Archive for September, 2013

Line1_PROOFBy W.G. Ramirez

Five teams remain undefeated heading into the final game of Week 4. After tonight there will only be four, as the Miami Dolphins (3-0) travel to the Big Easy to take on the New Orleans Saints (3-0).

The Saints seem to be revitalized with Sean Payton back under the headphones, running the show. His troops opened the season with a 23-17 win over NFC South-rival Atlanta, then won an ugly divisional-showdown against Tampa Bay, 16-14.

But after looking out of sync in Weeks 1 and 2, New Orleans’ prolific offense looked like its old self, as it racked up 423 yards in a 31-7 rout of Arizona, and quarterback Drew Brees passed for three touchdowns and ran for another. Tonight the Saints take a crack at Miami’s 22nd ranked defense that has increasingly allowed more points over the first three weeks.

In wins at the Browns, at the Colts and versus the Falcons, the Dolphins allowed 10, 20 and 23 points. And while they’re a well-coached team, talented on both sides of the ball and are seemingly playing with plenty of motivation, there are many who don’t think they’re legitimate contenders. Even with wins over prolific quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan the last two weeks.

The Saints will presumably get their points; the question is whether or not the Dolphins can do their thing, which leads us to the big matchup for tonight…

KEY SHOWDOWN: Miami QB Ryan Tannehill vs. New Orleans defense

Tannehill might have wins over Luck and Ryan, but he also leads the NFL in sacks with 14 and fumbles with five. Heading into this game, he’s on pace to challenge for the league records in both categories. That’s not necessarily a good thing against a largely improved Saints defense from last season.

New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has the Saints in a 180-degree turn from last season, when New Orleans allowed an NFL-record 7,042 yards (440.1 per game). This year the Saints rank fourth in the NFL, allowing 295.7 yards per game. Even further, the Saints have allowed offensive units a mere four touchdowns over the first three games.

The Saints’ defense is specializing against the pass, which could spell trouble for Tannehill, as they rank fourth in the league with air control.  I suspect we’re going to see Tannehill and wideout Mike Wallace hooking up – are trying to – as Wallace is a New Orleans-native. He has 12 catches for 152 yards and one touchdown this season.

If Tannehill can perform, this could be an entertaining shootout. If the Saints get to him, it could be an easy win in the Big Easy.

BY THE NUMBERS: Miami at New Orleans (-7, 48.5)

The Dolphins are seeking their first 4-0 start since 1995 in what will be the franchise’s NFL-high 79th appearance on Monday night.

If it comes down to the end, don’t be surprised to see the Fins put their trust in rookie placekicker Caleb Sturgis, who is 6 for 6 on field goals, including 3 of 3 from between 40-49 yards, and 2 of 2 from 50 yards or longer.

Tannehill has completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 827 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, resulting in his 94.3 QB rating – higher than Brees’ 91.4 rating.

The Dolphins come in on ATS win streaks of 4-0 in September, 12-4 against winning teams, 22-10 with a suitcase in hand and 5-1 overall.

Brees has completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 1,021 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions.

And when the all-Pro gunslinger is playing in the final game of the week, it’s an upgrade of sorts. Brees has won his last eight starts on Monday nights, completing 71.1 percent of his passes for 2,467 yards with 24 touchdowns versus five interceptions for a 120.6 rating in those games.

Brees has 300 yards passing in eight straight games, the second-longest streak all-time.

Look for Brees to target tight end Jimmy Graham, who has 19 catches for 313 yards and three touchdowns in his past two games, and wideout Marques Colston, who has nine touchdowns in his past eight games in Superdome.

The Saints are in on ATS win streaks of 4-0 on Mondays, 18-5 in the Big Easy, 18-6 on the fake stuff, and 13-5 after a straight-up win, 10-4 against winning teams and 14-6 after cashing at the window.

ON DECK: The Dolphins return home, while the Saints march on the road in Week 5.

Miami is currently -3 at home against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, while New Orleans heads north to take on the Bears in Chicago, where the Saints are -2.5

20130925_161719-1

Amid all the sports posters on Arbor View assistant coach Sam Toomer’s wall, nothing else mattered than the Battle of the Bulls trophy, which Arbor and Legacy will play for.

By W.G. Ramirez

FOR A FULL RECAP – STORY AND VIDEO – visit MyLVSports.com!

Last year Arbor View High School football coach Dan Barnson forgot to pull the Battle of the Bulls trophy out of the school trophy case for the Saturday team meeting before the Aggies’ annual showdown with Legacy.

This year the horns were present.

“The kids need to see it,” Barnson said, of the trophy. “They need to see it, they need to touch it – it’s an important thing. This year it’s Thursday night … and it’s fun. It’s a great competition and the trophy means something to these kids.”

To say the least, as the Longhorns and Aggies started the traditional trophy game seven years ago.  Legacy won the first three meetings, and Arbor View has won the last three. Thursday night, one of these schools will be 4-3 in the series.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” said Greg Wolfram, Arbor View High’s athletic administrator. “This game isn’t just about football, it’s about school spirit. I think everybody is aware it’s the Battle of the Bulls. Being it’s on TV … and its Battle of the Bulls … it’s pretty big.”

THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

It’s not ESPN or Fox Sports, but when the teams kickoff Thursday night, they’ll be under the local television lights, as My LVTV’s weekly Thursday Night Lights broadcast is the Battle of the Bulls.

Local on-air talent Brian Blessing and Kenny White from ESPN Radio provide play-by-play commentary, while Steph McKenzie from 97.1 The Point provides sideline reporting during the game. It’ll mark the second straight week the Longhorns have been on the broadcast, as the TV crew was at Mojave last week for Legacy’s 27-6 victory against the Rattlers.

In past years the My LVTV crew has noted during the broadcast about Arbor View’s notorious Grateful Red section, which rivals any school’s fan section in town – whether the Aggies are at home or on the road.

IMG954106

Arbor View High School’s Grateful Red section is one of the most spirited in Southern Nevada, whether at home or on the road. Photo: Kayla Faircloth

“We’re fortunate and it’s always been like that,” Barnson said. “We’ve always had a great fan base and support from the community, and we feel we want to put the product out there now to support the fan base.

“We get to promote our school, promote the kids, promote our fan base, the band – this is not just Arbor View football on Thursday night, this is the whole community of Arbor View and that’s the fun thing.”

This year Legacy arguably has one of its best programs since the school opened, and the enthusiasm has senior running back Casey Hughes believing his Longhorns will be well-represented for the drive up I-215, from North 5th Street to Buffalo and Grand Teton.

“We set the tone for the school ’cause we’re the football team,” Hughes said. “Student Council and other activities and sports are supporting football more this year than in the past.”

Added Arbor View senior Devon Turner: “Having it on TV just goes along with the horns.”

THE FRIENDSHIP

What most may not realize is the friendship Barnson and Legacy coach Dave Snyder share, as the two have known one another since they were six years old. They went to elementary school together, went to the same middle school and both attended the same high school.

Their fathers were legends in this town and coached against one another. Now they’re doing the same.

“Everybody has their rivalries, and Dan and I are good friends,” Snyder said. “But once the kickoff starts, we’re at war. And we both look at it the same way. After the football game we’ll shake hands.”

Added Barnson: “He’s one of my truly good friends. I can call Coach Snyder anytime. For one week we have to put everything aside, and we lay it on the line.”

And as much as the two enjoy the rivalry, and camaraderie it continues to build each year, Barnson said it’s not an easy game to coach in either.

“The flipside is it’s harder; you don’t want to beat a friend, you don’t want to lose to a friend,” Barnson said. “If they beat us he knows how I feel. If I beat him I know how he feels.”

BATTLE OF THE BULLS

Ultimately, past all the build-up, social-media trash talking, television hype and even the trophy, it comes down to the actual game, the actual Battle of the Bulls – the Arbor View Aggies and Legacy Longhorns.

And this year figures to be a dandy, with Legacy arriving with arguably the town’s most talented running back (Hughes) to face an Arbor View defense that has locked down Centennial and Coronado in consecutive weeks.

The Aggies, ranked second in the Southern Nevada Football Coaches Poll, has allowed a mere seven points in two games, and rolls into this one fresh off their 42-0 whitewash at Coronado.

CHughes

Legacy’s Casey Hughes ranks No. 1 among Division I rushers with 584 yards, while averaging 13.9 ypg.

“We’re both ball-control teams, and whoever does the best will probably come out on top,” said Snyder, whose Longhorns are ranked 8th this week in the poll. “We need to make sure our time of possession is there and we control the line of scrimmage.”

An understatement for sure, as the Longhorns would love nothing more than to open holes for Hughes, who leads all Division I rushers with 584 yards after three games. Hughes is averaging 13.9 yards per carry and has seven touchdowns.

“They are one explosive team,” Barnson said. “They can go; on any play, they can go. It’s that old mentality, try to get ’em before they get going, and if we can get to ’em before they get going I think we’re gonna do okay. They’re big up front. They have a lot of returning linemen who have went against us and what we do and we haven’t changed anything we do. It should be exciting; we just have to stop their big play.”

Turner, who doubles as a running back and defensive back for the Aggies, said he’s been impressed by the effort of his teammates at practice all week.

“It’s the fastest I’ve ever seen us practice; everyone is pretty excited,” Turner said. “And we’re focused on beating their team as a whole team. We recognize Casey as one of their top assets; you can’t approach a game against Legacy and not respect him. But we also know what our defense is capable of.”

As does Hughes, who acknowledged the same respect toward the Aggies.

“I’m not going to take anything for granted,” Hughes said. “I know they can be a physical team, but we can be just as physical and get the job done. When we lost to Palo Verde (two weeks ago), the good thing was we went out and took practice serious. Now we know how we have to prepare for that type of team, and can focus on a team like Arbor View.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. Whether in person at Arbor View, or watching on My LVTV, this is one annual rivalry prep football enthusiasts, classmates and even alumni don’t want to miss.

By W.G. RamirezLine1_PROOF

There are some surprising teams still undefeated in the NFL, and tonight the Denver Broncos (2-0) must do their best job to not only swat the Oakland Raiders (1-1), but also put forth a dominating effort to keep pace with the likes of the Kansas City Chiefs, and yes, even the Miami Dolphins, from a mental standpoint.

In their first two games, the Broncos have experienced very little adversity in crushing the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants. Quarterback Peyton Manning and the Broncos have put up 40-plus points in both games and made offense look easy.

Point blank, Manning has been career-like. And, yes, I know the Broncos lost starting left tackle Ryan Clady to a season-ending Lisfranc foot injury, but there’s been plenty of time to prepare for this situation, and you best believe Manning has made it clear in no uncertain terms that he better be protected.

Oakland, which has split its first two games behind dual-threat quarterback Terrelle Pryor, is going to try to play keep-away and rely on a running attack that averaged a league-best 198.5 yards in the first two games.

Pryor has been a big part of the rushing game, as he already set a franchise record with 112 yards on the ground in the team’s season-opening loss at Indianapolis, while running back Darren McFadden rushed for 129 yards in last week’s 19-9 win over Jacksonville. McFadden boasts an AFC-best 223 yards.

Now Pryor and Run DMC must take on Denver’s run defense, which ranks first in the league. True, the Ravens and Giants abandoned the ground game against the Broncos because they both fell so far behind, and yes the Raiders’ run offense ranks first in the league, but that doesn’t mean Denver won’t pull ahead quickly and force Oakland to do the same thing. And beware when going to the passing game, Denver’s defense came into Week 2 leading the NFL with six interceptions.

Fact is, come 5:40 p.m. pacific time, a good ol’ fashioned AFC West rivalry will be in primetime, and it’ll come down to my key matchup in the game…

KEY SHOWDOWN: Manning’s offense vs. Oakland defense

It’s pretty cut and dry, isn’t it?

Manning’s passer rating is off the charts with a league-leading 131.0 after throwing for 769 yards with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions after the first two weeks. He’s the first quarterback to open the season with a 9-0 ratio.

And if the Raiders are going to have any chance, forget about the strength of their league-leading rushing offense (198.5 yards per game), they need to use their staunch defense that finished Week 2 tied for the league lead in sacks with nine.

Overall, Oakland’s defense ranks fourth in the league with an average of 261 yards allowed and will undoubtedly attempt to exploit Clady’s absence.

Manning has enough weapons to spread the wealth, however, with a trifecta of wideouts: Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker. And lest I forget to mention tight end Julius Thomas, not to mention former first-round draft pick Knowshon Moreno, who spotlighted the running game with a 93-yard, two-touchdown effort in last week’s win over the Giants, and is a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield.

Denver led the NFL in scoring by 24 points entering the week. Even after every team has played except these two, the Broncos still rank No. 1 overall with their offense – with 462 yards per game – and rank 3rd overall in points scored with 90.

Again, the Green Bay Packers (96) and Chicago Bears (95) rank No. 1 and 2, respectively, after they’ve played three games. The Broncos rank 3rd and still have tonight to play. Oh and by the way, Denver’s 45 points per game still ranks No. 1 – 13 points better than No. 2 Green Bay’s 32 ppg.

BY THE NUMBERS: Oakland at Denver (-14.5, 49)

Denver, which has won 13 consecutive regular-season games – the longest winning streak in the NFL – rolls into this game having covered 7 of 10 against AFC West opponents.

Manning, who is 12-4 on Monday nights, is a perfect 6-0 versus the AFC West since joining the Broncos last season, and has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 15-to-4 in those games.

Broncos head coach John Fox is 4-2 against Oakland.

In addition, the Broncos are in on additional ATS (against the spread) win streaks 5-1 after a straight-up win, 4-1 after posting a spread-cover, 5-2 in September and 6-1 overall.

On the flipside, while the Raiders have failed to cover 8 of their last 10 on Monday nights, they’re in on ATS win streaks of 4-0 against AFC foes, 7-3 in September, 13-6 in intradivision play, and 4-1 overall.

The Raiders are 11-2 when McFadden rushes for 100-plus yards.

Raiders head coach Dennis Allen is 0-2 against the Broncos.

In this series, the road team has cashed out 8 of the last 10 meetings, while the Raiders have grabbed the cash 6 of 7 times they’ve been in Denver.

ON DECK: Both teams will be at home in Week 4, next Sunday.

The Broncos are currently a 10-point favorite at home against the Philadelphia Eagles, while there is no line in Oakland’s home affair with the Washington Redskins.

By W.G. Ramirez

San Diego has never been known as a team that can travel well.

Last week it did just fine in Philadelphia. Then again, when you have a team like the Eagles, running the offense coach Chip Kelly runs, you’re going to have a very weary team on your hands. Though the Chargers have won three straight in Tennessee and nine consecutive overall in series, today will be a good test for the Chargers (1-1), who go back on the road, traveling a little less than they did last week. Waiting in Nashville are the spunky Titans (1-1), who might be in the right spot at the right time to knock off the Bolts.

The Chargers might be averaging 37.7 points per game over their past three versus the Titans, and yes Philip Rivers was 36 of 47 for 419 yards and three touchdown passes to Eddie Royal in last week’s 33-30 victory at Philadelphia, but the Titans have a staunch defense that is tied for 11th overall in the league.

The Titans, who are mired in a 4-11 ATS slide in their past 15 games as a favorite, they’ve won two of their past three home openers. San Diego, meanwhile, has covered 8 of 9 against Tennessee since 1993, and is on an 8-3 ATS win streak as an underdog.

Looking at some of the other intriguing lines and stats in the NFL:

Texans (-1′) at Ravens – The storyline here is the return of safety Ed Reed to Baltimore, and whether or not he’ll play for the Texans (2-0) in this game, as he’s been dealing with a nagging hip injury. Retired Ray Lewis is also coming back just to see his name added to the Ravens’ Ring of Honor.

The Ravens (1-1) are on a 6-1 straight-up run against the Texans. Last season Houston won 43-13 in October, so revenge might be a factor for Baltimore.

Rams at Cowboys (-3) – Look for Dallas’ defense to be tested, as St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford is off to the fastest start of his four-year career with 651 yards through two games. He had 352 yards last week against Atlanta, the second-best total of career, in a losing cause as the Rams (1-1) lost to Atlanta 31-24. It could very well be a quarterback-showdown, as Cowboys signal-caller Tony Romo has completed more than 70 percent of passes in both games, albeit his average per attempt is 6.2 yards, significantly lower than career mark of 7.9.

The Cowboys (1-1) are in on an abysmal 4-14 ATS run at home, while the Rams have covered 6 of their last 7 on the road.

Packers (-3) at Bengals – Not too hard to figure out who will be in the spotlight here, as the matchup of the day could very well be Cincinnati’s defense against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was 34 for 42 for a career-high 480 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s 38-20 win over the Washington Redskins last Sunday. Also, James Jones had a career-best 178 yards receiving in the win. It was the first time the Packers (1-1) had a 400-yard passer and 100-yard rusher in the same game.

The Packers come in on a 5-1 ATS run against the Bengals (1-1), dating back to 1986, while they’ve covered 8 of 9 as the installed chalk. Cincinnati has covered 5 of its last 9 as an underdog.

Bears (-2) at Steelers – Interesting Sunday night game, as Chicago rolls in as the favorite here, something probably not expected when the season first started. After all, the Bears (2-0) haven’t won in Pittsburgh since 1989. But after scoring fourth-quarter comebacks in their first two games, the Bears are looking to open up 3-0 on the strength of quarterback Jay Cutler. He completed 28 of 39 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns in Chicago’s 31-30 victory over Minnesota last week.  The Steelers, who are looking to avoid their first 0-3 start since 1986, have lost seven of their last nine dating back to Week 10 of the 2012 season.

Chicago is mired in a 1-5-1 ATS slide overall, while Pittsburgh is in on a 1-5 ATS skid overall. Also, the Steelers have gone 1-4-1 ATS in its last 6 games at home.

By W.G. Ramirez

While starring for Desert Oasis High School, offensive lineman Cam Jefferson was sought after by two schools: UNR and Northern Arizona.

He played in the annual showcase game for high school seniors, and as he puts it, all his all-star teammates had 10 offers on the table compared to his two.

“I couldn’t stand Reno, I didn’t like the city at all,” Jefferson said. “Reno was my first offer, then NAU came along.”

Jefferson v AFA by IIA

UNLV junior Cam Jefferson has started 23 straight games on the offensive line, where he’s played every position besides center for the Rebels.

Thankfully for him, he adds, UNLV coach Bobby Hauck replaced Mike Sanford, and then he came along after NAU.

“Thanks to Bobby and them, they came at the last second and scooped me right up,” Jefferson said. “I love the coaches really.”

And despite having less wins in his college career than he did as a junior for Desert Oasis, he couldn’t be any happier as a Rebel.

“It’s been up and down, but my main goal for me personally was to get better from day one,” said the 6-foot-6, 300-pound junior, who has played every position on the offensive line besides center for the Rebels and has started 23 consecutive games dating back to 2011. “Just ’cause I wasn’t born here, I still rep Vegas to the fullest. Vegas is really dear to my heart, ’cause this is where I grew up.

“This is where my family is, this is where my great friends are here, I take pride in it. Wherever we go … I’m reppin’ Vegas and UNLV to the fullest.”

Jefferson was born in Cleveland, where his father, William, played for the NFL’s Browns (1989-90). After his father’s professional career ended, the Jeffersons relocated and Cam was raised in Southwest Las Vegas, where he attended Sierra Vista High School as a freshman and sophomore before transferring to Desert Oasis. He was more of a basketball player, and didn’t set foot on a football field until his junior year, when he earned all-Southwest Region honors for the Diamondbacks.

He credits his father for the switch from the hardwood to the gridiron.

“My Dad is my biggest inspiration, as far as football,” Jefferson said. “He’s the main reason I wanted to play football my junior year. He would always tell me about football. He’s been through it all, and all I can do is try to follow in his footsteps and be even greater than he was.

“My Pops always told me, football – even in most sports – is mostly mental. It’s probably about, from what my Pops says, 90 percent mental. If your mental isn’t right in anything you do, especially sports, you can’t accomplish anything. Your mind has to be set.”

It’s the kind of positive attitude and motivation Hauck relishes in having on his football team.

“If we could get a hundred of that guy, we’d take ’em,” Hauck said. “He’s such a quality guy, he’s a team guy. He’s a really solid player on the offensive line, he’s a captain on the football team as a junior. He’s just a wonderful guy.

“(And) they’re great people around town. They’ve been good, not just for their own son, but for a lot of our kids who are here from out of town. They have ’em over for dinner and they look out for them and they’re just a great family.”

More than anything, for Hauck and the Rebels, Jefferson is a reliable anchor on an offensive line that finally came to life last Saturday against Central Michigan, opening holes for running back Tim Cornett, and protecting quarterback Caleb Herring in a 31-21 win. The Rebels will look to even their record at 2-2, not to mention match their season-win total the past three seasons, tonight against Western Illinois at Sam Boyd Stadium.

And to keep that offense moving tonight against the Leathernecks, Hauck said it starts and ends with “a nameless group of five that makes the whole thing go:” the offensive line.

“How they go, our offense goes,” the fourth-year coach said. “All those guys that make the big plays and get their names up in lights and get talked about, they can’t do anything without the big fellas; they all acknowledge that in the locker room, and Cam is an important piece of that group.”

Though Jefferson doesn’t hesitate to agree, saying “it always starts in the trenches,” he also takes pride when his skill-position teammates make the headline plays.

“When we see guys like Vante (Devante Davis), Caleb, Tim, Nick Sherry, Anthony Williams – when they get explosive runs, explosive big plays – we know it started up front. If we don’t block for them, they couldn’t make those big plays. At the same time, if they don’t make those big plays, what we did was would be for nothing almost. It would be on us.”

With another year ahead of him, Hauck has the benefit of possibly molding a future NFL lineman, something Jefferson would love to do, following in his father’s footsteps.

“That’s my main goal, at the end of it all,” said Jefferson, a Psychology major. “Get my degree, be one of the greatest at UNLV and go off to be in the NFL.”