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Team Italy gears up for World Baseball Classic run

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    Italy manager Marco Mazzieri

  Announcing their roster this past week, Team Italy aims to surprise once again following a successful run in the 2013 event.

  Occurring every four years, the World Baseball Classic showcases the top baseball players competing against one another on the international level.

  A number of Major League players anticipate making the roster including Francisco Cervelli and Brandon Nimmo, giving the Italians solid hitting with strong defensive play. Upsetting the accredited Mexican team in the past iteration of the WBC, the Italians will not be taken lightly this time around.

  Italy will compete in group D alongside powers Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. With the presence of a strong pool, it will likely be tough for Italy to advance into the second round of games. This fact is supplemented by the loss of Chicago Cubs star Anthony Rizzo due to injury.

  Rizzo led the Italians in 2013 in hitting and was instrumental for a ninth-inning comeback against Mexico and a 14-4 thwarting of Canada.

  Baseball writer Tony DeMarco says, “The schedule-makers did Team Italy no favors, as this arguably is the deepest and most-balanced first-round pool. Keep in mind that host Mexico will be looking for revenge for a 2013 loss”

  The spotlight fixes on New York Mets outfield prospect Brandon Nimmo as he will attempt to be the power in the middle of the Italian lineup that they so desperately need. Following a mediocre season with the Mets in which he posted a .274 batting average, Nimmo hopes to showcase his power and defensive prowess.

  Team Italy opens their tournament play on March 9 against Mexico.

Panthers claw their way into a playoff spot

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  Following a rather tumultuous first half of the season, the return of forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov have rejuvenated the Florida Panthers to five straight wins and a clear path to the playoffs.

  This past offseason, co-owners Doug Cifu and Vincent Viola took steps towards success, signing top free agent defensemen Keith Yandle and Jason Demers. In these signings, Cifu and Viola showed that they are willing to spend in order to win games, something that the Panthers’ management has never done in the past.

  Mediocrity emanated through the first half of the season, with the Panthers sitting squarely at tenth place in the Eastern Conference, due in part to a multitude of injuries to top flight players including the aforementioned Huberdeau and Barkov. By All-Star Weekend, Florida was seen largely as a non-threat for contenders like Washington and Pittsburgh, possibly being noted sellers on the March 1 trade deadline.

  Panthers beat writer George Richards, following a  December 28th loss to Toronto, said, “Florida came into the night closer to last place (three points in front of New Jersey) in the Eastern Conference than to Boston for third place (four points back) in the Atlantic. On the 28th, the Maple Leafs beat the Panthers for the third time this season, albeit by a smaller margin than the 6-1 rout in Toronto last month.”

   Expectations were low – set even lower following the controversial firing of head coach Gerard Gallant in November – and all of the makings of a largely forgettable season were present.

  On the morning of Feb. 3, Panthers team doctor David Westerdahl officially cleared Huberdeau and Barkov for play, setting the duo up for a return that night against Anaheim. The Panthers proceeded to win that game by a score of 2-1, one of the goals being scored by Huberdeau on a feed from Barkov.

  In this single game, the two highly skilled players showed their true impact on the Panthers. Danny Janicas of TheRatTrick, regarding the game, said, “Huberdeau did not skip a beat once in last night’s game. He was all over the ice like a mad man [sic]. Whether it was beating his opponent to the puck, laying a big check, or even making plays, Huberdeau did it all last night. In his return to the lineup, Jonathan Huberdeau notched the game winning goal in what would be an important 2-1 win for the Cats.”

  As Florida began to rack up wins in the following games, momentum began to build. Cifu and Viola’s team was finally seen in its fruition. A fast, skilled, overpowering hockey club that had not been seen this year up until the past three weeks, bringing concern to the remaining teams in a playoff race, as the Panthers were quickly climbing the standings.

  Beginning Feb. 11, Florida embarked on a daunting five-game road trip, facing off against five playoff teams, and the always dreaded California road trip. Captain Derek MacKenzie said, “This is a season on the line road trip. We have to leave it all on the line here.”

  Leaving it all on the line is just what they did, putting up seven goals on Nashville in the first game of the trip, winning by the score of 7-4, followed by a clean sweep of California, defeating San Jose, Anaheim, and Los Angeles, respectively before closing out the excursion with a win over St. Louis, in which center Vincent Trocheck scored the game winner with 4.6 seconds remaining.

  The success of the five game stretch carried over to the players, as they have a newfound confidence regarding the twenty-seven games they have remaining, and find themselves in a playoff spot, sitting at third place in the Atlantic division, sitting at 66 points, four behind second place Ottawa and four behind Montreal for the division lead. Hockey pundit Tim Reynolds shows the dominance shown by the Panthers, quoting the statistic, “The Panthers played 18,000 seconds of hockey on this road trip and trailed for 93 of them.”

    This return to form can almost solely be accredited to Barkov and Huberdeau’s strong play out of the gates from their return, with Huberdeau amassing eleven points in the eight games that he has been back.

  Moreover, stellar play from backup goaltender James Reimer has carried the team, playing six of the last seven games, resting thirty-eight year old Roberto Luongo for a potential playoff run.

  Florida looked incredibly sharp as a team these past several weeks and they look to continue their winning ways on Feb. 24 against Johnny Gaudreau and the Calgary Flames in South Florida.

  

 

Heat avoid fizzling out

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  Following a lackluster beginning to the season, the Miami Heat have improved from their piteous 7-17 record, exiting the All-Star break with a 25-32 record, and one of the hottest streaks in the NBA. This marked improvement has allowed the Heat to re-enter the playoff race which few expected the team to be involved in.

  The majority of this success is the result of a confusing 13 game win streak that created what Leonard Kreicas of Hot Hot Hoops termed a “bipolar first half of the season.” The streak began on Jan. 17 against the Houston Rockets, as the Heat won with a score of 109-103. It ended on Feb. 11, as the Miami to the Philadelphia 76ers with a score of 117-109 after playing them for the second time in the month. In the process, the Heat also defeated the Mavericks, the Bucks (twice), the Warriors, the Nets (three times), the Bulls, the Pistons, the Hawks, the 76ers, and the Timberwolves (some consider this to be a weak schedule). Since the end of the streak, the team has gone 1-1 into the All-Star break.

  While this produced questions for the team, their season, and the long-term impact, it just seems baffling that a team with a .439 record could have one of the most electric win streaks. The simplest explanation for this and the disparity between the first two quarters of the season would be injuries.   

  According to Anthony Chiang of the Palm Beach Post, back in early December during the team’s woes, the Heat were “missing three of their best defenders — Justise Winslow (sprained wrist), James Johnson (rotator cuff strain) and Dion Waiters (torn groin muscle) – due to injuries.” However, some of these players returned just in time for the win streak, which is no coincidence; Waiters, who had originally been day-to-day, even scored the game-winning shot twice in a row.

  Despite this, it does not seem that all of Miami’s questions have been answered. While some remain hopeful that this is indicative of another year ending with Miami in the top eight eastern spots, others have likened the 2017 Miami Heat to the 2008 Portland Trail Blazers, another team that attempted to ride into the playoffs due to a 13 win streak, but ended up failing due to an incredibly strong Western Conference.

 Matt Moore of CBS Sports debated the implications of the latest events with the Heat, and while he notes that this demonstrates the above average playing ability of Goran Dragic (according to Kreicas, the Heat lost the majority of games Dragic didn’t play) and the good defense the team has been sporting, he also looks past this season. “This is the real danger with this winning streak. It could wind up getting the team focused on just being OK.”

  While ending the streak may have been inevitable, it is still undetermined what will happen to the Heat in the final stretch of the season.

Dion Waiters played a significant role in the Heat’s 13 consecutive wins. Photo courtesy of zimbio.com.
Dion Waiters played a significant role in the Heat’s 13 consecutive wins. Photo courtesy of zimbio.com.

UConn bet that they’ve reached one hundred

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    Uconn players celebrate following their 100th consecutive win. Photo courtesy of espn.com

   Despite the presence of a basketball dynasty, University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma had never contemplated winning one hundred games in a row. Last Tuesday, the Huskies exceeded expectations by reaching the record setting plateau of one hundred in a row.

  It has been 820 days since “UConn” last fell victim to a loss, and given the disparity between themselves and the rest of their conference – let alone the nation – the winning streak will continue through the remaining games of the season, and likely into the postseason tournament.

 UConn’s path to success has not been one of ease. When Coach Auriemma was appointed to his still-held position in 1985, Connecticut was nowhere near the level of play that the team is at now, let alone seen as a national power or dynasty.

  Facing off against rivals Notre Dame and Baylor this season, many pundits, such as Graham Hays from espn.com, believed that the Huskies would fall slightly short.

  “That wasn’t supposed to be enough for this team. Institutional memory has its limits. Even here. UConn entered the season as a four-time defending champion working on one of the longest winning streaks in history. It did not enter the season ranked espn.com, which tells you something about the benefit of doubt not extended this particular group of returning players,” said Graham in an interview.

  The one hundredth straight win was even seen as a potential loss, squaring off against number six ranked South Carolina.

  This is not a UConn team that measures up against past teams with stars such as Diana Taurasi, featuring a weak bench and a slow moving offense. Yet, Connecticut’s impressive streak can be accredited to smart coaching and efficiency, something that Coach Ariemma has become known for throughout the years.

  The Huskies have four games remaining in the regular season before being a surefire number one seed in the postseason tournament, barring a collapse of epic proportions. They will be seen as heavy favorites and look to continue strong play through the remainder of the year.

  

The Squall makes first 2017 NFL Mock Draft

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    Mike Williams is considered one of the top wide reciever prospects right now, despite previous injuries. Photo courtesy of bleacherreport.com.
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    Quincy Wilson had a productive career at the University of Florida before turning to the NFL Draft. Photo courtesy of 247sports.com.
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    Many analysts and football fans see Myles Garrett as the best player available in this year’s draft. Photo courtesy of alchetron.com.

By Derek Shavell & Caden DeLisa
Editor-in-Chief and Staff Writer

  With the 2016 NFL season having finished with the Super Bowl, that means the offseason has arrived. Surprisingly, the 2017 NFL Draft, which happens from April 27 to April 29 in Philadelphia, is not far away. As many analysts and football fans have done, The Squall attempted to create its own mock draft.

1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett (Texas A&M) – EDGE

Garrett presents perhaps the best defensive force seen in a draft since Jadeveon Clowney. With the Browns as desperate as they are for help on the defensive side of the ball, Garrett should fill in nicely as a part of the Browns’ 4-3 defensive scheme.

2. San Francisco 49ers – Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina) – QB

The 49ers have not had a good quarterback in years, using Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick while under the reigns of Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly. With Kyle Shanahan, the former Atlanta Offensive Coordinator, taking Kelly’s position, the quarterback position will be one that this team places extra emphasis on.

3. Chicago Bears – Jonathan Allen (Alabama) – DT

Allen proves to be a versatile pass-rusher, a position the Bears have a glaring hole in. Following a tumultuous season, Allen can help the Bears bounce back on a positive note.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette (Louisiana State) – RB

In a player that was once seen as a Heisman trophy lock, Fournette still is capable of production and is seen as one of the most NFL-ready players in the draft. Perhaps underutilized at LSU, Fournette aims to make an immediate impact, and a team like Jacksonville is perfect for him to do so.

5. Tennessee Titans – Quincy Wilson (Florida) – CB

Although the cornerback rankings differ among all analysts, most place Wilson near the top spot in this year’s draft. With the problems that the Titans’ secondary has faced in the previous years, having a strong cornerback can provide benefits to a largely improving team.

6. New York Jets – Reuben Foster (Alabama) – OLB

Reuben Foster’s electric game, which could be seen in the past College Football Championship matchup, can provide the boost that the Jets’ lackluster defense needs, especially with the state of their linebackers.

7. Los Angeles Chargers – Mike Williams (Clemson) – WR

In a state of dismay following relocation, Los Angeles needs immediate impact with the plethora of weak spots on the team. Mike WIlliams should be able to fill the wide receiver weak link, and should he still be available with the 7th pick, would be a no-brainer for the Chargers. With Phillip Rivers at the helm of the offense, Williams can prove to be an immediate threat downfield alongside Keenan Allen.

8. Carolina Panthers – Dalvin Cook (Florida State) – RB

Dalvin Cook may be one of the best workhorse running back prospects in the past few years. The Panthers currently use Jonathan Stewart, but as seen in the past year, Stewart’s play has been declining, and the Panthers need a sturdy and reliable rushing attack to alleviate pressure off of quarterback Cam Newton.

9. Cincinnati Bengals – Solomon Thomas (Stanford) – EDGE

Showing his worth in Stanford’s Sun Bowl victory, Solomon Thomas could add yet another versatile threat to an already deep Cincinnati defense. In a division such as the AFC North, defense reigns king, and Thomas can help the Bengals take that throne.

10. Buffalo Bills – Jamal Adams (Louisiana State) – S

While the Bills have strong cornerbacks, and even an effective safety like Corey Graham, their secondary remains a problem. Jamal Adams is a playmaker that could certainly elevate the Bills’ defense to higher-caliber levels.

11. New Orleans Saints – Malik Hooker (Ohio State) – S

Arguably the best safety in the draft, and one of the most versatile players in the draft, Hooker would fill in nicely in a defense that is undoubtedly the worst in the league by a wide margin. If New Orleans wants any marginal improvement, defense is the way to draft.

12. Cleveland Browns – Marshon Lattimore (Ohio State) – CB

There are few positions that the Cleveland Browns don’t need to work on. However, their secondary has been lacking, even with the strong presence of Jamar Taylor. With a strong cornerback draft class, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Browns take Marshon Lattimore, one of the better incoming cornerbacks, in attempt to create a shutdown defense.

13. Arizona Cardinals – Corey Davis (Western Michigan) – WR

Not as recognized, due to his play at a smaller MAC school, Corey Davis is just as dangerous as fellow wide receiver Mike Williams. Incredibly quick off of the line, advanced skill in route running can prove to make him one of the players with the highest upside in the draft.

T-14. Philadelphia Eagles – Marlon Humphrey (Alabama) – DB

While many analysts argue about where Humphrey should be ranked among this year’s cornerbacks, there is no argument that he is a first-rounder, one which could certainly the Eagles’ pathetic secondary. Ranked the worst secondary by Pro Football Focus, the Eagles could certainly benefit with the presence of a young, confident cornerback like Humphrey.

T-14. Indianapolis Colts – Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin) – OT

A stellar pass blocker, while being big bodied at 6’6 and 313 pounds, Ramczyk can help Indianapolis in the most important way – protecting quarterback Andrew Luck from getting clobbered by opposing defenses again. Luck took the most hits in the NFL by a quarterback in 2012, 2013, and 2014. The Colts hope that Ryan Ramczyk can prove efficient.

16. Baltimore Ravens – Derek Barnett (Tennessee) – EDGE

Walter Football ranks Barnett as the second best defensive end in the draft. With the Ravens’ defensive ends growing older and closer to retirement, this team’s front seven would certainly need a strong player like Barnett, especially since the defensive line is one of the most important aspects to the Baltimore team and identity.

17. Washington Redskins – Taco Charlton (Michigan) – DE

One noticeable thing about the Redskins in the past year was their strong offense. This, however, could not be matched by the defensive level of play. With a player like Charlton to pose a serious threat on offensive lines, the Redskins could improve their defense beyond expectations.\

18. Tennessee Titans – John Ross (Washington) – WR

With a young, successful quarterback in Marcus Mariota, the up-and-coming Titans look to supplement their wide receiving corps with the talented John Ross out of Washington. Ross is a stellar route runner with great hands that would help any team should he be available.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jabrill Peppers (Michigan) – S

As one of the most versatile and multifaceted players in recent history, Jabrill Peppers has the ability to play several positions including safety, running back, and kick returner. Peppers can help the Bucs in any way they see fit.

20. Denver Broncos – O.J Howard (Alabama) – TE

While the Broncos are still known for their outstanding defense, their offensive prowess declined in the past year. While it seems that Denver may have solved their quarterback conundrum with last year’s first-round pick Paxton Lynch, and maintained their running back and wide receiver corps, tight end has remained an elusive position for this team since the loss of Julius Thomas. O.J Howard is a strong tight end prospect who could provide aid for a developing shot-caller like Lynch.

21. Detroit Lions – Malik McDowell (Michigan State) – DT

McDowell is an experienced and flexible interior defenseman who happens to be one of the strongest in this draft class. It is no shock that a team like the Lions, who have certainly been missing a strong defensive line, even with players like A’Shawn Robinson, could use McDowell.  

22. Miami Dolphins – Gareon Conley (Ohio State) – CB

The Miami Dolphins had a weaker secondary than they would have liked, especially with strong safeties like Abdul-Quddus. According to Pro Football Focus, cornerback Tony Lippett “allowed a passer rating of 119.3.” Due to this, it would make sense that Miami would want to prosper from this deep cornerback draft class.

23. New York Giants – David Njoku (Miami (FL)) – TE

With the Giants lacking a true tight end threat, David Njoku provides a fix for the leak. Njoku was one of the top tight ends in the country this past year and aims to make an immediate impact in New York, being used as means of drawing coverage away from Odell Beckham Jr.

24. Oakland Raiders – Sidney Jones (Washington) – CB

While the Raiders may have had one of the most prolific offenses this previous season, it is no shock that the team needed to work on their secondary, allowing 30 or more points 5 times during the 2016 season. While the team drafted safety Karl Joseph in the first round last year, cornerback Sidney Jones would flourish among this team.

25. Houston Texans – DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame) – QB

Albeit a bit careless with the ball at time, Kizer is the second best option for quarterbacks in this years’ draft, and Houston needs a quarterback. Badly.

26. Seattle Seahawks – Cam Robinson (Alabama) – OT

Robinson has the capability of playing both offensive tackle or offensive guard, and the Seahawks need an offensive line, especially since halfway through the season, they started a lineman who hadn’t started in years.  

27. Kansas City Chiefs – Montravius Adams (Auburn)- DT

A Kansas City team on the upswing can use any talent that they can use to bolster their already good defense. Adams will only add to that with his exceptional footwork and sensual knack for finding the man with the ball.

28. Dallas Cowboys – Takkarist McKinley (UCLA) – DE

With one of the best offensive lines in the league, Dallas aims to add to the defensive side of the ball. McKinley will likely be the best defensive player remaining by the time that the Cowboys have their selection.

29. Green Bay Packers – Tre’Davious White (Louisiana State) – CB

With the Packers’ biggest weakness coming in their secondary, Tre’Davious White can seemingly stop the bleeding. To build on an already good team is what the Packers aim for, as they were just one win away from reaching the Super Bowl this past season.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jarrad Davis (Florida) – LB

As mentioned before, defense reigns king in the brutal AFC North division, needing a linebacker, the Steelers will likely select Jarrad Davis. Davis was a versatile player throughout his college career, proving lethal for opposing ground and passing games.

31. Atlanta Falcons – Jalen Tabor (Florida) – CB

While watching the Super Bowl, one glaring problem with the Atlanta Falcons was not their offense, but rather their secondary, even after drafting Keanu Neal in the first round last year. The Falcons have weak cornerbacks, but with a pick like Jalen Tabor, there could be a major improvement for this defense.

32. New England Patriots – Haason Reddick (Temple) – LB

Some would argue the Patriots selecting a linebacker in the first round, especially since they had the best scoring defense in the league last season. However, the Patriots gave away one of their biggest defensive players when they traded Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns. Reddick, one of the best linebackers in this draft, could fit in as a solid replacement for Collins.

National Signing Day! Success Among Student-Athletes

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   For those of you who don’t know, February 1st is National Signing Day for student-athletes in the United States.  Recently at Atlantic Community High School, there were multiple seniors signing to colleges spread out throughout the country.

   First, Dadley Louis signed to East Tennessee State University.  They contacted him and fortunately he received a full ride scholarship!  Dadley grew up in Port Au Prince, Haiti with his mother and moved to Delray Beach in 2015 but attended Santaluces High School.  What made him choose ETSU over all his other offers? Dadley explained that the environment is somewhere he feels as if he can be successful faster and easier than if he were to go somewhere else.  He will be able to focus solely on what he’s there for- his education and football.  

   The second senior football player was Datrone Young, also known as “Speedy.”  He signed to Iowa State University, also with a full ride scholarship!  Before attending Atlantic, Speedy was at Forest Hill High School.  He was raised in Delray, though!  Datrone’s inspiration is his family and his uncle who played college ball at Jackson State University.  Whether you talk to students, teachers, or coaches who he’s interacted with, everyone will agree on something: “He’s very humble and ready to work.”  Corey Lamey, fellow teammate stated, “Big things coming his way!”

   Next and final football player is Kevin Norris Jr., more popularly known as “Sody.”  Sody will be attending Coffeyville Community College in Coffeyville, Kansas.  His mother, Jeannie Rogers, stated that Kevin not only helps her with everything, is very respectful, and has a big heart, but he also has a passion for mentoring little kids on the field.  He grew up in Boynton Beach, FL, and has been on Atlantic’s Varsity Football team for 3 years.  However, he played for Boynton High for a semester.  We’re happy to have him back!

   Another signee was Maxwell Charnin, who will be attending Palm Beach State College for baseball!  Max was adopted from Russia at a very young age and since then has grown up in Boynton Beach playing baseball with other local youngsters.  He has received a full ride scholarship and is very happy to have the opportunity to stay close to home.  Max feels that PBSC’s baseball team is the best team to help aid him in his mission to go to the Major Leagues!  

   Our 2nd and final baseball player was Justin Varisco.  Justin also grew up in Boynton Beach and has played baseball for majority of his life.  He will be attending George C. Wallas Community College in Dothan, Alabama.  “He was the 2016 district player of the year and the backbone of our team,” Coach Wilson, baseball coach, shared.  

   Atlantic Community High Schools final student athlete to sign on National Signing Day was everyone’s favorite… Bailey Myott!  She will be attending Florida Atlantic University for Volleyball.  Bailey was captain on the Varsity Volleyball Team for 2 out of her 4 years.  She is inspired by her family, her best friend, and God.  

   Atlantic High School Principal, Mrs. O’Campo, is very proud of all the accomplishments these student athletes have made academically and athletically.  She is confident they will represent ATL for their years to come.  She’d like to thank the community and the parents for all the support.  GO EAGLES!

Kevin Norris Jr. signing to Coffeyville Community College. Staff Photo
Kevin Norris Jr. signing to Coffeyville Community College. Staff Photo
This is Datrone Young signing to Iowa State University. Staff Photo
This is Datrone Young signing to Iowa State University. Staff Photo
All 3 football players with family showing support. Staff photo
All 3 football players with family showing support. Staff photo

 

Super Bowl presents opportunities for two opposing franchises

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  After two unimpressive games that capped off a lackluster postseason, the NFC and AFC champions have been crowned and now aim to win one of the biggest accolades in the entirety of national sports at one of the most famous events in the United States. The Atlanta Falcons were announced as the 2016 NFC Champions after a boring matchup that was originally advertised as a shootout between two of the most prolific offenses (the other being the Green Bay Packers).

  The Falcons’ offense certainly lived up to the hype, highlighted by a 73 yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones. However, the defense also played better than expected, with the Packers not even scoring their first points until the third quarter. Andy Gallagher, of TSJ Sports, said, “The fact that the Falcons only recorded 2 sacks during the game doesn’t come close to telling the story, as Aaron Rodgers spent the majority of the game under duress, being pressured on 20 of his 49 dropbacks per PFF.”

  On the other side of the National Football League is the New England Patriots, who have now officially broken the league record for Super Bowl appearances with nine, according to the NFL. The AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers was the final playoff game of the season – excluding the Super Bowl of course – and it was par for the course. Just like most of the other games, it lacked a close matchup, with the final score being 36-17. The most significant player in this matchup was Chris Hogan, who scored two touchdowns. Alan Schechter, of FanSided, said, “Hogan set the Patriots single game post season record for a receiver with nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns.”

  The Patriots hope to capitalize from this win, and their highly touted defense, by winning the Lombardi Trophy again, and hoping to clear their negative reputation. “You so much as say Brady or Belichick in Chicago, and you get the cheaters thing. First word from people usually,” said a Boston native to Colin Fleming in his article with Rolling Stone. After controversies such as “Deflategate,” the hate against the Patriots has been extreme, which is why, according to this article, Patriots fans think of this as a deserved accomplishment, meant to prove themselves.

  While the Patriots hope to disconnect their name from any controversy, the Falcons’ desire to bring home the Lombardi Trophy arises from the fact that the franchise has yet to win a Super Bowl. In fact, the Falcons have only appeared in the Super Bowl one other time. This appearance was decades ago. “Tevin Coleman, one of the team’s running backs, was only 5 when the Falcons lost to John Elway and the Denver Broncos,” said New York Times writer Benjamin Hoffman. As a result, the Falcons’ entry has been a long time coming, and it will be interesting to see what happens to the franchise, especially since superstition is not on their side as of now.

  The Super Bowl is on Feb. 5, at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.

Julian Edelman celebrates a touchdown. Photo courtesy of CNN.com.(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Julian Edelman celebrates a touchdown. Photo courtesy of CNN.com.(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Matt Ryan attempts to throw a touchdown pass. Photo courtesy of rantsports.com
Matt Ryan attempts to throw a touchdown pass. Photo courtesy of rantsports.com.

Wild Card Weekend Provides Not Wild Games

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 One of the most skewed Wild Card Weekends in NFL history, the first four playoff games on the road to Super Bowl LI (51) did not provide the excitement that most expected. With the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, and Atlanta Falcons automatically moving to the second round of the playoffs, this previous weekend was supposed to include four of the greatest matchups of the year, pitting eight of the top teams against each other. Instead, football fans were forced to sit through uneventful blowouts.

  The first game included a rematch of Week 11’s Monday Night Football contest between the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders. This one, however, included some quarterback controversy. With the Texans starting quarterback of two weeks, Tom Savage, out with a concussion, Houston turned to Brock Osweiler, the gunslinger who was previously benched in favor of Savage. For the Raiders, both starting quarterback Derek Carr and backup Matt McGloin had been injured in previous games, leaving Connor Cook to start for the first time in the Wild Card competition.

 Initially, the game seemed like it would just be a defensive battle, with poor offense on either end, until the Texans leaped to an early lead, mostly due to a Jadeveon Clowney interception deep in Raiders territory. The game ended with the Texans winning 27-14, sending them to the second round of the playoffs and eliminating the Raiders, who were once the top team in the AFC, from contention.

  The second game starred Matthew Stafford’s Detroit Lions and Russell Wilson’s Seattle Seahawks. The first half commenced with two Seattle scores (including a controversial touchdown by wide receiver Paul Richardson) as the Seahawks jumped to a 10-0 lead. However, in the third quarter, when Matt Prater kicked his second field goal for the Lions and brought the score to 10-6, the game began to look less lopsided. This completely changed in the fourth quarter, with three consecutive scores for the Seahawks, including a 13 yard touchdown reception from Doug Baldwin to bring the final score to 26-6 (according to ESPN), even more skewed than the prior match.

  The first game on Sunday was not any different; the Miami Dolphins traveled to Pittsburgh in hopes of beating the Steelers for the second time this season. Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger led Pittsburgh to a 14-0 lead within the first ten minutes of the game, with hope for the Dolphins quickly diminishing, even while scoring a field goal in the fourth quarter. With the Steelers’ defense recovering two fumbles and intercepting Matt Moore once, the blowout was inevitable. The final score was 30-12 in favor of Pittsburgh.

  The final game of Wild Card Weekend appeared to be the most interesting, with the New York Giants facing the streaking Green Bay Packers. While the score halfway through the second quarter was 6-0, with the Giants leading, it felt like the Packers should have been losing by more when one saw the ineffectiveness of their offense. Despite this, Aaron Rodgers got into a groove, throwing two touchdowns in the final three minutes of the half, the second of which was a Hail Mary pass to Randall Cobb. The final score was 38-13, probably the most skewed of the four games.

  Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com stated, “This weekend’s four games had a total margin of victory of 76 points. That 19.0 point differential average is the highest of any Wild Card Weekend since 1981 and makes this opening round the most lopsided since expanding to four teams in 1990, per NFL Research.”

  Some remain hopeful that, with the higher ranked teams remaining in the playoffs, the second round will involve closer competitions. However, some, such as Neil Greenberg of The Washington Post, believe that the opposite will occurs. Greenberg sees it as a “trend of ever-increasing dullness” in which these games will have less tension and be even more lopsided, especially since the odds for these are games are not entirely close.

  The playoffs continue this weekend, with the matchups including Seattle against the Atlanta Falcons, the Texans against the New England Patriots, the Steelers against the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Packers against the Dallas Cowboys.

Green Bay wide receivers Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb celebrate a touchdown. Photo courtesy of acmepackingcompany.com
Green Bay wide receivers Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb celebrate a touchdown. Photo courtesy of acmepackingcompany.com

South Florida Bulls once again take the win

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Gravelle Craig led Bethune-Cookman Wildcats vs. Orlando Antigua led USF Bulls at the USF Sundome.

The South Florida Bulls is the basketball team for University of South Florida. They represent the school in NCAA Division I where they are currently a member of the American Athletic Conference. The Bulls play their home games at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa, FL. The beginning of the college basketball program at USF was in 1971. The first game was a 74–73 victory over Stetson University. They ended the season with eight wins and 17 losses.  

  The Bethune-Cookman Wildcats basketball team represents Bethune-Cookman University in the sport of basketball. The Wildcats competes in the NCAA Division I and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. They play their home games in Moore Gymnasium on Bethune-Cookman University campus in Daytona Beach, Florida and are currently led by head coach Gravelle Craig.

  South Florida Bulls and Bethune Cookman Wildcats played against each other on Dec. 12. The game was so intense considering the points were close the entire game, that it spilled to overtime. Jahmal McMurray scored 20 points, including a pair of free throws that put the game out of reach with five seconds left, and South Florida slipped past Bethune-Cookman for a 79-73 overtime win. South Florida went to the free throw line against Bethune-Cookman on Monday, boosting South Florida to a 3-7 record. They walk away with a victory and beat the betting odds that said South Florida would lose based on their last 4 games. The South Florida Bulls bring a 4-3 record to this tilt against the 3-7 Wildcats, who are 0-1 ATS ( against the spread). Those over/under (a wager that will predict the statistics in a game) betting have witnessed South Florida go 2-4 so far and the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats go 1-0. It’s a betting matchup between the No. 319-rated South Florida Bulls and the No. 253-ranked Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, according to the latest pro hoops power rankings here at Odds Shark.

Gravelle Craig led BethuneCookman Wildcats vs. Orlando Antigua led USF Bulls at the USF Sundome.

 

Heat limp to the quarter mark of the NBA season

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    Justise Winslow following a shot made

   Reaching the quarter mark of the NBA, the Miami Heat sputtered to a paltry 7-17 record, generating dismay throughout the organization.

  Entering the season with lowered expectations because of injuries to key player Chris Bosh and the departure of longtime franchise player Dwyane Wade, the Heat began the season with a solid 108-96 opening night win over the rival Orlando Magic. All forms of inspiration from the opening night left south Florida as the Heat stumbled to a 2-8record in their first ten games.

  Injuries to many of the players on the roster can be to blame, with players like Josh McDonalds and the aforementioned Chris Bosh out long-term. Given the departure of Wade, budding star Justise Winslow has struggled to fill the demand. While being productive, he fails to produce the same numbers that Wade did a season ago.

  Wade has flourished for his hometown Bulls, averaging 20.1 points a game, while Winslow averages 11.6.

  Along with a struggling teams comes lukewarm reception from fans, especially in a sports market as fickle as south Florida. Ananth Pandian, basketball writer, said, “Miami’s home sellout streak continues at 302 games, second longest in the NBA, but empty seats have been an increasingly glaring issue and made a paper tiger of that streak. Actual attendance is down. And ask any season-ticket holder about the resale market.

As recently as last season Miami was still a top-10 draw (ninth) in average road attendance. So far this season, post-Wade, Miami has plummeted to 23rd. Local Heat TV ratings fell 27 percent, to a 5.0 average, the first season after LeBron left. They dipped to 4.5 last season. Early this season, post-Wade, they’d fallen to 3.7.”

    With the Heat consistently being dubbed the most popular team in south Florida, that moniker can easily disappear with the presence of the upstart Dolphins and youthful, yet successful Panthers.

  Coach Erik Spoelstra hopes that once the roster is completely healthy, the Heat can succeed and possibly pull within reach of a playoff spot.

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