Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fantasy Basketball Week 7 News and Notes

It could have been worse, but Danny Granger owners received some bad news early this week, as the Pacer fantasy monster succumbed to a heel injury that will put him on the shelf for a minimum of four weeks.

After a slow start, Granger was beginning to heat up, and at the time of the setback that finally shut him down, he was averaging better than 24 points, six rebounds, and almost three converted three-pointers per game. Unless you are in a ridiculously shallow league, there is no single player out on the wire that could possibly approach the huge numbers that Granger posts. Hopefully, the four to six weeks doesn't turn out to be two or three months. What better place to look for relief than the Pacers themselves.

The most attractive Pacer that may be available on your waiver wire is Dahntay Jones. If the Duke product is not available, Brandon Rush may be able to provide decent scoring and three's. Assuming Mike Dunleavy is not available, other Indiana plug-in's include Tyler Hansbrough, who's begun scoring and rebounding well, albeit in limited minutes, or Roy Hibbert, whose recent woes have likely found him waived by many fantasy owners. Regardless of who you grab, you'll need additional help while Granger is out. Let's hope for a speedy recovery.

The devastating season-ending knee injury to hard-luck Greg Oden has created an opportunity for veteran Joel Przybilla, although the real benefactor here is Lamarcus Aldridge, who will likely enjoy a jump in both rebounding and scoring numbers.

Josh Howard returned to the Dallas lineup earlier than expected, and wasted no time as he dropped 20 points in 26 minutes in his first game back from a nagging ankle injury. Howard owners may want to temper their expectations, however, as the Mavs coaching staff is going to continue to bring him off the bench, and keep him out of back-to-back games for awhile.

Owners that are in need of point guard stats may want to consider grabbing Jarrett Jack, in anticipation of lengthier than projected absence of Raptor starter Jose Calderon. Jack had been playing well off the bench for Toronto prior to Calderon's hip injury, and could provide some short-term value.

After a 26 point tease, rookie James Harden returned to single digits and is really trying his owners' patience. If you haven't already dumped the underachieving former Arizona State guard, it may be time to cut your losses.

In Motown, Rodney Stuckey has strung four straight 20-plus point performances together. The Pistons court general was being pushed by Will Bynum earlier this season, but has taken hold of the starting gig. Stuckey won't continue to average over 20 points per game, especially with Rip Hamilton returning to the court, but count on "Hot Rod" to continue to post consistent lines night-after-night.

Up in Beantown, a healthy Kevin Garnett and the red-hot Celtics are running on all cylinders. KG is sizzling, having shot an absurd 77% over a five game stretch. Point man Rajon Rondo has been equally as proficient, turning in a week that saw him produce 16 points, over 12 assists, over 2 steals per game."Double R" added a triple-double to his rapidly improving resume as well.

Finally, a "slightly" older point guard, 2-time league MVP Steve Nash continues to defy father time, as he leads the league in assists, including an 18 dime effort earlier this week. Nash is also putting up stout scoring numbers this season, routinely surpassing the 20 point mark.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Rivalry Week

Although not the circumstances that Bears fans were hoping for in mid-December, this week’s matchup with the rival Packers represents an opportunity to build on last week’s victory over St. Louis, as well as disrupt the Green Bay playoff run.

The 5-7 Bears play host to the 8-4 Packers on Sunday, in a game that should prove to be critical to the post-season hopes of Green Bay. Coming off an impressive Monday night win over the Ravens at Lambeau, the Packers march into town trailing the Vikings by two games in the NFC “Norris” division.

The Packers have very little margin for error if they expect to remain in the playoff hunt. Along with the Pack, Dallas, Philly, and Arizona share 8-4 records. The Giants are just a game back at 7-5, and the Falcons are still alive at 6-6. The Cards will take the NFC West. Of the remaining five teams at 8-4, 7-5, and 6-6, only two will earn a Wildcard spot. The Chicago Bears can play a role in derailing the Packers come Sunday afternoon.

Considering the Pack will be facing a road game in a short week, the possibility of an upset by Chicago is viable. It’s a nothing-to-lose scenario fore the Bears, but in order to play with the Packers for 60 minutes, both the offense and defense will have to play mistake-free football.

Aaron Rodgers is continuing to prove that he is on the verge of quarterback superstardom, as he enters Week 14 with MVP type numbers. The Packer QB has thrown for 3399 yards, 25 touchdowns, and just 7 interceptions. Rodgers is also completing over 65% of his passes. The Green Bay defense has been equally impressive all season, as it ranks number three in the NFL, yielding just 86.3 pass yards per game. The run defense has been stout as well, surrendering a stingy 87.2 yards per game, good for fourth in the league.

What these statistics mean to the Bears is simple. Keep Rodgers and the Packer offense off the field by playing ball control, error-free football. On defense, it will be critical to play opportunistically, as Chicago will be facing an offensive machine that will likely be slowed only by turnovers. A big play or two will be needed if the Bears expect to have any chance to stay with the explosive Packers. These guys are not the St. Louis Rams.

The lowly Browns shocked the defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers last night in Cleveland. Anything is possible in a rivalry game. This Bears group is certainly more talented than the Cleveland bunch. It will take a near-perfect effort by the Bears, but I think this team will rise to the occasion and get it done.

Bears 17 Packers 14

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mike Hollis Interview

This NFL season marks the 15th anniversary of both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers. I recently chatted with one of the original Jaguars, former Pro Bowl kicker Mike Hollis. We discussed the early days of the franchise under Tom Coughlin, where the Jags have gone since the 1995 inaugural season, and the life of an NFL kicker.

Mike Hollis spent seven of his nine years as an NFL placekicker with the Jacksonville Jaguars. During his career, Mike converted 200 of 250 field goal attempts, which included a streak of 20 consecutive conversions. Additionally, Hollis was selected to the Pro Bowl following the 1997 season, and still ranks among the best in NFL history in a number of kicking categories, including highest conversion percentage of field goals of 50 or more yards and post-season field goal kicking accuracy. All tolled, Mike scored 879 regular season points.

In 1995, the Jacksonville Jaguars played their inaugural NFL season. Far from the prototypical NFL city, this unexpected winner of one of only two new teams since 1976 quickly rose to the top of the league. By only its second year in existence, the Jaguars had earned the right to play in the 1997 AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots. An incredible sophomore season ended just one game shy of the Super Bowl. Mike shared some of his memories of that group, led by Tom Coughlin.

“We had a very unique group of guys that had one goal in common. Tom Coughlin did a great job of getting those kinds of guys together on one football team”, said Hollis.

That Jaguars team seemed to thrive as the underdog, much as the city did during the franchise selection process that preceded inception into the NFL.

Success continued for the team, as the Jags reached the playoffs the following three seasons. Although a Super Bowl appearance was not to be, the fledgling franchise was able to go from “new kid on the block” to perennial playoff contender almost instantly. As Mike would reveal, however, the decline in Jaguar victories seemed to coincide with a change in philosophy around the locker room.

Speaking of his frequent visits to the Jaguars facility after his retirement, Mike says, “I didn’t see the same chemistry or the same camaraderie”.

When I asked Mike what he thought was the biggest difference in the game today, versus when he was playing, he said, “I just don’t see the same sort of commitment amongst the team and players that I did back then”.

The same lack of commitment has reached the fan base as well. Whether it’s due to the floundering economy, or just simply the shortage of victories in recent years, the Jaguars “faithful” have failed to consistently attend games the way they had in the early years.

Hollis seems to believe that the swoon in fan support stems not only from a down economy, but also from the aforementioned change in philosophy by the organization as a whole.

“Tom Coughlin had an addendum to every player’s contract, and that was that we were required to make at least three public appearances during the season, and that I believe is no longer a requirement”, explained Hollis.

Less visibility in the community is something that Hollis feels is contributing to the growing apathy among Jaguars fans. Mike does not, however, believe that the proximity of the Florida Gators program affects the overall interest in the Jaguars, citing, “If that was the case, I don’t think that the Arena League would open a franchise here in Jacksonville again”. The Jacksonville Sharks will begin play in 2010.

With regards to Mike’s specialty, the kicking game, he had much to say about the coaching and development of today’s players.

“Kicking has not gotten to a point where it’s got a consistent, basic fundamental. There are too many coaches out there that don’t know what the heck they are talking about, and they are teaching different styles and different techniques”, says Mike.

To address what he believes are serious inefficiencies in the handling of young kickers, Mike launched his Jacksonville-based “Mike Hollis’ ProForm Kicking Academy”. It’s at this academy, where Mike and his staff rely on the practice of teaching technically precise kicking methods to students. It’s Mike’s belief that too many NFL teams are looking to physical, athletic types, over those that possess more of a technically sound skill set.

“I can kick the ball as far, sometimes, as Sebastian Janikowski. It’s not about size, it’s about the technique and how you utilize 100% of your body behind the ball”, contends Hollis.

The “Mike Hollis’ ProForm Kicking Academy” was started by Mike Hollis, after seeing so many kickers from the high school to the NFL level make subtle and correctable errors in their kicking game.

Mike has worked with some of football’s most talented kickers, including former NFL kickers Shane Andrus and Nick Novak, as well as Florida Gator kicker Caleb Sturgis. According to Hollis, Novak recently auditioned for a return to the NFL with the Washington Redskins.

The academy is not for everyone, as Mike is focused on teaching those that truly have the passion to commit themselves to the craft long-term. “The ones who are expecting to get a quick fix, they will not succeed. They will not have any success in our academy. We don’t want to take their money”.

For more information on the “Mike Hollis’ ProForm Kicking Academy”, please visit:

Monday, December 7, 2009

Back to Basics

Following a string of four consecutive defeats, the Bears desperately needed to get back into the win column on Sunday against the hapless Rams. A vintage ball control and defensive minded performance moved Chicago to 5-7. The fundamental approach carried the Bears to a 17-9 win heading into next week’s rivalry matchup with the Packers.

Using a familiarly successful formula, the Bears took to the ground as they rushed 38 times for 120 yards. Defensively, Chicago prevented the Rams from registering any touchdowns, as St. Louis was just 2-14 on third down on the day. Jay Cutler was efficient, throwing for 143 yards on 8-17 passing, a touchdown and no interceptions. There was nothing flashy about Sunday’s win, but perhaps that how this team needs to get it done.

Matt Forte cashed in on his fourth TD of the season in the first quarter. All tolled, Matt ran for a respectable 91 yards on 24 carries. Kahlil Bell chipped in with 35 yards on 11 carries of his own.

The Bears did use the big play a couple of times to set up scoring opportunities. Jay Cutler connected with Devin Hester on a 48 yard pass, which set up the first Bears TD, a 1 yard plunge by Matt Forte. On the following possession, Earl Bennett scampered 71 yards on a catch and run, which resulted in a Robbie Gould field goal. Those ten points would prove to be enough to finish off the Rams.

St. Louis stud running back Steven Jackson was able to gain 112 yards on 28 carries, but the Rams offense was kept out of the red zone in 12 of 13 Rams possessions.

Chicago turned the ball over just once, a Matt Forte fumble, while forcing a Rams fumble and Kyle Boller interception.

The players were more relieved than anything else, able to avoid what would have been an extremely embarrassing defeat. Next week, the Bears get a shot at the Packers, who have to travel to Soldier Field, coming off short rest and a physical matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. On a playoff push, Green Bay cannot afford to slip up in Chicago next week.

For the Bears, the stakes won’t be as high, but a rivalry game is always a tough battle, and Chicago has an opportunity to throw a monkey wrench into the playoff plans of the Packers. I think the Pack will be weary and ill-prepared for this road game.

Bears 17 Packers 14

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Looking for Respect

In a season of unfulfilled expectations, the 4-7 Bears look to regain some respect, as they host the 1-10 St. Louis Rams on Sunday afternoon.

Any hope of a late-season playoff push was lost last week, as the Bears were crushed by the high-octane Vikings. Entering Week 13, the Rams are not surprisingly a one-win team, facing yet another offseason of major roster adjustments.

More than anything else for Chicago this week, as well as and the next four, brings an opportunity for the current roster and coaching regime to exhibit professionalism and heart. Should the Bears come together, and somehow “run the table” a 9-7 season would certainly do wonders for the confidence of this team going into next season, in addition to the possibility of the Lovie Smith administration being retained for another year. If the Bears can take care of the lowly Rams this week, ample spoiler opportunities lie ahead versus Green Bay, Baltimore, and Minnesota. On the other hand, is this Bears team in a position to look past anyone?

St. Louis heads into town with back-up QB and former Raven Kyle Boller at the helm. The oft-injured starter Marc Bulger went down a couple of weeks ago, and remains sidelined for this week’s game. With the exception of RB Steven Jackson, the Rams do not possess any playmakers on either side of the ball. St. Louis ranks near the bottom of the NFL in nearly all offensive and defensive statistical categories. A home loss this week would be disastrous for Chicago.

Should the Bears be able to regain any semblance of the team that devoured the Rams 27-3 in St. Louis last season, the four-game skid will come to and end.

If Jay Cutler expects to lead this team to greener pastures over the next few years, he had better get started by taking this team on his shoulders NOW, and generating some excitement that can be carried into 2010 and beyond.

As inconsistently as the Bears have played all season, they are clearly the superior team in Week 13. A home date in December against a 1-10 dome team should result in nothing less than a convincing victory.

The Bears will stop the bleeding this week.

Bears 24 Rams 10

Monday, November 30, 2009

It’s Mel Kiper Time

Any hope of a Chicago Bears playoff appearance this season was dashed in the dome yesterday, as the Vikings rolled to a 36-10 victory over the struggling Bears. The 40-year old Brett Favre was simply brilliant, as the 3-time NFL MVP threw for 392 yards and 3 touchdowns on 32-48 passing. An unprecedented fourth MVP award for the ageless Favre is certainly within reach after 11 games.

No surprises in Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon, except perhaps the rather pedestrian 25 carries for 82 yards and touchdown for Adrian Peterson. The Vikings were able to move the ball up and down the field all day, with little resistance from the Bears pass rush. A pass heavy and balanced offensive scheme worked to perfection for Favre and the Vikings. Four Minnesota receivers hauled in a half dozen catches apiece, plus an additional five Favre passes caught by tight end Vinsanthe Shiancoe. The touchdown passes were evenly distributed as well, with a single TD thrown to Percy Harvin, Chester Taylor, and Shiancoe.

The Vikings were an astounding 12 of 18 on third down. Chicago forced just one turnover, and registered a lone sack in another ugly defensive showing. The Bears offense committed the same types of back-breaking errors that have plagued the team all season long. Jay Cutler threw a pair of costly interceptions, bringing his season total to 20. The shoddy Bears offense line surrendered four sacks on the day, and did nothing for the running game, which gained a measly 43 yards all afternoon.

After a scoreless first quarter, Minnesota got on the board with a 15 yard TD play from Favre to Percy Harvin. The Bears were able to answer a couple of minutes later on a Cutler to Johnny Knox TD play that covered 24 yards. That was about it for the Bears. By the time the halftime whistle blew, Chicago was staring at a 24-7 beat-down, officially closing the books on the 2009-10 season.

With five games remaining on the schedule, the Bears look to salvage some pride, as management begins to evaluate the performance of the current roster and coaching staff in preparation for the offseason and draft.

A Bears season that began with a new quarterback, and high hopes at 3-1, has quickly dissolved into one that will certainly bring major changes prior to kickoff in the Fall of 2010.

Chicago is now on the clock.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fantasy Basketball Week 5 News and Notes

Just as it looked as if Allen Iverson had launched his last ill-advised three-point shot, rumors begun to circulate that A.I. may spurn retirement for a return to Philly.

The Iverson retirement/unretirement news comes on the heels of the surgery that repaired the fractured jaw of starting Sixer point guard Lou Williams. A final curtain call may be in the cards for AI after all, as the Sixers suddenly are faced with life without Williams. It will be about two months that Williams will be sidelined, forcing Philly to turn to rookie Jrue Holiday as the stopgap. While Holidaycertainly has the potential to fill-in admirably for the injured Williams, the return of AI is definitely intriguing. It's too soon to tell how this will all unfold from a fantasy perspective, but both Holiday and Iverson are worth a roster spot if you have one available. AI was dropped in my league last week after word spread that he would hang 'em up. As of 3:41PM Eastern time on Saturday, he has not yet been claimed.

This week saw the return of Mike Dunleavy to the 6-8 Pacers, around the time that a Danny Granger sprained MCL scare surfaced. Luckily for Granger owners (myself included), the sprain kept him out of the lineup just one night. This injury to the offensive leader of the Pacers should be closely monitored however, as Granger could aggravate the injury and end up on the shelf for awhile. I'm not looking to move Danny just yet, but I remain concerned. As for Dunleavy, he'll carry decent value as long as Granger is healthy, and significantly more if Danny goes down for any length of time.

In Cleveland, Lebron James continues to fill up the stat sheet, as Shaquille O'Neal returned to the court after missing six straight games due to a bum shoulder. LBJ has been brilliant thus far, as expected, posting 29.44 points per game, 7.75 assists per game, and 6.81 rebounds per game. While Shaq was on the mend, J.J. Hickson did an outstanding job picking up the slack, and would be a great reserve for Shaquille owners that carry a deep bench.

On the West Coast, as Clippers fans continue to wait for the debut of top pick Blake Griffin, Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby fantasy owners could care less about the rookie power forward. Both Kaman and Camby are enjoying strong fantasy seasons in the absence of Griffin. The young Kaman is averaging over 20 points per game, to go with almost 9 rebounds and a block and a half per contest. The veteran Camby is predictably not doing much scoring, but is logging 30+ minutes, on the way to almost ten boards, three assists, two blocks, and over a steal per game.

Kaman's production won't suffer much when
Griffin joins the lineup, aside from perhaps his scoring. Camby on the other hand, is undoubtedly going to surrender a bunch of minutes to the rookie, leading to a drop-off in production across the board. The oft-injured Camby has been a beast on the boards so far this season, and is relatively healthy. There's only one thing to do with Marcus if you own him NOW!!!

Chris Paul remains sidelined, with no timetable for a return, so rookie Darren Collison has become a viable point guard, garnering enough floor time to consider grabbing off the wire. If CP3 experiences a setback, those that gambled on Collison could be rewarded handsomely. Paul's absence from the Hornets lineup has also seemed to open things up for once prolific scorer Peja Stojakovic. The Croatian veteran may be worthy of a flier if you are in need of points or three's.

See you next week.

Playing for Pride?

While the Bears are by no means mathematically eliminated from post-season play, a victory in the Metrodome will be a tall order, come Sunday afternoon.

The disappointing 2009-10 season continues in Minneapolis, as the 4-6 Bears face a 9-1 Vikings team that has been almost perfect all season long. Brett Favre has turned back the clock, and through the first ten games of the season looks like the NFL MVP.

The Bears on the other hand, are looking to recover from a three game losing streak and losses in five of their last six games. Inconsistency on both sides of the ball has plagued Chicago all year. The Bears have simply been unable to play fundamental football from week to week. The latest skid on the schedule has seen Chicago drop two of the past three games at home. The road has been unkind as well, as a 2-4 record away from Soldier Field would illustrate.

It would appear to be a monumental task for the struggling Bears to have any chance in the Metrodome, where the Vikes are unbeaten at 5-0. The Bears will have to play a near perfect game on Sunday, if they expect to even stay competitive with Minnesota for 60 minutes.

Adrian Peterson has been under the weather all week, so perhaps he will not be at 100% by kickoff. Maybe the Vikings will be looking past the mediocre Bears? If I had to guess, I’d say AP will be fine, and the Vikes will not only be focused, but determined to put a ton of points on the board against the rival Bears. Brett Favre and his new teammates know that this season is looking like a magical one, and will take nothing for granted from here on out.

There’s nothing happening on the Bears sideline that would suggest that this game will even be close. If there’s any team pride left, I suppose Chicago is competent enough to put up a fight, but pride and hard work may not be enough to overcome a far superior team. This one could be over by halftime.

Vikings 35 Bears 7

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Karl Mecklenburg Interview

The NFL and its players have changed quite a bit over the past couple of decades. One of the 1980’s and 1990’s finest defensive players was Denver Bronco Karl Mecklenburg. A six-time NFL Pro Bowl selection, and Denver Broncos “Ring of Fame” inductee, Karl exhibited a level of perseverance and dedication rarely found in the modern-day professional athlete.

Through a lifetime of desire and courage, Karl was able to overcome a number of obstacles, on his way to a prolific NFL career and successful motivational speaking business. We discussed his book, “Heart of a Student Athlete, All Pro Advice for Competitors and their Families”, as well as Karl’s playing days and the NFL of the New Millennium.

Karl Mecklenburg’s path to NFL greatness was truly a rocky one. Far from a “can’t miss” prospect, Karl got his start at tiny Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. An undersized defensive lineman at 6’4” and 235 pounds, Karl quickly exhibited his will to succeed, as he progressed to the point where he was confident enough to walk-on at the University of Minnesota. After sitting out a year to regain eligibility, Karl earned a full-scholarship to play for the Golden Gophers, the team that he rooted for while growing up in Edina, Minnesota.

In his junior year, Karl led the Big Ten in sacks and was later drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 12th round of the 1983 NFL Draft. As the 310th selection, Karl faced a much different transition than his future teammate John Elway, who was the prized first overall pick in that same draft. As Karl discusses in his new book, ““Heart of a Student Athlete, All Pro Advice for Competitors and their Families”, it would require the commitment to six core values to ultimately overcome his challenges which included the struggle with dyslexia.

Through “Teamwork”, “Courage”, “Honesty and Forgiveness”, “Dedication”, “Desire, and”Goal Setting”, Karl battled the odds (and much larger players) to achieve excellence at the highest level of sport. In his book, Karl speaks of the necessity of parents to support their children’s dream of excelling in athletics by empowering their youngsters to overcome problems independently. Karl told me that parents should “give their kids support to find their passion”.

According to Karl, one of the ways that aspiring athletes can develop into successful adults, both on and off the field, is through teamwork. Whether it’s through team sports or other endeavors such as school bands, children will learn invaluable group skills that will benefit them over the course of a lifetime. Karl has shared his teamwork philosophy with many of the top Fortune companies, including Coca-Cola.

In addition to his work as a motivational speaker, Karl is intimately involved with his Denver-based REACH foundation. REACH stands for “Rewarding Experiences for All Children”. The program is aimed at providing inner-city children with the educational support and resources that they would otherwise not receive. Karl’s desire to create such a foundation stems from the example set by both of his parents. Karl’s father, a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist, and his mother, were both very active in their community as Karl was growing up. Karl’s mom had the honor of serving as a Deputy Secretary of Health for the Reagan administration.

One of the programs that Karl has recently implemented for his REACH foundation is called “REACH for a Book”. The initiative encourages elementary school children to increase the time that they devote to reading books. Each child in the program that reads at least 100 minutes per week receives a “pizza certificate”. The top two readers from each participating school earn a trip to Denver’s Invesco Field, where a special event is held each year for those winning students.

When it comes to courage, Karl says, “Don’t be afraid of failing. Failing is a part of being successful”. As a twelve year NFL player, Karl saw many fellow athletes refuse gain the courage to pursue lofty goals for themselves, rather remain content with an invitation to Broncos training camp, only to be “fired” shortly thereafter. From the beginning Karl Mecklenburg maintained that “I want to be the greatest player to ever play the game”. Had Karl aspired to anything less, it would have been highly unlikely that he would have achieved as much as he did throughout his career.

Karl’s post-football determination has not changed. “My passion and my mission for my speaking business and my book is to inspire long-term positive change”, says Karl. When you are exhibiting that type of attitude for the first 34 years of your life, it becomes natural to continue to do so. Karl Mecklenburg will not settle for anything less.

In addition to talking about Karl’s book, we spoke about the NFL of Karl’s days, versus today’s league. When Karl was playing linebacker for the Denver Broncos, the prototypical NFL player was much different than it is today. When Karl was in the league, players with exceptional speed and quick footwork were valued over those that were larger and less mobile. The successful execution of offensive and defensive schemes of the eighties and nineties demanded an athlete with greater agility than what we see today.

The modern NFL player is much larger. Additionally, the rules have changed in a manner that benefits the offense. According to Karl, today’s offensive linemen are able to hold defenders much longer than they once were. Furthermore, safeties cannot hit the way guys like former Bronco teammates Dennis Smith and Steve Atwater used to. Karl spoke of players “self-policing” themselves, as opposed to the officials imposing penalties and fines. Other hard-hitting players of Karl’s era that were able to use their intimidation tactics to gain an edge on the field were 49er great Ronnie Lott and former Seahawk All-Pro Kenny Easley. There was no trash talking from wide receivers during Karl’s playing days, as defenders would levy heavy game-day “fines” on those that insisted on talking. Karl says that wide receivers were the quietest guys on the field back then.

Today’s NFL has clearly gone out of its way to protect the wide receiver, states Karl. Former NFL wide out Gene Washington is the current Director of Football Operations. Gene protects today’s wide receivers through rules that limit contact by defenders after the ball is snapped.

Although Karl retired from the league back in 1995, he remains in tune with the current NFL and the Broncos organization. I asked him to chime in on today’s Broncos, new Head Coach Josh McDaniels, and how the game has changed since he stepped away.

“I think he has a real good grasp on what’s important and what’s not important to the team”, says Mecklenburg of McDaniels. “They have already won more games than I thought they’d win all year” followed Karl.

Karl sees the 2009-10 Broncos as an example of a team that truly embraces the team concept. Rookie head coach Josh McDaniels brought in free agents that were not merely seeking a shiny new contract, rather players that were genuinely interested in reaching a common goal. When asked about the morale of this year’s group which reeled off six straight victories before dropping its last three, Karl said there’s “a bit of panic”. Since the first loss of the season in Baltimore, Karl believes that Bronco players are trying to do too much on the field independently, which is causing team performance to suffer. “I’ve seen the breakdown happening since they lost their first game.”

As far as a comparison of today’s players with those that played in Karl’s, as well as prior eras, Mr. Mecklenburg doesn’t think it’s even close. The modern day NFL has gone overboard to deliver a game that promotes offense over defense and protects the quarterback to an excess. Karl believes that the modern-day QB does not have to perform under the same level of duress as such courageous warriors like Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, and John Elway. Today’s signal-callers have too many escape routes, such as tossing the ball out of bounds to avoid contact.

When I asked Karl about one particular modern day football phenomenon, “Madden NFL”, he did have great praise for the two-decade old football video simulation game. “The Madden thing has probably done more for young people to get involved in and understand football concepts than anything else”. Karl sees the offensive and defensive plays featured in the extremely popular video game series as being quite accurate. “That Madden thing is amazing!”, proclaimed Karl.

Karl Mecklenburg has accomplished so very much in his life. Against the odds, he claimed his stake as one of the most successful linebackers of his time. Through “Teamwork”, “Courage”, “Honesty and Forgiveness”, “Dedication”, “Desire, and”Goal Setting”, Karl has achieved a lifetime of accolades and personal fulfillment….and he’s not done. Karl continues to travel the motivational speaker circuit, and may jump back into the “literary ring”, this time with a book devoted to corporate leadership training.

When I closed out our conversation by asking Karl what his greatest accomplishment has been to date, he didn’t surprise me. He told me that it’s clearly his family and his 26 year marriage to his wife Kathi. I suppose he was simply being “Honest”.

Karl Mecklenburg’s book, “Heart of a Student Athlete, All Pro Advice for Competitors and their Families” can be ordered by visiting:

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Clock is Ticking

Time is beginning to run out on the 2009-10 Chicago Bears. In a second consecutive night game, the Bears host the Philadelphia Eagles in Sunday evening affair. Chicago hopes they can take advantage of the absence of Eagles stud RB Brian Westbrook, and take down the 5-4 Eagles.

The Bears enter Sunday night’s contest having dropped four of its last five games. At 4-5, the Bears are in grave danger of falling out of Wild Card playoff contention. The Vikings are in charge of the NFC North at a sterling 8-1, and have all but locked up the division title.

For the struggling Bears to have a shot at knocking off the Eagles, the defense will need to play 60 minutes of shut-down football as they did in San Francisco last Thursday. The challenge this week is containing a much more potent offense than the Niner squad. Even with stud RB Brian Westbrook a post-concussion scratch, Philadelphia has enough play-makers to do some serious damage to a reeling Chicago defense. Donavan McNabb has one of the NFL’s brightest young stars in DeSean Jackson. The young wide-out has the ability to break the big play at any time. Filling in for Westbrook is rookie RB LeSean McCoy, who is a competent replacement. TE Brent Celek is another young emerging weapon at McNabb’s disposal.

The Bears offense, which was listless all night last week against the Niners, must find the gear that it was in when it scored 48 points against Detroit and 30 against Cleveland earlier this season. The challenge for Chicago this week, is putting up those kinds of numbers against a playoff-caliber team such as the Eagles. It will be a tall task.

If the Bears can somehow generate a few turnovers on defense, move the ball on offense, and protect the pigskin in the red zone, maybe they will have a chance to snatch this one.

I for one, think this is the beginning of the end.

Eagles 21 Bears 10

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Start em


Matt Hasselbeck: The Seahawks travel to the Twin Cites to face Favre and the Vikes in Week 11. As stout as the Vikings are against the run, they are just 23rd against the pass. Seattle will likely be forced to air it out all day, as Minnesota’s explosive offense will dictate the pace of the game. Win or lose, Hasselbeck will attempt a ton of passes, surpass 300 yards, and toss a couple of TD’s.

Marc Bulger: In a battle between past and present St. Louis franchises, the passing game should be on display for both sides. Kurt Warner is of course always a threat to put up big numbers, but Marc Bulger will be facing Arizona’s the 30th ranked pass defense in the dome. Bulger is finally healthy and as usual will have the presence of a reliable Steven Jackson to take the pressure off the receiving corps. Far from a stellar WR group, Bulger’s targets will nevertheless have ample opportunities to make plays against a porous Cardinals D. Bulger is a sneaky play this week at home.


Rashard Mendenhall: The Steelers try to rebound this Sunday at Kansas City, which bodes well for those fantasy owners that carry guys like Mendenhall. Pittsburgh is desperate to return to its winning ways, and the abysmal Chiefs defense should accommodate the defending Champs. Mendenhall has been a decent starter for Pittsburgh, and has showed flashes of brilliance as a fantasy force. This week’s date with a brutal Chiefs rushing defense should yield over 100 yards and a score for the young Steeler RB.

Ricky Williams: The season-ending injury to Ronnie Brown has opened the door for Ricky Williams. The former Longhorn and Heisman winner will have an opportunity to shine the rest of the way, beginning at Carolina on Thursday Night Football. The Panthers have been up and down this year, similar to Miami. While Carolina has been able to control the passing attack of its opponents, the Cats have surrendered an average of 128.1 yards per game. Ricky had been averaging about 65 yards per game sharing the load with Ronnie Brown. If form holds against a very weak Panthers run defense, Williams should have no problems cashing in on a big day.


Percy Harvin: Last week it was Sidney Rice who blew up with 201 receiving yards for the Vikings. True to form for the 2009-10 Minnesota Vikings, a new weekly hero should emerge on Sunday. Harvin is healthy and always a danger to produce a couple of game-breaking plays. Percy is due for one of those types of weeks. The Vikings onslaught continues.

Brandon Gibson: Although coach Spags has not yet committed to the rookie Gibson as a Week 11 starter, it makes sense that Brandon will again be the primary target of Marc Bulger. The Rams have nothing to play for but a glimpse of what the future might bring. Last week, the freshman wide-out hauled in seven catches for 93 yards. At home, against a poor Cardinals secondary, Gibson will likely put up comparable numbers, and possibly register his first career TD.


Brandon Pettigrew: Similar to the situation in St. Louis, the Lions are playing for the future. Pettigrew has begun to play a prominent role in Detroit’s young offensive scheme. Week 11 has the awful Browns visiting the Motor City. Look for B-Pet to record 60-80 yards and score against the calamity that is the Cleveland Browns.

Jason Witten: Through ten weeks, the Dallas TE has not been the fantasy lock that owners have gotten used to over the past few years. Tony Romo has found success spreading the wealth, which has left Witten owners short. Jason is just too talented; however, to be kept quiet all season. The All-Pro TE is seeking jus this second trio to the end zone, and will see it this week against the rival Skins.

Sit em


Joe Flacco: It’s not that the Ravens haven’t been winning ballgames this season. The formula for success, however, is once again rushing and defense. Flacco certainly has the ability to put up flashy numbers, but Baltimore seems to have settled back into its comfort zone, which reduces the QB to a game manager. Take a “pass” on Flacco until further notice.

Mark Sanchez: The rookie Jets QB will likely be heading into a buzz saw in New England on Sunday, as the Pats will be seeking revenge against Gang Green, not to mention redemption from last week’s defeat in Indy. As expected “The Sanchize” has been slow to develop, and should be facing another painful rookie lesson in Week 11.


Justin Forsett: Stepping in for the injured Julius Jones, Forsett delivered an outstanding performance against the Cardinals last week in Arizona. Justin will again be the featured back this week for Seattle, but facing the dominant Vikings run defense, in Minnesota, is simply too much to ask of the young Hawk.

Jason Snelling: In case you were considering another fine replacement starting RB in Week 11, think again. Snelling had a decent outing against Carolina last week, as he filled in for the injured stud Michael Turner. A trip to the Meadowlands will not yield the same result, however, as the Giants are unlikely to surrender much to the Atlanta ground game. If Turner remains out for Week 12’s game against the Bucs, a distinct possibility, then Snelling should be considered, but not against Big Blue on Sunday.


Roddy White: The Falcons leading receiver is not one that you’d normally consider benching. Unless of course he was banged up, and facing the NFL’s 2nd ranked pass defense, on the road, in a windy Giants Stadium. A difficult decision for fantasy owners, yes, but I have a hunch that Roddy and the entire Falcons offense is going to have a quiet afternoon in New Jersey.

Devin Hester: The Bears continue to struggle to find their identity. It’s unclear which team will show up on a weekly basis. At times, Jay Cutler and the offense have been able to move the ball, but more often than not, have victimized themselves by turning the ball over. Hester has been steady throughout this stretch, but against a defensively superior Eagles team looking to snap a two game skid, and remain in the NFC East hunt, Hester and Chicago will fall short Sunday Night.


Vernon Davis: The suddenly explosive Davis has surprised many by this break-out season. Not many fantasy owners could have expected the previously underachieving TE to bust out with seven TD’s through the first ten weeks of the season. Davis may continue to be a reliable starter for the rest of the year, but the Niners travel to Green Bay this week, and face one of the league’s best overall defenses. Following a lackluster performance at home against Chicago last Thursday night, Vernon will be hard-pressed to return to the elite TE category against the Packers.

Tony Scheffler: With the exception of a monster Week 6 against these same San Diego Chargers that he’ll face in Week 11, the Broncos TE has been ineffective. The absence of starting QB Kyle Orton will further diminish Scheffler of a repeat performance. Tony will occasionally turn in a sparkler, but he’s not nearly consistent enough to rely on each week.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Truth About Yankees Fans

What better time to talk about the New York Yankees fan base, than two weeks after the 27th World Series Championship in team history. Yes, the Bronx Bombers are the most successful franchise in the history of professional sports. Yankees “faithful” have been filling “The Stadium” to root on their heroes for decades…or have they?

It’s difficult to debate that when a team is winning, “they will come”. Since the mid-nineties, the Yankees have clearly given every reason for their fan base to make their way to the South Bronx to watch a Championship caliber team dispose of the “victim du jour”. There’s no question that this franchise that officially became the “New York Yankees” in 1913, has featured some of the game’s greatest players, on some of the greatest teams. Decades of dominance, beginning in the early 1920’s, with legendary players such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and later Joe DiMaggio, fueled the desire of baseball fans to rally around New York’s pinstriped players.

If one spends some time in New York City, or many other major US metropolitan areas for that matter, it quickly becomes apparent that the Yankees are not simply one of New York’s two baseball teams, and one of 30 Major League Baseball teams. The Bombers have become much more than a member of the American League East. The Yankees are “America’s Team”. The questions is…when did this happen?

The incredible success that the Yankees enjoyed in the 20’s through the early 60’s eventually faded, as the franchise began to experience the peaks and valleys that most other sports teams endure. As the 1990’s got under way, however, the Yankees seemed to separate themselves from the rest of the league in a number of ways.

Firstly, the Yankees began to dominate as they hadn’t done in decades. Furthermore, game-day attendance soared to record levels. Additionally, the team payroll began to increase at a rate that left the rest of the league well behind. The extraordinary success and popularity led to revenue opportunities that were, and remain, unmatched by any other team in Major League Baseball. The Yankees had gained the advantage of being able to significantly outspend the rest of the league for the services of premium free agents.

What is the point, you ask? I contend that with the exception of the “Jeter Generation”, which began in 1995, an overwhelming number of present-day Yankees fans coincidently hopped on the Yankee vessel in the mid-Nineties, contrary to what the vast majority of “die-hards” will admit.

A snapshot of New York City baseball attendance data will support this conclusion.

In 1985, the New York Yankees drew an average of 27,510 fans per game. The cross-town rival New York Mets drew an average of 34,094 fans per game. This trend continues as follows:

1986 Yankees 28,000 Mets 34,168 (Mets win World Series)

1987 Yankees 29,971 Mets 37,458

1988 Yankees 32,717 Mets 38,193

1989 Yankees 26,983 Mets 36,033

1990 Yankees 24,771 Mets 33,738

1991 Yankees 23,009 Mets 28,379

1992 Yankees 21,589 Mets 21,970

1993 Yankees 29,839 Mets 23,126

1994 Yankees 29,656 Mets 20,380

1995 Yankees 23,521 Mets 17,683

1996 Yankees 27,789 Mets 19,609 (Yankees win World Series)

The attendance data shows that between 1985 and 1992, Yankees “faithful” stayed away from the Bronx, in favor of the surging New York Mets. It wasn’t until 1993, the year following a 90-loss Mets season, when Yankees Stadium began to reclaim thousands of fans that had been lost during the successful run of the Mets.

Not for one moment would I pretend that an enormous number of “fans” that attended Shea from 1985-1992 bothered returning until the late 1990’s. We can all agree that success breeds attendance. The point is rather a questioning of the undying loyalty that is preached in New York and around the country from the vast majority of Yankees “fans”. Had the Yankee fan base truly been comprised of die-hards, the 1985-1992 attendance swoon would have never happened.

It will be interesting to see what happens to fan support during the next Yankees valley, although considering the current economic advantage the Yankees possess, it may be awhile.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Start em


Mark Sanchez: The fifth overall pick in this years draft is beginning to mature. Prior to the bye week, Sanchez had posted back-to-back strong outings at Oakland and against Miami respectively. He has really only had a couple of poor showings this season, and is looking at a home tilt with the Jaguars, a team that surrendered 21 points to the awful Chiefs last week. A healthy Jerricho Cotchery should help the passing game, as Sanchez will throw for 200-250 yard and a couple of TD’s.

Kurt Warner: The enigmatic Warner looks to follow up his road gem with another gaudy performance, this time at home against Seattle. Kurt fired five TD’s in Chicago last week, just a week after throwing five interceptions versus Carolina in Week 8. With Anquan Boldin returning to the lineup this week, there is no reason to expect anything less than a 300 plus yard, three TD day from Warner.


Frank Gore: The healthy Niner RB is beginning to heat up, and will likely continue to fill up the stat sheet, with the reeling Bears coming to town for a Thursday night matchup. Chicago is fresh off a humiliating home loss to Arizona, in game that saw Kurt Warner throw five TD passes. The Bears are looking like a team that may be in freefall, which bodes well for Gore and the Niners. A long flight on short rest spells disaster for the Bears thin defense. On a Nationally televised stage, Frank Gore will light it up. Over 200 yards from scrimmage isn’t out of the question for the versatile RB.

Ronnie Brown: Now that the Bucs have avoided the franchise’s third winless season, they can return to futility. The Bucs will return to the loss column, as the 30th ranked run defense will be no match for the Wildcat on Sunday. Brown should record a 100 plus yard day, with a few catches and a TD.


Sidney Rice: Brett Favre and the Vikings return to the filed after a Week 9 bye. At 7-1, Minnesota is rolling. The upcoming opponents for the Vikes are less than daunting foes. The next three weeks see the Lions, Seahawks, and Bears visiting Minneapolis. Fantasy owners with Viking players should be in for a windfall. Rice is just one of the receivers that will benefit from a light schedule. Percy Harvin will also post big numbers on Sunday. One hundred yards and a TD or two for Rice (and Harvin) is a near certainty.

Greg Jennings: The Packers are a team that must be itching like crazy to get back on the field. Two weeks ago, Favre’s Vikings bested the Pack at Lambeau. To add insult to injury, Green Bay was dumped last week by the previously-winless Bucs. Donald Driver has been the go-to guy this far for the Packers, but Jennings is a big play guy that has the ability to get it going at any time. Greg is due for a 100 yard afternoon, which he may see against a Dallas team that is coming off an emotional NFC East game last Sunday night.


Jeremy Shockey: After a couple of quiet weeks from the former Miami Hurricane and New York Giant, a trip to St. Louis and the lowly Rams should be enough to reignite the explosive Shockey. The New Orleans offense is as potent as it’s ever been. The Rams cannot stop any team in the NFL, much less the undefeated Saints. No “shocker” here…..Jeremy goes off on Sunday, with a bunch of catches and a return to the endzone.

Dustin Keller: The Jets are a strange team to figure out. Much of it I suppose has to do with the maturation process of QB Mark Sanchez. Nevertheless, the offense possesses a group of talented players, one of which is TE Dustin Keller. Prior to last week’s bye, Keller busted out against Miami, posting 8-76 and a TD. The woeful Jacksonville pass defense will have difficulty containing the Jets receiving corps all day. Keller will deliver a second straight impressive outing.

Sit em


David Garrard: After some early season success, Garrard has struggled mightily. He has not had a multiple TD pass game since Week 4 against the wretched Titans. The likelihood of David tossing more than a lone TD pass against the stingy Jets pass defense is low. Garrard continues to be a mediocre- at-best fantasy QB in 2009.

Matt Cassell: The post-Larry Johnson era Chiefs travel to Oakland to face the Raiders in what was once a fierce rivalry. Matt Cassel’s first year with Kansas City is probably not what he envisioned when he signed his lucrative free agent deal during the offseason. Matt has performed reasonably well, considering the limited talent he is surrounded with. While Cassel may be a decent fantasy starter at home, against a week pass defense, he is not a strong play I Oakland, versus a competent Raiders secondary.


Darren Sproles: Despite the rapid decline of LT, Sproles has yet to provide any level of consistency to the Chargers offense. The diminutive RB has the ability to make big plays, but cannot be relied on to shoulder the load; fantasy or otherwise. San Diego hosts the Eagles, who are stout against the run. Look elsewhere for a starting RB in Week 10.

Kevin Smith: Against one if the best run-stopping defenses in the NFL, there aren’t many RB’s that can manage a productive afternoon. Although Kevin Smith is an excellent back on a horrible team, his prospects of posting his second 100 plus rushing day of 2009-10 are bleak. The Metrodome is one of the most difficult places for to operate for a signal caller. Rookie Matthew Stafford will have “tons” of trouble with the Vikings front seven, making it for a long afternoon. I would pass on Kevin Smith this week, and perhaps even show Megatron the pine in Week 10.


Johnny Knox: The explosive rookie has shown signs of greatness thus far, but the Bears face a West Coast road game in a short week. Knox may someday be a great receiver, but nothing more than modest “returns” should be expected from the Bears freshman WR.

Dwayne Bowe: The departure of Tony Gonzalez, and the ineffective running game have not made life any easier for Dwayne Bowe of the 1-7 Chiefs. Bowe’s talent is unquestioned. Unfortunately for Dwayne, he’s the ONLY offensive threat that Kansas City has at the moment. Opponents are not going to allow Bowe to be the guy that beats them. In Week 10, the Chiefs head out to Oakland, where Bowe will be matched-up against Nmandi Asomugha all day. It’s a no-go on Bowe this week.


Marcedes Lewis: With the exception of Maurice Jones-Drew and at times Mike Sims-Walker, the Jaguars have had little else to offer in the way of productive fantasy players. Lewis had a couple of decent lines earlier this season, but he is not to be trusted unless you are out of other options.

Benjamin Watson: As potent as the Pats offense is, Tom Brady still spreads the ball around way to much for guys like Ben Watson to be a consistent factor. Unless your name is Brady, Randy Moss or Wes Welker, you are not a strong fantasy option for New England.