Biggest Takeaways From The 2021 NFL Draft

By Daniel Rebain – Content Strategist

The 2021 NFL draft has come and gone and as we expected, it was bonkers. Trade ups, trade downs’, Mock Drafts exploding; the draft always lives up to expectation and this year was no different.

But the draft did take a turn when the 49ers selected QB, Trey Lance, North Dakota St. at #3. After that pick, teams were just all over the board.

Here’s how the top 10 played out….

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
  2. New York Jets: QB Zach Wilson, BYU
  3. San Francisco 49ers: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
  4. Atlanta Falcons: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
  5. Cincinnati Bengals: WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
  6. Miami Dolphins: WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
  7. Detroit Lions: OT Penei Sewell, Oregon
  8. Carolina Panthers: CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
  9. Denver Broncos: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
  10. Philadelphia Eagles: WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama

If you want full First Round of selections and analysis, click here. But here are MY biggest takeaways from one of the best nights of the year, THE FIRST ROUND OF THE NFL DRAFT!

5.) Patriots Got Their Guy, Staying Patient At #15

Well, well, well. It seems Bill Belichick has done it once again. Instead of trading up into the Top 10 like most people projected the Patriots to do. Belichick did it the Patriot way, by being patient and it worked, as he selected QB Mac Jones out of Alabama 15th overall last Thursday night.

We should have seen this coming because Belichick only went to one pro day this offseason. And that was Mac Jones. It is also where we got this gem video of a disgusted Belichick.

Bill Belichick shaking his head at a Mac Jones missed pass at Alabama Pro Day

Mac Jones becomes the first QB that Belichick has drafted in the first round, and the Pats first QB in round one since Drew Bledsoe first overall in 1993.

Mac is a perfect fit in an offense that made Tom Brady who he is today. At Alabama last season he threw for 4500 yards, 41 TDs while completing an NCAA historic 77.4% of his passes. This could be Brady 2.0 and he was QB5 off the board.

Tom Brady at the 2000 combine vs Mac Jones winning his first Natty in 2018

4.) WR’s Are Apparently More Important Than OT’s In The Modern NFL

This might be the biggest switch in draft philosophies in NFL history, with wide receivers being taken early over FRANCISHE building OT to protect the QB. Flash back to last season, 2020 1st overall pick Joe Burrow was the most sacked QB and tore his ACL due to poor OL play all season.

Joe Burrow suffers torn ACL due to this sack

The Bengals were set up to draft Penei Sewell out of Oregon to protect Burrows blind side for the rest of Burrow’s career. Sewell is looked at as the best LT prospect in a decade.

Instead, the Bengals grabbed Burrow’s #1 WR at LSU, in Ja’Marr Chase. The Dolphins did the same thing the next pick. Sewell just landed in their laps to protect #3 pick in 2020 Tua Tagovailoa, who has been injured multiple times in his own rights. They declined and went with WR Jaylen Waddle, Tua’s former teammate at Alabama.

Dolphin fans seemed to want Sewell over a WR

Both the Bengals and Dolphins must pray that their franchise QB do not get severely injured, again, because they passed up on a GENERATIONAL LT to get a top end WR.

3.) The Giants Got A Haul To Trade Back From #11 And Still Got A Playmaker For Danny Dimes

Would you look at that, for the first time in his career Dave Gettleman traded back in the draft and he got uber value doing so. The Chicago Bears gave up the 20th pick, a 2021 5th (later traded), a 2022 1ST, and 2022 4th, to select what many people thought was the consensus #2 pick for the last three years in QB Justin Fields out of THE, Ohio St University.

That is a LOT to move up nine spots in the draft, but the Bears thought it was worth it with Fields dropping out of the top 10. Do not get me wrong, I think Fields should have gone #2 to the Jets, so the Bears getting him at #11 could be the STEAL of the 2021 draft (More to come on that).

The Giants most likely wanted to select WR DeVonta Smith at #11, but the Eagles traded above them to snatch Smith out of the hands. So, to be able to trade back, get pick #20 and a first in 2022, that could easily be top 10 next year, is nuts value for Gettleman and coach Joe Judge.

Add the fact the Giants picked up Florida WR Kadarius Toney at pick #20 and the Giants got a game changing weapon to go with free agent signing Kenny Golladay. “Toney is one of two receivers in this year’s class (alongside #5 pick Ja’Marr Chase) to earn a max 99 athleticism score, driven by elite numbers posted in the 40-yard dash (4.37), broad jump (11’4″) and vertical leap (39.5″) at his pro day”, according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats. Give this trade an A+++ for me.

2.) Najee Harris Will Be The Rookie Of The Year In 2021 With The Steelers

Najee Harris was my #1 RB coming into this draft and he landed in great spot in Pittsburg with Big Ben at QB and the weapons they already have at WR.

Harris is built for the modern NFL game; able to run you over like Derrick Henry but is agile and fast enough to run by you or even jump over you like Saquon Barkley.

Najee Harris is a COMPLETE RB and can do everything

Obviously, the easy answer is to say Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson or any other QB will win the ROTY. But I will give a different take. For Harris, he is the starter right away for the Steelers with the departure of James Connor.

With the Steelers looking to take the pressure off Ben in what could be his final season, look to see Harris get a possible of 250 touches, minimum, this season and exceed the yards he accumulated last season at Alabama, 1891 (1466 rushing, 425 receiving).

Najee Harris show his hops, and burst of speed against Notre Dame in CFP

1.) Justin Fields Could Have Been The Steal Of The Draft…..Except He Got Drafted By The Bears

Man, you just have to feel bad for Justin Fields through this who draft process. At the beginning of the CFB season he was considered the #2 pick by EVERYONE, and even competing for that #1 spot (but not really though).

After making it to the National Championship with broken ribs and losing to Alabama it was all downhill for the QB prospect. He fell to the QB5 on most people’s draft boards, behind Zach Wilson (played at BYU), Trey Lance (played 1 game last season at NDSU), and Mac Jones (late round pick at start of year).

But his slide down the draft board stopped when Chicago traded up to #11 to take the QB out of Ohio St. You would think that would be great…. UNTIL you realize that it was the Bears that drafted him.

The Pat McAfee show reaction to the Bears selecting Justin Fields #11

Fields to me is the STEAL of the draft, but now with him in Chicago I do not know if I still believe that statement. Just think about the last couple of QB’s the Bears drafted. Mitchell Trubisky (#2 Overall), 03′ Rex Grossman (#22 Overall), 05′ Kyle Orton (#106), 99′ Cade McNown (#12), and many other late round QB’s that you have never heard. It is only until you get to 1987 where you see QB Jim Harbaugh where the bears drafted a above average QB.

The point is the Bears have a history of drafting good QB’s out of college, but they flop sooooo hard because theyre not developed right or the fact that they have to eat not NY style pizza.

You can only hope that Justin Fields turns into a top 10 QB in this league. But unfortunately, the proof is in the pudding; until the Bears prove otherwise, Fields will not make it in Chicago.

Though Fields does have the skill and mental ability to change the narrative. So, get your popcorn, it’s going to be a dumpster fire or it’s it will be a magical time in Chi town.

The NFL draft always answers many fans questions and gives us some stories to think about until kickoff in September. That was a much need three day of actual football content. It’s a reminder that I can not wait until game one of the season. Can we just fast forward to training camp already?

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Greatest UFC Event of All-Time?? UFC 261 Recap

By Daniel Rebain –  NHL/UFC Staff Writer

For the first time in a little over a year, the UFC hosted its first crowd with fans in attendance, and it was a MASSIVE success for the company and the world of sports in general. UFC 261 took place in front of 15,269 fans as Dana White and the UFC SOLD-OUT the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville Florida, bringing in a gate of $3.3M (Arena Record)

But UFC 261 will not be remembered just for being the first sold-out crowd since the COVID-19 pandemic, but all the fights that took place on the card that made this event so wild. And to cap it all off, all three of the title fights, yes THREE title fights, were finished via TKO/KO. So let us begin!

© Valentina Shevchenko 21-3 def Jessica Andrade 21-9 via R2 TKO (Elbows)

Shevchenko finishes Andrade with elbows on the ground Source: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

To get the ball rolling in the first title fight of the night was Valentina Shevchenko defending her belt against Jessica Andrade, a former champion at 115lbs. According to the experts and odds makers, this fight would have been Shevchenko’s toughest fight since fighting the former Strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

The thing was for Andrade to win, she needed to use her strength and wrestle the champion if she wanted to have any chance because Shevchenko will piece you up on the feet. Shevchenko heard this noise and made it her mission to out wrestle Andrade, and she did. She took Andrade down SEVEN TIMES in under two rounds. Shevchenko pulled a Khabib, and mauled Andrade until the referee stepped in and called the fight.

In hindsight, Andrade had no chance against Shevchenko, Shevchenko is just one of the best fighters in the UFC, male or female. Her domination of the women’s flyweight division is right up there with Usman at 170, Jon Jones at 205 and Amanda Nunes at bantamweight & featherweight.

The question now is, what is next for Shevchenko? Will we finally get to see the trilogy of Shevchenko v Nunes or will someone step up next at 125lb to take their inevitable beating from the “Bullet”.

#1 Rose Namajunas 11-4 def © Zhang Weili 21-2 via R1 KO (Head Kick)

Photo: “Thug” Rose sleeps Zhang with a left head kick Source: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Now onto the Co-Main event and looking back on even before the fight, we should have realized Rose Namajunas was going to upset Zhang Weili. If you have not seen what i am talking about, check out Bruce Buffer introducing Rose as she just stands there repeating, “I’m the best”. Now that’s gangster!

“Thug” Rose shocked the world for the second time in her career as she took back here crown in the featherweight division. With an out of left field high kick, she put Weili to sleep. Namajunas in her first time as champion did not enjoy the spot light as champ and has come out stating her troubles with mental illness.

But when that belt was wrapped around her waist, her emotions took over and showed, this meant the world to get that title back, and she is ready to defend it.

Weili on the other hand had won every fight since losing her first fight of her career back in 2013, and that was a split decision. The question is, will she get an immediate rematch, or will Joanna Jedrzejczyk get her shot back at the title she lost to Rose back in 2017, her first loss in MMA.

© Kamaru Usman 19-1 def Jorge Masvidal 35-15 via R2 KO (Straight Right)

Photo: Usman KO of Masvidal Source: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Now if you thought Rose KO’ing Weili was shocking, then the Main Event between Usman and Masvidal was a “Holy Shit” moment. Before the fight if you were thinking of ways Usman would win you would say, “wrestle him to death & TKO on the mat or unanimous decision.”

If you had Usman would flat line Masvidal with one punch you are either lying or exposed yourself because you are from the future. NEVER in his career had Masvidal ever been knocked out. Only TWICE had he ever been stopped. Usman for all the hate he gets is evolving right in front of our eyes.

Since moving his camp to Colorado with Trevor Wittman and overhauling his striking game, Usman has shown massive improvements. Usman threw a beautiful push left into a straight right, right down Broadway, ending the night for Masvidal with one punch. There should be no more doubting Usman now as one of the best, he’s not just a prolific wrestler anymore, he could throw hands with anyone he wants with Wittman in his corner.

Other Notable Fights

Anthony Smith (35-16) def Jimmy Crute (12-2)

Photo: Anthony Smith & Jimmy Crute during UFC 261 Source: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Smith and Jimmy Crute was set to open this massive PPV with a bang. But it all went downhill for Crute when Smith kicked him behind the knee and shut his leg down. The doctor stopped the fight after the first round due to Crute not being able to stand on two feet.

Uriah Hall (18-9) def Chris Weidman (15-6)

Photo: Chris Weidman breaks his leg on a kick to the legs of Uriah Hall Source: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

In a rematch of their first fight back in 2010 where Chris Weidman got a TKO win over Uriah Hall, Hall was looking for revenge. Except when Weidman threw is first kick, he snapped his right leg in half, giving Hall his fourth win in-a-row. Not the way Hall wanted to win. Hoping Chris, a speedy recovery.

Randy Brown (13-4) def Alex Oliveira (22-10-1)

Randy Brown single arm rear naked choke to finish Alex Oliveira in R1 Soucre: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Welterweight division better watch out for Randy Brown after his single arm rear naked choke over Cowboy Oliveira, a black belt in BJJ. Standing at 6’3 and a reach of 78′ he will be a problem for everyone in the division including Usman down the line.

50k Fight of the Night: Jeff Molina def Aori Qileng via UD (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)

50k Performance Bonus: Kamaru Usman & Rose Namajunas

Post-Fight Thoughts

To say it is great having the fans back would be a massive understatement. The fans have made the UFC what it is today and the year off with an empty UFC Apex or Fight island was cool, but the UFC needs fan to have moments like we saw at UFC 261.

Will UFC 261 go down as one of the best events of all-time for the company? I think it will be in the conversation. The first sold-out event after the pandemic, three title fight KO/TKO’s; the hype was real leading up to this event. Now it is UFC 262 turn to bring us that up and it goes down once again, sold out crowd in Houston Texas. See you there May 15th!

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

The UFC Will Be The #1 Winner At UFC 259, No Matter The Winner of Blachowicz vs Adesanya

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By: Daniel Rebain – NHL/UFC Staff Writer

UFC 259 takes place on Saturday, March 6th, 2021 and on paper, it is the most STACKED UFC card in the history of the sport. You have fighters like Islam Makhachev (18-1), Thiago Santos (21-8), Aleksander Rakic (13-2), Dominick Cruz (22-3), Joseph Benavidez (28-7) and so many more on this card. And that’s before you even notice that there’s three title fights. Yes, you heard me correctly when I said THREE, title fights as well on this card.

With the likes of Bantamweight champ Petr Yan (15-1) taking on the pride of Long Island in Aljamain Sterling (19-3), who choked out Cody Sandhagan (14-2) in less than1:30 in his last fight. Then in the Co-Main event you have the female GOAT in Amanda Nunes (20-4), who has won 11 straight fights including defending both here 135 & 145lb belts SEVEN times combined, taking on possibly her most UNIQUE test yet in the 6’0, 145lb Australian Megan Anderson (11-4) who has never been KO’d in her MMA career.

Just those two title fights alone would be an awesome event to watch. But the UFC said, and I quote the legendary philosopher DJ Khalid when I say this:

For the UFC though, their crown jewel at UFC 259 is the Main event. Poland’s newly crowned UFC Light Heavyweight champ Jan Blachowicz (27-8), who has won by KO in three of his last four fights, takes on Nigeria’s “Last Stylebender”, Israel Adesanya (20-0) who will move up from 185lb to meet Blachowicz at 205 to attempt become just the 5th UFC fighter to become a “champ champ” and hold TWO belts simultaneously. Dana White’s reaction was all of us when we saw this STACKED card.

Now remember when I said, “the UFC Is the #1 winner at UFC 259, no matter the winner”, it’s the title of the article so you should, but I’ll tell you why I truly believe this statement.

First, I’ll go with the path that the UFC probably wants to happen the most, and I wouldn’t blame them since it’s the scenario with the most money attached to it. If Israel Adesanya defeats Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259, he will become the just the 5th “champ champ” in the company’s history and Uncle Dana will be making that face above with his eye’s turning into dollar signs as the UFC will see the massive potential for the rest of 2021 and even 2022 with Adesanya as double champ.

This is where Izzy’s beef with future Heavyweight champ, Jon Jones (26-1) comes into play for the UFC. We will not see this fight as soon as Izzy wins the 205lb belt as he has already stated he will go back to 185 to defend the belt. But, by the time the end of 2021 and begging of 2022 rolls around, the US will be fully open, allowing 100% capacity in arenas & stadiums and the UFC will cash in.

The build up to a Heavyweight Jon Jones coming back down to Light Heavyweight to try and take back his belt he never lost, against “champ champ” Israel Adesanya will rival the press tour of Conor McGregor vs Jose Aldo. And on fight night, Jones Adesanya will shatter the 2.4 Million PPV buys that Khabib McGregor pulled in at UFC 229.

The build up to a Heavyweight Jon Jones coming back down to Light Heavyweight to try and take back his belt he never lost, against “champ champ” Israel Adesanya will rival the press tour of Conor McGregor vs Jose Aldo. And on fight night, Jones Adesanya will shatter the 2.4 Million PPV buys that Khabib McGregor pulled in at UFC 229.

And imagine if Izzy wins, cue Dana’s load size meme, Israel Adesanya will go up to Heavyweight and attempt to become the first “triple champ” in the rematch. Uncle Dana if you want this plan go-ahead and take it because we would all love to see this scenario play out if Izzy win at UFC 259.

Now let us back track to fight night. Jan Blachowicz upsets Izzy and retains the Light Heavyweight strap. The UFC will get to go down a different path but this one could be a bit more intriguing. Obviously, the Jones Adesanya fight will take a hit if Izzy loses, but in the UFC a loss never really affects the future. If there’s still bad blood between the two, we will see that fight down the road no matter what.

But let us focus on Jan for a minute since he’s still the UFC Light Heavyweight champ. What does he have in front of him after this win? Glover Teixeira (32-7) is next in line as he’s the #1 contender at 205. But after that it is a little thin. The winner of Thiago Santos vs Aleksandar Rakic will go to #2 in the division and after that possibly Jiri Prochazka (27-3-1) based on the hype behind his name. Besides those names, there is not that much at 205 for Jan.

That is where the UFC will bring Jon Jones back into the picture for Jan. We must go back to February 2020 to connect the dots. Jan was fighting Corey Anderson (14-5) to see who the #1 contender at would be 205. So, Jan used his “Legendary Polish Power” and put Anderson to sleep. It just so happened that Jones was in the crowd since the fight was in New Mexico, Jon Jones back yard.

Jan came out after the fight saying, “Jones promised me if I beat Corey, I would get my title shot.” Well, if you don’t remember that historic title fight between Jones and Blachowicz, you wouldn’t be the only one. Jones vacated the Light Heavyweight title that summer to move up to Heavyweight and Jan defeated Dominick Reyes (12-2) to take home the title back to Poland.

Isn’t it funny when things always come back full circle? But facts are facts, if Jan beats Izzy at UFC 259, I am 100% confident that he could defeat anyone else in the Light Heavyweight division. Now it’s Jan’s turn to attempt to become the 5th “champ champ” in UFC history.

Finally, Jan gets the fight he has always wanted in Jon Jones, plus the UFC will still be bringing in the bags with a SUPER fight at Heavyweight with Jon Jones name attached. And even if Jan loses against Jones, now Jones gets his opportunity at “champ champ” at Light Heavyweight. The UFC will still be salivating at the idea of all of this playing out.

For the UFC it is a win win situation. The UFC no matter who wins at UFC 259, they will have an abundance of paths to take, and they all lead to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Refugee Camp to Righteous World Champ

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By: Luke Moriarty – Staff Writer

If you watched the final rounds of last Summer’s UEFA Champions Competition, you would’ve seen German club Bayern Munich ripping through the field of teams in order to hoist up the UEFA trophy. Bayern took down the gauntlet of Chelsea, Barcelona, and OL Lyon in order to play in the final against PSG. The team was unstoppable during their run in 2020, led by global star Robert Lewandowski.  

However, there was a new star born on the national stage, a player raised through the MLS who would continue to promote the legitimacy and talent field of MLS Youth Academies.

This player is Alphonso Davies, North America’s new superstar.

Alphonso was born in Buduburam, Ghana — a refugee camp just outside the Capital city of Accra. Alphonso’s parents were both refugees from Monrovia who fled the Liberian Civil War, a war that displaced around 450,000 Liberian citizens. 

At the age of 5, Davies’ family moved to Edmonton, Canada. He grew up in Canada with his 5 other siblings and his parents. This was an adjustment for Davies who at first spoke “broken english”, he wouldn’t even receive his Canadian citizenship until 2017. Even with all that, Davies had a dream in mind, his friend from Canada recalls, “Soccer was the thing he wanted to get into.”

In 2015, Alphonso would transition to the Vancouver WhiteCaps Youth Academy. This was a massive step for him with the Whitecaps being one of the most stable and successful franchises in the MLS, let alone Canada. 

After just one year at the Youth Academy, Alphonso would sign with the WhiteCaps 2nd team in the United Soccer League, at the time making him the youngest player to sign a USL contract. Davies was 15 years old.

In 2016, Davies was fully recognized as a true talent, and the WhiteCaps promoted him to the 1st team and signed to a new contract with the club. Davies would then go on to shine with Vancouver playing in the MLS, CONCACAF Champions League, and Canadian Championships for them. Davies would score 12 goals in 81 games as a Left Wingback for the Whitecaps, and this attracted tons of outside European attention. 

2017 would mark not only his first year of Canadian citizenship, but also the first year of International play for the Canadian National Team. Davies has made 17 caps for the Maples, while scoring 5 goals in that short time. Currently he is the center piece of that squad, however he faces the potential opportunity of Dual-Nationality eligibility and switching to play for the likes of the Liberian or Ghanaian National Teams. I’m SURE the Ayew brothers or Partey have hit him up about playing for Ghana many times.

In July of 2018, Vancouver transferred Davies over to the aforementioned German ‘Giant’ Bayern Munich FC. The transfer fee would amount to nearly $35,000,000 for Bayern, making Davies the most expensive MLS player ever at the time. 

Since then, the sky has been the limit for Alphonso. He has taken the first team by storm for Bayern, and has made their defense one of the strongest on the planet. Davies has scored 6 times in 74 games for Bayern, and he’s only 20 years old! Davies has dominated the Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League, even showcasing his masterclass skills against world-renowned Barcelona. Most recently, Davies started for Bayern as they took home the FIFA Club World Cup Championship in Qatar.

Alphonso’s story is a real source of intrigue and inspiration. Davies was not dealt with the easiest life growing up in Ghana, with his parents going through a life changing experience in Liberia. Still, Davies’ family stayed strong, and his parents gave all they could for Alphonso and his siblings to succeed. Alphonso’s determination and passion for the game he loves stays true with him today. He is always trying to silence the haters who will continue to doubt his ability.

Football is a beautiful sport, and its unlimited possibilities provide very cool opportunities for anyone with the drive and energy to be the best, no matter what the circumstances are.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Super Bowl LV Preview

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By: Jamie Gatlin – Staff Writer

On Sunday night, the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will meet in one of the most intriguing Super Bowl matchups in years. 

Tom Brady will be looking to add to the record book as Patrick Mahomes, and the Chiefs will try to become the first team to win back to back titles since the Patriots in 2003 and 2004. The Buccaneers are also the first team to play in a Super Bowl hosted at their home stadium. 

For Brady, it will be his tenth Super Bowl appearance and the second for Mahomes. The Bucs quarterback will also become the first quarterback to start a Super Bowl in three different decades. As Tampa Bay tries to win its first title in 18 years, they will be facing a highly motivated Patrick Mahomes. 

Although Mahomes has a title of his own, he lost his only playoff matchup with Brady. That meeting came in 2018, where the Patriots won in an overtime thriller. Since then, Mahomes has rewritten the record books, and the Chiefs have dominated the AFC.

After winning it all in 2020, the Chiefs entered this season with the best odds to win the Super Bowl. Kansas City kept their championship roster intact and finished the regular season with a 14-2 record. While they had some close calls in the playoffs, they are now only one win away from another title. 

Although the Chiefs odds rarely changed throughout the season, the same can not be said for Tampa Bay. Through the Buccaneers’ first twelve games, they went 7-5. However, just as the season appeared to be slipping away, with the Bucs on a two-game losing streak, they won their final four regular-season games. 

That momentum has carried into the playoffs, where the Buccaneers have looked like a better team. The Bucs have had some close calls but have been able to knock off Brees and Rogers. Their odds have improved in that span while the Chiefs have stayed the same.

With the Super Bowl only days away, the Chiefs are the favorites over the Buccaneers. Regardless of the odds, it will be a close game and a classic between Brady and Mahomes.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

NBA Players I Have Stock In

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By: Luke Moriarty – Staff Writer

Testing out a theme from the driver of Sports content — Twitter, I am going to give you five “Players I have Stock in”. 

The idea of this is that these are players who may not be atop the NBA player rankings right now, but over time we could see them getting max contracts or even traded to Super Teams!

Without further ado, here are some guys you should ‘invest’ in as an NBA fan…

Shake Milton –  PG Philadelphia 76ers

A Guard who’s name quite literally describes his game, Shake Milton is a tough guard who was taken out of SMU in the 2nd Round of the 2018 draft. His career in Philly started off quiet, given his position as a Point Guard in a system dominated by Ben Simmons handling the ball. Shake made 0 starts in his rookie season. However, through injuries last season, Shake took advantage of the starting role. He started 24 games, playing in 40 of the shortened season, where Milton averaged nearly 10 PTS, 3 AST, 3 REB per game. He played GREAT defensively, a tool he crafted at SMU, which made a case for his continuous playing time this season. Currently, Shake is averaging 15 points per game through the start of the 2020/21 year. His minutes on the court have nearly doubled, and his Player  Efficiency Rating (PER) is hovering around a 17.5. As the 76ers look very strong this season, look out for Shake Milton to take advantage of a team in great form.

Precious Achiuwa – PF Miami Heat

Precious Achiuwa was very much slept on in this year’s NBA Draft following his ‘One and Done’ season at Memphis University. The Nigerian made player had more to show than that year of  college. What people didn’t realize was that Achiuwa is the PERFECT type of player that fits the ‘grit’ of the Miami Heat’s team build. Achiuwa is 4th on the team in rebounds coming off the bench, as well as producing around 8 PPG. But again, like Shake Milton, you must look at how efficiently he is playing for Miami. Precious has indeed been ‘Precious’ in South Beach, with a  PER of 16.3, something any bench player strives to keep consistent. He actually has a higher PER than BOTH of Miami’s draft picks last season, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn. If Miami can make another playoff run, be sure to keep an eye on Precious continuing to bolster his NBA status. 

Nikola Vucevic – C Orlando Magic

Probably one of the most underrated Big Men in the league, this Montenegrin HOUSE of a Center has truly taken the full Orlando team under his wing this season. Vucevic is an offensive minded center, someone who thrives with the ball in his hands at multiple locations on the court. Vucevic is already 30 years old, by far the oldest of the 5 here that I’ve listed. However, my stock in him is for near future output. Vucevic is a piece that plenty of playoff caliber squads could use as a true stretch 5. He plays great defense when he has to, but his offensive output nears the price of a Anthony Davis or Karl Anthony Towns type center. This is an ability loads of teams could find useful come playoff time — because we all know it takes a COMPLETE starting 5 to win an NBA title, like the Lakers showed us last season. 

Talen Horton-Tucker – G Los Angeles Lakers

Seen as a non-essential piece of last year’s team, 2nd year guard out of Iowa State Talen Horton-Tucker has risen to the occasion this year. Given, he still isn’t playing the crucial minutes he would want but Lebron James has seemed to take a liking to the young player. Talen is averaging around 7 PPG and shooting 86% from the Free Throw line, something Lebron values very highly. Even with the limited minutes, Horton-Tucker has a PER of 13.8. His promise is beginning to unfold before our eyes, and Lakers fans know that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is nearing the 30 year old mark. Someone is gonna have to fill the role in the future, and it should be Horton-Tucker.

Cam Johnson – SF Phoenix Suns

Cam Johnson was a very enticing prospect out of UNC back in the 2019 draft, and was selected 11th overall by the Suns. Johnson’s 2nd year in the league has been an upward trend, as he’s averaging a career high of nearly 12 PPG and is shooting better from the field. Phoenix already added the veteran piece of Chris Paul to try and help add to this young core, but the additional bonus of Johnson playing up to his highest potential could prove to be lethal for them. Johnson’s athleticism and length can make him a force both on the offensive and defensive side, he just needs his game to continue to translate to that upper tier. I know most Suns fans are REALLY looking forward to his development, and you should too.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Percy Tau story

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By: Luke Moriarty – Staff Writer

Picture a new player being signed to an NBA team.

In simple terms, a contract is put together, a medical exam is given, and if all things are swell with the lawyers, the deal is done.

Now imagine being a player who signed with a team, but then had to wait 2 whole years to play for them because of a necessary work permit – and no, this wasn’t because he had committed any prior crimes or malfeasance.

It’s because the ‘quality’ of his minutes played back at his old club weren’t worthy of admission to the League. 

Enter Percy Tau, a striker — and now seemingly a nomad from Emalahleni, South Africa. 

Percy was signed to Brighton & Hove Albion back in 2018 worth around 4 million euros from his South African club, Mamelodi Sundowns. 

Tau had 25 goals in 100 appearances for Sundowns, as well as playing for the South African National Team. 

He was a clear target for a club constantly needing offensive talent.

However, the English Football Association (FA) needed Percy to play in more quality games (in terms of FIFA rankings) elsewhere in Europe. The South African League that Sundowns was in would not meet the ‘threshold’ required. Tau would not be granted a work permit to play for Brighton in the Premier League. 

Tau would then be dealt on loan to three different clubs bouncing around in Belgium from 2018-Jan 2021. He would score a total of 20 goals in Belgium, as well as appearing and scoring  in UEFA Champions League and Europa League with Belgian top-tier side, Club Brugge. 

Heading into 2021, Tau was 5 months into his loan at Anderlecht in Belgium. However, because of newly established Brexit in 2021 in the UK, Tau was able to meet the requirements under new work permit conditions. Right away, Brighton was able to recall him from loan and implement him in the first team.

Percy stayed engaged with his goal of making it to the Premier League, and his exceptional job of scoring in Belgium hopes to be a continued trend for Brighton & Hove Albion.

Brighton are currently nearing the relegation zone at the bottom of the Premier League table. They have scored only 20 goals through 18 games this season, and Neal Maupay is the only player with more than 2 goals on the team (6). 

Manager Graham Potter has been pleased with Percy’s attitude since his signing at the club,

 “He is fantastic within the group, he has supported the players even when he’s not been in the team and that is a credit to his character.”

The character of Percy Tau is a glimmering aspect of his personality and what he brings to the club. Being a selfless striker is a hard combination to achieve especially in the Premier League, but Tau does just that. That being much different from current Brighton striker Maupay, who is known as one of the most selfish strikers in the League. Tau’s new appointment could be a much needed switch for Brighton fans.

Percy Tau’s story is one of perseverance and continued hope, being barred from access to the EPL because of the FA’s doubts in him really just continued to drive him. He continued to dominate the next roadblock in his way (even if it was for the club’s he was loaned to), and now the dream of playing top-flite football is a reality.

Percy has already made his club debut in the FA Cup against Newport County, as well as his Premier League debut against Manchester City.

Keep a watchful eye on this playmaking forward to try and revive Brighton from the relegation zone. 

Check out his highlights in Belgium here and EPL game vs Man City here

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

2021 NHL Season Prediction & Pre-Season Awards

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By: Daniel Rebain – NHL/UFC Staff Writer

Do you smell that? That’s the fresh smell of Hockey in the morning. January 13th is the beginning of the 2021 season and there is a lot that will happen in a short period of time. But lets jump into the future a couple of months from now. These are my predictions for what will happen this season, from the four division winners, to the Blitz NHL Award Show and ultimately the Morning Blitz “Pre-Season” Stanley Cup Champion. As Lazlo Holmes would say, “Let’s do that Hockey”.

Division Winners (Each division will have a representative in the Conference Finals)

Honda NHL Western Division: Colorado Avalanche

With only having to worry about two teams, Vegas Golden Knights and St. Louis Blues, the Colorado Avalanche will build off their season in 2019-2020. Returning their core group of players like Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Cale Makar, Nazem Kadri, plus adding to their already solid depth with additions like LW Brandon Saad, D Devon Toews, they will be in the running for the Stanley Cup from the jump. Not to even mention that they get top defensive prospect Bowen Byram for a full season; the Avalanche could easily be the team to win the Presidents Trophy. You add in that with a topline off Gabrial Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen, the Avalanche could be set to have a record-setting year.

Scotia NHL North Division: Edmonton Oilers

Probably the easiest division that we will see this season will most certainly be the North (funny that it is the all Canadian one huh). There’s really only two teams that you can pick to win this division, the Maple Leafs and the Oilers. In this situation, i will take the Oilers. Why you might ask? 4 words, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. We have seen these two take a team that had no business being in the playoffs look like they had a chance, even if it was the slightest of chances. If the Oilers figure out their goalie situation they could make a run. The Oilers strength will be their offense, being able to roll without hesitation is not something all 31 teams can say. Where the Oilers will improve the most is on defense, with the addition of Tyson Barrie to a young defensive core that includes Ethan Bear, Darnell Nurse with the likes of Adam Larsson, the Oilers will most certainly give up less in their own end while scoring more goals themselves.

Discover NHL Central Division: Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning will be without last years Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov, but that will not matter for the defending Stanley Cup champions. With Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos, Victor Headmen leading the way, the Lightning will be lead by their depth this season which is the best in the NHL. With no body to really deter them this season, the Lightning will cruise through the Central Division.

Mass Mutual NHL Eastern Division: Philadelphia Flyers

Now the Mass Mutual East Division will most certainly be the toughest to predict this season. Now this might difficult for me to say, but my prediction is that the Philadelphia Flyers will come out of the East. Not much separates the top from the bottom of this division, but what the Flyers have is goaltending and Defense. Carter Hart and the Flyers young defensive core gave up the 8th least amount of goals last season and that will only improve as they get more games together. The team they will be up against will be the Boston Bruins, but Boston lost it’s top defensive pairing and Tuukka Rask is an unknown after leaving the bubble last year early. With so many questions in the back with the B’s, the Flyers will take the division.

Pre-Season Awards Prediction

Stanley Cup Prediction: Colorado Avalanche in 6 games over the Tampa Bay Lightning

Hart Trophy (MVP): Nathan MacKinnon C, Avalanche

MacKinnon might have been overshadowed by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl the past three seasons but that will all change this year. Last season, the Avs had so many problems with injures and still McKinnon was able to drag his team to the playoffs with 93 points (35g, 58a) in 69 games. MacKinnon, who has now recorded 90+ points in each of the last three seasons, has been a Hart finalist in two of those years (18’ & 20’) but lost to the likes of Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl. In last years Playoffs, he led his team to a series win before losing to the eventual Western Conference champs in the Dallas Stars. But he showed everyone what he has been capable of since entering the league back in 13-14 putting up 22 points (8g, 14a) in just 12 games. In 2021 the Avalanche have everyone back and added some much-needed depth in Brandon Saad, Devon Toews, and have top D prospect Bowen Byram for a full year. With a healthy Avalanche team to go with his two line-mates Gabriel Landeskog & Mikko Rantanen, this will be the season where Nathan MacKinnon takes home the Hart, while also leading the Avalanche to the President’s Trophy.

Vezina Trophy (Best Goalie): Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

After having a somewhat down year last season with a 2.56 goals-against average and a .917%, Andrei Vasilevskiy lost the Vezina to Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets. Since Vasilevskiy took over the net from Ben Bishop in 2016-2017, he’s been a workhorse.  At just 26 years old, Vasilevskiy is just beginning his prime. Vasilevskiy at 6’3″, 225 pounds, is one of the most mobile goalies in the league. And with his size, Vasilevskiy covers essentially the whole net, and his mobility allows him to cover even more. But it also helps to have one of the best defensive cores in all of the NHL with Victor Headman, Ryan McDonagh, and Mikhail Sergachev leading the way. With all that, signs point to Vasilevskiy winning the Vezina for the second time in three seasons.

Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman): Alex Pietrangelo, Golden Knights

This might be the most under-rated award pick of this whole season and i do not know why he is not getting more press with his move to Vegas but Alex Pietrangelo is my pick to win the Norris. The Norris over the years has kind have turned into “who can score more points as a defensemen” trophy, but Pietrangelo can put up points as well. Over the last four seasons as the captain of the Blues, he put up 40+ points while playing a minimum of 70 games in each. Since 2016-17, Pietrangelo is tied with Columbus’ Zach Werenski for third among all NHL defensemen in goals (58) while averaging nearly 25 minutes of ice time per game. What separates the good defensemen from a Norris winner, is being able to put up numbers while also keeping the puck out of the net. Pietrangelo plays all situations, provides offensive numbers, and plays defense at an exceptional level.

Calder Trophy (Best Rookie): Kirill Kaprizov LW, Wild

Most likely when you hear 2021 Calder Trophy, you are gonna think of Alexis Lafreniere, the #1 overall pick by the Rangers a couple of months ago, and that thinking is not wrong. But this year’s Calder Trophy race has the same feel to it as in 2015. The favorite was the #1 overall pick that season but an undrafted Russian would capture the trophy instead. That Russian’s name was Artiemi Panarin. Panarin was 24 in his rookie campaign, winning the Calder over a guy named CONNOR MCDAVID. The “Bread Man” was able to develop in the KHL for six years before coming to the NHL and putting up 77 points with the Chicago Blackhawks. Kirill Kaprizov is skating down the same path as Panrin did in 15’.

Kaprizov, a fifth-round pick of the Minnesota Wild back in 2015 (ironically enough) has scored 30+ goals in each of his last two seasons in the KHL with CSKA Moskva and put up more than a point per game with 62 points in 57 contests in the second-best league in the world. Kaprizov has the same creative offensive skill set, I.Q and a magnet of a stick, as Panarin did when he came to the NHL. Playing first-line minutes with Zach Parise and Nick Bjugstad while also being on the first power-play unit just stinks of a minimum 60 point season.

Other Awards

Art Ross Trophy (Most Points): Connor McDavid C, Oilers

Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (Most Goals): Mikko Rantanen RW, Avalanche

Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Foward): Anthony Cirelli C, Lightning

Jack Adams Trophy (Best Coach): Jared Bednar, Colorado Avalanche

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Morning Blitz UFC “Fight” of the Year

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By: Daniel Rebain – NHL/UFC Staff Writer

2020 was almost most certain to be a shit show for the UFC and their fighters but they showed some resolve though out. The year started off strong but was put on pause when Covid-19 struck, but thanks to Dana White and everyone at the UFC, they came back and outperformed what they did in when the year began. So, with another year of thrilling fights in the past, here is the Morning Blitz “Fight” of the Year.

Honorable Mentions

Dustin Poirier vs Dan Hooker (UFC Vegas 4)

Despite Poirier’s massive power, Hooker got the better of their heavy exchanges in the first and second rounds, visibly hurting Poirier. Hooker was successfully able to walk through all of Poirier’s early shots without any issues. Hooker landed a lot of volume, including punches to the body and hard, low calf kicks to Poirier. Poirier landed hard combinations, but Hooker put pace on him. The second round would go down as the best round of 2020. Hooker had all the momentum heading into the third round, but that’s when Poirier started to take over as he would take the rest of the rounds in this fight. In the fourth round, Poirier got Hooker down, and landed the most significant damage of the fight. The fifth was much of the same. Poirier landed hard punching combinations while Hooker clearly was sucking wind. Poirier outlasted him in the end. The 390 total strikes landed were the most in a lightweight fight in UFC history, and the fifth-most overall, with Poirier landing 208 to Hooker’s 182. Hooker out landed Poirier in significant strikes 155-153. All five rounds saw each fighter land very damaging blows. That damage showed at the end of the fight, both men could be seen as bloody messes. 

Petr Yan vs Jose Aldo (UFC 251)

Early in the fight, Yan hurt Aldo with a body kick, and then, after Aldo tried to turn the tide with a takedown attempt, Yan nearly finished with a devastating blow to Aldo’s midsection on the ground. That shot seemed to have damaged Aldo’s ribs but he seemed to shake it off. Aldo did answer with an excellent second round. Using hard leg kicks and body punches Aldo took over the next two rounds and that when Yan took back control of the fight. With just under two minutes left in the third, Yan started switching back and forth from orthodox to southpaw. With that he was able to land a spinning elbow, multiple combinations, and a bunch of hard body kicks dealing massive damage. When the fourth round came around the writing was being set as Yan broke Aldo’s nose. Evading and backpedaling from a pressing Yan, Aldo would be pressed up against the cage and was subsequently dropped by a barrage of shots including two big uppercuts. The fight was a contest for about three rounds, but Yan smelled blood and went on to win the Bantamweight strap. Yan landed 194 significant strikes, the most in a single fight in the history of the UFC bantamweight division, 62 of which were in the fifth. This Bantamweight title fight was one of the better fights we saw in 2020 and it made for an interesting start to the new version of the division.

Deiveson Figueredo vs Brandon Moreno (UFC 256)

Recency bias is a real thing and it almost happened in this situation The fight between Figueredo vs Moreno came together on three weeks’ notice after both fighters won in their previous fights in the octagon as both scored first-round finishes at UFC 255. Figueredo did what got him the strap, he came out swinging for the fence from the jump. Moreno though, gladly met him with heavy combinations of his own, and took Figueiredo’s shots with his diamond of a chin. Figueiredo’s blows proved the more telling in the early going as he consistently denied Moreno’s attempts to impose his top-notch ground game. With the fighting wearing on Moreno refused to be put away and began to find increasing success. Figueredo did have a point taken away when he viciously poked Moreno in the eye and kicked him with a brutal groin shot. Moreno still got up and secured the fourth round with a long stretch of top control and seemed the fresher fighter going into the fifth. But Figueiredo was not going to give up that easily as he stopped the momentum in the fifth round, securing the fifth round and ultimately with the loss of the point in the third, the fight would go to a majority draw and keep the Flyweight belt. Dana White said this would go down as the best fight in the Men’s Flyweight division history but it wasn’t the best fight in any division. Still the sheer chaos in this fight still makes it one of the best fights in all of 2020.

Morning Blitz “Fight” of the Year

Zhang Weili vs Joanna Jedzejczyk (UFC 248)

When the Strawweight division’s scariest power puncher in Weili Zhang met the most decorated fighter in the division’s history, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, what did you think was going to happen? You would be in for a treat as things got soooo crazy between these two fighters. Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk would spend the whole of the 25 minutes going back and forth, inflicting pain on the other. Zhang and JJ would combine to throw over 750 significant strikes and land 351 of them.  Jedrzejczyk did wear one of the nastiest hematomas of all-time; she gave China’s finest everything she could handle. So much so that everyone wants to see a rematch as the result went to a split decision. With no breaks, no time to catch your breath from bell to bell, Jedrzejczyk and Zhang put everything on the line and both were willing to be KO’d to get that finish and become UFC Strawweight Champion. This will go down in the history books as not just the greatest strawweight fight of all time, but the BEST women’s fight ever to take place in the sport. It also so happened that it took place in a title fight. That is why Weili vs Jedrzejczyk is the Morning Blitz “Fight” of the Year.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Morning Blitz UFC “Knock Out” of the Year

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By: Daniel Rebain – NHL & UFC Staff Writer

Who doesn’t love a good knockout; knockouts never go out of style. With this year of 2020 being a terrible one, we still had some great KO’s that will not be forgotten for a while and even some that will go down in the history book. Let’s go down memory lane and look back at the best knock outs of 2020.

Honorable Mentions

Cody Garbrandt KO’s Raphael Assuncao (June 6th 2020)

Cody Garbrandt before facing Raphael Assuncao was put to sleep in three straight fights. He said no more and was on the other side of a KO, putting Assuncao to sleep in a vicious way. Using his speed and footwork to keep Assuncao from ever getting comfortable, Garbrandt would lure Assuncao in for the final blow. Assuncao playing the aggressor, resulted in a “holy shit” knockout, with Assuncao flat on his stomach. Garbrandt said. “Ya’ll must’ve forgot” and if he can stay calm and collected showed everyone he is still a player at 135 and 125 pounds.

Khaos Williams KO’s Abdul Razak Alhassan (November 14th 2020)

After coming off a 27 second KO of Alex Morono, Khaos Williams would drop everyone’s jaws once again in his fight against Abdul Razak Alhassan.  Khaos would display a kiss of death in his right hand when he landed flush on Alhassan’s chin. It was even more spine-chilling to see Alhassan and his impression of a plank of wood when he went stiff as a board as soon as he was touched. In his first two wins in the UFC, Khaos has KO’d both his opponents in under a minute combined. If you get hit by Khaos you will be waking up in an ambulance, and that’s a promise.

Kevin Holland KO’s Jacare Souza (December 12th 2020)

Holland, the “Morning Blitz Fighter of the Year”, would have won this award any other year, but we all know who’s KO was better. Holland stands 6’4” with a stupid 81-inch reach, rocked to one side and then swung back in the other direction as he punched. He generated so much force in his hand that he KO’d Souza basically unconscious. He got to his feet, and basically folded Souza while he was against the fence. Getting a KO from your back has happened only one other time in UFC history. Shout out to “Big Mouth” for backing up all his talk.

Morning Blitz “Knock Out” of the Year

Joaquin Buckley KO’s Impa Kasangnay (October 11th 2020)

To be honest we all knew what the “KO” of the year was going to be as it happened. Morning Blitz “KO” of the Year award goes to Joaquin Buckley for his out of this world spinning back heel KO of Impa Kasangnay in mid October. The funny thing is, Kasanganay had all the momentum with two dominant wins, while Buckley, was just slept by Kevin Holland in his debut in the Octagon. So, Buckley was a tremendous underdog, but he constantly pressured Kasanganay with bursts of violence that he has brought in every fight. On to the KO, Kasanganay caught a body kick and seemed to take a moment to plan his next move. Buckley responded by rewarding Kasanganay with a foot to the face. Buckley unleashed a spinning back kick straight out of a video game that landed flush on Kasanganay’s chin as he remained standing, stiff as a board. Joaquin Buckley showed that he is a highlight waiting to happen whether he wins or loses. This is a KO that will never be forgotten in UFC history, leading “KO” of the Year in 2020

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Morning Blitz UFC “Fighter” of the Year

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By: Daniel Rebain – NHL & UFC Staff Writer

Being UFC “Fighter” of the Year can is not just indication of what you accomplished in that calendar year. If your are privileged enough to be named UFC’s FOTY it means that you are in for an even brighter future ahead, just ask the 2019 UFC FOTY Israel Adesanya. So, here’s to 2020, a year where nothing could go right in the world of sports, Dana White was still able to produce a year of UFC we will never forget. Here are the fighters that were the best of the rest.

Honorable Mentions

#15 Welterweight Khamzat Chimaev (3-0)

Probably the most hyped prospect the UFC has right now has to be Sweden’s Khamzat Chimaev. That hype is warranted though as Chimaev to this point has been nothing short of a phenom. He’s begun his UFC career with three wins, all stoppages, and all in less than two months. In Chimaev’s first two fights against John Phillips and Rhys McKee, Chimaev out landed his two opponents 192-2. In his last fight in September, Chimaev would KO Gerald Meerschaert in just 17 seconds, tied for the third-fastest KO in UFC middleweight history. Chimaev’s entrance into the UFC broke boundaries in the sport. He would win his first two fights in just 10 days fastest in UFC history, and he owns the fastest 3-0 start in modern UFC history (since 2000), spanning just 66 days. If Chimaev keeps his activity up in 2021, he could be not just back on this list but possibly the winner.

UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jan Blachowicz (2-0)

At the beginning of 2020, would you have expended to see Jan Blachowicz as a “Fighter” of the Year candidate? Probably not, unless you were Jan and his wife. Blachowicz would begin 2020 hoping to face Jon Jones for the light heavyweight championship if he won one more fight. That win would come in a big way in a rematch of one of his earlier defeats, Corey Anderson. And in front of an Arizona crowd that Jones was in, Blachowicz would steamroll Anderson, knocking him out 3:08 into the first round. Blachowicz thought would never get his dream to face Jones for the LHW belt as Jones vacated his belt to pursue heavyweight aspirations. That would leave Blachowicz to face Dominick Reyes for the Light Heavyweight strap. Reyes was a HUGE favorite pre fight after going the full five rounds with Jones, with people actually believing that he won that fight. Blachowicz proved everyone wrong once the first bell rung, blasting Reyes with huge body kicks and heavy hands. Eventually, in the second round, Blachowicz would hit Reyes with a huge left overhand, securing the second-round TKO. Blachowicz became only the second UFC champ from Poland (Joanna Jedrzejczyk) and the first male to hold a belt. Blachowicz is now scheduled to defend his belt against Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, and with a win, Blachowicz will be the early favorite for 2021 “Fighter” of the Year. #legendarypolishpower

UFC Flyweight Champion Deiveson Figueredo (3-0-1)

With a record of 3-0-1 in the year of 2020, winning the UFC Flyweight strap and defending it twice, Deiveson Figueredo is a close second for the award. 2020 started with former 125 king Henry Cejudo vacating the Flyweight belt, and the UFC would pit Figueredo against long-time fighter Joseph Benavidez. In the first fight after a clash of heads, Figueredo would KO Benavidez but the UFC would rematch the two after Figueredo missed weight. The result was the same, Figueredo would drop Benavidez multiple times and eventually choke him out to claim UFC gold. In November Figueredo would defend the belt for the first time against Alex Perez. Perez was no match as Figueredo would choke him out inside of the first round. With no damage taken Figueredo would fight one more time just three weeks later. It would be the quickest turnaround for a champion in UFC history. It would be remembered as the “greatest Flyweight fight of all time”, according to Dana White. Figueredo and Brendon Moreno would finish in a majority draw. All in all, Figueredo had four title fights in 2020, winning three (1 NC) and an all-time great fight to cap the year off.

Morning Blitz “Fighter” of the Year

#10 Middleweight Kevin Holland (5-0)

There are only three fighters in UFC history to win five fights in a calendar year. They are Roger Huerta 07’, Neil Magny 14’ and now joining that list is Kevin Holland. Holland has kind of come on the scene in a blaze of glory.  Holland, now 8-2 in the UFC, turned 2020 into a banger of a year for himself. Finishing the calendar year with 4 TKO and one decision, Holland has turned a can’t miss attraction for the UFC and Dana White. His first fight would be in May and he finished that fight in 39 seconds against Anthony Hernandez. Though, he would have to wait almost three months for his next fight, finally, he would make a name for himself in the UFC in his fight against Joaquin Buckley.  Holland knocked down Buckley twice before ending the fight with a highlight reel KO, knocking Buckley’s mouthpiece out of his mouth as it went flying across the cage and saliva every which direction. 

Next, Holland would come up against Darren Stewart who he would edge out a win in a split decision. Holland was 3-0 and wanted to keep going. Holland would take on Charlie Ontiveros and also would end it quickly. Again, just 2:39 into the first, Holland would get a body slam TKO, earning his fourth win in just five months. And to tie the record for most wins in a calendar year, Holland would be gifted with one more fight in 2020 as he would take on his toughest opponent yet in Jacare Souza. Holland made it look easy even with Souza taking Holland down early. Holland, a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu made Souza who was one of the best in the world of Jiu-Jitsu look like a blue belt. From the bottom position, Holland would land multiple significant strikes. As he was about to stand up, Holland awkwardly swung his hips on the ground and punched Souza clean on the jaw, knocking him out clean. That’s happened only one other time in UFC history. That was a wrap, 5-0 for Kevin Holland in 2020. 

The UFC now ranks Holland #10 in the middleweight division. If Holland can keep racking up wins we will see him fight Israel Adesanya for the title in 2021. For 2020 though, Kevin Holland is the “Morning Blitz Fighter of the Year”, congrats “Big Mouth”

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

American Flare in an Austrian Football Club

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By: Luke Moriarty – Staff Writer

  UEFA Champions League wrapped up the ‘Pool Play’ section of the competition around a month  ago, and there were many storylines to take from it.

Whether it be the domination of Juventes over Barcelona in ‘Ronaldo v. Messi’, Bayern Munich continuing to tactically pick apart opposing teams, or even the underdog story of Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg led by an American manager taking on the giants of the European football landscape.

I personally care about the part including the American manager, and you should too.

Jesse Marsch, an American manager for RB Salzburg has been a fun story to watch unfold. Deriving from the MLS club, New York RedBulls — a ‘family’ club with RB Salzburg and German club RB Leipzig, Marsch had not much European experience except one year as an assistant at Leipzig in 2018/19. He had played in the MLS for 13 years following his time playing Division 1 soccer at Princeton University. It was also at Princeton where Marsch had began his coaching career, until he took a position with the nearby club up the NJ Turnpike, New York Red Bull in 2015. In that same year, he won MLS Coach of the Year and the Supporter’s Shield

The quality of coaching was there, Marsch just needed the right club to implement his tactics with.

Along came Red Bull Salzburg, a match made in Heaven… or Austria.

RB Salzburg plays an interesting role as a club. It is in a ‘family organization’ with Bundesliga club RB Leipzig and Salzburg find themselves very in tune with the development of both squads.

Salzburg will often take on loan players from the new Leipzig signings, or house their players that may not get much time for the club. Salzburg also even sells some of their own academy products over to the big German club for profit. 

Given all these outside burdens, both the club and American manager don’t mind.

Salzburg is constantly a very young squad. They have an average age of 23 on this year’s squad, and it has really benefited the style Jesse Marsch wants to play, fast.

Marsch has loads of young talent on his squad, featuring the likes of Sekou Koita, Karim Adeyemi, Patson Daka, and newly signed 20 year old American MNT player Brenden Aaronson. All of these players have very high price tags that continue to rise day by day. 

Patson Daka is a 22 year old striker from outside Lusaka, Zambia and Jesse Marsch is very lucky to have him because of his potential to be one of the next great African players. Daka has 49 goals in 100 games for Salzburg, including 3 in UEFA Champions League. He is a long and lanky striker with a strong right-foot, be on the lookout for his name in the future. 

Photo: Patson Daka and Jesse Marsch Source: CGTN.com

Karim Adeyemi is an 18 year old stud from Germany who Salzburg thinks can be a great one, he has 3 goals for the senior team since his promotion in December of 2019. 

Marsch’s newest signing was the aforementioned Brenden Aaronson, who transferred from the MLS club Philadelphia Union to RB Salzburg for a PHI record transfer of around $9 million. This was the highest price tag for any American homegrown player, as well as the first time any Union homegrown player has been transferred overseas to Europe. 

Aaronson is a young star at the Central Attacking Midfield position, who will score many goals not only in Europe but also for the US Men’s National Team. 

Marsch’s squad finished in 3rd in Pool Play in the lucrative UEFA Champions League, which qualifies them for the second phase of the Europa League tournament. Marsch has also led his team to the top of the Austrian Bundesliga table, currently standing 1 point above Sturm Graz. 

Jesse Marsch’s success has boded well for American soccer culture as well as professional development and establishment of homegrown & young talent overseas. 

The best part? This is just the beginning for Marsch, he has a long career ahead of him, just like all the young players he’s coaching now at RB Salzburg!

So keep an eye out for Jesse Marsch’s young gunner squad RB Leipzig, because their success benefits American soccer.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

NFL Week 17 Preview

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By: Darius Boamah – Staff Writer

We made it, cue Drake and Soulja Boy! The unprecedented 2020 NFL season is finally coming to a close. This season has been trying for players, coaches, fans, and the entire NFL community. Playoffs are right around the corner and there are a lot of great games to look out for. Here are the top five.

Washington Football Team vs. Philadelphia Eagles Sun @ 8:20 PM NFL

The Washington Football Team will travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles in a divisional matchup. Washington is currently sitting at the top of the division right over the Giants. On the other hand, the Eagles are in last. Washington is still in the hunt for a playoff spot so a win is a necessity. Philadelphia can spoil Washington’s playoff dreams if they can manage a win. Both teams are coming off of losses and will be looking to finish the season on a high note. Last week, Washington struggled immensely on the offensive side. Their, now former, quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. was 14/28 on the day, only threw for about 5.5 yards per attempt and before he was sat, he had thrown 154 yards. On the other end of the field, Washington was not much better. Their season has been plagued by games like this, one week they are on and the next they are off. Because they lost last week, they missed a chance to clinch the division. This week they’ll have a second chance and they will need to be dialed in. The Eagles also looked shaky last weekend. This season has not been kind to them, they’ve struggled to win games and have had problems on both ends of the field. However, since replacing Carson Wentz at the quarterback position, the Eagles’ offense has looked much better. Jalen Hurts is the leading man now and last week he showed that he belongs in the starting spot. He threw for 342 yards, about nine yards per pass, but he also threw two interceptions which hurt the team. Philadelphia’s defense got torched last weekend. Against the Cowboys, the Eagles let Andy Dalton throw for 377 yards, about 13 yards per pass, and three touchdowns. They could not stop the rush either. This is the largest problem with this team and they will need to be much better if they want to stop Washington. This will be a fun game to watch, Washington wants to make the playoffs and a rival can stop them. Both teams will play hard and it promises to be a good match. 

Las Vegas Raiders vs. Denver Broncos Sun @ 4:25 PM CBS, NFL 

 The Las Vegas Raiders travel over to Denver to take on the Broncos this weekend. Neither of these teams are in playoff contention, but it will still be a good divisional game to watch. Both teams have been fairly strong this season, however, they came up a little short for the postseason. The Raiders were in playoff contention and still would have been, had they not lost to the Dolphins last week. It was a very close game, in the end, the Raiders gave the Dolphins too many opportunities that they should have shut down. They looked good in the game and will need to continue that form against the Broncos. Derek Carr was back in action and did not miss a step. He threw for 336 yards, 9.9 yards per attempt, and a touchdown. The Raiders offense has been potent this year and if they are allowed, they will punish teams in the air and on the ground. Denver needs to be in their best form if they want to combat this. This season they have struggled on the defensive end. Against a team like the Raiders, they will be in trouble if they do not show up. On the year, they have allowed teams seven yards per pass attempt, and almost five rushing. The Broncos are not much better on the other end of the field. Last week, the offense struggled to put anything together. Drew Lock threw two interceptions and their only touchdown came from him rushing. They were sharper on the defensive end, but compared to how they need to play against Las Vegas, they are still lacking. Despite this, it will still be a good game. The Raiders have been upset by teams worse than the Broncos and the Broncos have proved that they can play with big teams. Both squads will be fighting to finish their seasons strong and each has nothing to lose. 

Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears Sun @ 4:25 PM NFL

The Green Bay Packers will fly over to Chicago to take on the Bears in another divisional matchup. The Packers are coming off of a big win against the Titans and have already clinched the division and a playoff spot. The Bears are on a three-game win streak which has allowed them to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot. This game is important for them because they will want to participate in the post-season and losing is not an option. Last week, they faced the Jaguars. It was not a hard game for them, they handled the game easily. They looked sharp on offense and defense. Mitchell Trubisky played well, he threw for 265 yards, almost eight yards per pass attempt, and also threw an interception. There will be no room for error in this game. Trubisky cannot afford to give up possession easily, he needs to be on his game if Chicago wants a chance to take down Green Bay. David Montgomery is another large asset that the Bears possess. On the year, he has rushed for over 1,000 yards and has seven touchdowns. If he can break through the Packers’ defense, the Bears will find success. This will not be an easy feat, Green Bay has a solid defense that will challenge Montgomery, they have held teams to just under five yards per carry. There is room for Montgomery to succeed, however, he will need to be on his game. On the other end of the field, the Packers are lethal. Aaron Rodgers is on another level and he has so many great assets around him. Green Bay’s offense will be extremely tough to shut down. The Bears defense is fairly weak at defending the pass, so it will be paramount for the defense to show up if they want to have a chance against the Packers. This will be a great game to watch. Both of these teams have been outstanding this season and the game will be a battle. The Packers want to keep a division rival out of the playoffs and the Bears will want to take their rival down and have a greater chance of playoff football. 

Arizona Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Rams Sun @ 4:25 PM FOX, NFL

In another great divisional showdown, the Arizona Cardinals will travel to Los Angeles to take on the Rams this weekend. This is a crucial game for each of these teams. They are both in playoff contention and need a win. They also each need the Bears to lose their game to solidify their entry into the playoffs. So, if the Bears lose, whoever wins this game is in. Both teams are coming off of losses so they will want to turn it around this week especially given the importance of this game. Los Angeles lost to the Seahawks last week. Jared Goff had a horrible performance, he was 24/43, threw one interception, and did not throw any touchdowns. This weekend will be extremely important for him; he needs to have a good game. Last week, he just was not efficient, the Rams held the ball more but Goff could not convert. The Cardinals have a similar defense, in terms of ability, compared to the Seahawks, so if Goff cannot improve, the game will be lost. The Cardinals lost last week for the same reason, a bad performance from the quarterback. Kyler Murray has been dangerous this season, however last week he did not show up. He was 31/50, did not throw a touchdown, and threw one interception, almost identical to Goff. The Los Angeles defense will punish Arizona if they play like this, no matter how good the offense is. If Arizona cannot put together any deceive drives they will be in trouble. The Rams have one of the strongest defenses in the league, on the year, they have held teams to 6.2 passing yards per game and 3.8 rushing. The Cardinals do not have a strong passing game. Their strong suit is the run and this week they have to face one of the best rush defenses in the league. This week’s game will be up to the quarterbacks. Whoever can put together the best performance and lead their team in the most efficient way will win this game. It will be a great matchup to watch and promises to be exciting. 

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns Sun @ 1 PM CBS, NFL 

The Pittsburgh Steelers will travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns this Sunday. This is another hot divisional matchup that is important for playoffs. The Steelers have already clinched the AFC North division and secured a spot in the playoffs. The Browns on the other hand are right on the edge. There are a lot of scenarios that would give them an entry into the playoffs. But the most important one is a win against the Steelers. Cleveland was upset last week by the Jets and have faced some problems with COVID-19. Several of their players were listed on the IR-list and missed that game. This game is their season and the whole team needs to be ready to play their best. This year they have been strong. On offense, they have done very well and will need to bring that back into this week’s game. Cleveland has taken down big teams and shown that they can play with big teams, this is the ultimate test. Pittsburgh is sitting comfortably this game, coach Mike Tomlin even decided to sit Big Ben in preparation for the playoffs. That leaves Mason Rudolph to start this game against Cleveland. The Browns can capitalize off of this on the defensive end. Rudolph has only played four games this season and has hardly done anything in those games he played in. The Browns have a strong defense, efficient in stopping the pass and run. If they can continuously force Rudolph to turn the ball over they will find success. If they can get their offense as many chances as possible, Cleveland will have a great chance to win this game. On the offensive side, Cleveland has lots of assets. But they will be going up against a very strong Steelers defense. This is why it will be important for the Browns’ defense to stop Rudolph as fast as possible. This will be another interesting game to watch. The Steelers seem to be stepping on the brakes a bit and Cleveland needs a win to have a chance at playoff football. This will be another fun game to watch.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Kylian Mbappe; The Next CR7 both On and Off the field?

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By: Luke Moriarty – Staff Writer

Christiano Ronaldo has elevated himself to a massive level of fame globally. This fame earned through not only his play on the pitch, but also what he has done with Social Media and marketing. Ronaldo’s personality is larger than life, and he has kept his personal life clean of any big stains or mishaps. He is a class model of what the modern athlete should strive to be today. Arsenal legend Bacary Sagna describes CR7, “For me he’s a role model for young players. He’s dedicated to what he does. At every level, his diet, the way he manages his life, his career, his image, and his money too.”

So who is the one to follow in CR7’s footsteps?

The young man Kylian Mbappe, born in France to a Cameroonian father and an Algerian mother, has blossomed into the next young Footballing superstar. 

Following his youth career, Kylian grew up through the Monaco academy program starting in 2016. It was there where he had his breakthrough as a player, dominating Ligue 1 in France as well as dazzling in UEFA Europa League matches. He became a household name in France, which ultimately caught the eye of French giant, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). 

PSG signed Mbappe on loan from Monaco in 2017. Through that loan deal, he was rumored to be the most expensive teenager on the planet. A loan deal that required 145 million euros for PSG to transfer him over the following year. This was a massive price tag for such a youngster. Christiano Ronaldo’s transfer fee at the same age was only around 25 million euros, even though it was a different market in 2004. Mbappe has broken the ceiling of young player price tags.

Established himself is an understatement for what happened at PSG from then on. Mbappe won Ligue 1 Player of the Year in 2018, finishing with 33 goals in the season. Also in that same season, Mbappe scored 4 goals in 15 minutes against Lyon, as well as scoring a hattrick in a 9-0 win against Guingamp, which would prove to be PSG’s most dominant win in history.

The 2018 World Cup in Russia was where Mbappe was able to shine on the most global of stages. He scored in a 1-0 win over Peru for the French National Team, making him the youngest goal scorer in country history. He was awarded ‘Man of the Match’ against Argentina in a 4-3 win for his 2 goal effort. In the final against Croatia, he scored a deep strike in a 4-2 win to seal the deal as FIFA World Cup Champions. He became the young face of not only French soccer, but global soccer as well. 

In 2019/20, Mbappe continued to dominate the league with PSG. He won the ‘Golden Boot’ back-to-back seasons, and PSG were crowned League Champions. On top of that, he signed a 10 year, 162 million euro extension deal with Nike from his previous deal signed at the age of 18 in 2017. Nike, the same brand partnered with Christiano Ronaldo, since 2003 when Ronaldo was 18.

Mbappe continues to also hold onto his brand deal with Hublot, a Swiss watchmaking company. He signed a deal with them in 2018 as a 19 year old. On top of that, he stars on the cover of FIFA 21 made by EA Sports. This includes rights to his signature celebrations and other aspects of his life being in the game, further adding to the amount of money made on his end. He’s even signed a recent two year deal with Good Gout, an organic French Food company. Mbappe has taken advantage of the business opportunities made to him at such a young age, and it is a keen resemblance of Christiano and his deals with Tag Heur and Herbalife.

Mbappe has a massive prescence on Social Media with his 45.6 million followers on Instagram, that number being 13 million more than his own club’s instagram account. This presence has allowed him to enhance not only his own brand deals, but also his philanthropy. He has donated millions of his own money to youth development programs in West Africa, as well as donations to various homeless shelter organizations and groups throughout France. 

As for this season, Mbappe has 12 goals in 13 league matches. In the UEFA Champions League, he has scored twice and led his team to the lucrative knockout stage of the tournament. 

Every young kid in France wants to be him, people all across the world from Africa to America to Asia buy his #7 PSG kit. Mbappe is on a steady rise of fame, and is poised to come into the limelight as a Ronaldo type athlete. He is great in interviews, speaks Spanish quite well and even knows some English. He is the man with the skills on and off the field. 

Could he be the next CR7 of our generation? Or should I say KM7?

Keep an eye out for him in Ligue 1 and UEFA Champions if you haven’t already, the young man is an absolute star

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

NFL Week 16 Preview

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By: Darius Boamah – Staff Writer

Two more game days left in the 2020 NFL season, here are the top five games for this weekend. 

Minnesota Vikings vs. New Orleans Saints Fri @ 4:30 PM FOX, NFL

The Minnesota Vikings travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints for Christmas day football. Both teams will be coming off losses this weekend. The Vikings narrowly lost to the Bears in a very important game for their season. The Vikings are now a game behind the Bears and are sitting in third place in their division. They need wins to secure a playoff spot and there is not much time left to do so. Winning the rest of their games is crucial for their season. Minnesota looked good in their game against Chicago. They showed up on the offensive but they lacked a bit on the defensive end. Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook were solid as always, Cousins threw for 271 yards, two touchdowns, and 7.7 yards per pass and Cook rushed for 5.5 yards per attempt and scored a touchdown. Their weakness came on the other end of the field, they allowed Chicago nine yards per pass attempt and almost five yards rushing. On the other side, the Saints also lost in a very close game to the Cheifs. Drew Brees was back in action last weekend and he did not miss a beat from his time away. He threw for 234 yards and three touchdowns. The ultimate blow for the Saints came on the defensive end. The New Orleans defense gave the Cheifs too many opportunities to keep the ball. They were not very efficient and continued to let the Kansas City offense hold the ball. Ultimately that is why the lost, a field goal in the end gave the win to the Cheifs. In this week’s game, both defenses will have to be sharper if they want to be victorious. This game is a lot more important for Minnesota compared with New Orleans so it will be very interesting to watch how both teams play. 

Denver Broncos vs. Los Angeles Chargers Sun @ 4:05 PM CBS, NFL

The Denver Broncos will fly over to Los Angeles for an AFC West divisional matchup. The previous time these two teams met up was a very fun game to watch. They took turns trading blows at each other, but in the end the Broncos came out with the win by one point. This week the Chargers will be looking for revenge. Their season has been bumpy but they are coming off of a big win against the Raiders. Justin Herbert has shown that he is a quarterback to be reckoned with and he proves it every week. Last week Herbert averaged 9.8 yards per pass attempt, threw two touchdowns, and tallied 314 passing yards. In the air the Chargers were very strong, however, on the ground is a different story. Last week, they averaged 3.3 yards per carry and on the year its not much better at 3.8. If the Broncos can get Herbert handing the ball off more instead of throwing the game will be in their favor. The Broncos defense is solid, however they will need to step up if they want to find success against Herbert. Their pass defense is their strongest attribute and they will be able to make it difficult for the Chargers. Their rushing defesne is not great, so if they can force the Chargers to run more, they will need to be very strong on the ground. On the other side of the field, they are not great either. On the year, they are averaging 6.6 yards per pass and 4.4 rushing. Los Angeles does not have a great rush defense and Denver can exploit them on the run. Melvin Gordon and Philip Lindsay are the Broncos’ main rushing men and they can have some fun running all over the Chargers. This will be another good game to watch. Neither of these teams has anything to lose as they are sitting at the bottom of the AFC West with nothing to lose.  

Tennessee Titans vs. Green Bay Packers Sun @ 8:20 PM ESPN, NBC

The Tennessee Titans will fly over to Green Bay this weekend to take on the Packers for primetime Sunday Night Football. These two teams are at the top of their respective divisions. The Packers are four games above second place and have already clinched their division. The Titans are sitting in the top spot, however, the Colts who are in second have the same amount of wins. If the Titans want to keep the first spot, they need to separate themselves from the Colts. The Titans have been very strong this season and have proved that they are a force to be reckoned with. Last week they smacked the Lions. Their offense is their strongest point and they continue to show that. Ryan Tannehill threw for 274 yards, an average of 10 yards per attempt, and three touchdowns. On the run game, Derrick Henry torched another defense, he ran for 147 yards and scored a touchdown. Green Bay has a fairly strong defense and they will defintiely have their hands full this weekend. On the year, they have held teams to about 5 yards per rush attempt and 7.3 per pass. They will need to tighten up their rush defense if they want to handle Henry. On the other end of the field, the Packer are very strong. This year, Aaron Rodgers has thrown for 3,828 yards and is averaging eight yards per pass. Rodgers has strong offensive options with Davante Adams and Aaron Jones. Adams is one of the best receivers in the game and Jones is a great running back. These two will need to be locked up if the Titans want a chance at a win. The Titans have struggled on the defensive end this season and because of that they rely on their offense to get the points. They will not have that luxury in this game because the Packers will punish them. This will be an intense game between two top NFL teams. 

Los Angeles Rams vs. Seattle Seahawks Sun @ 4:25 FOX, NFL

The Los Angeles Rams will travel to Seattle this weekend to take on the Seahawks in a hot NFC divisional matchup. This division is close, the Seahawks have already clinched the wild card in the NFC conference. The Rams on the other hand are are in a close race for the second spot in the division. They have nine wins and right below them, the Cardinals have eight. The Rams were upset last week by the Jets. This was an important game that they dropped and they will need to get back on track if they want to stay ahead of the Cardinals. Last weeks game showed that they are vulnerable and need to work out some things. Jared Goff needs to get back on his game this week. He has been solid through the season and if he shows up against the Seahawks the Rams can find success. The Seahawks do not have a great defense, however, they have been better in the past weeks and will need to keep it up. On the other end of the field, Seattle has been less of themselves. In the beginning of the season the offense was bringing in lots of points. Now, in the past six games, besides the Jets game, they are averaging just 18 points per game. In their match up against Washington last weekend, they scored 20 points. Russel Wilson and the offense have struggled to keep up their high scoring performances. Russ threw 121 yards, one touchdown, and an interception. Compare that to the beginning of the season where he was about 290 yards per game. Russ needs to get back and start connecting with his receivers especially against Los Angeles. The Rams have a very strong defense so it will be paramount for the Seahawks offense to show up. This will be another very interesting game to watch. The Seahawks have clinched the wild card and the Rams need to win the rest of their games, it promises to be a fun game to watch. 

Indianapolis Colts vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Sun @ 1 PM CBS, NFL

The Indianapolis Colts fly over Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers this Sunday. This is another very important game for the playoff picture. The Steelers are at the top of their division, but they have been shaky these past couple of weeks and have now made room for other teams to take their top spot. If they continue this streak of losses, they will lose the top seed. This game will be importnat for them to reclaim what they have lost and get back on a winning streak. The Colts are also in a tight spot in their division. They currently hold the second spot and have the same amount of victories as first place. If they want to take that top spot, winning is a necessity. Indianapolis is on a three game win streak and will be looking to continue their form. Last week they took down the Texans. Phillip Rivers has been on fire, last week, he threw 228 yards, averaged about eight yards per pass, and threw two touchdowns. Rivers has shown that he can be a problem and the Steelers will have to deal with him. Pittsburgh has been shaky on defense and will need to sharpen up or else they will get exposed by the Indianapolis offense. The Steelers will also need to improve on offense. The Colts have a strong defense and will be able to shut the Steelers down if they do not improve their form. Last week, Ben Rothlisberger was 20/38, threw 170 yards, and only one touchdown. Big Ben will definitely need to sharpen up. This game is paramount for both teams and you can expect each of them to come out ready to play.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Leeds United: What’s Separating Them from Others in 2020 and Beyond?

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By: Luke Moriarty – Staff Writer

Two of the three recently promoted teams in this year’s season of the Premier League have struggled mightily, with both seemingly in quick sand through the first dozen weeks. The two clubs, Fulham FC and West Bromwich Albion have combined for 3 wins on the year and 20 total goals through 14 games in the league.

Nothing is seeming to go right for either newly promoted club, something very similar to the start of Norwich City and Bournemouth’s Premier League relegation season last year. 

Enter the third newly promoted club, Leeds United FC, a squad comfortably above the relegation zone.

Leeds is a club with massive history in the top division. Located in northern England near Manchester, this club has seen 3 Premier League titles, 4 SkyBet Championship titles, 1 FA Cup title, 1 Carabao Cup title, and even was runner-up in the 1973 UEFA Cup. They are bred to win and be in the top division, and their extremely loyal fan base demand that.

Yet even with all that history, the modern era hasn’t treated the club as well. This year marked Leeds’ first time in the top division in 16 years.

So what is keeping them afloat and out of the relegation zone this year?

Right off the bat I would say it’s the Spanish club manager, Marco Bielsa. He is a brilliant mind of the game, coaching many years for Marseille, Lazio, Lille, and even the Argentinian national team. He brings unmatched energy to the squad and has an innate ability to create relationships with his players. 

With this Leeds squad, he has brought some passion into their game. They play a high pace, up-tempo style of play that can really force mistakes from an opposing team. Most of his players are urged to take beneficial risks. Bielsa gets a ton of work from his central defensive midfielders, and loves his wingbacks to take chances up the field.  This year, Leeds has scored the most goals in league history from a newly promoted side after 13 games with 22 goals.

Overall, his players trust him and this allows for spirited performances on matchday, which is a way we’ve seen Leeds play just about every week in the EPL this year.

But credit also goes to the players driving this club. 

Patrick Bamford and Rodrigo provide stability up top in the attacking zone. Bamford, a former  Chelsea product, has a club high 9 goals on the year. Rodrigo, a Spanish striker provides pace and flare offensively, qualities that Bamford lacks. These two provide a perfect one-two combo, and the players put around them have great chemistry with the strikers to feed off their play.

On the wings they have two young speedsters in Brazilian winger Raphina and Manchester City loanee Jack Harrison. They have a combined 9 points for the club in the league this season. A lot of the firepower and initial offense runs through Bielsa’s wingers, providing width and defensive pressure within the team’s formation. 

Defensively they have had their struggles this season, like conceding 6 goals to Man U, and 4 goals to Liverpool, Crystal Palace, and Leicester City. However, they have some bright spots. Central Defensive Midfielder Kalvin Phillips has capped several games for the English National team as well as playing in just about every match for Leeds last season. 20 year old French GK Illan Meslier has played beyond his years at times, really providing a commanding anchor in their defensive scheme. Both young stars price tag’s rise with each game played for Leeds.

So, can they be a REAL threat in the league?

Right now, I do not think so.

Yes, they will stay up in the Premier League for another season, meaning added club revenue and hype. This hopefully can draw in even more talent through the transfer market to build on. It all is really going to rely on how Marco Bielsa and Director of Football Victor Orsa wants to continue to advance the club and its blueprint. I have faith in them taking this club back to the upper tier of the table.

With the exciting and high-tempo play style they use now, Leeds could really try and model themselves as a small-scale Liverpool. 

Look out for the boys in White to stay competitive this season, giving their top form and effort against all the top dogs of English soccer. On top of that, they will become a household name across the globe over the next few years, and maybe their fanbase will achieve modern legitimacy among the likes of rivals Manchester United and Chelsea.

The Premier League needs another fun, ‘Leicester 2016-esque’ club to rise from the ashes in 2021 or beyond, and it could be Leeds.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

NFL Week 15 Preview

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By: Darius Boamah – Staff Writer

Two more weeks to go in the unprecedented 2020 NFL season. This week’s games will be heating up as playoffs are approaching, here are the top matches to look out for…

5. Detroit Lions vs. Tennessee Titans Sun @ 1 PM EST FOX

The Detroit Lions will fly over to Tennessee to take on the Titans this weekend. The Lions are coming off of a close loss to the Greenbay Packers. They are in a very close race for playoffs in their division. Currently, they are sitting in fourth place, however, they are only a game behind second and third place. So, there is a lot of room for movement if they can win the rest of their games. The Titans are at the top of their division and they will be looking to win this game to distance themselves from second place. Tennessee smacked the Jacksonville Jaguars last weekend and their star Derrick Henry showed out. He rushed for 215 yards of 26 carries and scored two touchdowns. The Titans have shown throughout the season that their offense can punish teams. The Lions will have to deal with this and bring out their best defense. On the year, the Lions are allowing teams eight yards per pass and 4.4 yards rushing. This is going to be a very tough game for them, but if they bring out their best defense, they will find success. Detroit can expose Tennessee on the other side of the field. The Titans do not have a great defense and if Matthew Stafford is on his game they can compete. This game will be a battle where the team with the strongest defense will be victorious. It’s a must-win for both Detroit and Tennessee and this game will be fun to watch. 

4. Seattle Seahawks vs. Washington Football Team Sun @ 1 PM EST FOX

The Seattle Seahawks will be on the road this weekend as they travel to the country’s capital to take on the Washington Football Team. Washington is sitting at the top of the NFC East Division and needs to keep winning if they want to hold this spot. Last week, they handled the 49ers and extended their win streak to four games. Seattle is currently tied for first in their division and will be looking to get the top seat for themselves. Last week, the Seahawks torched the Jets, but that was expected. In week 13 however, the Seahawks did not look good and lost to the Giants. Seattle’s season has been up and down. They have shown that they are a formidable team, however, they have dropped games they should have won. Their defense is the largest issue, but as the season has progressed, they have been better. If Washington is to win this game, they will need to show out on offense which is not their strong suit. Washington is averaging only 6.5 yards per pass attempt and just under four yards per carry. Alex Smith proved that he can beat big teams, like the Steelers, and he’ll need to continue to play well. On the other side of the field, Washington’s defense will be hard to break. In the air, they have held teams to 6.7 yards per pass attempt and 4.1 yards on the ground. Seattle has a great offense, but this Washington defense will be hard to break. This game will be very interesting to watch, Washington has an ok offense and a strong defense, and the Seahawks have a strong offense but weaker defense. Both teams will come out fighting because this match is important for each of them. 

3. New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins Sun @ 1 PM EST CBS

The New England Patriots will visit some warmer weather this weekend as they take on the Dolphins in Miami. This is an extremely important game for both teams. They are divisional rivals and can both be in playoff contention. The Dolphins are right in the mix still and the Patriots have the chance to overtake the Dolphins and move higher into contention. Both teams lost last weekend, the Chiefs narrowly beat the Dolphins and the Pats got smacked by the Rams. This game is more important for Miami because they have a better chance of making it to the playoffs and winning these last couple of games is paramount for the postseason. They played very well against the Chiefs. They struggled a bit in the second quarter, but they turned it around in the second half. The Dolphins have proved that they have a strong defense and this will be very important against the Patriots. If Miami can consistently stop them, that will allow their offense to get more opportunities. New England needs to be on their game this weekend. Their offense has struggled immensely this season, and last week they only scored three points against the Rams. Their defense cannot be responsible for carrying the team and in this game, it will be very important for the offense to show up. Against the Rams, the Pats averaged 3.9 yards per pass and 3.7 yards rushing. These numbers need to improve if they want to have success against the Dolphins. This should be an interesting game if both teams are playing at their best abilities. 

2. Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings Sun @ 1 PM EST FOX

The Chicago Bears will fly over to Minnesota to take on the Vikings for the second matchup of this intense rivalry. The NFC North is extremely close, these two rivals are tied for second, and the Lions who sit in the third spot are only a game behind. There is a lot of room for movement in these last weeks of the regular season. It could go any way. To ensure a post-season appearance, a win is a necessity for both of these teams. Chicago is coming off of a big win against the Texans. They played very well on both ends of the field. Chicago running back David Montgomery was on fire last weekend. In that game, he rushed for 113 yards on 11 carries and scored one touchdown. If he continues this form into this weekend’s game, he will give the Vikings trouble. They have a fairly strong defense, however, they can be exposed on the run. Last week Minnesota allowed 4.4 yards per rush and gave up a touchdown on the ground. On the other hand, the Vikings have a very strong offense. Kirk Cousins is averaging 8.2 yards per pass attempt this season. On the ground, Minnesota is averaging 4.9 yards per carry. This will be their strong point against the Bears. Chicago has struggled on the defensive end this season and can be exposed in this game if the Vikings are playing their best. This will be another very intense game as both teams’ playoff lives are at stake. It will be a fun one to watch. 

1. Kansas City Chiefs vs. New Orleans Saints Sun @ 4:25 PM EST CBS

The Kansas City Chiefs will travel down to New Orleans to take on the Saints this weekend. These two teams are not fighting for their playoff spots like the rest of the top games this weekend. However, they are two of the top teams in the NFL this season. So, this promises to be an awesome game to watch. The Chiefs played the Dolphins last weekend and won. In this game they showed the power of both their offense and defense. In one part of the game, Kansas City was on a 28-0 run. The Chiefs averaged 9.6 yards per pass attempt. On defense, they held the Dolphins to 5.4 yards per pass and 3.3 rushing. This team has power on both ends of the field and the Saints will have to work hard to break this. The Saints were upset last weekend by the Eagles so they will definitely be ready to get back on track. The Saints have a strong defense and they can find some success against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City offense. Last week, Mahomes threw three interceptions. Against the Dolphins it was ok, but if they Saints can pick off Mahomes three times, they can turn the game in their favor. The Saints also have a strong offense. Drew Brees is expected to come back this weekend for the game. However, whether he plays or Taysom Hill, the Saints still have a dangerous offense. On the year, they are averaging 7.5 yards in the air and 4.4 rushing. The Chiefs were exposed by the Dolphins late in the game. It is very possible that the Saints can do the same, especially if they are on the game. Kansas City won’t have any room for lapses like this in this weekend’s game. Again, there is not a lot riding on this game, neither of these teams has anything to lose, so they will bring their all and be prepared for a fight.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Bellator Feature: Luke Trainer – Bringing Peace, Love, and Positivity to the World’s Most Brutal Sport

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By: Michael Aleksandrov – Staff Writer

Source: MMAUK.net

Imagine someone who loves surfing, cooking on Instagram Live, cares for foster children, wears shirts that read “SPREAD LOVE”, knows all the words to The Notebook, and enjoys long walks on the beach. Now imagine that man is also a 6-foot-6, 205 lb athlete who punches people in the face for a living. That man is Luke Trainer, an undefeated Bellator fighter properly nicknamed “The Gent”. 

There is much to like about Trainer, an English native, including his road to becoming a professional fighter. He grew up in a house where his Army veteran father had a passion for boxing. However, Trainer’s love for fighting came from watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and other action cartoons as a child. 

“I always loved the idea of being a ninja, and you can’t be a turtle,” Trainer said. 

It was a torn ligament suffered playing rugby at 18 that truly helped Trainer find his future career path. During his rehabilitation, he found a Jiu-Jitsu class and quickly fell in love with the sport. He eventually found his way onto the amateur MMA circuit and compiled a 6-1 record. 

As a pro, Trainer is flawless through 4 fights. His last victory came at quick dispatch via ground and pound against Alex O’Toole at Bellator Euro Series 8. His goals are simple: win the Bellator light heavyweight title. Then, climb a division and win another title. Trainer humbly admits he needs to get his feet wet a little more in the Bellator waters before getting a shot at the strap. Despite limitations English COVID restrictions have placed on training, The Gent has managed to stay in shape and is primed and ready for another bout. 

Source: MMAJunkie.com

Fighting may be Trainer’s main passion, he also has a diverse range of hobbies and interests. He hosts a regular cooking show on his Instagram Live (@lukethegent) called “Cooking With The Gent”. Trainer brings an upbeat attitude, jokes, and close fan interaction to each episode. He can cook steak for one or hamburgers for half a dozen. Trainer considers himself “Gordon Ramsay without all the swear words”. Every show is different but guaranteed to put a smile on your face. 

Trainer and his parents also care for foster children, who can be seen in his Cooking with The Gent episodes and are often the recipients of his delicious meals. He sees himself as a role model to the foster kids and is rarely seen trash-talking or calling other fighters out.  It was this that caught the attention of one of MMA’s biggest names in Ariel Helwani, who commented on the 24-year-old’s positive attitude. Trainer is able to differentiate himself in the octagon from himself outside of that and truly considers the children he works with to be his purpose in life. 

It’s difficult to find fighters like Luke Trainer in today’s social media-driven world. The Gent provides respect, good manners, and positivity in and out of the octagon while continuing to rise up in the ranks of professional fighting. His future and the future he provides for foster children are nothing but bright and filled with potential. 

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Bellator Feature: Dalton Rosta, One of MMA’s Brightest Young Talents

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By: Michael Aleksandrov – Staff Writer

Source: Lucas Noonan

Dalton Rosta grew up in Newcastle, PA and his love for contact sports began at an early age. He wrestled in high school and eventually took a scholarship at Seton Hall University. After his collegiate career came to an end, Rosta got into the amateur fighting circuits in Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. 

He went undefeated in fights ranging from county fair racetracks to event centers. In total, he amassed a 7-0 record in fights that often didn’t go past 5 minutes.  This led to being discovered by Bellator, who quickly signed the 6-foot, 185-lb middleweight. 

The streak continued into Bellator quite well. He is undefeated through 4 professional bouts, the last being a dominant performance on Bellator 250’s main card that earned him a unanimous decision. While he has yet to get a KO in a pro fight, he hits hard and is able to outclass his opponent on the ground, in the clinch, and in stand-up. 

The 24-year-old is purely a fighter. Rosta has previously stated he doesn’t like touching gloves before matches to show he’s just there to go in and dominate. While Rosta is active on social media, he doesn’t flaunt or get too cocky on any of his platforms. He has been a vocal critic of Dillon Danis, a fellow Bellator fighter. Rosta stated he feels that Danis calls out fighters he realistically doesn’t have the ability to even get a match against as a show for social media.

Source: CageSide Press

Rosta earned his nickname of Hercules in a very unique way. His powerful hits despite intense rounds of sparring drew a crowd at his old gym. One of those people in the audience happened to be Muhammad Ali’s sparring partner. The man who once fought against The Great One himself dubbed Rosta “Hercules” for his power and physical appearance.  

It was a combination of his athleticism and record in MMA that got him a call from American Top Team (ATT), one of the most esteemed MMA training centers in the world. He made the trip from Pennsylvania to Coconut Creek, Florida for his tryout. After a few days of training, ATT gave him a spot and it has become his new home for honing his craft. 

While it is unclear when Rosta will fight next, one thing is for certain: he is the real deal. Rosta has all the tools to become a great fighter and this is just the beginning. 

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Way Too Early Look at Premier League Relegation & Promotion

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By: Luke Moriarty – Staff Writer

In honor of the typical tradition of WAY too early predictions, I’m going to give you my own super early prediction of what clubs are going to be Promoted and Relegated to and from the Premier League. 

Promotion

Norwich City FC

Following a very shaky campaign resulting in relegation from the Premier League last season, the Canaries look revamped and back on track for another promotion year. “Farkeball”, a drop back defense with offense initiating from the back line, a system implemented by German manager Daniel Farke has looked much better in the Championship. Players like Mario Vrancic and Emi Buendia are taking advantage, and have combined for 7 goals. Finnish striker Teemu Pukki remains the club’s top scorer with 9 goals. Pukki has 50 goals in 100 career games for the Yellows. Norwich has also developed their own young talent like Josh Martin and Adam Uche Idah both logging substantial minutes for the club. All things are looking good for the boys in Green and Yellow, and if they can continue dominance in the Championship, then we will see them next year in the EPL.

AFC Bournemouth

Another team that has bounced back following relegation from the Premier League, Bournemouth appears much more dangerous in 2020/2021. The club has a substantial amount of cash on their hands following the transfer of Centerback Nathan Ake to English giant Manchester City for 41 million British pounds, along with the shipment of striker Callum Wilson to Newcastle United for 20 million pounds. The crucial return of players like Dominic Solanke 8 goals, Arnaut Danjuma 5 goals, and Junior Stanislas 5 goals has made this club look elite in the Championship. Likewise with Norwich, if the Cherries do their job and push through the season with a consistency in high level of quality play then we should see them back in the Premier League next season.

Swansea City AFC

The third and final team, one who would be promoted through the playoff, could be Swansea City. A club that hasn’t been in the top division since 2018, they are looking poised to make a re-entry into the Top Tier. One of the top defensive teams in English Football, with the least goals allowed 10. They also have the most clean sheets in the Championship with 10. Yet, it has not been just their defense. Ghana International striker Andre Ayew is the club’s top scorer with 7 goals, and Brighton & Hove Albion loanee Viktor Gyokeres has helped up top offensively. This is a scrappy club, and if they qualify for the playoff in 2021, I think they have a major shot at sealing the deal back to the Premier League.

Relegation

Sheffield United

Sheffield seemed to have a miracle season in the Premier Lague last year, finishing 9th in the table with 54 points. However, this season has been MUCH different. Sheffield currently have 1 point in the Premier League with a goal differential of -16. The expensive signing of young Liverpool product Rhian Brewster hasn’t scored yet for the club. The sturdy defense from last year has seemed to have faded away, as the club is yet to record a clean sheet. Chelsea loan Ethan Ampadu has been the one brightspot defensively, but the loss of Manchester United GK Dean Henderson on loan in 2019/20 has been glaring when watching this team. I don’t think Aaron Ramsdale in net and Ollie McBurnie & Davy McGoldrick up top can keep this team afloat.  – Sheffield United are the only club of all 92 EFL Teams without a win.

Burnley FC

*Extremely aggressive yawn*, I get bored just reading this club’s name. Burnley was another club who had a surprisingly good finish in the table last season ending in 10th, tied with aforementioned  Sheffield United at 54 points. And just like Sheffield’s case, this season has been much different for the Clarets. Burnley currently has 9 points following a win against Arsenal, yet they are still at the top of the relegation zone. They only have one win which came in a 1-0 fixture against a banged up Crystal Palace squad. The club is very monotonous and quite awful to watch play. Chris Wood is the leading scorer with just 2 goals, and through 10 EPL games, just 2 total assists have been recorded. Dwight McNeil has severely underperformed on the left-wing spot. It is just all around not fluid play. They look like the infamously boring Stoke City teams from 5 or so years ago, and there will be a lot of happy fans if this boring team is relegated. 

West Bromwich Albion
Following an electric 2nd place finish in last year’s EFL Championship table, West Bromwich have struggled mightily in their first season in the Premier League since 2017/18. The Baggies currently have 6 points, tied with Burnley for second to last place in the League. They are tied with Sheffield for the worst goal differential in the league at -16. Even though additions like midfielder Connor Gallagher and the signing of Brazilian forward Matheus Periera occurred in an effort to boost this club’s threat, it simply hasn’t panned out. Nigerian Centerback Semi Ajayi is seemingly holding it down on the defensive side alone, and Irish striker Callum Robinson has shouldered the scoring with a lowly 2 goals. It also doesn’t help having fellow Birminghamshire club, Aston Villa, dominating the scene in the EPL this year. Games in the Hawthornes will likely be played among the Championship next year, but I like this club’s energy.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

NFL Week 14 Preview

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By: Darius Boamah – Staff Writer

Week 14 of the NFL is coming up. Here are the top games of the week.

5. Washington Football Team vs. San Francisco 49ers Sun @ 4:25 PM FOX

The Washington Football team will travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers this Sunday. Washington is coming off of a huge win after beating the only undefeated team in the league, the Steelers. They will be looking to continue their run into this week, especially because they are in a tight race for playoffs in their division. On the other hand, the 49ers are coming off of a loss to the Bills. The Niners are currently sitting in last place in their division. However, they do have the ability to move up within these last four game days. San Francisco will have to bring out their strongest offense this weekend. Last week, Washington showed the power of their defense, they held Big Ben to under six yards per pass and stopped the rush, only allowing 1.5 yards per carry. They also picked up an interception late in the game. The Steelers do not have an amazing offense, however, the Niners will still need to bring their game because they also do not have a great offense. They have struggled with the quarterback position this season and are averaging about eight yards per pass. San Francisco does excel more on the other end of the field. Their defense is strong, however, they will be going up against a Washington offense that just broke one of the best defenses in the league. This game is crucial for both teams as they will be looking to get a better position in their respective conferences. 

4. Minnesota Vikings vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sun @ 1 PM FOX

The Minnesota Vikings take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday. The Bucs are coming off of a bye week so they will be well rested for this game. The Vikings are coming off of a close win against the 1-11 Jaguars. Minnesota is in a very tough spot right now. In their division, they are sitting in second place with only a one game advantage over third and fourth place. They need to win all of their games if they want to make it through to the playoffs. Tampa Bay on the other hand is sitting comfortably in second place in their division. This game won’t be as important for them, but you can still expect Brady and co. to come out ready to win. Before their bye week, the Bucs narrowly lost to the Chiefs, 27-24. In that game both their offense and defense looked solid. Brady threw for 345 yards and three touchdowns. The defense held the Chiefs to 4.4 yards on the ground but were exposed more in the air. The Vikings are also very solid on each end of the field. On the season, they are averaging 8.5 yards per pass attempt and just under 5 yards per rush attempt. This will make the game very close and it will come down to who can break the defense. As stated before, this is a big game for the Vikings and they need a win, so they will come ready to take down the Bucs. 

3. Indianapolis Colts vs. Las Vegas Raiders Sun @ 4:05 PM CBS

The Indianapolis Colts will fly over to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders this Sunday. The Colts are coming off of a win against the Texans and they currently hold the second spot in their division. However, they have the same record as the Titans, who are sitting above them, so if they can continue winning they may eventually take the top spot. The Raiders are coming off a very close win against the Jets, they won in the last couple seconds of play. They also hold the second spot in their division. Both divisions that these two teams are in are not very competitive, however, Indianapolis has the opportunity to take that top spot, so this game will still be intense. On the year, the Colts have been very good. Defense is their strongest attribute and they’ve shown that throughout the season. The Raiders have a fairly strong offense under Derek Carr, however, they will need to work much harder if they want to beat this Colts defense. Last weekend, Las Vegas struggled to complete passes, Carr was 28/47. They also struggled with their run game. They will need to turn this around if they want to have success against Indianapolis. The Colts have a strong defense and they will be hard to break. On the other end, the Colts are also looking strong. Phillip Rivers has been connecting with his receivers and running back Jonothan Taylor has been very consistent. This game will be interesting to watch as both teams have, for the most part, solidified their spots into the playoffs. 

2. Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns Mon @ 8:15 PM ESPN

In a highly competitive AFC North conference match, the Baltimore Ravens travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns. The Ravens have been shaky these past couple of weeks but were able to get back on course after a win against the Cowboys on Tuesday. On the other side, the Browns have excelled and are on a four game win streak. This game is extremely important for each of these teams. Currently, the Browns have the second spot in the division, their record 9-3. The Ravens are right behind them in third place, their record 7-5. There are four game days left in the season, the Browns need to win every game if they want to ensure a spot in the playoffs, and the Ravens need to win every game if they want a chance to make the playoffs. Last weekend, the Browns torched the Titans. Baker Mayfield threw for 334 yards, about 10 yards per pass attempt, and four touchdowns, probably his best game of the season. The Browns need to carry this energy into their matchup this week. On the other end of the field, they did allow the Titans a lot of points. They kept Derrick Henry quiet, however, Ryan Tannehill threw all over them, 389 yards, 8.6 yards per attempt, and three touchdowns. Baltimore has a stronger defense compared to the Titans and they will need to show out to stop Mayfield. On the year, they have held teams to about six yards per pass attempt and 4.4 yards per carry. Baltimore has a very strong offense, especially their run game. Cleveland did a good job in stopping the run last week and they will need to continue that strength this weekend. This will be a great game to watch, both teams are going to be fighting for a win and it will be an intense match. 

1. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Buffalo Bills Sun @ 8:20 PM NBC

The no longer undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers will fly over to Buffalo to play the Bills. Pittsburgh is coming off a massive upset loss to the Washington Football Team and they will be looking to get their season back on track this weekend. This will be no easy game for the Steelers, the Bills have been very strong this season and are currently on a two game win streak. So far this season, Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen has been very solid, averaging about 311 yards per game, eight yards per pass, and currently has thrown 26 touchdowns. Their defense has also been strong this season and they will need to keep it up this weekend. Washington beat the Steelers because of their defense, the Bills will need to mirror this if they want to have success. Pittsburgh’s offense is their weak point and the Bills can exploit them if they play good defense. On the year, the Steelers are only averaging 6.4 yards per pass attempt and 3.7 yards per carry. The other end of the field is a different story. The Steelers have had success this season because their defense is so good. This year, their opponents have a 29% fourth down completion rate. Pittsburgh’s defense makes quick work of other teams’ offenses and allows their offense to get lots of chances to score points. This week they will be challenged by the Bills who have one of the strongest offenses in the league. This game will be very fun to watch especially since neither of these teams has anything to lose.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Aaron Rodgers’ Case for MVP

Brought to you by…

By: Justin Rivers

With four weeks remaining in the season, the race for the AP NFL Most Valuable Player award has become a two-man slugfest between Patrick “Patrick Price” Mahomes and Aaron “Rodgers Rate” Rodgers. With how great Rodgers has been the last three weeks, if he’s not already the MVP front-runner, then he must be nipping at Mahomes’ heals. In the last three weeks, Aaron Rodgers has used a close, 3-point overtime loss against a league-best defense in the Colts, a bludgeoning of the Bears, and a clinic of the Eagles to not only re-introduce himself as one of the league’s top signal callers, but also to stake his claim to being a top contender for MVP – if not the front-runner. 

In week 11, the Packers were rolling in the first half of their game against the Colts and took a 28-14 lead into halftime. Through two quarters, Rodgers was wheeling and dealing, tossing three first-half touchdowns; however, sh*t began to hit the fan in the second half as the Colts scored 17 straight points to begin the next half. Rodgers nearly saved the day in regulation with a potential game-winning march sparked by a 47-yard bomb to Marquez Valdez-Scantling in the fourth quarter, but the game would eventually go to overtime, where a game-deciding fumble by Marquez Valdez-Scantling in Green Bay territory would lead to a Colts game-winning field goal three plays later. On the day, Rodgers threw for 311 yards and three touchdowns. Plus, he was certainly in position to win the game in overtime; however, Valdez-Scantling and his buttery, insecure mitts put a damper on that.

Source: USA TODAY Sports

The following week, the Packers took on the rival Bears in a NFC North showdown, in which the Rodgers-led Green Bay offense just teed off on the allegedly solid Chicago defense. Rodgers threw four touchdowns as the Packers easily rolled to a 41-25 victory. On their first series, Rodgers connected with his favorite target, Davante Adams, on a 12-yard strike for the first score of the game that was highlighted by Adam’s fresh celly.

Source: GIPHY

With Green Bay scoring a touchdown on each of its first three possessions, the game quickly became as uncompetitive as I imagine the Ohio State-Michigan football game would’ve been this weekend. At one point in the game, the Packers were leading 41-10. 

Source: USA TODAY Sports

Nevertheless, Rodgers looked incredible. Although he completed 21 passes for only 211 yard, Rodgers accounted for four touchdown passes to four different receivers and was not sacked once. He was money both under pressure and on third and fourth down, completing eight of nine passes and producing seven first downs on third and fourth down. After Green Bay blew a 14-point halftime lead the week prior, Rodgers came out firing against Chicago and not only improved to 20-5 versus the Bears in his career, but also became the eleventh player in NFL history with at least 50,000 career passing yards. 

Last Sunday, Rodgers was lights out against the Eagles, throwing for 295 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions in a 30-16 victory. Green Bay was able to withstand a late, fourth quarter rally from a Jalen Hurts-led Philly team that cut the Packers lead from 30-3 to 30-16. 

Source: USA TODAY Sports

Further increasing his NFL passing touchdowns lead this season, Rodgers connected with Davante Adams for Adam’s second touchdown of the night in the third quarter to reach the 400 career passing touchdown milestone. The only other players with at 400 career passing touchdowns are Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, and Phillip Rivers; however, Rodgers got to the milestone faster than any of the aforementioned players. 

While Aaron Rodgers has certainly accomplished a couple milestones these past few weeks, he has been simultaneously strengthening his case for MVP, and here’s how Rodgers is at least neck-and-neck with Mahomes for the AP NFL Most Valuable Player award.

Source: GIPHY

Firstly, let’s look at his team. It is no secret that Aaron Rodgers is widely known for doing the most with the least. This season, Green Bay’s defense has occasionally been decent; however, they are most often bad. Moreover, Rodgers only has one consistent, reliable receiver to which to throw the ball in Davante Adams. In a draft littered with talented receivers, the team opted to draft a quarterback in the first round and not draft a single receiver, passing up on rockstars like Justin Jefferson, Tee Higgins, and Chase Claypool in the process. 

In spite of the dearth of talent with which Rodgers is surrounded, the Packers are 9-3 and first in the NFC North with a chance at the top seed in the conference – thanks in large part to Rodgers’ MVP-calibre play. Through 12 games, Green Bay boasts a league-best 31.6 points per game. Plus, they are 5-2 since their stinker in Tampa Bay with both losses being by six points or less.

This season, the 37-year-old Rodgers must’ve downed a couple fingers from the fountain of youth, because he has been a “BAAAAD MAN”! He has thrown for 3,395 yards and 36 touchdowns against just four interceptions. Going into week 14, he leads the league in passing touchdowns and is five touchdowns clear of fellow MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes. He has a league-best passer rating. Furthermore, he’s second in total quarterback rating and top-10 in passing yards per game, passing yards, and completions. 

Source: GIPHY

Rodgers most definitely has a solid shot at MVP. Although Mahomes has thrown two fewer interceptions, and his team has a better record, he undoubtedly benefits from his team’s respectable defense and the extremely deep group of receiving weapons at his disposal. Mahomes wasn’t forced to survive without his top weapon like Rodgers had to in the games Davante Adams missed this season. 

Moreover, no player has won MVP within two seasons of having already won the award since Peyton Manning went back-to-back over a decade ago. As such, recency bias could be working against Mahomes and in favor of Rodgers. Aaron Rodgers has arguably been better this season than either of his two MVP seasons in 2011 and 2014. With four games remaining, he could also top his previous career-high in single-season touchdown passes from 2011. He’s also on track to throw for 40-plus passing touchdowns for the third time in his career. Plus, unless Mahomes throws fifty touchdowns again or finishes with statistics lightyears ahead of the next quarterback, it’s not outside the realm of possible belief that Rodgers could snag the award – especially with how much friendlier the Packers’ remaining schedule is compared to that of the Chiefs. So, stay tuned and check out our case for Patrick Mahomes as MVP here.

Source: GIPHY

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Patrick Mahomes’ Case for MVP

Brought to you by…

By: Justin Rivers

Simply stated, Showtime is SHOWTIME! With pedestrian showings by Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson the last three weeks, the MVP race has dwindled to a two-man competition between Aaron “Rodgers Rate” Rodgers and Patrick “Patrick Price” Mahomes. In those same three weeks, the reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes has since used an epic back-and-forth Sunday Night Football matchup against the Raiders, a not so competitive outing versus the Bucs, and a clutch second-half rally against the Broncos to re-introduce himself as not only the surest of sure things in football, but also the frontrunner for the AP NFL Most Valuable Player award. 

Two weeks ago, Jon Gruden and the Las Vegas Raiders frankly did just about everything right. They came into that contest ready to go blow for blow with the defending Super Bowl champs. And. They. Did. As the Raiders displayed earlier this season in Arrowhead Stadium, they’re equipped to match Kansas City’s explosiveness on offense, and they’re more than willing to exchange body blows and get into a shootout. Like the Chiefs have Travis Kelce, the Raiders have their own freak at tight end in Darren Waller. Like the Chiefs have Tyreek Hill, the Raiders have their own speedster in Henry Ruggs. Their defense even forced a turnover, picking off Patrick Mahomes. Gruden’s team truly did everything right …. EXCEPT, they left a minute and forty-five seconds on the game clock.

Source: Getty Images

With under two minutes left in regulation and 75 yards to the end zone, the Chiefs were down 31-28 with an opportunity to take the lead. And just like that, “Showtime” Mahomes predictably marched his team down the field and delivered a go-ahead touchdown pass to his favorite target, Travis Kelce, with twenty-two seconds left on the game clock. The score turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.

Source: Associated Press

Two Sundays ago, Mahomes faced off against the GOAT incarnate in Tom Brady. Albeit that game ended in a 27-24 Chiefs win, the Chiefs-Bucs game wasn’t a contest. In the first quarter, Kansas City came out and blitzed Tampa Bay to the tone of a 17-0 deficit at the end of the period. The Mahomes-Hill connection just took the Buccaneers out back and utterly beat the snot out of them. While continuing to traumatize and completely dominate the Bucs defense and poor Carlton Davis, Hill was even seen on the sideline taking a fake phone call and telling Bucs fans that help is on the way. It was that bad. In the first quarter alone, Tyreek Hill had seven catches for 203 yards and two touchdowns.

Source: GIPHY

At halftime, the Chiefs led 20-7, and the Bucs were fortunate Andy Reid and the gang were merciful. Mahomes had 219 yards in the first quarter. Through two quarters, he had 359 yards and two touchdowns. He threw for more yards than the Bucs had total offense. He threw for more yards in one half than Lamar Jackson, last year’s MVP, has had in total yards (rushing + passing) in any game this season. By the time Sunday’s game ended, Patrick Mahomes two main targets, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, were leading the league in receiving yards! In the best performance of his MVP-calibre campaign thus far, Mahomes set season highs in completions, attempts, and passing yards, while tossing three touchdowns.

Source: USA Today

Last Sunday, the Chiefs rallied from a 10-9 halftime deficit to down a Broncos team that had an actual quarterback under center – sorry Kendall Hinton. Nevertheless, Mahomes was money, accounting for his eighth 300+-yard passing game of the season.

Source: Getty Images

After taking the lead early in the third quarter, Mahomes responded to the second Lock-Patrick touchdown with a 15-yard scoring dime to Travis Kelce as a defender was hanging from his jersey. Albeit nobody believed the Broncos were going to win – besides maybe the residents of the Mile High City, Mahomes and the Chiefs appeared to escape with a win in a game where touchdowns appeared hard to come by for their offense.

In case you need more convincing, allow me to further explain the manner in which Patrick Mahomes is the MVP coming out of Week 13. 

Firstly, let’s look at his team. Led by the best player in football, the Kansas City Chiefs are the best team in football. The Mahomes-led Chiefs are 2nd in offensive points per game going into week 14 putting up about 31 points a game. Through 12 games, they are 11-1 and tied with suspect-looking and injury-prone Steelers for the best record in the NFL and the top-seed in the AFC. With a 6-0 record away from Arrowhead, they are utter road warriors. Their only loss was a 40-32 defeat suffered against the Raiders in Week 5; however, by beating Las Vegas two weeks ago, they avenged that loss.

This season, Patrick Mahomes has been nothing short of amazing, too. He has thrown 31 touchdowns against only 2 interceptions. Plus, both of his interceptions came in the division against the Raiders. If the season ended today, his TD/INT ratio of 15.5 would be the best in NFL history. With four games remaining, it’s not outside the realm of possible belief that Mahomes breaks Tom Brady’s all-time single-season record of 14, which he set in 2017 when he threw 28 touchdowns against 2 interceptions, by an even larger margin. 

Going into Week 14, Patrick Mahomes leads the league in passing yards, having yet thrown for 3,815 yards. He boasts a league-best passing yards per game. Furthermore, he’s 4th in passing attempts, 2nd in completions, 3rd in passing touchdowns, 1st in total offense, and he has a league-best total quarterback rating. Sure, he may not have another fifty-touchdown season like he had when he previously won MVP; however, he can be historic and dominant in other fashions – like leading his team to a better record than the one they had in 2018 and setting a new all-time single-season TD/INT ratio mark in the process.

This guy is phenomenal. In 2018, he won the AP NFL Most Valuable Player award. Last season, he was awarded Super Bowl MVP. It’s simple. In 2020, he’s MVP. So, So, stay tuned and check out our case for Aaron Rodgers as MVP here.

GIPHY

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A Look Back on 2020 for the MLS

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By Luke Moriarty

2020 has been a tough year for all of us.

However, I am constantly reminded to look for silver linings in everything. One of these has been the 2020 season for Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer (MLS) has been seen as background noise in American sports, something that just appears on the statline ticker on ESPN. Given, most American soccer fans have loyalty to Premier League, Bundesliga, or even Serie A clubs, it has been tough for MLS to make its mark. 

2020 has been different.

The start to the MLS season was 3 games in when the COVID-19 outbreak struck. As all sports did, all players went into isolation at home and there was no training for any teams. Once the summertime came around, MLS commissioner Don Garber decided to join in on the NBA’s decision with the ‘bubble’ model down in sunny Orlando, Florida. Garber organized the “MLS is Back” Tournament, a non-regular season tournament that strictly provided draft incentive and a very big check given to the winning club. Also, it was to be aired on Fox Sports and ESPN. That was plenty incentive for the players to put on a show and provide a very exciting tournament. And they did just that, ending with championship game hero Sergio Blanco and the well rounded Portland Timbers as champions.

Young stars like Philadelphia Union/Team USA midfielder Brendan Aaronson and Argentinian winger on loan, Chrisitan Pavon made the most of the spotlight and produced countless highlights in the tournament. And this is just to name a few, but there was plenty of other talent strutting their skills on the National stage.

This tournament got eyes on the product, and provided excitement and energy around the MLS. 

As the 2020 fall regular season approached, we saw the league get even more exciting. Aged European superstars like the Frenchmen Blaise Matuidi and Argentine Gonzalo Higuain both transferred to the new intrigue of Inter Miami FC for a combined total of around thirty million dollars, as well as the extension of the inaugural season for Orlando City FC of former Manchester United and Portuguese National Team legend, Nani. Both Matuidi and Higuain transferred from the legendary Italian club, and current home of Christiano Ronaldo, Juventes. On top of that, clubs added on impressive loan players from European clubs like Jamiro Monteiro (PHI) from the French Ligue 1 side FC Metz, Jhonder Cadiz (NSH) from Portuguese club Benefica, and Gadi Kinda (KC) from Beitar Jerusalem. 

This provided extra flavor for the 2020 season and it was very entertaining.

The stars who made their names known over the summer continued to dominate the league this fall. Uruguayan superstar Diego Rossi of LAFC won the Golden Boot with 16 goals, beating out Gyasi Zardes of Columbus Crew by a goal. South American studs like Brazilian Sergio Santos (PHI), Peruvian Raul Ruidiaz (SEA), and Argentine Diego Valeri (POR) continued to prove why the South American pipeline to the MLS stays so strong and productive. However, we saw players from new global soccer hotbeds make an impact as well. Slovenian striker, Robert Beric had 12 goals for Chicago FC. Danish winger Younes Namli had one of the highest average player ratings for Colorado Rapids with a 7.35.

This is an exciting trend for MLS, and we can partially thank Zlatan Ibrahimovic for creating the trend of bigtime names wanting to experiment playing in the league with his stunt in 2018 with LA Galaxy.

Finally, we have seen a growth in support and funding of MLS Academy and Youth Development Programs. One of the major factors that has held MLS and Team USA back is a lack of talent. Thankfully that is no longer, and the rise of young MLS homebred players is taking the league by storm. Whether it be former Vancouver Whitecaps FC and current Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies, or the new young craze of a midfielder Gianluca Busio for Sporting KC, the talent is starting to be produced in-house. 

And I know, obviously the MLS will always struggle to compete with the NFL, NBA, NHL, or even the dying MLB.

BUT, it can still grow massively within the United States, and if this young potential and new additions of European stars can continue to occur, we could be in for a major treat.

So congrats on a Great season, MLS. I appreciate the willingness to continue to adapt to the growing fanbase and professional needs. 

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Which College Football Coaches are on the Hottest Hot Seat?

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By: Justin Rivers

In a COVID-19-plagued college football season, where we are worried about players testing positive for the coronavirus, we unfortunately have been subjected to numerous programs testing positive for SUCK. Frankly, putridity appears to be contagious this season in college football, and the coaching carousel is spinning. In the aftermath of South Carolina – the other USC – dismissing head football coach Will Muschamp and Vanderbilt relieving head football coach Derek Mason of his duties, it felt only right to dedicate an article to coaches whose seats ought to be so hot that their asses are a multiple-alarm blaze. As such, here are my picks for the hottest coaching hot seats in college football and the coaches who should be next to ride the coaching carousel. 

Chip Kelly – UCLA

Source: B/R

For starters, I truly don’t understand the insane dearth of brain cells that someone needs to lack in order to believe that hiring a loser will result in winning. I just cannot explain it. 

Nevertheless, it’s not outside the realm of belief that the worst professional decision Chip Kelly ever made was leaving Oregon. Sure, he was 2-2 in Bowl Games, but he posted an impressive 46-7 record during his four-season stint in Eugene. Nowadays, if you can win at a .868 clip at a basketball school, then you’d think that your job security must be more secure than the Constitution in National Treasure. (Yes, Oregon is a basketball school. Frankly, the Pac-12 is a basketball conference, too.) Plus, Kelly turned Marcus Mariota into a Heisman Trophy winner. In the NFL, he even made Nick Foles look like a stud for a season.

After four seasons in the NFL (three seasons with the Eagles and a 2-14 season with the Niners) that can frankly be described as the pile of poo emoji, Kelly is currently going on year three with the Bruins. In comparison to the Jim Mora-era that consisted of four Bowl Games and four winning seasons, Chip Kelly and the Bruins STINK! Under Kelly, they’ve gotten exceedingly worse. Granted, they beat their crosstown rival USC in his first season; however, USC stunk that year, too. Some people say that it’s now or never for the Chip Kelly experiment, but, when you’ve been winning games at a .321 clip while the last guy was winning nine-plus games and getting to Bowl Games through two seasons, I say the Chip Kelly-era shouldn’t have ever started. 

Jim Harbaugh – Michigan

Source: USA Today

The Jim Harbaugh experience in Michigan hasn’t been that bad, right? Until this season, the Wolverines at least won games. After all, the program has a .690 winning percentage; however, when you’re coaching a team supported by absurdly delusional and irrational fans, then people are going to come for your job when you cannot win the conference – let alone the most important game of the season against Ohio State. Hell, he only beats their other rival, Michigan State, half the time. Currently, he’s 3-3 versus the Spartans and 0-5 against the Buckeyes. Moreover, he’s only 1-6 at home against the Wolverines’ rivals. 

To add insult to injury, Harbaugh had previously been touted based on his coaching successes with Andrew Luck at Stanford and a combination of Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick with the San Francisco 49ers. With the Wolverines, the one position that has glowingly underwhelmed during his tenure has been that of the signal caller. His quarterbacks have either been average or simply bad. Plus, he has had enough time to try and recruit a decent one, too. 

This season, the Wolverines have fallen off a cliff. No! Actually, they’ve been kicked off a cliff like Gerard Butler was Spartan kicking foreign people in 300. You know the one ….

Source: GIPHY

Including losses to a 1-5 Penn State squad and a 2-3 Michigan State team, they are currently 2-4. These losses are glaring. Once the Wolverines inevitably get thumped by the Buckeyes for the sixth straight season, I wouldn’t be surprised if Harbaugh got canned the next day. Sometimes, getting an alum to be your coach isn’t the surefire successful move, and this season has the makings of being the straw that finally broke the camel’s back in Ann Arbor.

Scott Frost – Nebraska

Source: SI

For someone who was so outspoken about wanting to play a season and threatening to leave the conference, Scott Frost and the Cornhuskers certainly haven’t looked like a team that should’ve wanted a season. They’re terrible. Currently, they boast a pitiful 1-4 record and are last in their division. Their only win came against a woeful Penn State team that’s currently 1-5. Honestly, this is just another example of mistakenly getting an alum to be your coach – except to a much worse degree. 

During his tenure in Lincoln, the Cornhuskers have an unimpressive 10-19 record, a .345 winning percentage, and neither a bowl game nor a winning season of which to speak. Honestly, this guy shouldn’t have left UCF. At least, he won games there, and the winters were surely better. This season, they’ve yet been pummeled by Ohio State in the opener and curb stomped by a 2-3 Illinois team. If you want to keep your job, then at least beat the bad teams; however, as coach of the Cornhuskers, Frost clearly has had a hard time beating anyone, let alone the bad teams. I imagine it’s cold in Nebraska. At least, the cold weather coincides with the university’s football program being stuck in a perpetual igloo of sorrows with Scott Frost at the helm.

Kevin Sumlin – Arizona

Source: USA Today

As long as you aren’t getting taken out behind the woodshed and getting the breaks beaten off of you week in, week out, I would say that being a football coach at a basketball school is one of the safest, most secure jobs in America. But. DAMN! Kevin Sumlin is in the midst of his third year in Tucson, and, with how things have gone, you would frankly forget that he used to be a winning coach at Texas A&M. With how laughably bad the Wildcats have been, it’s shocking that Sumlin won seven-plus games every season in the SEC.

In 2018, Arizona’s football team went 5-7. In 2019, they managed to regress, going 4-8; however, to make matters even more horrendous, they ended that season on a seven-game losing streak after starting 4-1 and winning four consecutive games. That losing steak has yet to end. This season, they are currently off to a 0-3 start . So, if you’re doing the math at home, then you’ll realize that Sumlin and the program are in the middle of a ten-game losing streak. In other words, THEY STINK! You must have the strongest stomach on earth to be able to stomach this much losing – especially when the last guy, Rich Rodriguez, won three Bowl Games and had only a single losing season. As such, it certainly isn’t outside the realm of belief that Sumlin’s seat, as coach of the Wildcats, should be hot as hell.

So, what do you think? Who’s seat should be hottest? Is there a coach that you believe should’ve made the list? If it’s Les Miles, then I don’t know what to tell you. Before Les arrived at the University of Kansas, the football team sucked. Now? They suck. So, nothing’s changed. And – frankly, Kansas’ fans already weren’t expecting much out of their football team. They probably only watch their basketball team anyways. Nevertheless, still hit us back at the Blitz with your picks for coaches who should be next to ride on the coaching carousel!

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Top Moves of 2020 NBA Free Agency Thus Far

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By: Justin Rivers

Along with the draft, free agency is one of most anticipated and most entertaining parts of the NBA’s off-season; however, with 2020 zapping our fun and the lack of a robust free-agent market filled with top-notch talent, this free-agency period has thus far lacked the fireworks and blockbuster moves we otherwise immediately enjoyed last summer. Nevertheless, there have yet been solid, roster-bolstering moves – especially by contending teams – that could pay dividends as soon as opening night. So, in no particular order, here are my top free-agent moves of the NBA off-season thus far.

Jayson Tatum agrees to five-year, $195 million max rookie extension with Celtics

This was a no-brainer. Jayson Tatum, the third overall pick in 2017, has been nothing short of sensational since arriving in Boston. Following Kyrie Irving’s departure to Brooklyn, Tatum blossomed into a number one option on offense. Last season, he averaged a career-high 23.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game en route to his first All Star nod and an All-NBA third team selection. While leading the Cs to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in the last four seasons, he also posted career highs in steals and blocks and shot 40.3% from 3-point range. In Boston, the rise of Tatum and Jaylen Brown made Gordon Hayward’s disappointing tenure bearable, and it made Hayward expendable. The Duke alum has undoubtedly established himself as the go-to superstar for the Celtics of the future.

Donovan Mitchell agrees to five-year, $195 million max rookie extension with Jazz

Another member of the 2017 NBA Draft class, Donovan Mitchell took the league by storm his rookie season and nearly won Rookie of the Year in the process. As the thirteenth overall pick, Mitchell was the steal of the draft. Since his rookie campaign, he has developed into Utah’s young superstar. Last season, he made his first All Star team. Moreover, he averaged a career-high 24.0 points per game and career highs in rebounds, assists, and 3-point percentage. With Utah historically not being much of a free-agent destination, it was important to lock up Mitchell for the long term. Since Mitchell has yet to make an All NBA team, only $163 million is guaranteed; however, there are clauses that permit Mitchell to reach the full $195 million threshold if he makes an All-NBA team this upcoming season. If that’s not incentive, then I don’t know what is.

De’Aaron Fox agrees to five-year, $163 million contract extension with Kings

It appears that the Kings believe that they’ve found their next franchise cornerstone in De’Aaron Fox. The manner in which they’ve inked the former fifth overall pick in 2017 to a massive new deal sans an All-Rookie, All-NBA, or All Star selection is indicative of such. Since 2017, Fox has developed into an explosive, two-way option at the point guard position. Last season, he averaged a career-high 21.1 points per game. In 2019-20, he furthermore averaged 6.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 48.0% from the field. His extension includes provisions that would permit him to reach the full $195 million max during the lifetime of the deal, too. Clearly, there are no doubts as to who the franchise player is going forward for the Kings.

Montrezl Harrell signs with Lakers on two-year, $19 million deal

It’s not often that you see this much roster turnover by a defending NBA champion looking to repeat. Unlike the typical LeBron James-led teams of the past, the Lakers’ roster is progressing rather than regressing. During his latter years in Miami and twice in Cleveland, LeBron’s supporting cast always eventually regressed to an accumulation of bare bones, outdated parts, and misfits. This time – however, that certainly isn’t the case.

After Dwight Howard’s twitter gaffe and departure to the City of Brotherly Love, the Lakers were able to bring in the reigning Sixth Man of the Year in Montrezl Harrell, an undersized big man that’s younger, more athletic, and more explosive than Howard. Last season, Harrell averaged 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game on 58% shooting from the field. He and “Lemon Pepper” Lou Williams came off the bench for the crosstown Clippers and combined to provide the type of one-two, big-small scoring punch that you’d desire in a starting lineup. Now, the Lakers have the 2020 Sixth Man of the Year runner-up, Dennis Schröder. Compared to Williams, Schröder is seven years younger, a better defender, a better playmaker, and a more efficient scorer from the field and from deep. Plus, a Schröder-Harrell duo has the potential to rival that of Harrell and Williams. 

In signing Harrell, the Lakers were not only able to poach one of their crosstown rival’s top-4 scorers from 2020 making them worse, but – assuming the 6-foot-7 Harrell does not start at center for the Lakers – they also got better by improving their bench scoring and their stable of big men. When you include the fact that Montrezl Harrell’s deal includes an option after the first year, the Lakers clearly benefit from maintaining their salary cap flexibility going into the 2021 off-season that’s overflowing with top-tier talent. 

All in all, the defending champs have thus far added Harrell and Schröder, as well as Wesley Matthews, a career 38.1% shooter from 3-point range, on a one-year, $3.6 million deal. All of whom are essentially expiring deals, too. Plus, the Lakers were able to bring back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who shot 38.5% from 3-point range last season, on a three-year, $40 million deal. 

The Lakers have effectively gotten younger while adding what everyone said they lacked the most last season – SHOOTING. Moreover, they maintain the ability to play fast, be athletic, be big, and throw lobs. Once you include the inevitable re-signing of Anthony Davis, the Lakers not only look scarier than a Nets team that could potentially add The Beard, but they appear poised to win their first set of back-to-back Larry O’Brien trophies since Kobe delivered a pair in ’09 and ’10.  

Fred VanVleet re-ups with the Raptors on four-year, $85 million deal

On Saturday, Fred VanVleet received the largest contract in NBA history for an undrafted player, and it’s well deserved. It’s not often that a free-agent signing by a team I couldn’t care less about makes me genuinely happy, but VanVleet is the kind of feel-good, bet-on-yourself story that’d make even bitter Warriors fans happy. In fact, after news of his new contract broke, he even responded to his own tweet from 2016 that wrote “Bet on yourself” with money-bag emojis.

In 2016, VanVleet went undrafted. Then, he signed a two-year, $1.45 million deal with the Raptors. He proceeded to scrap for minutes behind a Kyle Lowry-DeMar DeRozan backcourt while spending stints in the G-League. Once DeRozan was traded to San Antonio, he helped fill that void – especially in the playoffs. Going into the 2018-19 season, he re-signed with the Raptors on a two-year, $18 million deal. That following postseason, he was an integral part of the Raptors’ championship run in 2019. In the Finals, he shot nearly 40% from deep on over six attempts a night. 

VanVleet, now an NBA champion, carried his hot play over into the 2019-20 season. With Danny Green’s departure in free agency, VanVleet became the starter in the backcourt across from Lowry. Last season, he posted career-highs across the board, averaging 17.6 points and 6.6 assists per game while averaging 39% from 3-point range and shooting nearly four free-throw attempts a night. Aside from a strong inside-outside game, he also displayed how he’s a tenacious defender despite his 6-foot-1 size. The manner in which he tied for 3rd in the league in steals per game was indicative of his defensive effort. 

Re-signing VanVleet was a no-brainer for Masai Ujiri and Toronto. The organization is great at player development and players like VanVleet and Pascal Siakham are indicative of this. Also, the Great White North isn’t exactly a popping free-agent destination; as such, it’s vital for them to keep their home-grown talent. Not only is the 26-year-old Fred VanVleet set to continue progressing next season, but also, with the 34-year-old Kyle Lowry in the last year of his three-year, $90 million deal, the Raptors are perfectly positioned for VanVleet to take over as the franchise’s starting point guard upon Lowry’s inevitable departure and for the organization to make a run at a marquee free agent next off-season – maybe even Giannis. 

Joe Harris re-signs with the Nets on four-year, $75 million deal

In the NBA, elite 3-point shooting is undoubtedly at a premium. Nothing illustrates this more than Joe Harris’ four-year, $75 million contract to re-up with Brooklyn. In recent days, everyone and their mother’s have been focused on James Harden’s having turned down a two-year, $103 million extension to stay in H-Town and his desire to get to the Borough of Kings to form the NBA’s latest Big 3. On the other hand, Nets’ general manager Sean Marks made it clear that his focus was on keeping Harris in Brooklyn, which he made clear just hours before free agency commenced. 

The simple fact that Elton Brand of the Sixers clearly lacked last off-season, Sean Marks knew in spades; you surround your stars with 3-point shooting. And, Joe Harris is an elite, 3-point marksman. In his career, the 6-foot-6 Harris shoots 42.6% from deep, which, if he retired today, he would be 12th on the all-time 3-point field goal percentage list. Last season, he shot 42.4% from range, which placed him 20th in made 3-point field goals and 7th in 3-point shooting percentage. But, of the NBA’s top-7 3-point shooters by percentage last season, he was the only player to start in every game he played. As such, he was the only one to face the opposing team’s starters on defense every night he played. 

It’s easy to see why Marks wanted to keep Harris in the fold. Next season, Joe Harris can slide into a backcourt alongside Kyrie Irving, who’s a career 39% 3-point shooter. If we project the Nets’ opening night lineup to include Irving and Harris as well as forwards Kevin Durant and Taurean Prince, then the Nets will tip off with a lineup that – excluding their center – boasts all career 36% or better 3-point shooters. With an All-NBA, dynamic duo in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, that’s the kind of lineup, with potent scorers in Caris Levert and Spencer Dinwiddie off the bench, that can easily contend for the crown in the Eastern Conference and a NBA championship as constructed – and this is without the potential future addition of James Harden. 

Marcus Morris Sr. remains with Clippers on four-year, $64 million deal

The loss of Montrezl Harrell is somewhat mitigated by the retention of Marcus Morris Sr.. Pertaining to the Clippers, there is no debate that they were the most disappointing team last season – especially after their season was bookended by a blown 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Semifinals. In February, the Clips acquired Morris Sr. from the Knicks, for whom the 6-foot-8, combo forward was averaging a career-best 19.6 points per game and shooting a career-best 43.9% from 3-point range. 

When he got to Los Angeles, his production obviously dropped as he had to fit into a convoluted roster that already boasted four players averaging 18 points or more per game and that was constructed around stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. With the Clippers last season, Morris’ production and efficiency dropped as he played 19 regular-season games, averaging 10.1 points per game and shooting 31% from deep. He did add tenacity and toughness to the Clippers on defense, but it’s certainly hard to find your niche offensively when there’s no continuity on the roster. If the Clippers can bring in a playmaking point guard this off-season, then I see Morris Sr. properly being able to settle in as the Clippers third option on offense behind George and Leonard. 

Serge Ibaka agree to two-year, $19 million deal to join the Clippers

After losing their best reserve big to the Lakers, the Clippers were staring at a bench of big men that consisted of Patrick Patterson, Justin Patton, Joakim Noah, and Mfiondu Kabengele. So, it’s safe to say that signing the highly coveted Serge Ibaka saved the Clippers’ off-season. 

Last season, Ibaka came off the bench for Toronto and averaged a career-high 15.4 point per game. He also pulled down 8.2 rebounds per game and shot 38.5% from deep. In Los Angeles, he will reunite with Kawhi Leonard, with whom he won a title in 2019, and – frankly – he’ll provide an overall upgrade from Montrezl Harrell. The 7-foot Ibaka provides the size and defense the Clippers lacked in Harrell; however, he can also provide the scoring that the Clippers enjoyed with their now departed big man. Plus, unlike Harrell, Ibaka can actually shoot the ball. 

Christian Wood agrees to three-year, $41 million deal with Rockets

For all intents and purposes, the Rockets’ off-season thus far can largely be reduced to the phrase, “Houston, we have a problem.” They parted ways with their coach; in a move essentially out of left field, their general manager resigned; they traded away their best two-way, 3-and-D player for a lesser 3-and-D player and a 2020 mid-first-round pick – neither of which they currently still possess; plus, both of their stars want to get out of dodge. But! Assuming that Houston can somehow, someway reconcile with their stars, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, the addition of Christian Wood could surely be an interesting one. 

While this isn’t a small-ball centric move per se, the acquisition of Wood certainly does not signal as large of a departure from what the Rockets were attempting to do offensively as one may have initially thought. After trading away Clint Capela at the deadline to acquire Robert Covington, the 6-foot-7 RoCo, who’s naturally a small forward, became the tallest player in Houston’s starting lineup as a stretch, small-ball power forward, which pushed the already undersized, 6-foot-5 P.J. Tucker from his position as an undersized four and part-time small-ball center to a full-time, laughably small center. This extreme micro-ball, seven-seconds-or-less style was fun to watch; however, it appears that the new front office has a brain cell, and knows that, with teams like the Lakers boasting a taller, more versatile lineup, you cannot double down on this style and win a title.  

Wood is a four; however, at 6-foot-10, he has the height to be moved to the five. This would permit the Rockets to go back to occasionally running Tucker at center and going small on occasion as a strategic changeup to their starting and main lineup. Here, the downside – however – is that Wood is only 214 pounds. With the Lakers starting point guard being the 6-foot-9, 250-pound LeBron James, and most NBA centers being around – at least – 240 pounds, one would think this could be a recipe for disaster. In the short term, if you throw the 245-pound Tucker at the opposing team’s best bigman, then this perceived downside can be somewhat mitigated while the 25-year-old Wood works to put on weight.

Nevertheless, Wood adds a ton of upside to the Rockets lineup. He is a tall rim-running, two-way forward with range. Last season, he averaged 13.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and almost a block a game on 56.7% shooting from the field and 38.6% from deep. With the Pistons last season, he began the year stuck behind Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond; however, after Drummond was shipped to Cleveland, Wood emerged. In his last 14 games prior to the shutdown in March, he averaged 22.6 points and 9.8 rebounds. Given the fact that Russell Westbrook has regressed to being a mediocre shooter, the Rockets were forced to play with him as a point-center type of player. Wood’s shooting ability allows them to still utilize Westbrook as a point-center, while also giving them the lob-threat that James Harden enjoyed in Capela. 

Albeit, if both Harden and Wesbrook leave, then Wood is still a nice piece for Houston to develop and try to rebuild.

Jae Crowder signs three-year, $30 million deal with Suns

It’s simple. Going into next season, the Suns have the making of a dangerous playoff team. Not only did they acquire Chris Paul via trade this off-season, but they also signed journeyman Jae Crowder. Crowder was a key cog in Miami’s run to the NBA Finals a few months ago, averaging 12 points per game and shooting 34.2% from 3-point range on nearly eight attempts a game. A Paul-Booker-Bridges-Crowder-Ayton starting five boasts both explosive scoring and grit and tenacity on defense. Phoenix can trot out a duo of 3-and-D wings at the forward spots with a defensive anchor in the middle in Ayton.  If the Suns’ young duo of Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton can continue to progress, then the Suns will undoubtedly make the postseason. Moreover, I believe Devin Booker could average 30 points per game this season with Chris Paul as his backcourt running mate. Last season, Paul brought the Thunder to the postseason as the fifth-seed with a worse roster. 

Tristan Thompson signs two-year, $19 million deal with Celtics

While nobody in Beantown is sad to see Gordon Hayward go to Charlotte – except maybe Brad Stevens, many were hoping for a Gordon Hayward-Myles Turner sign-and-trade with the Pacers. It’s no secret that Boston needs a center, and, now, they have one in Tristan Thompson. Albeit undersized at 6-foot-9, Thompson is a capable rebounder. Last season, the former fourth overall pick averaged 12.0 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. The Celtics’ starting center Daniel Theis only averaged 6.6 rebounds per game. Along with bringing in Jeff Teague, the Celtics addressed positions of need in free agency and were able to shed the injury-prone, overrated, and overpaid Gordon Hayward. 

Rajon Rondo signs two-year, $15 million deal with Hawks 

With how coveted Rajon Rondo was amongst contenders, it’s a little surprising to see him go to Atlanta of all places; however, money talks. Coming off his second NBA title, the 34-year-old Rondo wanted to get paid. He was indispensable to the Lakers and their run to the franchise’s 17th championship. In the playoffs, he averaged 8.9 points, 6.6 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game off the bench while shooting 40% from deep. Playoff Rondo is a thing! 

The Hawks are clearly trying to make the playoffs. Rondo can fill the veteran void left by the retirement of Vince Carter and can help in the development of Trae Young. On occasion, you could even put them both in the backcourt and allow Young to focus more on scoring than distributing. Along with the additions of Danilo Gallinari and Kris Dunn in free agency, their roster looks young and dangerous-enough to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference as a sixth-seed or worse.  

Stay tuned to the Blitz as this article will be updated as more free-agency news comes in

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NFL Week 11 Preview

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By: Darius Boamah


The NFL is now entering week 11 of the 2020 season, who knew we would make it this far! Here are the top five games to look out for this weekend.

5. Miami Dolphins vs. Denver Broncos Sunday @ 4:05 PM EST CBS

The Miami Dolphins travel to Denver to take on the Broncos on Sunday. The Dolphins are on a five-game win streak, three of those wins behind rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The Broncos on the other hand are on a two-game lose streak. This game is more important for Miami compared to Denver. Currently, the Dolphins are sitting in second place in the AFC East, behind the Bills. If they can win this game they can take the first spot in the division, something most NFL fans did not see coming. The Dolphins owe lots of their success to their defense who keeps showing up in important games. Last week, they held the Chargers to 5.1 yards per pass and 3.4 yards per carry. Tua has also been solid for the past three weeks since he took over as starter, in three weeks, he has thrown five touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Broncos may be in trouble this weekend with a load of injuries. According to ESPN, quarterback Drew Lock and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy are listed as questionable. The Broncos will need to rely on their defense as they are missing their offensive core. This year, Denver’s defense has held teams to under seven yards per pass and 4.4 yards per carry. This game will be close and both teams will be fighting hard to win. 

4. Kansas City Cheifs vs. Las Vegas Raiders Sunday @ 8:20 PM EST NBC

The Kansas City Cheifs will travel to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders in a big AFC West showdown. The Cheifs’ only loss this season is to the Raiders, so, the Cheifs will be looking for revenge. In the AFC West, Kansas City sit in first place and Las Vegas in second. The Raiders are on a three-game win streak and will be looking to carry that form this weekend. This season, Vegas quarterback Derek Carr has thrown for about 250 yards per game and 16 touchdowns. The Raiders’ other offensive asset is running back Josh Jacobs. This year he has been on fire running for an average of 78 yards per game. Jacobs can find some holes in the Kansas City defense because they do not have a great run defense. On the year, the Cheifs have allowed almost five yards per carry. In the air, the Cheifs are much better, holding teams to just 6.6 yards per game. On the other side, the Cheifs have a very strong offense under Patrick Mahomes. The Raiders will need to come ready to defend because Kansas City will bring the fire. The Cheifs average about 300 passing yards per game and almost 120 yards rushing. This will be an intense game and both teams will be hunting for a win. 

3. Los Angeles Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Monday @ 8:15 PM EST ESPN

The Los Angeles Rams will fly to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers for Monday night football. Both teams have been solid this season. Both teams are coming off of wins and need to continue winning if they want to have success in their respective divisions. Both teams are in second place and are only one game away from taking the top spot. Tampa Bay’s offense has looked strong this season and may be their strongest asset. The Buccaneers also have a fairly strong defense that will be important against the Rams. Tampa Bay has a very strong rush defense holding teams to 3.3 yards per game. Los Angeles does not have a strong run game, so, this will force Jared Goff to throw more. Goff has been strong this season, on the year, he is averaging 276 yards per game. Goff will have to be strong if they want to have success over the Bucs. Along with a strong offense, the Rams will have to play great defense, this season, they have been strong on both ends of the defense. So, this will be a game of strong defense, and the winner will have to bring it. 

2. Green Bay Packers vs. Indianapolis Colts Sunday @ 1:25 PM EST FOX

The Green Bay Packers will fly over to Indianapolis to take on the Colts this Sunday. Both teams are holding the top spots in their divisions. So, this game will be important in order for them to hold their spots. The Colts are coming off of a big win against the Titans and will be looking to continue their streak into next week. The Packers are on a two-game win streak and will be hoping to make it three after this Sunday. These two teams are both solid and it will be a very close game. The Colts have one of the best rush defenses this season, and it has shown against strong rushing teams like the Titans and Ravens. Green Bay running back Aaron Jones may struggle this game which will force Aaron Rodgers to throw the ball more. However, for Indianapolis, this may be a problem. The Packers have a very efficient pass game under Rodgers, 8.2 yards per attempt, and with wide receiver Davante Adams the Colts may struggle. On the other end, Indianapolis does not have as strong as an offense. Their run game is weak, 3.8 yards per carry, and their passing game is hit-or-miss. Colts quarterback Philip Rivers has been alright this season, he has thrown for about 265 yards per game, 11 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Green Bay’s defense can capitalize off of the weaker Colts offense, they are holding teams to 7.6 yards per pass attempt, and the Colts’ rush game isn’t any better. Jonathan Taylor is only averaging 3.8 yards per carry, and this game will be hard for him because the Packers have a tough rush defense. In the end, this game will be entertaining and both teams will be fighting hard for a big win. 

1. Tennessee Titans vs. Baltimore Ravens Sunday @ 1 PM EST CBS

The Tennessee Titans travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens in this week’s top game. Last time these teams met was in the playoffs last season. In that game, Derrick Henry ran all over the Ravens and carried the Titans to a win. This season Baltimore will be looking for revenge. This is a very important game for Tennessee because they can hop the Colts and take first place in the AFC South if they win this game. So, Ryan Tannehill and the Titans will come out fired up ready to get a big win. The Ravens have been shaky this season, their latest game was a loss to the Patriots which was unexpected. So, Baltimore will be looking to pick up their win streak again this Sunday. The Ravens have a very strong run game under Lamar Jackson and their running back core, they are averaging five yards per carry so far this season. On the passing side they are not as strong, averaging just over seven yards per attempt. Tennessee’s defense is definitely their weaker side and Baltimore can expose them on both the run and pass. Tennessee’s greatest asset is their offense. This season, Tannehill is averaging 7.5 yards per pass attempt, and Henry is rushing for almost five yards per carry. The Ravens have a fairly strong defense but they have been exposed on the pass and rush. This game will come down to who can play the best defense as both teams have very strong offenses.

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2020 NBA Draft Winners & Losers

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By: Justin Rivers

As an avid NBA fan, it may be slightly hyperbolic to say that it feels as if we’ve “endured blistering winds and scorching deserts” and needed to climb to “the highest bloody room in the tallest bloody tower” just to finally – at long last – receive a 2020 NBA Draft. (Yes, I worked Jennifer Saunders and Shrek 2 into this article.) Albeit sans the usual splendors, pomp, circumstance, and drip that we’ve come to expect with drafts, the latest chapter in this hilariously short and cramped, COVID-induced 2020 NBA offseason has come and gone. After much anticipation, we finally know the teams for which LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and the rest of this year’s crop of top prospects will suit up come December. Nevertheless, now that the draft is finally over and the draft-night trades have been made, we can break down some of the 2020 NBA Draft’s winners and losers!

In no particular order, here are my winners from last night:

Philadelphia 76ers

It’s not often that you get a mulligan in the NBA, but – man – the 76ers certainly got one last night. It did not take long for the Daryl Morey hire to pay dividends. It was long thought that Al Horford’s contract was untradable. It was certainly up there as one of the worst contracts in the league; however, the 76ers somehow managed to get off of the three years remaining on Horford’s 4-year, $109 million contract. 

Before the commencement of the draft, Philly made a trade with OKC, in which the 76ers sent Horford, the rights to Vasilije Micic, the 34th overall pick in last night’s draft, and a 2025 first-round pick to the Thunder for Danny Green and Terrance Ferguson. On its own, getting out of the remaining $81 million in guaranteed money is a win; however, in adding Green and Ferguson, the 76ers were also able to add some much needed shooting, defense, and athleticism on the perimeter to their roster. When you add the fact that Philly was also able to snag Tyrese Maxey, a tough, prolific scoring guard, out of the University of Kentucky in the first round, Isaiah Joe, perhaps the best pure shooter in the draft, out of Arkansas in the second round, and Seth Curry via trade, it’s hard to argue that the Sixers did not come out of last night a winner. 

Oklahoma City Thunder

While the Thunder cannot win a title or retain top-tier talent to save their lives, nobody can say that Sam Presti and OKC are not exceptional at drafting and player development. At one point, they did have three future MVP-winners on their roster the last time they made it to the Finals in 2012. Chris Paul was huge in the development of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander; as such, this made his gigantic and ridiculous contract bearable. With Darius Bazely and, now, Aleksej Pokusevski on the roster, the newly acquired Al Horford could potentially help in their development in the same way Paul helped Gilgeous-Alexander. The Thunder are not a free-agent destination and can thus take the remaining $81 million left on Horford’s contract in stride.

Plus, they picked Theo Maledon to develop into the void left by the departures of Chris Paul and Dennis Schröder in the backcourt with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Now, with a log cabin full of future draft capital to hopefully draft the next James Harden or Kevin Durant, the Thunder are perfectly positioned with something like seventeen future first-round picks through 2026 to simultaneously be competitive while also rebuilding. They undoubtedly came out of yesterday a winner. 

Detroit Pistons

It pains me to say this, and the dearth a note-worthy moves last night doesn’t help, but the Pistons came out of the draft actually looking competent – undoubtedly thanks to their new GM Troy Weaver. For the first time in a long time – most likely my lifetime, the Pistons appear to be taking the term “rebuild” seriously. Last night, they finessed their way into three top-20 picks in Killian Hayes (No. 7), Isaiah Stewart (No. 16), and Saddiq Bey (No. 19). Now, if they can bring back Christian Wood, Detroit has the making of a nice core, young four with lots of upside and potential. Albeit you do not reward a fish for knowing how to swim, the simple fact that the Pistons are acting like a competent organization with a brain cell makes them winners. 

Now, in no particular order, here are my losers:

Golden State Warriors

After much anticipation of a potential blockbuster trade that could bring another superstar to Golden State and jump start the Warriors dynastic run all over again, the Dubs stayed put at the second pick and selected James Wiseman. At 7-foot-1, the 250-pound Wiseman boasts an exceptional 7-foot-5 wingspan and the kind of top-notch quickness and athleticism that makes him the kind of rim-running, two-way lob-threat that fits perfectly into Golden States’ lineup. He certainly has a bright future. 

Given the fact that we all expected the Warriors to pick up where the last left off when fully healthy and make another run at a title this season, reports of Klay Thompson potentially having a significant achilles injury certainly throws a gigantic season-altering wrench in those expectations. Plus, the team’s core of Klay, Dray, and Steph are on the wrong side of thirty, and they cannot afford another lost season if they want to contend at a high level. They drafted Nico Mannion and Justinian Jessup in the second round; however, unless either is an incredibly serviceable sharpshooting guard that can immediately play next to Steph, it’s hard to hear the Klay news and not come out of last night thinking the Warriors aren’t losers right now. 

Houston Rockets

Without a first-round pick, the Rockets did manage to trade into the late second round to draft Kenyon Martin Jr.. Martin Jr. is one of the best athletes in the draft; however, after trading away Robert Covington to the Blazers, the Rockets had a first-round pick that they then proceeded to trade away. If both of my stars requested trades, and there’s clearly a rebuild on the quickly approaching horizon, I would have taken acquiring draft capital and using it more seriously than Houston did last night. For this reason, they end up as one of my losers. 

What do you think? Do you disagree or have other teams as your winners and losers from last night’s draft? Tweet or reply back to the Blitz and let us know!

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Data Analytics in Soccer; A Snapshot of a Man Taking the Lead

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By: Luke Moriarty

Soccer is a beautiful and historic game that has played a crucial role in cultures and communities around the globe. This global aspect of the game yields various tactics and aspects of play. Whether it’s Flavio Costa’s 4-2-4 formation with the Brazilian National Team in the 60’s, or even the Dutch giving us ‘complete football’ with their 4-3-3 spearheaded by the legendary Johan Cruyff, the sport has taken several different approaches by managers from all over the world. Even chemistry between players, albeit harder than it sounds due to the countless amounts of languages spoken on the pitch at once, plays a huge role in how a club functions with on the field performance. 

What if I told you that this could all be in jeopardy? 

Okay, maybe that could be a drastic exaggeration, but believe it or not analytics have entered the sport of soccer and it could potentially take it by storm. My model for you are two clubs who both share the same owner Matthew Benham, an Oxford Graduate and british financier. He owns a club in the English Football League (EFL) Brentford FC, based out of London and currently resides in the Championship Division, the 2nd highest division in the EFL — as well as owning current Champions League team, FC Midtjylland out of the Danish Superligaen.

Benham is obsessed with looking into the statistics and data behind the game, and has a crew of nearly 300 data scientists in London working for both clubs. What do Data Analytics in soccer look like? For example take a simple penalty kick situation, a situation typically handled within the goalkeepers comfort. They may go with their gut, electing which way to dive at the spot kick, but not Benham’s clubs. He’ll have the free kick statistics for every potential threat, knowing what percentage they elect shooting to a certain side. How about goal scoring? Brentford or Midtyjylland aren’t necessarily going to sign a striker who leads the league in goals, but rather goal chance quality, or number of chances created, something that falls in line with the notion of overall efficiency. 

This strategy has proven to be a gold mine for his two clubs. Brentford were in the Championship Playoff Final, but sadly lost to fellow London club Fulham FC. Yet, by the end of the season they had the highest goal scorer in Ollie Watkins, a player they sold for a whopping £ 28,000,000. The club even built a brand new £ 71,000,000 stadium a couple blocks from the historic River Thames in West London. On top of that, FC Midtyjlland finished in the top of their league and are currently in the UEFA Champions League Group D, playing amongst the likes of English giant Liverpool and Italian powerhouse Atalanta. Qualifying for the Champions League alone puts you in a pool of teams who could claim € 82,000,000 throughout the competition (see below figure).

So honestly, is this feasible?

We have seen Major League Baseball commit to the analytical data, with teams like the World Series finalists Tampa Bay Rays leading the way. Even leagues like the NBA and NFL are constantly looking at NextGen Stats like complete player ratings or difficult catch probabilities, respectively. Given all this, in my opinion it hasn’t made a necessarily good impact on the content and quality of the games. I think it’s been dreadful for baseball with whacky statistics and numbers, completely alienating the new fan and younger demographic from the sport. In terms of a soccer perspective I fall in line with legendary Manchester United goalie and SkySports analyst Peter Schmeichel who said, 

“I think it would be fine to have some of it, but I don’t want to see it completely take over the mindset of the clubs.” 

Preach Peter… Please don’t let every single position on the field be corrupted with some piece of paper stuffed in their sweaty socks, filled out with data and numbers on how to approach the game. I worry it may remove exactly what I opened this piece up with, the uniqueness of various styles of play throughout the sport of soccer. Will special chemistry link ups, like the seemingly everlasting defensive pair of Marcelo and Sergio Ramos on Real Madrid eventually be proven worthless? We shall see, and I encourage the sport to definitely give it a chance to improve on field performance, while not letting it affect the blueprint and manager’s idea of the club.

Whether we like it or not, data analytics IS the new modern professional sport. Inherently it will dip into every sport in some way, we as a whole just have to be able to draw the line in terms of  preserving the culture and classical ‘quality performance’ within each sport, especially soccer.

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NFL Week 10 Preview

Brought to you by Tavour

By: Darius Boamah

Week 10 is coming up in the NFL here are the best five games for the week…

5. Los Angeles Chargers vs. Miami Dolphins Sun. @ 4:05 PM EST CBS 

The Los Angeles Chargers (2-6) travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins (5-3). The Dolphins are coming off of a big win against the Arizona Cardinals last weekend. Miami rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa went off and is settling into the NFL. He threw for 248 yards, two touchdowns, and a rating of 122.3, a big step up on his performance two weeks ago. The Dolphins can take advantage of Tua’s form because the Chargers do not have the best pass offense. Last week they let Derek Carr throw all over them. The Dolphins defense also stepped up against the Cardinals’ strong offense. If they can continue that into this weekend they will find success against the Chargers. Los Angeles is coming off of another close loss against the Raiders. Justin Herbert has continued to show out this season. Even with the loss last week, he threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns. The Dolphins have shown strength defending the pass, however, last weekend they showed that they are vulnerable. Defense will be important for both teams in this match-up. 

4. Seattle Seahawks vs. Los Angeles Rams Sun. @ 4:25 PM EST FOX

The Seattle Seahawks (6-2) head to Los Angeles to take on the Rams (5-3) this Sunday in an NFC West showdown. This division is incredibly competitive and the standings are very close. The Rams are sitting in third place right now with the same record as the Arizona Cardinals, the Seahawks are right above with only one win more than each of these teams. So, as the season goes on, any team can win this division. The Seahawks are coming off a significant loss to the Bills. Last weekend they showed huge problems defending the pass, they let Josh Allen throw for 415 yards. They have the worst pass defense in the league allowing about 360 passing yards per game. Rams quarterback Jared Goff can capitalize on this weak defense if he can up his game. He has not played very well this season, but the Rams did have a bye last weekend where he could rest and get ready for a big matchup against the Seahawks. Seattle makes up for their weak defense with a very strong offense, both passing and rushing. Russel Wilson has played very well this season. He has lots of offensive options like DK Metcalf, Tyler Locket, and Chris Carson. Los Angeles has a very strong pass defense, ranked 5th in the league, and this will make it tough on Russ, as we saw last week when he played the Bills. Seattle missed their top two running backs last weekend so it forced Russ to rely on the throw too much and he got exposed. This weekend Seattle is expected to have both running backs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde active, this is where they will find success. 

3. Denver Broncos vs. Las Vegas Raiders Sun. @ 4:05 PM EST CBS 

The Denver Broncos (3-5) fly down to Las Vegas this Sunday to take on the Raiders (5-3) in a fight for second place in the AFC West. Right now, the Raiders sit above the Broncos in second with a two-game lead. The Raiders have been strong this season and are coming off of a win against the Los Angeles Chargers. In that game, their offense and defense played well. Derek Carr threw for 165 and two touchdowns. Las Vegas’ run game was strong too, Josh Jacobs and Devontae Booker ran for a combined 133 yards, an average of 6.6 yards per carry, and a touchdown for each of them. The Broncos have an average defense as a whole and the Raiders offense may be able to find some holes in this defense. Denver’s offense under Drew Lock is pretty average as well. Despite this, the Broncos may be able to find success through rookie wide receiver Jerry Judy who went off last week having his first 100 plus yards game. Denver can also expose the Raiders on the run with Phillip Lindsay who is averaging 5.8 yards per carry. The Raiders showed last week that they struggle with defending the pass, as they allowed Justin Herbert to throw over 300 yards against them. Drew Lock must be on his game this weekend if they hope to find success in this fight for second place. 

2. Indianapolis Colts vs. Tennessee Titans Thurs. @ 8:20 PM EST FOX, AMZN, NFLN

The Indianapolis Colts (5-3) travel to Tennessee to take on the Titans (6-2) in an AFC South showdown on Thursday night. This matchup will be a fight for the top spot in the division, the Tennesse is sitting in the top spot right above Indianapolis. The Titans have one of the best offenses in the leagues. Last week they showed this against the Chicago Bears who have a very strong defense. Tennesse quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 158 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions in that game. Derrick Henry has also been on fire this season but will be challenged this week against the Colts’ tough rush defense. Last week the Colts held the Ravens, the best rushing team in the league, to just 3.3 yards per carry. To break the strong Indianapolis defense, Tannehill will have to play at his highest level. The Colts offense on the other hand has not been amazing, quarterback Philip Rivers has struggled this season. Last week against the Ravens, Rivers threw for 227 yards, one interception, and no touchdowns. The Ravens do have a stronger defense compared to the Titans, so Rivers will need to come ready to play. One area that the offense can succeed in is on the ground. Tennesse has an inconsistent defense and has been exposed on the ground and in the air. On the year, the Titans have allowed 4.5 yards per carry and an average of 119 yards per game. Indianapolis rush offense ran for 5.3 yards per carry last week, this will be important in this matchup. This fight for the top spot will be an intense game and promises to be exciting to watch. 

1. Buffalo Bills vs. Arizona Cardinals Sun. @ 4:05 PM EST CBS 

The Buffalo Bills (7-2) head to Arizona to take on the Cardinals (5-3). The Bills coming off a big win against the Seattle Seahawks will be looking to bring the heat into this week, especially quarterback Josh Allen. Last week Allen threw all over the Seahawks, 415 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. Allen’s favorite target Stefon Diggs has also been on fire this season, he is first in the league in receptions, 63, total yards, 813, and has three touchdowns. Last week, the Cardinals defense struggled to defend Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, they allowed 8.9 yards per attempt, a total of 248 yards, and two touchdowns against. Allen and the Bills offense can capitalize on this, especially if they bring the fire from that Seattle game to this weekend. The Cardinals will need to shut down the Bills passing game and force them to run if they want to find success; the Bills do not have a strong run game. On the other side, the Cardinals have a very strong run game under quarterback Kyler Murray. Murray is averaging 7.1 yards per carry. Arizona also has a strong passing game, 7.6 yards per attempt, and 259 yards per game on the year. The Bills do not have a great rush defense, on the year they have allowed almost five yards per carry. Their pass defense also is not great, however, they do have a strong blitz. Just last week, they sacked Russel Wilson five times. This will be a game where the team with the best defense will prevail. 

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