NFL

And THAT's why you probably shouldn't bet big $ on sports events

And THAT's why you probably shouldn't bet big $ on sports events

I cannot remember being more certain of a Super Bowl winner than I was last week. I just KNEW that Atlanta would beat New England. They had a better team, played in a better conference and should have been the favorite but for all the sentiment about the coach and quarterback for the Patriots.

And if I had it to predict all over again, I'd say the same thing. But I'd hope the Atlanta coaching staff would come to its senses late in the game. Come on, guys -- a first down at the New England 22 with about four minutes to play and you pass? You pass?

I didn't get it at the time. Just run the ball three times, get the ball in the middle of the field for your kicker -- who is one of the best in the business -- run the clock down and boot a field goal that would have sealed the game for you. That's all they had to do.

But no, what followed was a disaster. A franchise-changing disaster. By the time the Falcons were finished with that series they'd taken themselves out of field-goal position, Tom Brady was the greatest quaarterback of all time and Atlanta was a bettor's nightmare.

The Falcons were getting three points. A steal. And I would have lost a fortune.

Except that I've seen these things happen so many times before that I don't bet on sports events -- other than an occasional dinner wager or five bucks here and there. You can have these things figured out ahead of time and then somebody does something stupid or there's a power failure on the field or maybe a garbage-time cheap score destroys your point-spread cushion.

No matter how certain you are about a game's outcome, my advice is be careful. Stupid stuff happens.

Enough of NFL kneeling -- around fallen players knocked cold by big hits

Enough of NFL kneeling -- around fallen players knocked cold by big hits

I tuned away from a National Football League game last night because I was tired of seeing football players kneeling.

No, NOT during the National Anthem.

I'm talking about the all-too-frequent kind of kneeling that should be causing alarm bells throughout football at all levels. It isn't that pregame stuff. It's the kneeling during games -- meaning players gathered in a circle around a fallen teammate who has just taken a vicious hit on the field and is motionless on the ground.

I'm disgusted by it. I've had enough of it. Somebody is going to get killed someday -- and I mean killed. Dead.

So while people will spend the day arguing over whether the hit by Chicago's Danny Trevathan on Green Bay's Davante Adams was intentional, let me suggest that the intent part of this issue shouldn't matter any longer.

If you stick a guy like that -- helmet to helmet at high speed -- you should be in your locker room two minutes later, booted out of the game. Suspended and fined, too. Take the intent out of it -- you just can't tolerate dangerous situations like that. The players are too big and too fast, leading to a new level of violence that's better left to video games.

Football has lost its way, distracted by a love for "hitting" rather than "tackling." Nobody really tackles these days. Not if they can crush someone with a collision along the lines of a train wreck. The old days of wrapping people up with arm tackles is long gone. It's all about the sound and fury of a big knock now and what's needed isn't just a rule change, but a culture change.

And for me, this is getting hard to watch. There is no reason for the pros, the colleges or the high schools to put up with ANY hits directly to the head -- premeditated or not. Hit people on the shoulder pads or lower -- or find yourself looking for another sport. And that goes for offensive players, too. Ball carriers leading with the crown of their helmet should be penalized, too, if they cause similar collisions.

End the hits to the head and neck before it's too late. Don't make a tragic death the reason for a culture change.

Overcoming stress from your NFL Fantasy picks

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© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Overcoming stress from your NFL Fantasy picks

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This is going to be a fantastic year. Right? You read countless articles. You bought different strategy guides to help you get the right pick, and you watched the NFL network for two hours each night before bed. What did all that get you in the end? A humiliating 1-4 record.

That being said, welcome to the world of NFL Fantasy football.

Maybe it’s not your fault (since all the experts said draft Jimmy Graham). Or maybe it is. After all, no one forced you to pick that player.

Regardless of how you got here, let’s face it – if you’ve only got one or two wins this season, it’s pretty much over for you.

Accepting defeat in any form is never an easy pill to swallow, but losing at fantasy football can put you on a whole different level. In some cases, you lose lots of money, get endlessly tormented by friends and/or co-workers for months, and, perhaps worst of all, dread turning on the TV every Sunday.

Understanding Stress

Sports participation – like the NFL Fantasy – can place a lot of psychological demands on anyone. From youth league to the professional level, athletes like Eddie Lacy are forced to cope with the stress that arises from competing head-on with others in activities that are not only important to the athletes, but to the fans as well.

Before discussing ways of reducing stress when it comes to football fantasy, we need to explore what it means to be stressed. Normally, the term is used in two different, but related ways. First, we use the term to refer to a situation in our lives that places some sort of physical or mental demand on us. Family conflict, work pressure, and sporting events (fantasy football included) are all examples of events to make us say “there’s a lot of stress in my life right now.”

The second way in which we use this term is to refer to our mental, emotional, and behavioral responses to these demanding situations. Tension, or depression are examples of such reactions, as well as upset stomachs and sleepless nights, two of eight signs that stress is affecting your health. This is the type of stress that can cause you to say, “I’m feeling a lot of stress right now.” Who would have thought fantasy football could be so time consuming and stressful?

Coping Mechanisms

Although drafting a solid team is a vital part of championship success, you simply cannot stop there. Remember: this isn’t a Daily Fantasy Sport; this league is a season-long commitment. Moving forward, there are three important moves to make once the season begins in order to improve your rankings and lower your stress level.

Monitoring athletes on the waiver wire and completing beneficial trades are, of course, the most notable ways to capitalize at the expense of your opponents. Lastly, arranging your starting lineup is very important but not as easy as it seems.

  • Waiver Wire

If one of your players sustains season-ending injury, drop him immediately in favor of a healthy player with some potential. Don’t be that person who refuses to drop their star player just because you like seeing their name on your roster.

  • Streaming Defense and Kickers

This is a common one in fantasy football. Depending on which defense and kicker you draft, it might be worth replacing them on a week-to-week basis. If you have a decent defense but there is another one on the waiver wire with a matchup against the worst offense in the league, it can be beneficial to make the switch. If you, however, draft the NFL’s projected number one defense, this strategy does not apply.

  • Trading

Assess your roster. At what positions are you lacking depth? Look at your strongest positions. Then look at your weakest positions. These are important things to keep in mind when moving forward with trade proposals. Be patient with your star players. Don’t try to trade one of your first two draft picks early in the season, especially when you are offering them a discount price. Normally, top players will return to form if they struggle through the first few games. Lastly, don’t be that person who proposes a bunch of unfair trades. You simply cannot get a superstar for nothing.

In the end, although fantasy football can be extremely tiresome and stressful, it’s meant to be a fun activity for family, friends, and co-workers. If you’re feeling overwhelmed from the heat others are giving you, step away from the competition. No activity that’s meant to be fun should be that traumatic.

BREAKING -- my secret to making Super Bowl picks that make you happy, win or lose

BREAKING -- my secret to making Super Bowl picks that make you happy, win or lose

The National Football League opens Thursday night and you know what that means, right?

It means that pundits all over the country need to get their Super Bowl picks in sometime before the first game. And of course, I'm all in on that -- even though I don't consider myself much of an NFL expert. You see, I don't play fantasy football. I don't bet on NFL games and I find the Red Zone channel unfulfilling. I'd even rather play golf than watch the NFL on TV on a sunny Sunday, too. So there is that.

But I'm still as capable as any other writer in the country at picking teams out of the air. Especially because I have a system -- a tried-and-true system that I've been using for years now when it comes to picking winners in any sport.

Now keep in mind I didn't invent this system. It's been in operation for decades, I'm sure -- and was probably invented by one of the legendary greats in my business.

So let's get to it and this season, for the first time, I'm going to pull back the curtain and reveal how I arrive at my genius picks -- which very often prove to be correct. I am going to give it all up this year, my gift to the sporting public.

First off, you need to decide which team irritates you the most. Which team are you most tired of hearing about? Reading about? And which one are you most tired of watching win? It shouldn't take you long to make this decision. Just as most everybody has a favorite team, most people have a least-favorite team.

Now here comes the tricky part.

Once you discern that most disliked team or franchise (or most despised coach or player, if you prefer), go ahead and pick that team to make it to the Super Bowl. Why? Because you will be hedging your bet, in a way. Let's say, for instance, you are sick and tired of reading about, hearing about or just talking about ... the New England Patriots.

Pick the Patriots.

And that way, no matter what happens, you can't lose. If the Patriots win, you're a genius. After all, you picked them. But if they lose, you were wrong about them. WHICH SHOULD MAKE YOU HAPPY! You don't like them and they lost! Certainly it's worth being wrong on a silly Super Bowl pick that nobody will remember unless you pop up months from now reminding them who you picked, right?

I love this method and offer it up to the world. I've even known people who use it in real-life. A friend of mine made it a practice to make bets -- real money -- against his own family member with his friends, thinking then he'd be less disappointed either way with the outcome.

Yes, the world can be a harsh place.

So now you know the method behind my madness all these years. And oh yes, I almost forgot.

My Super Bowl picks this season? The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. Bet on it... if you want.

Seahawks lock Chancellor down with contract extension

Seahawks lock Chancellor down with contract extension

When the Seattle Seahawks drafted Kam Chancellor in 2010, not even the most optimistic of fans could have envisioned the impact the safety out of Virginia Tech would have.

The organization made sure they'll have plenty of opportunities going forward.

On Tuesday, the Seahawks and Chancellor agreed to a multi-year contract extension, reportedly a 3-year, $36 million deal, which head coach Pete Carroll said is "a wonderful day for the Seahawks organization." Chancellor, 29, who along with Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman formed the famed "Legion of Boom" defense, is entering his eighth season in Seattle.

“I love this team,” he said Tuesday. “They gave me the first opportunity—the only opportunity—and I would love to retire here.”

Chancellor took over as a starter in 2011 and has averaged 57 tackles per year, despite only playing a full season three times. Chancellor also has 12 career interceptions. However, it's his presence as a ball-hawking, missile-seeking safety valve that has defined his career. When he missed four games last season, the intimidation factor in the Seahawks secondary was gone.

“He kind of brings a swagger to the defense, and to the whole team really," Doug Baldwin said last season. "There aren’t many people who can go up against Kam and win that battle, so he kind of brings the hammer for the whole team. Then obviously his leadership in the locker room, he’s just one of those guys who is down to earth. He can talk to anybody, have a conversation with anybody, cares genuinely about everybody, and he brings everybody together.”

That leadership will be around for a lot longer now.

 

Yes, you worry about your kids playing football... but are you worried YOU may have CTE?

Yes, you worry about your kids playing football... but are you worried YOU may have CTE?

You've heard about this study by now. If you ever played NFL football, there's a real good chance you're suffering or WILL suffer, the effects of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). They studied the brains of 111 former NFL players and 110 of them showed signs of it. And that study included a punter and a placekicker.

Everyone is talking about whether they'd allow their children to play football, in light of this very chilling data. I must say, I wouldn't. For me, it isn't even worth a second thought. No way. Stick to baseball or basketball. Broken bones heal but broken brains don't.

In fact, I must say that even watching the sport bothers me a lot. Are we watching brains being sliced and diced for our personal entertainment?

And what I'm wondering today is how many former football players -- the ones who didn't make it to the NFL and played only in high school or college -- are worried about brain damage? And oh, by the way, it's a condition that can't be diagnosed until death. You probably wouldn't know you had it until the scary symptoms start to appear.

It's very clear that anybody who ever played the game at any level has a real chance of having the condition.

This study showed that 21 percent of those who played high school football had evidence of CTE and a whopping 91 percent of college players did. Now the flaw in those statistics is the brains that were studied could be much more likely to show evidence of CTE because they likely belonged to people who showed symptoms -- and that's why they were contributed to the study.

But still... This is some very depressing data and I can't even imagine what former college football players might be thinking right now:

Do I have CTE? Will I have CTE? Will I be rational enough even to recognize I have it?

NFL passes new rules that could impact the upcoming season

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USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES

NFL passes new rules that could impact the upcoming season

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Every year, NFL owners like Paul Allen meet to discuss different ways to improve to the league and different marketing techniques that will continue to grow the brand.

This year, owners gathered and made some major decisions, most notably being the approval of the Raiders relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas. Those weren’t all the changes made this year, however. Team owners recently decided to vote on some rule changes that they believe would not only speed the game up, but improve player safety by trying to solve the NFL’s concussion problem as well.

Let’s take a look at the approved changes that will be in effect for the upcoming 2017 football season.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

The NFL is trying hard to bring back a little fun to sport. As a matter of fact, the league announced on Tuesday, May 23, that it was loosening its strict rules about on-field celebrations. This means that celebrations that include “using the football as a prop” after a touchdown are now permitted. Other celebrations that include ground demonstrations, or dancing with cheerleaders and teammates are also permitted to a certain extent, of course.

Offensive celebrations that are prolonged and delay the game for any reason will result in a player being penalized and face a possible fine along with a 1-2 week suspension. For the most part, however, it’s open season for celebration.

Stronger Enforcement on Illegal Hits

At the annual league meeting back in March, NFL clubs voted on making additional rule changes to the way football games are officiated in order to help improve the health and safety of players.

These changes were proposed by the NFL club members and the NFL competition committee, a group that has met over several times since the conclusion of the 2016 season to discuss player safety with physicians, safety experts, and other experts. By enforcing these rules, committees are hoping they can minimize injuries like concussions, knee injuries, and temporomandibular joint pain; a joint that’s located on the side of the skill and if not treated, could cause locking of the jaw.

Here are some of the approved health and safety related 2017 playing rules proposals:

  • Giving a receiver that’s running a pass route defenseless player protection.
  • Prohibiting crack back blocks by a backfield player who’s in motion.
  • Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt during field goals and extra point plays.

These rules aren’t designed to penalize players. Instead, they were created with the intent of making the game of football safer by encouraging healthy behavior traits both on and off the field.

Technology: Centralized Replay Review

Each week, millions of people watch NFL games on their television screens or in person. Increasingly, they also follow the action on a second and, in some cases, third screen. Smartphones, computers, and tablets make it all possible for fans to witness the action live. That being said, instant replay is being used now more than ever in the NFL. As a matter of fact, only 17 percent of games were played without a replay in 2013.

How does it work?

Well, state-of-the-art technology powers the command center that the league uses to help monitor games and evaluate the officials who operate the instant replay system. As of this year, referees will no longer be expected to go hide under the “hood” to review plays. Instead, the final say on replay reviews and challenges will come from Senior Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino and his crew, who will work from the league’s command office stationed in New York.

Don’t worry; referees will still be able to communicate their opinions on the decisions through a wireless headset and video tablet. The committee believes that with quicker review time, the game will go by faster by at least 1.5 minutes per game.

Technology instant replay also helps team physicians increase their knowledge of a patient’s condition after an injury. In other words, during a play, it’s hard to determine how a player got injured with 21 other men running around the field colliding into one another. With instant replay, however, officials can zone in on the injured player before the ball was snapped to see what happened. This helps doctors determine how players got injured and what part of the body suffered the biggest impact.

So, who’s ready for football season to start?

Seahawks sign Austin Davis, all but ending Kaepernick speculation

Seahawks sign Austin Davis, all but ending Kaepernick speculation

It was viewed by some as a perfect match: the downtrodden and humbled former star, in search of a new home and identity, collaborating with a team in desperate need of help at his position. On Monday morning, that scenario appeared to close completely. Colin Kaepernick to Seattle looks to be done, as the Seahawks signed Austin Davis to be their backup quarterback going forward.

Davis, 28, is entering his sixth season and spent last season with the Denver Broncos, after stops in St. Louis and Cleveland. Jake Heaps was released to make room for Davis.

Trevon Boykin will compete with Davis for the #2 role behind Russell Wilson. Davis has played in 13 career games, with 10 starts. The most efficient game of his career came against Seattle in 2014, when he completed 17 of 20 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns, leading the (then) St. Louis Rams to a 28-26 win. 

With the signing of Davis, which Seattle made official today, the Seahawks appear to be, at least at the time, out of the Colin Kaepernick game. After visiting with the team last week, it was widely speculated that Kaepernick and the Seahawks would come to an agreement, especially given the similarities in style between he and Wilson.

Head coach Pete Carroll said a couple days ago that the Seahawks would not be signing Colin "at this time," but did not shut the door completely. 

"Colin's been a fantastic football player, and he's going to continue to be," Carroll said. "At this time, we didn't do anything with it, but we know where he is and who he is and we had a chance to understand him much more so. He's a starter in this league. And we have a starter. But he's a starter in this league, and I can't imagine that someone won't give him a chance to play."

With Davis, Boykin, and Wilson under contract, that intriguing saga looks to be gone.

Chip Kelly is returning to football... as an analyst

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Chip Kelly is returning to football... as an analyst

Chip Kelly has finally landed a gig. This time though looks a little different... Want to see more of Chip Kelly's iconic TV interviews? Well now you can. Former Oregon Ducks head football coach and NFL Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly will be joing the ESPN staff as a college football analyst on Saturday's and appearing on SportsCenter to provide NFL analysis on Sunday's.

"I spoke with a lot of people this offseason about different situations for me — in coaching and TV," Kelly said in a statement. "I had various opportunities in both. In the end, I have had a relationship with ESPN for many years from when I was coaching and after speaking with them, I decided it was the best step for me to take."

Kelly, who was with the Oregon Ducks from 2009-2012, accumluated a 46-7 record and lead them to a Rose Bowl victory in 2011 and a Fiesta Bowl victory in 2012 before heading the NFL. His three-year NFL coaching career with the Philadelphia Eagles (2013-2015) came to a hault after recording 10-6, 10-6, and 6-9 seasons. Kelly then made his way to the Bay to coach the 49ers for just one season after going 2-14. 

Be sure to check out this article for more information on the move.

Patriots could receive comp pick for Blount after issuing May 9 tender

Patriots could receive comp pick for Blount after issuing May 9 tender

UPDATE: The Patriots extended LeGarrette Blount the rarely-used May 9 tender, which is worth 110 percent of what he made in 2016 ($1.1 million). The tender allows the Blount to count toward New England's 2018 compensatory-pick formula should he sign with another club. If he does not sign with another club before July 22, the Patriots will have exclusive negotiating rights with Blount from July 22 through the Tuesday after Week 10 of the regular season. Per Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, Blount has no plans to sign the tender at the moment.

It's time to talk compensatory picks. Again, I know. 

These things are the source of a whole lot of confusion for many because the way in which the league determines who gets compensatory picks, how many, and in what rounds is based upon a secret formula. 

That's right. Like the special sauce on your Big Mac.

What we do know about the formula, though, is that it's based on free agents lost and free agents signed by a given team in a given year. The level of those free agents -- which factors in salary, playing time and postseason honors -- is also taken into account.

Picks are then awarded to teams who have lost more (or better) free agents than they acquired. 

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