Archive for January, 2014

 

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Retired NFL veteran Vernon Fox predicted a Denver Broncos win in Super Bowl XLVIII. PHOTO COURTESY: Eric Bakke

By W.G. Ramirez

LAS VEGAS – Nothing better than getting a random sampling of predicted final scores for the Super Bowl every year, especially when you mash up members of the media, former and/or current pro athletes and celebrities.

It’s one of my favorite columns to write, and always makes for good reading.

Before I get to the list of 48 additional people who I have for my poll, let’s take a look at what former Denver Broncos safety Vernon Fox had to say about the game, given the now-retired football player has exchanged his cleats for a whistle and a clipboard and recently coached Faith Lutheran High School to the NIAA Division I-A state championship.

Fox, who spent eight years in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions, Washington Redskins and Broncos, admitted his loyalty is with his former team in Super Bowl XLVIII, but expects a tight game between the league’s top-ranked offense and top-ranked defense.

“The obvious big story is the best player in the game right now and potentially best-ever quarterback to play the game, playing against the best defense – that makes the game exciting in itself,” said Fox, who concluded his career after the 2009-10 season. “Either (the Seahawks are) going to stop them, or (Peyton Manning is) going to hurt them.”

Fox said you can’t discount the other sides of the ball for both of these teams, either, as he’s seen the Broncos’ defense improve, and knows how dangerous the Seahawks can be if running back Marshawn Lynch gets in a groove with quarterback Russell Wilson.

“You have the other story about a young quarterback brewing, who has emerged as one of the better younger players in the league,” Fox said. “What we have here are two good teams that deserve to be there, and it really could go either way. From the standpoint of a coach, it really is going to boil down to who plays the best football that day.”

In similar fashion to how his Faith Lutheran team worked its magic through the playoffs to win the state crown in November, Fox said the Broncos will have to find ways to neutralize the Seahawks’ top weapons, comparing his Crusaders’ win in the state quarterfinal against Desert Pines High School.

“They had weapons all over the field and we had to find ways to slow them down, and outscore them,” Fox said. “The next opponent, it was all about shutting down the biggest offensive weapon – we had to attack their big quarterback. They were averaging 40 points and we held them to 7. Then we played a team that averaged 50 points with a big passing game and a strong rushing attack. We put more defensive backs on the field and forced the quarterback’s hand. It worked out for us, we blanked ’em.”

That all being said, if Fox were coaching the Broncos, he said it’s all about neutralizing Lynch, a bruising running back, and immobilizing a quarterback who can move horizontally, and throw the ball.

“It’s not an easy task, but obviously you have to neutralize that run,” Fox said. “Get pressure on them and put the Seahawks on their heels.”

And when it’s all said, Fox said he sees a one-point game brewing, in what could be an exciting finish.

“It’s going to come down to the wire, because I believe in Denver and believe what they do on offense, and I also believe in Seattle’s defense,” Fox said. “I know they’re going to play one heckuva game, but I’m going with a final score of Denver 28-27.”

MEDIA/CELEBRITY/ATHLETE POLL FOR SUPER BOWL XLVIII

Brittany Anderson, ESPN Radio, Las Vegas … “I think it’ll be high scoring… 34-31 Denver”

Mark Anderson, LV Review Journal Sports Writer … “Seahawks 24-21. It’s basically a toss-up, but I like Seattle’s pass rush as a key factor.”

Paul Anka, Singer/Songwriter … “This is just another game. Seahawks win 31-28.”

RJ Bell, Founder Pregame.com … “Denver 24-23. Seattle is the best home team in NFL, but Super Bowl is a road game. Manning’s big game experience makes difference in tight battle.”

Ray Brewer, LV Sun Sports Editor … “Seattle 26, Denver 21”

Cindy Brunson, Pac-12 Network Analyst/Reporter, Fox Sports Reporter, Former ESPN Veteran … “Seahawks 24, Denver 17 Top-ranked offenses are 0-3 in Super Bowl vs. top-ranked defenses.  I have to hang my hat on most consistent and fierce part of SEA game, stout D. Go Hawks!”

Chet Buchanan, Radio Personality, Las Vegas … “31-21 Seahawks!  Yes…I am DELUSIONALLY biased! Been a 12 since year 1!”

Frank Caliendo, Comedian/Impressionist … “Broncos, 31-24”

Steve Carp, LV Review Journal Sports Writer … “Seahawks 24, Broncos 20. Seattle is better built to handle the elements and Marshawn Lynch will do his talking on the field.”

Lori Cox, UNLV Rebels columnist, LV Review Journal … “Broncos 31 Seahawks 27 OMAHA! OMAHA!”

Randall Cunningham, Retired NFL Quarterback … “Seattle 24-21”

Tim Dahlberg, Associated Press Sports Writer … “I like Seattle 23-14”

Sean DeFrank, Vegas 7 Magazine, Associate Editor … “Seahawks 24, Broncos 21”

Will Edwards, Late-night talk-show host, Las Vegas … “Seahawks, 27-13”

Tyler Farr, Country Music Artist … “Broncos over the Seahawks 27-21”

Tom Fornelli, CBS Sports Football Writer …  “Broncos, 27-17”

Vernon Fox, Retired NFL Safety … “It’ll be a close one, but Broncos win, 28-27”

Ed Graney, LV Review Journal Columnist … “Seattle, 27-24. Bob Marley said trust the universe and respect your hair. I trust most in Seattle’s defense and Richard Sherman’s mop of locks.”

Steve Guiremand, MyLVsports.com Sports Writer  … “Seattle 23, Denver 20”

Paul Gutierrez, ESPN NFL Nation Sports Reporter … “Seahawks 26, Broncos 24”

Jake Hager, Pro Baseball Player TB Rays Organization … “Broncos, 42-38”

Adam Hill, LV Review Journal, Sports Writer … “Denver 31, Seattle 23. A far superior offense and an improving defense will combine to cement Manning’s legacy.”

Jemele Hill, Co-host ESPN’s Numbers Never Lie … “Broncos, 28-17”

Mike Hill, Host FOX Sports 1 … “Broncos, 23-17”

Merril Hoge, Retired NFL Running back … “Broncos, 28-24”

Matt Jacob, Vegas 7 Magazine Sports Reporter  … “I’m going Seahawks 24, Broncos 20”

Ron Jaworski, Retired NFL Quarterback … “Broncos, 27-24”

Josh Johnson, MLB Pitcher, San Diego Padres … “Broncos, 38-24”

Nick Kingham, Pro Baseball Player Pittsburgh Pirates Organization … “27-23 Broncos!”

Jay Kornegay, LVH SuperBook  … “Broncos, 23-20”

Chris Latham, Retired MLB Player … “28-17 Broncos!!”

TJ Lavin, Retired BMX/X Games Champion … “27-24 Denver!”

Wally Matthews, ESPN Reporter … “Let’s say Denver 31-27”

Chris Murray, Reno Gazette-Journal Sports Writer … “Broncos 27-20”

Tracy Murray, Retired NBA Player … “Broncos, 28-24”

Terry Norris, Retired Boxing Champion … “Denver, 21-7”

Mike Pritchard, Retired NFL Wide Receiver/Sports Radio Talk Show Host … “I think it will be 23-21 Denver”

David Purdum, Sports Betting Journalist … “Broncos 34, Seahawks 24”

Anthony Robles, Former NCAA Wrestling Champion … “I say Seahawks 27-24”

Anthony Rodriguez, Founder & Publisher for LightningRodSports.com, Denver … “Broncos 27, Seahawks 20”

Jon Saraceno, Thrive Sports/Former Sports Columnist USA Today … “Broncos, 24-17”

Jeffrey Seals, UNLV Media Relations … “Seattle, 27-24”

Jerry Stackhouse, Retired NBA All-Star … “Seattle 34 Denver 31”

Sage Steele, ESPN Sports Anchor … “Broncos win 31-21”

Maronzio Vance, Comedian/Actor on Fox’s “Enlisted” … “Broncos 34, Seahawks 24”

Danny Webster, Sports Editor, UNLV Rebel Yell … “Seahawks 24, Broncos 21. Russell Wilson for President”

Barry Wong, Photographer for KLAS-TV, Las Vegas, Sports Reporter for MyLVsports.com  … “Broncos, 27-21”

Roy Wood Jr., Comedian/Finalist on NBC’s Last Comic Standing … “Seahawks, 35-24”

Matt Youmans, LV Review Journal Sports Writer … “After too much waffling … Seahawks, 24-20”

FINAL TALLY: Denver Broncos 29 votes, Seattle Seahawks 20 votes

By Jesse Granger and W.G. Ramirez

San Francisco 49ers (-1, 41) @ Carolina Panthers

Colin Kaepernick will lead the 49ers into Carolina looking for his fourth career playoff win. It’s a rematch from week 10 when the Panthers left San Francisco with a 10-9 victory.  Carolina has found success against the 49ers, going 15-3 against the spread since 1995.  The major question for the Panthers going in is how Cam Newton will perform in his first career playoff game.

JESSE’S TAKE – Carolina enter this week in a familiar spot, as the underdogs. The Panthers have been underrated and overlooked all season, so it’s only fitting that Carolina is getting a point at home. Last week home field didn’t appear to be much of an advantage, as three of the four teams went home for good. What was the common factor in all three of those games? The road team was simply the better team.  That’s the case here. While Newton and Kaepernick are similar players, Newton has yet to experience playoff football, so I like the 49ers to win and cover the point.

WILLIE’S TAKE – Carolina looked good on Nov. 10, when it traveled to San Francisco and completely shut down the 49ers in a 10-9 victory. And since they’ve lost three of their first four games, the Panthers have gone on an 11-1 run and roll into the postseason one of the hottest teams left in the playoffs. I look at it like this: they did it once, why not again?  Remember, this is the same Panthers team that also beat the Patriots and Saints on Tobacco Road, and since a season-opening home loss to Seattle, the Panthers are on winning runs of 7-0 SU and 6-0-1 ATS at home. Take the home dog.

San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos (-8′, 54′)

These two AFC West rivals will meet up for the third time this season after the two split in the regular season. The Broncos have been one of the biggest public plays all year, and for good reason as they finished 10-6 against the spread, but Phillip Rivers has played well in Denver, going 6-1-1 against the spread in his last eight visits to the Mile High City.

JESSE’S TAKE – Peyton Manning has lit up scoreboards like a Christmas tree, and thrown record books into a paper shredder this season. His all-time records in passing touchdowns and yardage are all the convincing one needs that Denver can torch the Chargers.  But in the last meeting, San Diego kept the ball out of Manning’s hands and walked out of Denver with a 27-20 win. The biggest difference for Denver this time around is Wes Welker is back from his concussion, and the weather will be warm Sunday afternoon.  Denver ends the Chargers’ Cinderella run with a double-digit win.

WILLIE’S TAKE – I’m not going to lie, I think this is Peyton Manning’s year to get back to the Super Bowl, and can’t wait to see him play in the AFC Championship against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. You really can’t underestimate the Manning’s offensive prowess, I admit that. However, make note the Broncos’ last four victories against teams with a .500 record or better has come by way of an average of 7.0 points. These two have already split two close games in the regular season, and it’s been the guest winning each game. San Diego, which has won five straight and has covered four of those games, is playing with too much confidence. Take the road pup.

By Jesse Granger and W.G. Ramirez

New Orleans Saints @ Seattle Seahawks (-8)

Two teams with something to prove will take the field Saturday in Seattle, one looking for revenge from a 34-7 loss last month, the other looking to inch closer to the Super Bowl as the NFC’s top seed. The Seahawks knocked off the Saints in dominating fashion in December, and forced the Saints into a pressing situation right through Week 17. The Seahawks have won and covered five of their last seven against the Saints, who have failed to cover their last four when catching +8 or more points.

JESSE’S TAKE – You won’t hear a single analyst break this game down without getting Seattle’s home field advantage crammed down your throat.  And as impressive as the Seahawks have been in front of the 12th man, they aren’t unbeatable – just ask Arizona. Drew Brees got the monkey off his back with the road playoff win in Philadelphia last week, and will be looking for revenge Saturday.  Seattle’s passing attack has looked abysmal down the stretch, averaging 171 yards per game in the last 4, and I think Brees plays well.  I’m taking over a touchdown with the Saints.

WILLIE’S TAKE – I’m not sure if it’s safe to assume Seattle really is unbeatable at home, or if the Saints are dangerous enough to use their high-octane offense to pull off the upset. Truth is told, the best thing about both these teams this year has been their defensive units. New Orleans ranked fourth overall with its stop unit this season, while Seattle comes in with the No. 1 defense in the league. And if either team is going to do anything significant to get the win today, it’ll be with their rushing games, looking to keep the ball out of the other team’s hands and control the clock effectively. Skip the side here and play this one under.

Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots (-7)

Two comeback specialists lead their teams on to the field for the AFC Divisional Round in New England on Saturday, as the Patriots’ Tom Brady has led his team back to 41 wins in games in which they trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter. Luck has already done it 11 times, the most by a quarterback in his first two seasons since 1970, including last week’s comeback against Kansas City. The Colts have covered four of their last five trips to New England.

JESSIE’S TAKE – How you feel about this game could depend on how you view the Colts historic comeback a week ago. Did that game drain the Colts of every ounce of energy in them, or will momentum carry them through the divisional round? Gillette Stadium in January is known as one of the scariest things in sports, but that’s a misconception.  The Patriots are only 2-6 against the spread in their last eight home playoff games. While I do see Tom Brady pulling this game out at the wire, I don’t think New England wins by seven without Gronkowski. The Colts +7 look like the right play in what should be a nail-biter.

WILLIE’S TAKE – It’s too easy to think Indianapolis would let down in this game, after coming back from a 31-point, third-quarter deficit last week. Then again, it’s also a simple slice to taste, in knowing the Colts are good enough to go into Foxboro and steal one. I just have to wonder if anyone is taking into consideration the Patriots’ 59-24 rout of the Colts last season, when Luck threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. I know both teams have made key changes since then, and Luck looks much better this season, but this is still Belichick and Brady. And New England has covered five of its last six as a home chalk. I’m playing the favorite, and would advise anyone doing so to buy the half point down.