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D is for Denver

Von Miller strips the ball from Cam on the way to a defensive score (NFL/CBS News)

Congratulations to the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos!

In a tough defensive battle against the NFC Champion Carolina Panthers—the favorite to win thanks to their dynamic quarterback, Cam Newton—the Broncos held the NFC South powerhouse to 10 points and eventually took home a 24-10 victory.

Although the Panthers limited Peyton Manning’s team to only one offensive touchdown—a one-yard C.J. Anderson run late in the fourth quarter—it was a key, Von Miller forced fumble and defensive touchdown in the first quarter that more-or-less sealed the Panthers’ fate. Granted, they were able to punch in their own Jonathan Stewart TD—and to score a Graham Gano field goal—but sadly, that was all the offense that NFL MVP Newton and his crew could muster… and it simply wasn’t enough.

The Sheriff came to town and took home the win (Pinterest)

The Super Bowl win was the second for future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning—tying him for bragging rights with his brother, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning—and this could well signal the end of his NFL career as many feel Manning will retire—especially since he would be going out on top.

Yes, the Sheriff may ride off into the sunset—not on a horse, but on the back of the best defense in the NFL. Way to go, Broncos!

Last Team Standing

Nov 29, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos mascot

What a relief! (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

At long last, the unthinkable has happened: the previously undefeated New England Patriots have finally lost a game!

The dethroning of the AFC’s last unbeaten team came at the hands of the Denver Broncos—and Peyton Manning wasn’t even at the helm. Instead, backup quarterback Brock Osweiler made clutch plays to lead his team to victory, including an overtime audible that ended with running back C.J. Anderson rumbling 48 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

“That’s what becoming a team is all about,” Broncos’ head coach Gary Kubiak said after the game. “You never know who’s going to make that play. Everybody stayed the course tonight and that is what is exciting about this team.”

The win elevated Denver to 9-2 and placed them three games ahead of Kansas City in the AFC West. At 10-1, New England still has full command of the AFC East, with the 6-5 New York Jets their closest competition.

Of course, this win also means only one undefeated team remains in the NFL: the 11-0 Carolina Panthers. And here’s hoping Cam Newton and company can keep this train rolling to 16-0!

Hello Seattle, Goodbye Seymour Hoffman

Seattle coach Pete Carroll takes the best kind of shower (AP)

If you missed last night’s Super Bowl, then you missed what had to be one of the most outstanding defensive showings in championship football history. And this is coming from a Steelers fan, no less.

In an unexpected turn of events, the Seattle Seahawks and their top-rated defense destroyed the highest scoring offense in the NFL—namely the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos—by a score of 43-8. The Broncos turned the ball over four times—twice in the form of Manning interceptions and twice by fumbling the ball—and started the game with an errant snap on offense resulting in a Seattle safety.

For Broncos fans—and Peyton Manning fans—it could not have been worse. And the one touchdown and two-point conversion they eventually scored did little to assuage the anguish over watching the number one offense in the league collapse so completely. It truly was a rout in every sense of the word.

So congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks on winning their first Super Bowl—and with an untested, second-year quarterback, too. I expect good things from this squad in the future. And who knows? They could be on their way to becoming the next dynasty in the NFL, especially if they keep playing like this!

On a sadder note, I would also like to honor one of my favorite actors and, sadly, another talent gone far too soon: 46-year-old Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Hoffman accepting his Oscar in 2005 (AMPAS)

On Sunday, police discovered Hoffman’s body on the bathroom floor of his Manhattan apartment, the victim of an apparent drug overdose. According to the latest reports, he even had a syringe sticking out of his arm—and it doesn’t get much more apparent than that.

Hoffman was an incredible and versatile actor who earned the respect and admiration of everyone with whom he worked. Upon hearing of his untimely death, actress Robin Wright described him as a “true artist,” while his co-star from the film Charlie Wilson’s War—the amazing Tom Hanks—called him “a giant talent.” Hoffman was an Oscar-winning actor—he took home Best Actor in 2005 for his performance in Capote—and starred in some truly great films: Scent of a Woman, Boogie Nights, The Big Lebowski, Magnolia, Almost Famous, 25th Hour and Cold Mountain, to name a few.

Yes, we have lost yet another great talent. And let’s hope this is the last one for a long, long time.

Farewell, Phillip. And thanks for the memories…

UPDATE: It seems that Hoffman’s death has been ruled as a heroin overdose. Police found nearly 50 packets of “Lady H” in his apartment, along with a host of prescription medications for everything from ADD to anxiety and high blood pressure. Hoffman entered rehab last year after a 23-year hiatus from drug and alcohol abuse. And sadly, it took only one slip to end his life. What a shame…

The Big Game

Let the games begin! (NFL)

After a long, grueling and hard-hitting season of NFL football, the day of “The Big Game” has finally arrived. In roughly three hours, two very talented teams will kickoff Super Bowl XLVIII in New York City.

And it should be a game for the ages.

The great Peyton Manning (NFL)

On one side you have the Seattle Seahawks led by second-year quarterback Russell Wilson—a two-time Pro Bowler and recipient of the 2012 Pepsi Rookie of the Year award. This season, the Seahawks allowed only 14.4 points per game and posted a turnover differential of +20, which included 28 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries. They were hands-down the best defensive team in the league and, with Wilson maturing so rapidly, there’s no limit to what they can accomplish.

Of course, this is only Seattle’s second appearance in the Super Bowl—my Pittsburgh Steelers took them down in 2005—and this time around, their foe could not be more formidable.

I am speaking of arguably the greatest quarterback of all time—Peyton Manning—but his entire Denver Broncos squad is a force to be reckoned with. They averaged 37.9 points and 340 passing yards per game this season—easily becoming the best offense in the league—but it was largely due to their signal-caller. A true “student of the game,” Manning outdid himself this year and set all sorts of NFL records, including the following:

  • In his opening game against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, Manning became one of only six players in NFL history to throw seven touchdowns in a game… and with no interceptions!
  • Manning threw more touchdown passes in the first three games of a season than anyone in NFL history, breaking a record set by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in 2011. He would go on to break Brady’s record for most touchdown passes in a season, as well, ending with 55 for the year.
  • The single-season passing yardage record set by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees in 2011 also fell to Manning, who shattered it by tossing for 5,477 total yards.
  • By making it to the Super Bowl this year, Manning became only the third starting quarterback to reach The Big Game with more than one team—along with Craig Morton and Kurt Warner.
  • Manning was named 2013 Offensive Player of the Year—for the second time—and received his fifth NFL Most Valuable Player award, setting yet another league record!
Just How Good Is the Seattle Seahawks Defense?

Seattle’s defense will be out for blood! (Getty Images)

I could go on, of course, but Manning’s accolades are pretty well-known. And by all accounts, most people have his Broncos winning it all this year. It certainly would solidify his so-called legacy… as if it needed solidifying.

Honestly, I’m not sure where I stand on today’s game. On the one hand, I want Denver to take home the title since I love the city, the state and their kick-ass quarterback. But there is a part of me that wouldn’t mind seeing the Seahawks raising the Lombardi trophy. They certainly deserve it and fought just as hard to make it here.

Either way, it should be an amazing game—free from halftime nipple slips, damn it—and the commercials should be as entertaining as always. I hope you all get a chance to see what should be a great show.

And may the best team win!

Welcome back, NFL

Granny sends her best, too

At long last, NFL football has returned to American television and today is opening Sunday. I could not be happier. It was a long summer of reruns, but the Olympics helped bridge the gap between the end of the last college basketball season and today. Now my Sundays will be spoken for through New Year’s.

Like many NFL fans, I have a pretty standard Sunday routine that I follow. First, I never plan anything on Sunday, unless it happens before noon, that is—I need at least an hour to “set up” for the 1:00 kickoffs. Second, I multi-task during each commercial break and do my weekly chores—washing clothes, taking out the trash, feeding pets and performing other equally banal activities. Finally, I screen all my phone calls. And trust me, only emergency calls get returned. The rest have to wait until halftime or the next major stoppage.

Please keep this last rule in mind if you ever try to reach me on Sunday. A text message is an acceptable alternative and I assure you my response time will be faster.

The first half has ended in all the early games and I can tell it’s going to be an exciting season. Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin, III is leading the Washington Redskins to pay dirt against the New Orleans Saints. He just threw his first touchdown pass, an 88-yard beauty to Pierre Garcon. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady became the 14th player in NFL history to pass for 40,000 yards in his career. He also surpassed John Elway for all-time touchdowns and now ranks fifth.

Things are really heating up.

Steelers look good this year!

Of course, my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers don’t play until tonight in primetime, so I get to spend my entire day in agony as I anticipate a tough match. We’re facing the Denver Broncos and their new Super Bowl MVP/future Hall of Fame/freaking awesome quarterback, Peyton Manning. These guys have a lot of weapons and Peyton is making a comeback, so I have no idea what to expect. I’m optimistic, but also nervous as hell.

And that’s something I love about NFL football. It gets into your blood and drives your emotions. It gets your adrenaline pumping and your hair standing on end. And best of all, it gives you hope because truly, anything can happen. It’s never over until that final clock shows nothing but goose eggs.

To spice things up even more during the NFL season, I participate in an annual fantasy football league with some buddies for a small, winner-take-all cash prize. You may find this a little nerdy, but it adds a layer of excitement, I assure you. For those of you unfamiliar with fantasy football, here’s how it works.

You or a friend set up a free league at one of the big sports websites like ESPN or Invite some friends, adjust some settings and viola! Your new league is born. On draft day, the group meets live online to select the best possible players at key positions. Everyone begins with the same roster structure—normally a QB, several RBs and WRs, a TE, a K and a Defense, plus some bench spots. You take turns cherry-picking from the best positional players in the league and build the best possible roster. Each week, you face off against other teams in your league. When your players perform well, they score points for you; when they suck or get hurt, they can lose points for you. Once the smoke clears in each weekly battle, the victor is the player with the most total points; the other guy is the loser.

What this means is I now have a reason to watch a lot of different games with great anticipation. I have players all over the place. The Redskins-Saints game is a perfect example. I’m pulling for the Redskins and currently, they are winning. But my starting fantasy quarterback is Drew Brees of New Orleans. I have to cheer for him to throw completions and hopefully touchdowns, while also hoping the Redskins can stay one step ahead of him. Drama, suspense… it’s got it all!

Go Panthers (courtesy of eBay)

An hour from now, the plot will thicken even more when Carolina and Tampa Bay kick off. The starting wide receiver for each team—in this case Steve Smith and Vincent Jackson, respectively—is on my fantasy roster and will be starting for me today. So I need them both to catch passes and score as often as possible. The down side is that I pull for the Panthers and thus don’t want Mr. Jackson to hurt them too badly. It’s like some kind of soap opera, to be sure.

Welcome back to my life and my television, NFL. I adore you while you’re here and miss you like crazy when you’re gone, so I’m ecstatic the season has just begun. And as long as the Steelers win, I trust we will have smooth sailing ahead…

The return of Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning (property of Getty images)

Peyton Manning unleashes Denver’s passing offense in first half against 49ers | Shutdown Corner – Yahoo! Sports.

I am a huge NFL football fan and must warn my readers that this is likely the first of many NFL-related posts to come. Granted, these may not interest my international folks, but I cannot resist since I have been an American football fan from a very early age. Please forgive me if you find these boring and feel free to check out one of my non-football posts instead.

After sitting out for a year and undergoing a number of neck surgeries, Peyton Manning returned to the field as starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos. And in his first two preseason outings, it looked as if his skills had grown very rusty.

Then the Broncos met up with one of the best defenses in football, the San Francisco 49ers, and everything changed.

In only three series, Manning shredded the San Fran defense, completing 10 of 12 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. One of Manning’s touchdown passes even came moments after being levelled by linebacker Parys Haralson.

In other words, it looks like Peyton’s neck is doing fine and that his skills are heating up just in time for the start of the regular season.

As a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, this doesn’t bode well since we inevitably play the Broncos every year, or so it seems. And while I have a lot of respect for Peyton Manning and his mile-high team, I sincerely hope my Steelers can shut him down this year.

Only time will tell, of course, but I can say one thing for certain: it’s going to be one hell of a great season!

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