs with a win and Saints Loss.  The Niners take this one and make the Cardinals the best 10-6 Team to not make the playoffs in forever.  The 49ers 21-16.

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KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-4, Second Place AFC WEST)

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SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (8-7, THIRD PLACE)

The Chiefs have locked up a playoff spot and really cannot move up or down in the standings as they will be the Number 1 Wild Card Team.  However, the Chargers can sneak into the playoffs with a win and thats exactly what I see happening.  The Chargers win 28-24 at home and sneak into the playoffs.

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SAINT LOUIS RAMS (7-8, LAST PLACE NFC WEST)

The Rams have tread water ever since Sam Bradford went down with an injury.  They have a chance to finish with a .500 Record.  The Seahawks have been very dominant and are favored by 11.5.  However, my story has the Rams upsetting the Seahawks at home and giving the 49ers the Division Crown.  With an Eagles win against the Cowboys that would set up a Seattle Philly game in Philly in the Week One Wildcard Round.  Call me a homer, I don’t care, thats what I see happening.  The Rams win 20-17.

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PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (9-6, FIRST PLACE NFC EAST)

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DALLAS COWBOYS (8-7, SECOND PLACE NFC EAST)

In August, if somebody would have told me that the Philadelphia Eagles would be playing on the last Sunday of the Season against the Dallas Cowboys, for a chance at winning the Division I would have said they were nuts.  However, here we are.  The Eagles have completely matured and bought into Chip Kelly’s System in year One.  The Cowboys have been inconsistent as usual. They do have that potent offense but their defense has been weak.  This game will be completely different than the one in Philly where the Cowboys won 17-6.  Since that game, the Eagles have won six games and are rolling behind a confident Nick Foles.  Tony Romo came up lame in the last game and there is a chance he does not play.  In my eyes, it does not matter if he plays.  The Eagles win the NFC East and beat the Cowboys 45-31.  There you have it my picks.  We shall see what happens.  No matter what the outcome, Sunday will matter up until the last buzzer during the Eagles Cowboys game.  Thats what makes the NFL the best.

NICK FOLES THE NEXT TOM BRADY???

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     This will obviously be a hypothetical post as Tom Brady is one of the Greatest Quarterbacks to ever grace the fields of the NFL.  However, I can see a ton of similarities between Tom Brady and Nick Foles, the Eagles starting Quarterback in just his second season.  Tom Brady was a Sixth Round Pick out of Michigan, and he was picked #199 in the 2000 NFL Draft (6th Round).  That first season, Brady was the Fourth String Quarterback and saw barely any NFL action.  However the rest is history.  In 2001, Tom Brady took over as New England’s Starting Quarterback after star Drew Bledsoe went down with a terrible injury.  Brady never looked back.  Brady was like a surgeon on the operating table as he won game and game after game for the Patriots to the NFL’s amazement.  After a wild and crazy post season, Brady became the youngest Quarterback to ever win a SuperBowl as he took the Patriots to a win against the heavily favored Saint Louis Rams (Greatest Show on Turf) NFC Team.  

     In Tom Brady’s first year as a starter for the Patriots, during the Super Bowl Run, he put up above average stats.  He completed 264 Passes out of 413 for a 63.9 Completion Percentage, threw for 2,843 Yards, had 18 Touchdowns and 12 Interceptions.  Then in the Playoffs, Brady lead the Pats to wins over the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers on to their way to a Super Bowl Win Against the Saint Louis Rams.  In Fact, that year was the season when the “famous tuck rule.” came into existence after a game in the snow between the Patriots and Raiders.  The Pats then went on to defeat the Rams 20-17 in the Super Bowl.

     Ok, so lets look at Nick Foles and his journey so far.  There are many similarities between Foles and Brady besides the fact that Foles was a 3rd Round Pick.  In 2012, Foles saw limited action behind Michael Vick although he did show some signs of talent.  However, on December 23rd, Foles broke his hand and was placed on injured reserve.  Now onto the 2013 Season.  This is where my Tom Brady comparison becomes more realistic.  Going into the 2013 season, Michael Vick (20 Million Dollar Quarterback) was the unquestioned starter in Chip Kelley’s new high powered relentless offense.  Mike would be the man and had a chance to resurrect his career.  However, eerily similar to 2001 when Drew Bledsoe went down with a freak injury, Vick went down in 2013.  Foles took over and has not looked back despite missing two games due to a concussion.  Foles, like Brady in 2001, has become the unquestioned leader for the Philadelphia Eagles, and has lead them back to an opportunity to win the NFC East Championship, after beginning the season 3-5.

     Foles threw 7 Touchdown Passes against the Oakland Raiders in October and thats when he took off.  If you look at his stats, they are actually better than Brady in his 2001 Season.  With one game to play, Nick Foles has a 118.8 Passer Rating, which would put him in the Top Ten Quarterback Ratings for a season of all-time.  Foles has thrown 25 Touchdowns and only 2 Interceptions.  He has 2,628 Yards Passing, which could easily be over 3,000 had he not missed those two games due to a concussion.  Obviously, you cannot put Foles on Brady’s level as Foles has a ton of work to do.  However, their careers mirror one an others.  Both Quarterbacks have strong arms and are accurate with the football.   Both Quarterbacks are leaders and show poise in the pocket.  Both Quarterbacks are loved by the ladies.  Tom Brady is 6’4″.  Foles is 6’6″.  Brady weighs 225 Pounds.  Foles weighs 243 Pounds.  Both Quarterbacks have many similarities.  

     That second year, 2001, when Brady took over for star Quarterback Drew Bledsoe, he took the league by storm.  In 2013, when Nick Foles took over for star Quarterback Mike Vick, he has taken the league by storm.  Obviously, Foles has a ton of work to do before he can be compared to Brady.  However, this season is eerily similar to 2001.  Next Sunday will be a huge day in the life of Nick roles as he has a chance to lead his Philadelphia Eagles to a Division Crown and 3rd Seed in the Playoffs by beating Division Rival Dallas Cowboys.  We cannot predict the outcome, but it seems that Foles is following a similar path as Brady.  The rest is yet to be written…but this has been a great story and could go along way to the development of the next quarterback prodigy.  We shall see.  Until next time, keep enjoying the NFL.

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COVER ME

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I want to have a little fun today and I hope to get some participation and feedback.  This is one of those posts that will require audience participation so please pay attention.  Throughout the history of music, including all of the adaptations and changes, the concept of “cover music” has become a huge part of the art.  First, we have the typical “Cover Bands” that travel the circuit of bars and clubs and play all of the people’s favorites week to week.  We also have the traditional cover band, bands like “Youthanasia” (Megadeth Cover Band), that form and play everyone’s favorite band’s full catalogs.  Some of these bands mix in some occasional original material and some choose to stick to their idol.  “Cover Music” is and always will be an important part of the music industry.  And then finally, we have those bands that will mix in an occasional cover song or two on their studio albums.  Furthermore, some bands take it to the next level and release “Full Length Cover Albums” featuring different songs from bands ranging from the classic sixties, to modern day, and some even cover Holiday Favorites or even other music categories such as rap, pop, and R&B.

Through the years, there have been many great bands that have chose to release these full length “Cover Albums.”  Before Guns N Roses demise, they released a cover album called “The Spaghetti Incident” which was an album that consisted of mostly punk rock and classic hits from the seventies and eighties.  A few years back, Christian Heavy Metal band Stryper released the album called “The Covering”, which featured some Heavy Metal Classics, Hard Rock Classics and even one new song of their own. I must say, for any true Rock N Roll Fan, this is a must listen as this album is incredible.  Stryper covers a wide range of material and they nail every song.  Just this past year, Anthrax released an EP Cover Album named “Anthems” which featured music from AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Journey, and others.  I was not aware of this, but during Joey Belladonna’s hiatus from Anthrax, he formed a Journey Cover Band in New York City, playing all of the clubs and pounding out all of the Journey Hits.  “Anthems” is another must hear for any metal fan.  You actually get a greater appreciation for a band when they go outside of their “comfort” zone.  Anthrax and Journey???  You are saying to yourself…how could this be any kind of success.  Many others would expect an epic fail.  Well, Anthrax kicked ASS on this album and it was one of the best releases of 2013.

Ok, so let us get to my purpose of this post.  I thought it would be fun to look at some high profile bands and the songs that you as a music fan would love to hear covered by other bands.  Many bands that cover music choose to pick songs that the audience is familiar with so that it may get more airplay.  I am one of those old school metal fans that would rather hear rare songs covered.  I think it makes the whole idea more fun and interesting.  I would like to take a look at some high profile bands of today and yesterday and form a list of cover songs that would be good for the wave of the future.  This is all for fun folks, so if you disagree or have your own opinions please join in.  I want this to be a fun exercise.

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Ok, the first band that I would like to focus on is Metallica.  Metallica, part of the BIG 4, is one of the most popular Metal Bands to ever grace the music scene.  Numerous Metallica songs have been covered throughout history by many bands.  There are even a few Metallica Tribute albums that have been released featuring material from a wide range and variety of bands.  Metallica has covered many songs themselves.  Some popular Metallica covers include “Whiskey in a Jar” and “Turn the Page.”  Also, “Am I Evil” and “Blitzkrieg.”  So this brings me to my next question…if there was any Metallica song that you would want to hear covered by another band, what would that song be??  For me, this is a very difficult choice because I have so many favorite Metallica Songs.  Many have already been covered.  I always like to look at underrated songs when I pick my choice.  Well due to the circumstances of Metallica’s popularity and the large amount of songs that have been covered in the past, I have to go with one of my personal favorites.  I would love to hear “The Shortest Straw” covered someday.  “Shortest Straw” appears on the AND Justice For All album.

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     Pantera has always been one of my favorite all-time bands.  Pantera is another band that has a large group of cover and tribute bands so many of their songs have been covered by once again a wide variety of bands.  Avenged Sevenfold covered “Walk” a few years back.  This is another hard choice for me because there are so many excellent Pantera Classics.  For me, the song “Hollow” has always been a huge song that makes you realize that life is short.  In essence, for the band this song was actually a premonition in a cruel way, as Dimebag Darrell was murdered and this song very well could be about him.  So for me, due to the circumstances and the power of this song, I would love to hear it covered.  Another Pantera song that I would personally love to hear covered, an underrated but very heavy song, would be “The Great Southern Trendkill.”  This is actually the first Pantera song that I heard.

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     Alice In Chains has always been one of my inspirations as far as bands go. Layne Staley definitely died too young, but the band has truly recovered and are very successful today.  This is again another hard choice.  There are so many great Alice In Chains Classics old and new.  “Man in the Box” would be the obvious song that people would probably want to hear.  For me, I think it would be so cool to hear a band cover “The Rooster.”  That song brings chills down my spine.

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     For me, Guns N Roses has been one of my all-time favorite bands.  The artwork from Appetite For Destruction is engraved in my brain like it is 1987 again.  Guns N Roses is one of those bands that you always say to yourself…what could have been?  I have many favorite Guns N Roses songs that I enjoy hearing and they never get old.  However, the one song that always made a lasting impression on me and is my personal favorite is “Its So Easy.”  I even look at bands today that may be able to pull this cover off and I feel that Avenged Sevenfold could be the perfect choice.  If anyone is reading this and is friends with the band, tell them that would be an awesome addition to their next album.

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     For those of you that have never heard Typonegative…you have no idea what you are missing.  Typonegative was one of those Metal bands that shared many styles and meshed them together to form an awesome sound.  I would say that Typonegative was a clash between gothic/dark metal and progressive.  Former lead singer, Peter Steele, who has passed away was an extremely talented singer and songwriter.  Typonegative was short-lived and I wish they were still around because they were quite a band to see live.  The song I definitely would love to see covered is “Christian Woman.”  This song is an awesome tune that will bring chills to your spine.

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     Growing up in the eighties and nineties, Fuel was one of my favorite bands.  Fuel has since disappeared; however, they are returning shortly as they are in studio working on a new album.  There are many personal favorites that would be awesome to hear covered.  Some of these include ‘Shimmer”, “Bittersweet” and “Bad Day.”  However, if I had to pick one song that would be extremely fulfilling to hear covered it would be “Jesus or a Gun.”  I even think the perfect band to cover this would be BuckCherry.

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     When everyone thinks of the most popular Glam Metal Bands of the Eighties, they think Motley Crue, Poison, Warrant, Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister, Cinderella, Stryper etc.  However, growing up, my personal favorite was RATT.  RATT had an excellent set of musicians, Warren Demartini may be one of the most underrated guitarists of all-time.  When you think RATT, the two songs that come to mind are “Round and Round” and “Lay it Down.”  But if i would want to hear one of their songs covered it would definitely be “Body Talk.”  When I hear Body Talk the adrenaline rush I get is amazing.  Just listen to the song and it immediately brings me to the scene in Karate Kid, where the main character is in his fast car with the girl.

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     Wow, this for me is the most difficult of all because Megadeth is my all-time favorite band.  I own every album, DVD, book, and tons of merchandise.  I even own a Dave Mustaine signature guitar.  All my fans know my fascination with Megadeth, so this would definitely be my hardest to pick.  However, I do have a song in mind that is underrated.  It may not be one of their greatest hits, but it surely kicks ass with Megadeth’s throttle tempo.  Its a song that has always done it for me.  The song is called “Scorpion”, and its off of The System Has Failed album.  I have never even heard this song live but I always request it at every live show that I attend.  Maybe someday, some band somewhere will bring this track to the forefront.

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     What fun would this post be without me including a local band.  Overkill in my mind makes the Big 6, behind Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Testament.  Overkill has never went mainstream and has been pounding out aggressive thrash metal for over 30 Years.  Overkill has had many successful albums as well as singles.  For me, I would love to hear the song “Solitude” covered.  Solitude is featured on the album Horroscope, one of Overkills greatest pieces.  Solitude is as close to a ballad as you can get from one of Metal’s pure thrash kings.

Metal Church

     Metal Church, another 80’s Thrash Giant, just released Generation Nothing, which I voted as my #1 Metal Album release of 2013.  Metal Church, through all of the lineup changes has always been an awesome metal force in the metal community.  As I look at their catalog, there are so many songs that I would love to hear.  However, the song that comes most to mind, is the self-titled “Metal Church”.  The song Metal Church is heavy before its time and I could see a band like Lamb of God cranking the song up as if it were on steroids.

Ok, my list could go on and on forever.  I could probably write a novel of all the music that I would love to hear covered.  However, I would be grey and old by that time.  Oh yeah thats right…I am old.  Anyone that remembers these bands is an old head lol.  So, what are your favorite bands?  What songs would you love to hear covered.  Cover Music will continue to be an important part of the Metal Community forever.  As I am writing this, many other tunes are coming to mind.  Iron Maiden-Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter, Stryper-To Hell With the Devil, Motley Crue-Too Young to Fall in Love, ok…stop Bird…you are getting off track.  Ok, so we are seven days from Christmas, what albums have you asked for this season.  In my next post, I will feature some of the most anticipated album releases of 2014.  Until next time…enjoy your Thursday.  ROCK ON and LONG Live METAL!

NFL PLAYOFF SCENARIO FRENZY

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     Ok…I want to take this opportunity to wish all of my fans a safe and Happy Holiday Season.  Without my fans, I would be an epic failure.  A special thank you goes out to the website INTHENEUTRALZONE.COM for promoting my site.  I urge every sports fan to check out their material…great stuff.  So the NFL Season is down to two weeks and the playoff picture still remains a puzzle.  In the NFC, no team has clinched a Division as of yet and only the Seattle Seahawks have clinched a playoff birth.  The AFC story is not much better.  Only the Indianapolis Colts have clinched their Division and the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos have clinched playoff births.  At 11-3, the Broncos and Chiefs are tied for the Division lead and it comes down to the last two games.

     In the AFC, New England Patriots (10-4), Miami Dolphins (8-6), Cincinnati Bengals (9-5), Baltimore Ravens (8-6), and San Diego Chargers (7-7) are all vying for the final 4 Playoff Spots.  The NFC Picture is even more up in the air.  The San Francisco 49ers (10-4), Arizona Cardinals (9-5), New Orleans Saints (10-4), Carolina Panthers (10-4), Chicago Bears (8-6), Green Bay Packers (7-6-1), Detroit Lions (7-7), Philadelphia Eagles (8-6), and Dallas Cowboys (7-7) are playing for 5 Playoff Spots.  In the AFC, a win this week by the New England Patriots and a loss by the Miami Dolphins would give New England the AFC East Title.  A Bengals win and Ravens loss would allow the Bengals to lock up a playoff spot and clinch the AFC Central.  Obviously, the Chiefs and Broncos both control their own destiny, however the Broncos have the inside track to the Division crown as they beat the Chiefs twice.  So a preliminary Playoff Picture in the AFC could look like the following: Denver Broncos (13-3) First Round Bye, New England Patriots (11-5) First Round Bye, Indianapolis Colts (10-6), Cincinnati Bengals (10-6), Kansas City Chiefs (13-3) Wild Card, Miami, Baltimore, or San Diego last wild card.

     The NFC Playoff Picture has become a crapshoot.  Let us just say that the Seattle Seahawks win their remaining games and go 14-2.  Here are the other scenarios.  In the NFC East, an Eagles win and Cowboys loss Sunday will see the Eagles clinch the East and render the last game between the two teams null.  However, if both the Eagles and Dallas win then the final game of the season would decide the Division.  Obviously two Dallas wins and two Eagles losses gives the Cowboys the Division.  The NFC North is a 3 Team Battle between the Bears, Packers, and Lions.  The Bears have the inside track, however if they lose to the Eagles on Sunday it will be very interesting.  The dark horse and sleeper is the Packers.  If they can somehow sneak into the playoffs and get AARON Rodgers back they could make some noise and be a very dangerous team.  The 49ers control their destiny and if they win out they will definitely make the playoffs and could still steal the Division CROWN if Seattle slips.

     This week will go along way to determining the playoff berths in the NFC and AFC alike.  However, it probably will not be until next week until most Divisions and seeds are decided.  Let’s look at some of the key statistical races as we finish the season.  Peyton Manning has wrapped up the Passing Touchdown Title as he has 47 with 2 games left to play.  There is a pretty good chance that he will break Tom Brady’s single season record of 51 Touchdowns as Denver is still trying to clinch the Division and possibly a bye.  Barring a total collapse, the Eagles Nick Foles will win the Passer Rating Title in only his first starting season.  Right now he sits at 117.0 and if he can stay there or higher it, he will make the Top 10 of all-time single season passer ratings.  Peyton Manning has 4,811 passing yards and Drew Brees has 4,500 so it comes down to these two for the yardage crown.

     The Receiving Yardage Crown will come down to the Lion’s Megatron (1,449) and Josh Gordon (1,467).  Brandon Marshall, Antonio Brown, Pierre Garcon and Andre Johnson all have over 90 Receptions so one of these players will naturally win that category.  The Saints Jimmy Graham has 14 Receiving Touchdowns and appears to be the runaway favorite there.  The Eagles LeSean McCoy has 1,343 Rushing yards and will clinch the rushing title with two more decent games.  Other challengers are the Chief’s Jamaal Charles and the Bear’s Matt Forte.  Jamaal Charles has 18 Touchdowns (11 Rush/7 REC) so he will win that battle.  LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles battle for the All-Purpose Yards Crown.  Matt Forte is also there.  And Mathis of the Colts appears to have locked up the Sack Title…he has 16.5 so far.  In conclusion, good luck too the Fantasy Players still alive for the Championship.  Until next time, enjoy the rest of your week.

NFL WEEK 15: IT’S CRUNCH TIME

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     I cannot believe that its already week 15 of the NFL Season.  It just seems like yesterday that I was watching that first Thursday Night Game with Peyton Manning throwing 7 Touchdowns on Opening Night.  This season has been a gut wrenching one for many successful teams and some unlikely teams have dominated the league.  For instance, the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets that were all playoff teams last year will miss this year’s Dance.  The Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles, and New Orleans Saints have been surprise teams.  If these teams make the playoffs they will be a force to reckon with.  As we get close to the close of the season and the start of the Post Season (Playoffs), we will quickly analyze this seasons winners, losers, MVP Favorites, key injuries, Super Bowl Contenders or Pretenders, and a look at the teams that are on the bubble fighting for a playoff spot.  But first, lets look at this weeks match ups and I will give you my picks.

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WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-10, Last Place NFC EAST)

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ATLANTA FALCONS (3-10, LAST PLACE NFC SOUTH)

Okay, so this is a meaningless game between two of the worst teams in the league.  Washington and Atlanta are both tied for the worst record in the league behind the Houston Texans (2-10).  So yes, as far as the playoffs there are no implications here.  However, whatever team loses will go a long way to deciding next year’s NFL Draft.  The Washington Redskins, have been a major disappointment this season.  Some people will say that the injury that RGIII suffered last season is an injury that really takes two years to come back from.  I am not buying that.  The Redskins are actually ranked Ninth in Total Team Offense (17th Passing/2nd Rushing).  They are 23rd in Total Team Defense, however they are dead last in points allowed with 407, which is 31.3 Points allowed per week, terrible.  The Falcons were many people’s pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.  Ouch.  What a bust.  Atlanta is 4th in points allowed so I sense a similar theme here.  Atlanta also lost their best Wide Receiver, the dynamic Julio Jones to a Knee injury and their second wide out, Roddy White has missed a ton of time.  Also, Steven Jackson their offseason signing at Tailback missed the first seven weeks.  Also, Matt Ryan has been very inconsistent.  Nonetheless, this matchup is important for both franchises.  The Redskins are 6.5 Point Road Dogs at the Dome in Atlanta.  For some reason, I see this as a trap game if there is such thing between two bad teams.  I see the Redskins winning in an upset 27-24 on the road.

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SAN FRANCISCO 49ers (9-4, 2ND PLACE NFC WEST)

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TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (4-9, 3RD PLACE NFC SOUTH)

The San Francisco 49ers are behind Seattle in the standings, however they need this game more than Seattle needs a win.  The Bucs on the other hand are just finishing out another poor season full of disappointment and injuries.  As good as San Francisco has been this year, their Offense is ranked 28th Total in the League.  However, they are in the middle of the pack as far as team scoring at 12th (24.3 Points Per Game.)  San Fran has the 4th ranked Defense behind the Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, and Houston Texans.  The 49ers bread and butter is their defense and they rely heavily on their running game and creating turnovers.  With the 49ers favored by 5.5 in this one, I would say this could be a trap game.  Nonetheless, Tampa is just too bad and has been plagued by injuries and controversy.  I am taking the Niners to win fairly easily by a score of 27-10.

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ARIZONA CARDINALS (8-5, 3RD PLACE NFC WEST)

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TENNESSEE TITANS (5-8, 2ND AFC SOUTH)

The Arizona Cardinals are holding on for dear life in the playoff race and basically need to win out to have any hope of making the playoffs.  They trail Seattle (11-2) and San Fran (9-4) in the Division.  So the only way they have a shot at the playoffs is to leapfrog the 49ers, which will take 3 wins and 49ers 2 Losses.  The Titans have been a weird team this season as they are lacking a true identity.  However, they have played spoiler to a few teams.  The Cardinals are favored by 2.5 in this one and I say they will win due to the playoff implications.  Arizona has the 5TH ranked Total Team Defense, which is amazing because Seattle, San Fran and Arizona are each in the Top 5.  The Cardinals have only been average on Offense but they bring it on the Defensive side.  Arizona wins 20-13.

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NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-3, 1st PLACE NFC SOUTH)

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SAINT LOUIS RAMS (5-8, LAST PLACE NFC WEST)

The New Orleans Saints have played above expectation this season.  Their Defense has turned it around and their offense is…well their offense is LETHAL.  They have the League’s 6th Ranked Total Offense and are averaging 26.4 Points per Game, which is good enough for 7th.  Drew Brees has only been overshadowed by Peyton Manning.  Brees has a 106.5 Rating with 33 Touchdowns (2nd NFL) and 4,107 Yards (2nd NFL).  Star Tight End Jimmy Graham has 14 Touchdown Receptions, which leads the NFL.  On Defense, End Cameron Jordan is 4th in the league with 11.5 Sacks.  The Rams lost Franchise Quarterback Sam Bradford for the season after Eight Games, so they actually have played above expectations as well due to the circumstances.  The Saints win 35-21.

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-2, 1ST PLACE NFC WEST)

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NEW YORK GIANTS (5-8, 3rd PLACE NFC EAST)

Well, this looks like a huge mismatch on paper.  The Seahawks are the First Seed in the NFC and the Giants are hanging onto playoff hopes by a thread.  The Seahawks as mentioned every week are one of the most balanced teams in the NFL as far as offense and defense.  They are 12th in Total Offense and 1st in Total Defense.  However, they can pound the ball and are 3rd in Rushing behind the Eagles and Redskins.  The Seahawks live and die with their Defense and also the 11th Man (FANS).  The Giants are 7 Point Underdogs at home.  I cannot bet against the Giants in December and near the Playoffs.  The Giants upset 20-17 as Eli Manning keeps the Giants slim playoff hopes alive.

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CHICAGO BEARS (7-6, 2nd NFC NORTH)

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CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-9, LAST PLACE AFC NORTH)

The Bears are only favored by 1 on the road in this one which tells me something.  The experts do not have much faith in the Bears at this point in the season.  They are tied with the Lions but talk about a team with no true identity.  ANd there is the Browns.  They have a terrible record, however, they have been in every game.  Their star receiver Josh Gordon leads the league in Receiving after serving a 4 Game Suspension.  Thats absolutely ridiculous.  And he is doing this with below average Quarterbacks, the latest being Josh Campbell.  The Bears really need this one but I say the Browns upset the Bears at Home, 27-24.

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HOUSTON TEXANS (2-11, LAST PLACE AFC SOUTH)

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INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (8-5, 1st PLACE AFC SOUTH)

The Houston Texans are the league’s biggest disappointment along with the Atlanta Falcons.  They are trying to become the first NFL team to lead the league in Defense and have the worst record.  Starting Quarterbacks have thrown 8 PICK SIXES.  The turnover has been Houston’s own worst enemy.  Indy on the other hand is playing consistent ball behind second year quarterback Andrew Luck.  The Colts have also shined on Defense.  They are favored by 5.5 in this one and i see them winning as well as covering as they play for a top seed in the AFC Playoffs.  The Colts beat the Texans 32-21.

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BUFALO BILLS (4-9, LAST PLACE AFC EAST)

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JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (4-9, 3RD PLACE AFC SOUTH)

The Jaguars were the laughing stock of the AFC, and the NFL for that matter for most the season, however they are on a  role lately lead by a resurgence in their running game with Maurice Jones-Drew and they are also playing much better defense.  The Bills have been absolutely brutal against the spread.  I am picking the Jaguars to win this one outright 20-13.

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NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-3, 1st PLACE AFC 

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MIAMI DOLPHINS (7-6, 2nd PLACE AFC EAST)

New England Patriots/Miami Dolphins games always seem to be very entertaining.  This game pits the Division leading Pats against the 2nd place Fish.  Miami has been hot as of late and will be playing in front of the home crowd.  Miami needs this win much more than the Pats.  Also, losing Rob Gronkowski for the season was a terrible blow to the Patriots Offense.  Tom Brady has not had a Brady Like Season.  Its been more like the Brady Bunch in New England.  The Pats are favored by 2 in this one.  Miami upsets the Pats by a score of 20-17.

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PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (8-5, 1st PLACE NFC EAST)

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MINNESOTA VIKINGS (3-9-1)

The Eagles are coming of their epic instant classic win against the Detroit Lions, last sunday in the snow.  What an awesome game to watch both live and on television.  Nick Foles continues to show improvement each week.  In my opinion, it was an absolute feat for him to throw some of the balls he did last week in that weather.  He is definitely becoming a fan favorite in Philly.  With his play he has also garnered some much deserved MVP credit.  The Eagles have already performed above expectation.  At this point, the Eagles control their own destiny.  If the Eagles can win out, they win the Division and host a home playoff game.  Nick Foles has 20 Touchdown Passes and only 1 Pick and continues to lead the league in passer rating.  LeSean McCoy, who comes off an Eagles season game rushing record is the leader in yards from scrimmage in the NFL.  McCoy has been compared to Barry Sanders.  The Vikings have been a huge disappointment and now start Chris Ponder at Quarterback.  The Eagles are favored by 5.5 in a game that Adrian Peterson will likely miss.  I am taking the Eagles in an onslaught 45-17.

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NEW YORK JETS (6-7, 3rd PLACE AFC EAST)

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CAROLINA PANTHERS (9-4, 2nd NFC SOUTH)

Up until last weeks loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Panthers were the NFL’s hottest team.  The Panthers had won 8 straight games.  They play a ferocious relentless type of defense and Cam Newton is another MVP candidate.  The Jets however, have been extremely disappointing.  I see this as a trap game.  The Panthers are favored by 11.5 Points.  I say the Panthers win 24-20 but do  not cover.

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KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10-3, 2nd PLACE AFC WEST)

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OAKLAND RAIDERS (4-9, LAST PLACE AFC WEST)

The Chiefs have come down to earth, losing three straight after winning nine straight.  It makes perfect sense, tho.  For the first ten weeks, the Chiefs were Number One in Turnover Differential.  In their three straight losses, they have lost the Turnover Battle.  However, after the Broncos lost on Thursday, this is a perfect game for the Chiefs to rise back up and keep on the trail of the Broncos.  The Raiders are having another poor season.  Chiefs 27-Raiders 21.

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GREEN BAY PACKERS (6-6-1, 3rd NFC NORTH)

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DALLAS COWBOYS (7-6, 2nd NFC EAST)

The Packers are like Jekyll and Hyde without Aaron Rodgers.  The two time MVP has missed the past four games.  The Packers are barely hanging in there.  Dallas on the other hand is trying to keep pace with the Eagles in the NFC EAST.  However, the Cowboys have been dead last in total Team Defense all season n and have not been much better in points allowed.  The Cowboys do have a potent offense that can keep up with any team.  The Packers are 6.5 Point Dogs on the Road.  I say the Cowboys win big 45-27.

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CINCINNATI BENGALS (9-4, 1st PLACE AFC NORTH)

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PITTSBURGH STEELERS (5-8)

The Bengals are trying to play for seeding at this point as they almost have the Division wrapped up.  Don’t get me wrong yet, this is not over yet.  The Bengals are facing a fierce rival in the Steelers.  However, the Steelers are not the same Steelers in 2013.  There is no swagger.  The Bengals are favored by 2.  I say the Steelers upset the apple cart at home and win 17-14.

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BALTIMORE RAVENS (7-6, 2nd AFC NORTH)

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DETROIT LIONS (7-6, 1st NFC NORTH)

The champs are back as the Ravens are hot behind the resurgent Joe Flacco.  However, the Lions after their loss to the Eagles are in a must win so that they can win the Division.  The Lions win this game as Megatron goes off once again.  Lions 34-Ravens 24.

Winners- Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks.

Losers- Houston Texans, Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay, Minnesota.

MVP FAVORITES- Nick Foles, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, LeSean McCoy, Jamal Charles, Calvin Johnson.

Key Injuries- Julio Jones, Sam Bradford, Mike Vick, Doug Martin, Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler.

Contenders- Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Carlina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers.

Pretenders- New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals.

Bubble Teams- Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys.

Until Next Time…This has been your host DA BIRD.  Enjoy your Sunday of Football and Good Luck to all of the Fantasy Football Playoff Teams.

TOP 10 METAL ALBUMS 2013

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As 2013 comes to a close, it is time to rate the Top 10 Metal Albums of this year.  As I have mentioned so often before, there are so many styles of Heavy Metal, too many to possibly cover all genres.  For purposes of this piece, we will be looking at Heavy Metal (Thrash, Speed, Power, Modern, Hardcore).  Death Metal and other variations will not be looked at when picking the Top Albums.  Those albums may be discussed at a later date.  Before we get to my list, let us take a look back to 2012 and some of the music that was released last year and some of the most anticipated Metal Albums.

2012 was a very busy year in the Heavy Metal community.  Lamb of God released “Resolution” in January.  Resolution was the followup album to Wrath, which was one of Lamb of God’s best releases yet.  In March 2012, Impending Doom released “Baptized in Faith” and Soulfly countered with “Enslaved.”  Overkill, part of the “Big Six” released “The Electric Age”, its second album in successive years.  The Band Accept showed the world “Stalingrad.”  My favorite album that was released in 2012 was Testament’s “Dark Roots of Earth.”    Testament went the extra mile on this album and even covered a few songs from other popular bands including Iron Maiden’s “PowerSlave.”  This was Testament’s best album in years and my personal favorite.  Kreator released “Phantom Antichrist” and HellYeah released “Band of Brothers.”  As I Lay Dying put out “Awakened.”  The most anticipated album of the year was SoundGarden’s “King Animal”, which marked the return of the original band lead by Chris Cornell.

2013 was an even better year for Heavy Metal Music.  There were many new releases as well as compilations and movie soundtracks.  Def Leppard released Viva Hysteria, which was a CD/DVD combo that included a concert in Vegas that Def Leppard played in the Summer.  Iron Maiden also released Maiden England and Judas Priest released Epitaph.  Both of these were live concerts on DVD and also included a jacket chronicling both bands history.  Well here we are, I am now ready to give you my Top 10 Metal Albums of 2013.  Without further a due, here are my TOP 10.

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STRYPER (NO MORE HELL TO PAY)

On November 5th, Stryper released their first studio album in over fifteen years.  This album is actually very underrated.  No More Hell to Pay really showcases Stryper’s talent as a Metal Band, albeit Christian Metal.  The lead singer Michael Sweet is extremely dynamic on the album as he hits a wide range in tone and ferocity.  The album starts out with the track “Revelation” which is self explanatory.  The album then stars the Title Track “No More Hell to Pay” which is similar to the epic hit To Hell With the Devil.  This track laments Strypers musical talents al the way across the board and the guitar solos are off the hook and plentiful.  Stryper also covers the popular gospel song, “Jesus is Just Alright” which was originally recorded but the Byrds and more recently by the Doobie Brothers.  No More Hell to Pay rounds out Number Ten on this list.

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MEGADETH (SUPER COLLIDER)

Super Collider is Megadeth’s 14th Studio Album and was the followup to Thirteen which was also produced by Johnny K.  This album is actually the first from Megadeth to be released on Dave Mustaine’s own label.  The album debuted at #6 on the Billboard 200, which was actually the highest for any Megadeth album since Youthanasia.  “Kingmaker” is the first and best track on the album.  Megadeth also covers the Thin Lizzy hit “Cold Sweat”.  David Dramain also makes a guest appearance on one of the tracks.  Unfortunately, despite selling over 80,000 copies of the album thus far, it has received mostly criticism.

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KILLSWITCH ENGAGE (DISARM THE DESCENT)

Disarm the Descent is the sixth studio album for the Metalcore Band Killswitch Engage.  The album was released in April 2013 and is the first album to feature Jesse Leech on vocals since 2002.  “The Hell in Me” and “Beyond the Flames” are both huge hits.  In the albums first week, it reached #7 on the Billboard 200 as well as #1 on the Hard Rock Album Chart.  This was the band’s first studio album since 2009 with their self titled album.  Killswitch Engage definitely cracks the Top 10 with this masterpiece.

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SEVENDUST (BLACKOUT THE SUN)

Blackout the Sun is Sevendust’s Ninth Studio Album and first since 2010.  This album is a darker vibe that still produces Sevendust’s classic melodies.  It has even been described as being a Greatest Hits album of songs never heard before.  Most popular Reviews gave this album 5 Stars out of 5.  The album begins with a ballad instrumental “Memory” and then continues on with an all out onslaught of good song after good song.  For those of you that have never heard Sevendust, Blackout the Sun is a must for your archives.

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ALICE IN CHAINS (THE DEVIL PUT DINOSAURS HERE)

The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is the 5th Studio Album for the band Alice In Chains.  This album is the followup to Black Gives Way to Blue.  The album was actually put on hold for some time after guitarist Jerry Cantrell had shoulder surgery.  The album peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200.  The best songs on the album (all released as singles) are “Hollow”, “Stone” and “Voices”.  The album also made #1 on the US Top Hard Rock Albums.

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BLACK SABBATH (13)

13 was Black Sabbath’s first studio album since 1995’s “Forbidden.”  13 marks the return of the original Sabbath lineup with Ozzy Osbourne.  The album sold 155,000 copies in its first week of release and reached #1 on the Billboard 200.  This album was unexpectedly brilliant, harmonic, In the second week of release, the album fell to the 5th spot on the charts.  “End of the Beginning” and “God is Dead” are classic Sabbath dark riffs.  Black Sabbath has even toured around the entire continent in support of the new album.  The song “Zeigeist” is like a modern day version of “Planet Caravan”. “God is Dead” has the same style as “War Pigs”.  This album is classic Sabbath at it’s BEST.

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METALLICA (THROUGH THE NEVER)

Through the Never is the live interactive album that lets you know that Metallica is Truly Back.  For those of you that have not heard the album as of yet, I suggest you go buy it.  And after you listen to the CD, go see the 3D Movie.  You will definitely have a greater appreciation for one of the World’s most famous bands.  I kind of liken the movie to Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  The only difference is that they merge the story with a live concert.

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AVENGED SEVENFOLD-AX7 (HAIL TO THE KING)

Hail to the King is Avenged Sevenfold’s greatest piece of work to date.  This is their sixth studio album and is the first album that does not contain any contributions from the late Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, their talented drummer that passed away a few years back.  Arin llJay is the new drummer and he actually joined the band during the previous tour and was good enough to remain in the band.  Hail to the King has enjoyed both critical and commercial success reaching #1 on the Billboard 200 in America as well as topping the charts in the U.K.  In this album, the Band goes back to an old school metal approach instead of their usual complicated metal core style.  The album received “generally favorable” reviews.  Unfortunately, they mimicked the styles of Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Guns N Roses, Metallica and Pantera so well that many believe they lost their own “metal identity.”  Nonetheless, the album is a Bad Ass, in your face metal onslaught that goes from opening to close like a book.  I highly recommend this album for any true old school Metal Fan.

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VOLBEAT (OUTLAW GENTLEMAN & SHADY LADIES)

For those of you that are not familiar with the band, Volbeat, you really don’t know what you are missing.  Volbeat is a Danish Metal Band that was formed in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Outlaw Gentleman and Shady Ladies is the fifth studio album released by the band and is by far their BEST!  The album features 14 Tracks, including 2 Tracks with guest singers.  “Room 24” is a Metal Classic and features King Diamond in a special guest appearance.  “Lonesome Rider” features Sarah Blackwood.  Volbeat is known for their fusion of Metal, classic Rock, Heavy Metal and Groove Metal.  The new album stays true to form, but Volbeat takes it to the next level.  This is also the 1st album with Lead Guitarist, Rob Caggiano, formerly of Anthrax.  My personal favorites on the album are “Lola Montez” and “The Hangman’s Body Count.”  “Room 24” is also BADASS.  Volbeat was very close to Number One, but their is one album that I rate higher.

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metal church generation nothing cd

METAL CHURCH (GENERATION NOTHING)

Most of you are probably like, “who the hell is Metal Church?”  Well Metal Church is an American Heavy Metal Band that was formed in 1980, in San Francisco California.  Their first album, “Metal Church” was formed in 1984.  Kurt Vanderhoof, the lead guitarist is the only member that has stood the test of time.  Metal Church has had three lead singers: David Wayne (The Original-He has since passed away), Mike Howe, and now Ronny Munroe.  The band has had multiple breakups and their last album was “This Present Wasteland”.  This Present Wasteland was their Ninth Studio Album and was a major disappointment.  The band broke up after this and the future of Metal Church was bleak.  That was until this past years, when a few of the Band Members bumped into each other and collaborated on the new album. This album has zero filler and keeps you completely on edge.  The album has received a 4/5 on every major review.  From the first song “Bullet Proof” to the last track “Media Horse”, Metal Church pounds out awesome music.  Ronny Munroe has a tremendous voice and he kills the lyrics.  This is just one of those rare albums that has every song as a hit.  There is no drop off.  Seriously, if you have not heard the album, buy it.  If I am wrong, I will refund your money.

HONORABLE MENTION:

Bullet For My Valentine- Temper/Temper, Device-Device, Hatebreed-The Divinity of Purpose, Anthrax-Anthems (Cover Album), Ugly Kid Joe (Stairway to Hell E.P.), Queensryche- Both with Geoff Tate and without, Skid Row-United World Rebellion Chpt.1, Children of Bodom-Halo of Blood, Five Finger Death Punch-The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Motorhead-Aftershock, Trivium-Vengeance Falls.

So this was my Top 10 Heavy Metal Albums of 2013.  Who is yours.  And we have a lot to look forward to in 2014.  Until next time, this has been your host “DA BIRD,” HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL MY FANS!

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THE MATURATION OF THE MOBILE QUARTERBACK IN THE NFL

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     The NFL always seems to be a sport that evolves as the years go by and today’s athletes are no different.  Athletes of past and present share one thing in common and that is their desire to win and their commitment to staying in shape and being the best at their respective position.  The Quarterback Position has long been considered the most difficult one to succeed with in the NFL.  Not only is it the most difficult, but it is also the most important one on the Football Field.  With the emergence of better athletes in sports today in general, due to technology and better training, many styles of play have elevated to adapt to the change in strategy.  No position in sports has evolved more than the Quarterback Position in the NFL.

     Since the inception of the NFL in August of 1920, there have been countless star players that have left their mark on the league and entertained fans all over the world.  The NFL Hall of Fame enshrines the NFL’s best of the best.  The HOF is composed of players, coaches, owners, and key contributors.  As of 2013, there are over 280 members in the NFL Hall of Fame, with over 30 of those members being Quarterbacks.  When we think Quarterback, we think passing yards, touchdown passes, interceptions, wins, playoff wins, and Super Bowls.  However, as the game has evolved so has the Quarterback Position.  The classic “Drop Back” Quarterback that was the norm is now a thing of the past.  Slowly but surely, the NFL Quarterback has become a dual threat.  Now when taking a look at this dual threat, which can be described as the word “mobile-meaning able to escape and extend plays”, there are a few different styles that have developed.

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     The mobile quarterback has went through numerous style changes as well as philosophical changes.  When looking back at the history of “mobile’ Quarterbacks, we think of Fran Tarkenton, Bobby Douglass, Tobin Rote and Roger Staubach as being the best of the early ones.  Tobin Rote was a Quarterback for the Green Bay Packers during the 1950’s.  Rote led the NFL in Rushing Yards by a Quarterback six times (1951,1954-1958) and his 37 Rushing Touchdowns rank sixth on the all-time list of signal callers.  What was even more incredible about Rote was that he actually led his team in rushing 3x, in a time when running the ball was a grind it out 3.0 Yards Per Carry, cloud of dust down your throat approach.  He also led his team in Rushing Touchdowns 5x.  The two time pro Bowler is still the only Quarterback to lead an AFL and NFL team to a championship.  Image    Fran Tarkenton was the first “True Running” Quarterback.  Nicknamed the “Mad Scrambler,” Tarkenton was a player ahead of his time.  Tarkenton produced 3,674 Rushing Yards along with 32 Rushing Touchdowns during what was known as the NFL’s “STATUE” era of Quarterbacks.  Statue refers to the drop back inn the pocket and wait until someone came open or throw the ball away style.  Tarkenton is fourth in all-time Quarterback Rushing Yards behind Michael Vick, Randall Cunningham, and Steve Young.  Tarkenton was also lethal through the air.  He lead the Minnesota Vikings to three Super Bowls during his time there.  His Passing Stats were among the best when he retired from the NFL in 1981, and stood as records at the time.  Image

     Other Quarterbacks were “mobile” and fleet on their feet as the game evolved.  The Patriots Steve Grogan was also considered a great escape artist of his time.  During his career, he compiled 2,176 Rushing Yards and 36 Rushing Touchdowns.  Grogan held the NFL record for Rushing Touchdowns by a Quarterback with (12) up until two years ago when the Carolina Panther’s Rookie Cam Newton rushed for 14 Scores.  1978 was his best all around season as far as rushing when he had 539 Yards and 5 Touchdowns.  There was also Bobby Douglass, the former Chicago Bears standout.  In 1972, Douglass rushed for a single season record of 968 Rushing Yards for a Quarterback while scoring 8 Touchdowns on only 141 Carries.  Michael Vick has since broke Bobby’s record, however Bobby set the record in a 14 game season, two less than Vick and averaged 69.1 Yards Per Game.  There were also other Quarterbacks that made their mark as being “mobile” including Doug Flutie, Greg Landry, Roger Staubach, Jim Plunkett, Vince Evans, Daunte Culpepper, and Kenny Anderson.

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    In 1985, the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Randall Cunningham in the second round.  Randall Cunningham would change the Quarterback position forever taking “mobile” to the next level.  During Randall’s career, he amassed 4,982 yards Rushing on 775 Carries, a 6.4 Yards Per Carry Average and 35 Rushing Touchdowns.  Cunningham’s star power as a dual threat with both rushing and passing earned him the nickname “The Ultimate Weapon.”  During his career, Cunningham also won 2 MVP Awards and he single handedly carried the Eagles for most of his time there due to the lack of a supporting cast and a weak Offensive Line.  In 1990, Randall rushed for 924 Yards and scored 5 Touchdowns with an astronomical 8.0 Yards Per Carry Average.  However, not only could Cunningham run the ball, but he could also air it out with the best of them.  He actually threw a ball over 80 yards in the air in practice which may still be a record.  He even punted the ball a record 92 Yards in one game showing just how athletic he was.  But the most impressive thing about that 1990 season was that along with the 924 Yards/5TDS Rushing, he also threw 30 Touchdowns and only 13 Interceptions, for 3,466 Yards with a long of 95 Yards.  That 95 Yard pass came in a game against the Buffalo Bills, where he miraculously made Bruce Smith miss a sack and safety, and he scrambled to the entire other side of the end zone, finally heaving a bomb that Fred Barnett caught at the 50 Yard Line, which he took for a Touchdown.

     There is no telling how good Randall could have been if he was surrounded with more talent.  He also had Buddy Ryan as a head coach which knew as much about offense as I do about Algebra, and that is very little.  Cunningham was also injured for two entire seasons, as he tore both ACL’s in two different seasons.  Later in his career, Cunningham joined the Minnesota Vikings where he had his best season as a pro.  During that 1998 Season, Randall compiled a 13-1 Record, while Throwing for 3,704 Yards, 34 Touchdowns (career high), also chipping in 132 Yards Rushing and 2 Rushing Touchdowns.  A few Quarterbacks have since passed Cunningham’s records but there may never be an athlete like him again, just saying.

     After Randall, many other great Quarterbacks were able to use both threats on the field.  Steve Young, who still holds the Career Passer Rating Record for Quarterbacks, also chipped in an amazing 4,239 Yards Rushing, 43 Rushing Touchdowns and a 6.0 Yards Per Carry Average.  He was the first of the dual threat Quarterbacks of this era to lead his team to a Championship.  This has always been the argument that “mobile” or “running” quarterbacks cannot win Super Bowls.  Well, I think Young proved that theory wrong.  However, I will say that the Quarterback needs to still primarily star through the air.  Young was probably the most efficient at both.  John Elway was also a master of the escape and extending plays with his legs.  Actually, this is sometimes a forgotten part of his game.  Elway in his career rushed for 3,417 Yards and 33 Touchdowns on 774 Carries, second only to Cunningham.  He also is the post season leader in Rushing by a Quarterback with 461 Yards Rushing and Six Touchdowns.  His Four Rushing Touchdowns in a Super Bowl is an NFL record. During the past two decades, there have been other great dual threats including Steve McNair, Vince Young and Kordell Stewart, otherwise known as “Slash.”  

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     Ironically, in 1998 the same year that Randall Cunningham was having his resurgence with the Vikings, the Philadelphia Eagles once again drafted a “dual threat” running Quarterback in Donovan McNabb.  Well, he was booed at the Draft Event by over 100 Philly Boo Birds.  McNabb quickly silenced his critics as he became the Starting Quarterback later that season.  During his career as the Eagles starting Quarterback, he ammassed 3,459 Rushing Yards and 29 Rushing Touchdowns.  In another cruel twist of fate, McNabb spent much of his time in Philly carrying the Eagles solely on his shoulders, due to lack of talent around him, especially at Wide Receiver.  In 2004, the one season when McNabb was given a Top Receiver in Terrell Owens, he took the team to the Super Bowl, coming a field goal short of the Eagle’s first Championship.  Donovan McNabb was a more dynamic player than Cunningham ever was, although Cunningham was a better pure athlete.  McNabb threw 217 touchdowns and 117 Interceptions along with 37,276 Yards Passing.  McNabb never wanted to be known as a running quarterback, constantly refuting debates and maintaining that he wanted to be considered a pocket passer.  However, there is no denying that his skills on the ground gave him a better chance of winning and enhanced his NFL career.

     Then we have Mike Vick.  Mike Vick is almost the opposite of McNabb on the spectrum.  Vick, who is still playing while his career winds down has the NFL record in basically every Rushing Quarterback Stat.  He has 5,859 Yards Rushing, 36 Touchdowns (2nd to Young) and a 7.1 YPC Average.  He has also thrown for over 21,000 yards and 128 Touchdowns.  The thing we cannot forget is that Vick missed three seasons while he was in prison after being convicted for dog fighting.  Vick was the fastest of all of the Quarterbacks as he can run a 4.3 40 YARD DASH.  He probably has the best escapability of any Quarterback in history.

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     In today’s NFL, we have a new wave of mobile “Dual-Threat” Quarterbacks.  These Quarterbacks have seemed to use Running as their second option, however having the threat makes them extremely dangerous.  The next generation “mobile” quarterback uses the pass to set up the run as opposed to the traditional style.  As the Quarterback position continues to evolve, there will be more records to come and go, more standards to set, and hopefully more championships.  The best of the best Dual-Threat Quarterbacks today are RGIII, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Colin Kapernick, Terrelle Pryor, Alex Smith, Jake Locker, Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Of these Quarterbacks, the best right now are Cam Newton and Russell Wilson.  Cam Newton is only in his third season.  In his 1st Season, he passed for 4,051 Yards and 21 Touchdowns while adding 706 Yards Rushing and an NFL Record 14 Rushing Touchdowns.  So far in less than 3 seasons, Cam has thrown 59 Touchdowns/40 Interceptions, 10,536 Yards, for an 86.1 Rating.  More impressive though are his rushing stats.  He already has 28 Rushing Touchdowns, 1894 Yards Rushing and a 5.7 YARDS PER CARRY AVERAGE.  The other standouts are RGIII, Russel Wilson, and Colin Kapernick.  Terelle Pryor of the Raiders has come on strong this season leading all Quarterbacks in Rushing up to this point.

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     In conclusion, there has been a major renaissance in the “mobile” Quarterback in today’s game.  It seems that more importance has been put on developing skills in both passing the ball and running it.  Wether it is to escape on coming sack artists, buying more time till a receiver gets open, or extending a play or making a broken play into a gain, these skills are wide spread in today’s NFL.  So, Randall Cunningham, Fran Tarkenton, Steve Young and even Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick were ahead of their time.  Today’s mobile Quarterback is much different.  They excel at both sides but they have a better idea when to use which.  As the seasons go on, it should be interesting to see how this phenomenon continues to change in front of our eyes.  Until next time, enjoy your weekend.  Looking for some feedback on this post so feel free to join.

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THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL/NFL NEWS AND NOTES

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HOUSTON TEXANS (2-10)

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JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (3-9)

     Hello Fans…It has been a long Hiatus for me on the Blogging Sector but I am back and ready to give you all of the answers to your questions.  I have recently joined Twitter so you can also check out my material @mustaine3651#Twitter.  Anyways, Thursday Night pits two of the NFL’s worst teams.  My number one question would not be who is going to win the game?  However, I would ask how many NFL fans out there will be viewing this game either live or on television.  My guess would be not many.  What baffles me in this game is that the Texans, who have the league’s worst record, are favored in this game which is being played in Jacksonville.  However, the Texans are the more talented team.  Houston along with the Atlanta Falcons have to be the two most disappointing teams this season, as both were easily picked to go far in the playoffs.  Atlanta at one point was even the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.  However, injuries and horrible execution has plagued both of these teams.

     First of all, let us take a look at the Texans.  The loss of Arian Foster (one of the premier Running Backs in the league) has been devastating to an offense that is predicated on the Run.  Also, after winning their first two games, Houston has lost 10 Straight Games, a Franchise Record.  The Texans have many holes in their game and deficiencies on both sides of the ball.  For instance, the Texans are ranked number #1 in Total Defense as far as Yards but they are at the bottom when it comes to giving up points.  And when its all said and done, the Final Score is the only thing that matters in the NFL.  The Texans also are an abysmal minus-12 in the Turnover Differential.  During this 10 Game Slide, the Texans have been outscored 151-49 in the Second Half of Games.  Their offense has also been futile as their Starting Quarterback, Matt Schaub, has been benched after a horrible start to the season. He had 8 Touchdowns and 9 Interceptions when he was yanked from the Starting job, with six of the nine interceptions being PICK 6’s.  Case Keenum has been a completely different QB as far as production, throwing 8 TDs/3INT for 1,443 Yards in his first NFL action.  Arian Foster going down was the final nail in the coffin for Houston as he only had 2 100 Yard rushing games before being placed on IR.

     The Jacksonville Jaguars have been a different story.  First of all, you know that your team is doomed when your starting Running Back (Maurice Jones-Drew) has more passing Touchdowns for the season (3) than your starting Quarterback (Blaine Gabbert) who has only (1).  Chad Henne has took over the starting quarterback role and has not been much better posting a 75 QB Rating, 6TD, 10INT, and throwing for 2,319 Yards.  With all of these negative statistics, the Jaguars have somehow managed to win three of their last four games, after some say they were a lock to get the Number# 1 Pick in the Draft next season, which will most likely be Teddy Bridgewater.  Plus, it does not help that the Jaguars are 32nd in Team Offense (DEAD LAST).  They are also at the bottom at 25th in Total Team Defense.  However, they are 29th in points allowed with 352 Points allowed for a 29.3 Point Per Game Average.  However, despite all of these flaws, the Jaguars have somehow managed three wins.

     Ok, onto my pick for this game.  The Texans are favored by 3 Points on the Road.  I am going out on a limb and taking the Jags to win this game in front of their “tiny” crowd.  This game will find the Jaguars win 20-17.  Its ashamed that the league has not adopted an alternate schedule like they have during Sunday Games where they can change the times.  Well, in this case it would be harder as they would have to change the date.  However, I can see the ratings for GLEE being higher tonight than this football game.  Well, most Fantasy Football Leagues begin their playoffs this week.  Good luck to all of those participating and do not second guess your gut.  Too many times I have saw owners try to take the better matchup as opposed to the more consistent lineup and get burned.  Remember Folks, a team could be 11-0 at this point and get bounced out in the first round.  This is why the NFL Fantasy Football realm is so fun.  Its not over till the boy cries wolf.  I would say that so far, Peyton Manning has been the best Fantasy QB, Jamal Charles the best RB, Calvin Johnson the best WR, Jimmy Graham the best Tight End, Steven Gostikowski the best Kicker, and the Kansas City Chiefs the best Defense.  

     Around the league has a few key match ups.  The best game of the week and maybe most important as far as playoff implications go will be the New orleans Saints facing the Carolina Panthers.  Both teams are 9-3 and looking to get first round byes.  As hot as Carolina has been, I believe their run will end this week on the Saints turf, where Drew Brees has been amazing.  The Panthers are the more balanced team, however, the Saints are at home and can outscore just about anyone.  Another key game will be the 7-5 Eagles vs. 7-5 Lions.  The Eagles need a win to keep pace with the Cowboys for the Division Crown in the NFC.  The Lions are in the same boat as they are truing to fend off the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers to win the North.  The Eagles will not totally be able to eliminate Calvin Johnson (MEGATRON); however, if they can limit their mistakes they definitely match up well with the high flying offenses.  This game actually has the chance to be a major shootout.  Finally, the other huge game will be the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.  The 49ers have lost the first game against the Seahawks and are looking to get even.  The 49ers only chance I believe in this game will to be to try and run the ball, pound it and control the clock.  That will be a difficult task against the Seahawks Defense.  We shall see.  This week should go along way in opening the playoff picture.  Finally, Peyton Manning was invited to a wedding this week, in which he politely declined, but he did send an autographed invitation back to the couple.  What a class act by a Player that is having a season for the ages.  Also, lets see if Nick Foles, yes you heard it right, Nick Foles (Eagles QB) can break Peyton’s record of 20 TD’s without an INT to begin the season.  Foles has Nineteen so he only needs two.  It would be great to see Foles do this!

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