Le’Veon Bell and the Drama That Surrounds Him

Is time running out for the Steelers and Le’Veon Bell? Bell was supposed to show up for the bye week practices, but to this point he is a no-show. Granted, he still has time to show up, but I doubt the Steelers are optimistic right now. The Steelers’ plans at the moment are to go on without him. James Conner has done an outstanding job as his replacement.

Conner currently has 453 rushing yards, 5th in the league, and 7 TDs. In addition, he has caught 26 passes for 257 yards. If I’m the Steelers, I have to be asking myself if Bell is worth the money he is asking when James Conner is performing at this level. There’s no doubt that Conner isn’t Bell, but for your money, is Bell really that much better? If you’ve seen the Steelers play, you know that this offense is running just fine the way it is. And why disrupt the team unity and locker room vibe that is obviously working just fine?

I think Pittsburgh should concentrate on the players that are there each day, the players who are putting in the work. These are the guys that deserve the accolades, the attention, and the wins in the standings. It seems that too many athletes these days are becoming more self promoters and less athletes. Most of us are tired of hearing what they CAN do; we want to see results on the field. Le’Veon Bell, at least right now, is merely a mouthpiece for the spoiled factions of America in 2018. If he wants to sit, let him sit. James Conner is more than able to carry this team. I even heard some Steelers fans in Las Vegas this past weekend voice that exact sentiment.

So if he doesn’t show up, what’s next? A trade? That makes perfect sense to me if I’m the Steelers. The Eagles need a RB, so do the Colts, considering Marlon Mack’s injury prone status. And there are more teams that could use help in the backfield; 49ers, Raiders, Bucs, the list goes on. But now it would be up to each of these teams as far as what they are willing to part with in order to get someone of Bell’s caliber. But I’m not a GM, so I can only sit here and watch it unfold. And if Bell doesn’t play at all this season, it would seem to me that his stock would drop.

The next couple of weeks should see this play out, whether that works out for the Steelers or for Bell remains to be seen. If a trade happens, some team out there will get an outstanding running back, albeit with some baggage in tow. In the meantime, fans in Pittsburgh are quite happy with the success that James Conner is having. They’re on a bye this week, but then it’s back to the business of football.

8 Undefeated Teams Remain

This past weekend saw 3 of the previously undefeated teams get their first loss. I was in Vegas at the time, and I can tell you the sportsbook was going crazy for each of these games. It turned out to be a great weekend to be there. So let’s see what lies ahead for each of the 8 remaining teams.

Alabama is the lone SEC team to be undefeated. They’ve won most of their games easily, but may have a few tests down the road. I still see them marching all the way to the championship game without a blemish on their record. They still have Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State, The Citadel, and Auburn left to play. The only tests I see here are LSU and Auburn. But neither of these teams seems to have the offensive firepower to hang with Alabama for 4 quarters.

Ohio State sits atop the Big Ten currently. Their defense has shown signs of vulnerability over the last few weeks. But with Haskins under center, rest assured the Buckeyes offense will put up a lot of points. They face Purdue, Nebraska, Michigan State, Maryland, and Michigan to finish out the season. The Spartans always seem to give them a tough game, but I think OSU rolls this year. A much improved Michigan team may well be the only tough test they see the rest of the way. All eyes will be on this game as it promises to be a good one.

The ACC has 2 of the undefeated teams left. One of them will fall this week as Clemson and North Carolina State face each other. If Clemson wins, they still have Florida State, Louisville, Boston College, Duke, and South Carolina left. If NC State wins, they will still face Syracuse, Florida State, Wake Forest, Louisville, North Carolina, and East Carolina. This weekend’s matchup will be huge for both of these teams.

Notre Dame is among the undefeated teams, although they have been tested in recent weeks. It looks like a smooth ride the rest of the way, but don’t count on anything yet. Their next 3 games don’t look too tough. Navy, Northwestern, and Florida State should be fairly easy victories. But they close the season with Syracuse and USC. Syracuse has a potent offense and USC seems to get better each week. Notre Dame just needs to stay focused in the games leading up to these.

And now we have the 3 teams in the American Athletic Conference. Not a lot has been said about these teams, mainly because they have all played extremely weak schedules. UCF is the top dog here. They survived a scare versus Memphis this past weekend, but it gets easier the rest of the way. East Carolina, Temple, Navy, Cincinnati, and South Florida remain on their schedule. UC will seeing tougher tests as well. They have Temple, SMU, Navy, USF, UCF, and ECU. My prediction, they lose at least 3 of these. USF will have tougher games too. UConn, Houston, Tulane, UC, Temple, and UCF lie ahead. I think they lose at least 2 of these.

We’ll definitely be down to 7 after this coming weekend. I think UC falls to Temple too, but let’s see how this game plays out on Saturday. We’re at about the halfway point, so there’s still a lot of football left. Let’s make sure we enjoy every game.

Another Vegas Trip in the Books

Las Vegas, what a beautiful city. I just got back this morning after several flight delays. I was supposed to land at midnight, I landed at 6:00 am. But that’s another story for another day. The trip itself, like so many others, was fantastic. Currently down about $300 with a 6 leg NFL parlay for this coming week out the door. Crossing my fingers. But even a trip where you don’t profit is still a great time if you do Vegas right.

The most important part of a Vegas trip for me is just being there with the greatest group of friends anyone could ask for. We relax, we gamble, we drink, we eat an insane amount of delicious calories, and we leave our everyday lives behind for about a week. It’s wonderful.

I was lucky enough to have one of my sons with me on this trip. He loves Vegas (wonder where he got that). We stayed at Ellis Island the first 2 nights we were in Vegas. If you haven’t been to Ellis Island, put it on your list the next time you visit. It’s a small casino/brewery off the strip, about a quarter mile behind Planet Hollywood. It’s very relaxed, somewhat of a locals hangout, and I’ve always enjoyed my time there. They make their own beer right there on site, and it’s delicious. The fact that they sell it cheaper than they sell soft drinks makes it almost mandatory that you drink beer while you’re there. For dining, check out Julio’s. It’s a burrito/bowl joint that I make sure I hit each time I’m there. They have a BBQ place, a pizza joint, and a café on site as well. The café features a Hangover Burger that should be on your culinary bucket list. Each of these are good dining options though. Ellis Island is a nice hidden gem in that city.

The last 3 nights we spent at South Point. If you haven’t been there, it’s a great place to stay if you don’t want to deal with the tourists and the hoopla of the Strip. It’s south of the airport, away from the hustle and bustle, and still close enough to take their shuttle to the strip if you decide to go. There are many things that make South Point my favorite place in Las Vegas. With 11 restaurants, a coffee shop, an ice cream shop, movie theater, bowling alley, a 24 hour sportsbook, and a fantastic pool, how can you not like staying there? Their customer service is as good as you’ll find anywhere, in any type of business. The 24 hour Coronado Café is always a good choice to dine, especially with their midnight to 6:00 am specials. Zenshin is an outstanding Asian restaurant as well. South Point simply has it all.

But again, the best part of this trip was just getting away with the guys. We always have a great time out there. I wouldn’t trade those guys for anything and I cherish each one of these trips we take together. We laugh non-stop and just relax for a few days. That’s what life is about. It’s not about material things, it’s not about how big your house is or what kind of car you drive. It’s about family, friends, and experiences.

Drew Brees……He’s Good

This past Monday night on Monday Night Football, we all saw Drew Brees break the NFL record for most passing yards in a career. When you think about it, when you think about the greats who have played the game, that’s an incredible feat for a guy who many ‘experts’ said was too short to achieve success at this level. I’ve enjoyed watching him since his days at Purdue. I loved his competitiveness, his desire. I remember after he was drafted, I told a buddy that the Chargers just got the best RB and the best QB in the draft. I thought for sure that the combination of Tomlinson and Brees would bring a title to San Diego.

Drew Brees was drafted with the 1st pick of the 2nd round in the 2001 draft by the San Diego Chargers. He saw some success in San Diego but was sporadic at times. A dislocated shoulder forced the Chargers into a tough decision. They decided to let Brees walk. The New Orleans Saints picked him up, and that’s when Brees’ career really took off. He has put up insane numbers in New Orleans. He led them to their first, and only (so far), Super Bowl by winning Super Bowl XLIV.

So far in his career, he has passed for 72,103 yards with 499 TDs. He has completed 67.2% of his passes and currently has a 97.3 rating. With all due respect to Phillip Rivers, how bad do the Chargers regret letting him go? He has 5 seasons with over 5,000 passing yards, by far the record. And judging by his performance this season, he doesn’t look to be slowing down any.

I have read his autobiography, Coming Back Stronger. You think he’s great on the field? Wait until you get a peak inside the man that he is off the field. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes to read, especially sports fans. And I just checked, it’s currently $6.73 on Kindle. So go grab it. Reading his story, getting a look inside his life, it was one of the most inspirational books I’ve ever read. Drew Brees is truly one of the greats in the history of sports. Not just for what he has achieved on the field, but because of who he is as a man.

The Saints are on a bye this week. But when they return next week against the Baltimore Ravens, his first TD will be the 500th of his Hall of Fame career. I don’t think any of us want to miss that. I would love to see Drew Brees get another ring. What a perfect exclamation point on an historic career that would be. Not that it would happen, right? I mean, he’s too short, he doesn’t have what it takes. The experts told me all that back in 2001. Spoiler alert: they were wrong. Dead wrong.

Heisman Watch: Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray is another player that is on the Heisman watch this season. The Oklahoma Sooners QB has played fantastically through the first half of the season. Despite a loss this past weekend, Murray has been the leader of this potent offense. I’m not of the thinking that a loss hurts anyone’s chances of a Heisman, so I still consider him to be a viable candidate.

On the season, Murray has passed for 1,764 yards with 21 TDs and only 3 interceptions. He has also rushed for 377 yards with 5 TDs. He is one of the better dual threat quarterbacks in the country. He carries the Oklahoma offense and has shown great patience and decision making week after week. The Big 12 is not an easy conference, so his will and determination will be tested throughout the rest of the season.

Oklahoma is coming off of a loss to Texas, so they need to run the table to have a chance at getting into the playoffs. They have a few games that will be true tests for them. TCU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia still loom ahead. Murray will also have a chance to pad his stats a little with games against Kansas State and Kansas. But most importantly, they need to win each of these games. The game against West Virginia could be the perfect stage for Murray to make a Heisman push.

Kyler Murray is in a great position as far as his career goes. Oklahoma is one of the big stages in college football. Whether he decides to stay with football or go the baseball route remains to be seen. But either way, we get the opportunity to watch an outstanding athlete play the game(s) we love. The Heisman race will be fun to watch over the next couple of months. Let’s get ready to pop a few cold ones and watch the games.

Heisman Watch: Tua Tagovailoa

Alabama is good. They’re really good. Can we all agree on that? Ok, good. The Crimson Tide is so deep at every position, it almost seems unfair at times when you’re watching them play. But the guy who is really making things click, the guy running the offense, is QB Tua Tagovailoa. He is putting up insane numbers and I don’t believe he’s even seen the field in the 4th quarter yet this season. Alabama gets so far out in front, that Jalen Hurts comes in and cleans up.

Tagovailoa is completing passes at a 75.2% clip. He has passed for 1,495 yards and 18 TDs with no interceptions. He has also rushed for 122 yards with 2 TDs. His touchdown passes have gone to 7 different receivers,and it’s this kind of versatility and vision that makes him as effective as he is. He has a solid offensive line in front of him too; that always helps. Alabama looks to run the table with Tagovailoa under center.

To this point in the season, Alabama hasn’t really faced any top teams yet. Down the stretch they’ll be tested a little more than they have been. Missouri, LSU, Mississippi State, and Auburn lie ahead for the Crimson Tide. The rest of the SEC may have awakened a bit this past weekend as Alabama’s defense did show some vulnerability. But rest assured, Bama fans, they are still the team to beat.

With Tua Tagovailoa as their QB, Alabama should be headed into the SEC Championship game undefeated with a playoff berth all but granted to them. I, for one, would love to see what Tagovailoa can do in a close game. I don’t know that it will happen before the SEC Championship, but it would be very interesting, to say the least. If they face Georgia, we will likely see one of the best games of the year.

Let’s hope we can see him play in a competitive game soon so we can get a good feel of how far this guy can take his game. From what I’ve seen so far, it may be limitless. His competition for the Heisman is pretty tough, as it is each year. How all of these guys play down the stretch will decide who takes home the trophy. We’re the lucky ones, we get to watch them.

Is Travis Etienne Heisman Worthy?

The simple, quick answer is yes. We’re about halfway through the season now, so this is the time I start looking at Heisman candidates. There are quite a few contenders, most of which I’ll break down over the next few days before heading out to Las Vegas for a weekend with the guys. But Travis Etienne is a player who has quietly emerged and placed himself in the center of the Heisman conversation.

With Clemson having some early season QB drama/issues, Etienne has been a steady offensive force for the Tigers. You might even go as far as saying that he is solely responsible for the win over Syracuse last week. On the season he has rushed for 761 yards and 11 TDs with a receiving TD thrown in as well. But the last 4 games are what has put him into the Heisman talks. Over these 4 games, he has rushed for 654 yards and 9 TDs. That’s good, that’s a weapon, that’s Heisman worthy. He is averaging 9.2 yards per carry on the season. That’s also good, in case you were wondering.

How far will Clemson go? That remains to be seen. But with Etienne as the workhorse out of the backfield, the Tigers can be comfortable with Trevor Lawrence easing into his role as starting quarterback. If he progresses as expected, Clemson will be hard to beat. I didn’t like seeing Kelly Bryant transfer after losing the starting job, and I’m sure most Clemson fans didn’t either. Chase Brice is an able backup, but it sure would have been nice to rely on Bryant if the situation arose. But regardless, Travis Etienne is what drives this offense right now. He is making a name for himself and putting other Heisman candidates on notice with his efforts.

The competition for the Heisman this year will be tough. Among the leaders so far is Alabama QB Tua …….(googles his last name)….Tagovailoa. I have a feeling that I better get used to spelling that. But there are others as well. As we get deeper into conference play, we’ll see what some of these guys are really made of. For Clemson, giving the ball to Etienne is their plan to get them to the ACC Championship game and then into the playoffs. So far, he looks to be up to the task.